Most Common Music Publishing Agreements Explained
While there may be significant frustration among music composers at low streaming rates and other challenges making money in the music industry, there is still a good deal of money to be made on the publishing sided of things. Here we breakdown five of the most common types of publishing agreements.
Guest Post by Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.
All music starts with a composition, which is one of the reasons why I love the area of music publishing. Despite the low streaming rates, there is still a lot of activity and money to be made on the publishing side of music. Whether you are a writer signing with a music publisher, or you self-publish your own music, here are the some typical music publishing contracts:
A Songwriter Agreement usually involves a writer transferring 100% of the copyrights to the song(s) in your catalogue and/or written during the term to a music publisher and a 50/50 income split between the publisher and the writer. While these were some of the most common agreements 60 years ago and are still used today, they aren’t entered into as often because many writers value owning their content more in today’s music market.
A Co-Publishing Agreement is very common today and involves a writer transferring 50% of the copyrights to the song(s) to the music publishers and an income split of 75/25 where 75% goes to the writer and 25% goes to the publisher.
An Administration Agreement is also very popular today and involves no copyright transfer—the publisher administers (handles licenses, tracks royalties, etc.) without owning copyright. This agreement includes a 90/10 income split where 90% goes to the writer and 10% goes to the publisher as a fee for doing the administration.
Songwriter Split Agreement
A Songwriter Split Agreement is something that always needs to be completed when co-writing songs with others. It is essential to minimize disputes between co-writers, but is also usually required by publishing companies, whether you are your own publisher, administer for co-writers or other unrelated writers, or are signed as a writer to a music publishing company. A Songwriter Split Agreement can be custom drafted, or one can use a template from Indie Artist Resource.
Many “placement houses” or “pitching companies” that have traditionally just focused on pitching music for placement in TV and film are now getting into the publishing game. The copyright transfer and income splits tend to vary on these deals, and I have seen a lot of them called “Co-Publishing Agreements” that really do not follow the traditional co-publishing model. These can get tricky because of term variations as well as retitling and other practices.
Music publishing is one of the most complicated areas of the music business and as you may have gleaned from this article, the associated agreements and principles can get extremely complicated. Any artists/writers should have an experienced music attorney draft their music publishing agreements agreements for them if they are administering their own publishing or publishing for others. An experienced music attorney is also invaluable to review and negotiate any publishing agreements or licenses presented writers, as an experienced music attorney knows what the terms and custom and practice should be, as well as has the training to catch problems or unfair clauses that writers may miss.
I regularly draft, review, and negotiate all of these types of agreements, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can handle one or more of these agreements on your behalf.
If you are interested in starting your own music publishing company and administering your own publishing or publishing for other writers, download Erin’s video on Protecting and Profiting from Your Original Music where she explains:
- how to set-up your own music publishing company for your original music
- the basics of running your publishing company
- the different royalty streams and publishing contracts you need to know
- what agreements you NEED to have in place
- how to protect your music the RIGHT way
- requirements for collecting your royalty payments
- the different ways of exploiting your music to earn money from it
Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.