What is music publishing?


The business of music publishing is concerned with developing, protecting and valuing music. The business is extensive and demands a variety of skills. Music publishers play a vital role in the development of new music and in taking care of the business side, allowing composers and songwriters to concentrate on their creative work.

The role of a music publisher involves:

  • Finding new and talented songwriters and composers, and encouraging and supporting them as they develop their skills, providing them with the facilities they need to produce music or offering advice and guidance in writing for particular markets.
  • Securing commissions for new works
  • Registering the works of songwriters and composers with all appropriate collecting societies and agencies, eg PRS for Music in the UK
  • Producing demo recordings and, in the case of contemporary classical music, performance materials (score and parts etc.)
  • Producing and licensing the production of printed music
  • Producing promotional materials, including demos, electronic press-kits, sampler CDs, study scores, brochures etc.
  • Promoting composers and songwriters and their music to performers, broadcasters, record companies and others who use music on a commercial basis, both nationally and internationally
  • Licensing the use of music, whether directly in the case of individual and special usages (eg synchronisation deals) or via the collecting society network
  • Responding to new licensing opportunities that flow from technological developments
  • Monitoring and tracking the use of the music they represent and ensuring that proper payment is made for all licensed uses
  • Making royalty payments to songwriters and composers in respect of the usage of their music
  • Taking appropriate action against anyone using music without the necessary licence

Music publishing and copyright

The business of music publishing is dependent upon there being a strong copyright framework in place. The control of copyright enables a publisher to recover their investment in songwriters and composers and to ensure that writers are properly credited and rewarded for their creative work. Click here to read more about licensing and copyright.

Partnership with writers

The relationship between a music publisher and a songwriter/composer is supported by a negotiated publishing contract setting out the rights and obligations of each to the other. Under these contracts, songwriters and composers assign or license the copyright in their music to the music publisher in return for a commitment to promote, exploit and protect that music. The publisher agrees to pay the songwriter/composer royalties earned by their compositions after deducting an administration fee.

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