So, You Want To Be A Music Publisher

Tasked with handling the administration of musical compositions, including collecting royalties and negotiating licensing deals, music publisher play an essential role int he music industry. Here, we look at how you can become your own music publisher.

Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog

In short, a music publisher handles the administration of musical compositions. They collect royalties and licensing fees, seek out sync deals for TV and film, register copyrights, negotiate licenses, and so much more. Nowadays, many artists act as their own publishers. In order to do it yourself, here’s what you need to do…

How To Become A Music Publisher

Step 1 // Affiliate yourself with ASCAP or BMI

Even if you only plan on publishing for your own music, you’ll need to be affiliated with ASCAP or BMI. Start setting up your company by going to either www.ascap.com or www.bmi.com to obtain/fill out an application.

  • If you are a songwriter and have not yet affiliated, you should affiliate with one of these societies at the same time ‐ you can’t affiliate with both.
  • You have to affiliate as a publisher with the same society that you affiliate with as a songwriter.
  • If you plan to publish other people’s songs as well as your own, and unless all of your writers are affiliated with the same society, you will need affiliations with both publishing companies. (BMI and ASCAP)

Step 2 // Legally establish yourself as a business

Once your application has been accepted, it’s time to legally establish yourself as a business as per the requirements of your state. To figure out what you need, you’ll need to visit your Secretary of State’s office and/or the County Clerk website.

Since you probably aren’t a big corporation, you’ll most likely need to file a fictitious name statement. What this does is 1) states that you are clearly doing business under a name that is not your own and it is legal to do so, and 2) lets you open a bank account and/or cash checks made out to that name if you need to.


Sharpen your skills…

Types of Publishing Deals and How They Work

Copyright Crash Course with Cosynd and Symphonic

6 Common Questions To Ask An Entertainment Attorney

Which Legal Entity Is Right For Your Music Business?


Step 3 // Register your songs

Next, you’ll need to register the songs with the Copyright Office in the name of your new publishing company. — To do so, go to https://www.copyright.gov

Step 4 // Register the songs with the performing rights society you chose in Step 1

You only have to register the songs as the publisher or writer, not both. Whichever society you chose will have all the details necessary on their site.

That’s all, folks!

Now, you’ve got your own music publishing company under your belt! With it, you can do everything a hired publisher would have done for you on your own terms. Not only that, but you can relay your services onto other artists who need it. Follow these steps, and you’re on the right track to success. You got this!

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