Music Business

3 Types Of Publishing Deals and How They Work

Before committing to that dotted line, artists looking to get signed in the music industry would do well to familiarize themselves with the how publishing deals work. Here, we look at the three main types of publishing deals one is likely to encounter in the music biz.

Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog

As you navigate the industry, there are 3 main publishing deals you may come across. Before you sign anything, let’s break down how these deals work so you can make the best decision for you. Here’s the rundown…

Types of Publishing Deals and How They Work

Traditional / Co-Publishing Agreements

The most common publishing deals are either traditional or co-publishing agreements. With a traditional publishing deal, you’d forfeit 100% of your publishing rights in return for the services the publisher promises to provide.

With a co-publishing agreement, artists like you typically give away 50% ownership of their publisher’s share ( hence the name, “co-publishing”) when they sign. This means you’ll keep:

  • 100% of your writer’s share
  • 50% of your publisher’s share

Deals like these usually last around 1-3 years and have their fair share of requirements from you. However, because the publisher takes partial ownership, they have a greater incentive to make sure you reach your fullest potential and generate as much in royalties as possible.

Another enticing part of a deal like this is the infamous “advance”, aka a large sum of money offered to you up front. However, don’t let the pretty exterior fool you. Contrary to popular belief, an advance is NOT free money.

To learn the truth about advances, click here.

Administration Agreements

On the contrary, an administration deal lets you keep 100% ownership of your copyright (and writer’s share). However, in exchange for the publishing administrator collecting on behalf of your copyrights, you have to give up an admin fee. This usually is represented as a small percentage of all incoming revenue from your publishing and the term for this type of deal is typically 1-3 years.

On the plus side, publishing administrators don’t take any ownership of your copyright at any point in the agreement. The work they do on your behalf includes registering your songs with collection societies, collecting royalties on your behalf, and processing paperwork for any sync or mechanical licenses you may get for a percentage of that royalty during the term of your engagement.


Sharpen your skills…

6 Common Questions To Ask An Entertainment Attorney

Types of Legal Contracts for Music Producers

Copyright Crash Course with Cosynd and Symphonic

The Truth About Advances


Work-for-Hire “Buy-out” Agreement

A work-for-hire agreement is essentially just what it sounds like. This type of deal is when someone, whether it be a company or an individual, hires a songwriter, producer, composer, etc. to create unique composition(s) for their projects for a flat fee.

  • Something to look out for, however, is the possibility of losing all your rights and royalties to whatever you create for them.
  • Typically, they can use your work for whatever they like without your consent with a deal like this.

Before you get too turned off to this idea, that’s not always the case. You could always work in some ownership percentages to the deal or include a recapture window to try and secure some type of continuous revenue streams in the future.

In Conclusion…

It’s up to you to read the fine print and understand what you’re signing before you sign it. Do your research, demand your own terms, and stick to your guns!

Share on: