Guide to self-publishing your own music

Although not for everyone, self-publishing your music brings with it a number of perks, giving you full control of where and how your music is used. Here, we break down how it’s done.

Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog

Self-publishing your music comes with a lot of benefits. You don’t have to share your copyrights with anyone, you aren’t bound to any publishing deals, and you get ultimate control over where your work is used and how. Keep in mind, self-publishing isn’t for everyone. You need to be able to commit your time and effort to do everything a publisher would usually do and more. But if this is something that you’re ready to take on, here’s how to do it.

How To Self Publish Your Music

Let’s Talk Basics…

Self-publishing your songs means you take on the role of both the artist and the publisher. Being a self-published writer ultimately means that you hold all the rights to your Intellectual Property (IP), which means you would be in full control of how your compositions are used and would receive all royalties associated with your share of your compositions.

This is awesome, but these perks come with a little extra work. If you’re still interested, here’s what you’ll need to do to self-publish your songs…

Step 1: Make Sure Your Music Hasn’t Been Published Yet

If you’ve worked with a distributor before, you may have opted in for publishing services without even realizing it. For example, our publishing administration services are very popular with our own clients. Before you do anything, definitely make sure this doesn’t apply to you.

Step 2: Register with a PRO

In order for you to receive the royalties, you’re rightfully owed, your songs need to be properly registered with a Performing Rights Organization like ASCAP, SESAC, or BMI. PRO’s rely on the information you provide to determine who they need to pay and how much.

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, make sure to only do so with only one of these, not all of them.
  • To ensure you do everything right, check out this post to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Step 3: Sign Up with the MLC

The Mechanical Licensing Collective maintains the world’s most thorough database of music composition copyrights and their owners. They collect mechanical royalties from digital music streaming services and transmit those royalties to copyright holders based on the ownership claims.

Signing up with them ensures that you get all the royalties that are rightfully owed to you. You’ll need to “Connect to Collect” and become a Member of the MLC in order to collect the digital audio mechanical royalties owed to you. — Click here to get started with that process and learn more about it.

Step 4: Time to Promote

Once you’ve completed those steps, you can finally start getting your publisher’s share on top of the writer’s share. Now is the time where the duties of a publisher fall onto you.

Typically, your publisher would be the one networking, seeking out sync deals for TV and film, registering copyrights, negotiating licenses, and more. When you self publish, it’s all on you.

In Conclusion…

Self-publishing typically just entails registering with a PRO to be able to manage and publish your own compositions, but it doesn’t have to end there. If you want to go even further, become a publisher and start your own publishing company! Doing so lets you do everything yourself and also gives you the ability to relay your services onto other artists who need it. // Interested? Check out, “How to Become A Music Publisher” to learn more.

In the meantime, we hope this helps! You got this.

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