Before you start to acquire publishing rights for your music, artists need to understand the ins and outs. Because unfortunately, there are people out there counting on you to be clueless so they can rake in the money themselves. This article will cover the various types of publishing rights, how to access them, and what revenues can come through them.
How Do Publishing Rights Work?
Once music is published, copyrights protect intellectual property and provide an income for songwriters. Generally, publishing rights fall into two categories: authorship, which covers the rights for the lyrics and the songwriting, and composition, i.e., the music.
For your best chance of getting a fair cut with your music through publishing rights, you will want to team up with a Publishing Rights Organisation (PRO), such as PRS in the UK. PRS is just one of the PROs that help artists collect their royalties. They also work with PROs in other countries, such as TONO in Norway, to collect your royalties for you.
When you secure publishing rights, there are three main income revenues, including sync deals, mechanical royalties, and performance royalties. If your music starts to gain traction, there is also the potential to make an income from lyrics, merch and sheet music.
With performance royalties, you will get paid every time your music is played in a public environment, such as a store, a café or in the pub on a jukebox. When it comes to the radio, things get slightly more complex because there are two more classifications; sampled and census radio stations. Major radio stations, such as the BBC, are all classed as census stations, which means that every time your track airs, your PRO will know about it.
Sampled stations tend to be smaller outfits with even smaller audiences that don’t report to your PRO. Instead, these stations are sampled regularly, if your track happens to get played when the station is being sampled, you will get paid. If you are wondering what one play on a census radio station is worth, it is roughly equivalent to over 200,000 streams on Spotify. And if you happen to get on the BBC’s A-list, you could rake in up to £1k a week.
Mechanical rights royalties generate every time your music is streamed, downloaded, or reproduced in any other way, such as when a CD is made and when a vinyl record is pressed. Even if you are signed to a label, your label will need to pay a licence fee for each physical reproduction. Streaming royalties may be small, but they still stack up against sync deal royalties, mechanical royalties, radio play royalties, and merch royalties.
Just a few of the ways you can rake in royalties from sync deals include your music being published on TV ads, in computer games, films and online promotions. For your best chance of landing a sync deal, you will want to team up with a sync or publishing company that fully clears two main copyrights: the publishing copyright and the master copyright.
How to Get Publishing Rights for Your Music
Now you know a little about how publishing rights work, we will move on to how to acquire them. Artists have two options when securing publishing rights, self-publishing and publishing via a PRO, such as PRS. There are pros and cons for both methods; it will be up to you to decide which suits you best as an artist.
If you register with a PRO as a writer with no publishing deal, you will only be due 50% of the royalties. If you self-publish, you can access 100% of your royalties. Self-publishing requires you to set up a body to serve as your own publisher, this can create a lot of extra work, but it isn’t an overly complex task. However, it can be far easier for a publisher to promote your music through their connections and experience.
Which road to publishing rights you take is down to you. While there are perks to organizations which as PRS who fight to represent artists and ensure they are rewarded for their creativity, there is also a lot to be said about going down the DIY route, which gives you complete control over your music career.
For more tips on how to take charge of your music career or take it to the next level, check out some of our other music producer blog sites, or get in touch with a member of our artist development team for 1-1 guidance, or hire us to do all of your PR work for you.