Goodnight Kiss Music (BMI) & Scene Stealer Music (ASCAP)
|"What It Means To Publish A Song"
(C) 1999 All rights reserved by Lynn Robin Green
it comes up in ordinary social conversation when I first meet
someone and they ask what I do ,(when I tell them Im a music
publisher,they get a really blank look and say OH? How
interesting)... Uh,...But what does a Music Publisher really do
exactly? I have found that most writers and everyday folks aren't
really sure what being a music publisher means (nor the process
involved),so I thought I'd try to define what IT REALLY MEANS TO
PUBLISH A SONG.
Firstly a song that is uncirculated and is not released for commercial distribution IS AN UNPUBLISHED SONG.When we sign a song to a contract and we move ahead to try to publish it--this means that we work to take it to the next point and find commercial usages for the song.That usage may be pitching it to a Recording Artist that is currently seeking material for an album session ,(with the goal being that the song is released on their record for sale to the public).
Or we may present the song for possible usages in
1)A Television Show as a theme song,featured song or as a background usage song.
2)For a motion picture in production as a featured song,a theme song or a background source cue.
3)To an Advertising Agency for possible consideration as a commercial for a certain product that the song would well represent musically and thematically.
4)To CD software producers who may be seeking a specific type of material for the score of a CD ROM project.
5)To a Recording Artist to do for a TV Special or a Special Event Concert that will be filmed and televised (as even though they may not have recorded the song on record),this usage can be two fold as it will be in the Filmed Show and thereby will earn TV air play royalties and a licensing fee,as well as the opportunity for the Artist to sing it,expose the song to the masses and hopefully find that they will want to record it in the future on their next release.(This kind of pitch is known as supplying 'special material').That's usually a song that fits the theme of the event or benefit better than any other song that may be available.Until one of above above usages is obtained on an unpublished song-it hasn't the chance to be considered as published as IT'S financially unexploited and hasn't a basis of application commercially to earn from (ie-an income stream that is generated by the song's own earnings for ITSELF)...The key to getting the song UP ON ITS EARNING legs is to go find all of the creative applications and marketing opportunities for it in todays existing marketplace.We must use all of our resources that we have built up over the years as Publisher's and our contacts with A people (who may have a current artist seeking material) and/or tip sheets that only Publishers subscribe to whether in the United States or in foreign territories.And we also use TV & Film Production guides and data that keep us abreast of new productions and we call to find out what kind of material they may need for that project.
The secret is that we must believe in that song more than anything and go forward with the attitude of selling it to others (so that they feel the same way and want to use the song too).It takes alot of high energy and sales tactics and HYPE sometimes,but knowing that you have a fabulous piece of material or a GREAT band or Solo Artist it isn't hard to make others see it too...Part of the success in finding the first usage for a song or finding a record deal for an artist is based alot of the time on faith ,hope ,personal connections realtionships in the business and unlimited hard work. Until a song has its first usage or a band gets a TV spot or a recording deal,its largely an UPHILL process all the way.
Once a record is released on a song,then the Publisher too often joins in helping to promote that record (or that show appearance of their band) in any way that they can..
Once a record is released we often rely on Gavin and billboard charts to reveal its chart position which is a reflection of
1)the amount of air play its receiving and
2)the amount of sales it is earning at the cash registers,which is also reflected by Soundscan..(The bar code that you put on your independent CD or a major record release has an intrinsic code that the retail stores use as a sales logging device which is then reported to Soundscan and Billboard as UNITS SOLD).
When a record is imminent for major release a Publisher must know where it will be released firstly.In the event that it will be released outside the U.S. -we must notify our sub publishers (also known as our collection agents) in those countries in order for them to license it over there.We supply them the song title,writers,publisher information and percentages we own and also the record name,artist,title of album,release date,label name and the record number itself (which you see on the spine of the CD and usually on the CD itself).The sub-publishers then license it there ,collect on it,and also work to find other material usages for it as I've outlined above.If the group or artist is well known --the revenue to the Publisher and the Sub publisher coming out of that foreign territory can be substantial.The sub-publisher has a responsibility to collect and to exploit it further for the Publisher in foreign territories or vice versa as some songs are sub-published in the U.S. for a foreign original publisher too.It's all about who owns and controls the rights.
The original Publisher though is responsible for accounting to the writers of that song and duly assimilates all earnings and accounts for same,usually twice a year with a statement showing how many units sold,or licensing fees received for Tv or film and/or print music income too,if the song was released also in a song book or (folio form or any other income received).Once the record is out there is often a good chance that a few years later it will be reissued again on a best of or a greatest hits Cd as well.And if the song charts high there is a good chance that another recording artist may COVER it (record their own version of the song).Of course the licensing for that cover record is again also handled by the Publisher and is also collected for the songwriter by the Publisher again.It's the cover recordings and reissues that can provide longtime income streams for the Writer and Publisher for many years. There is sometimes a bit of confusion I've seen over the term -'self-published'.Let me give you an easy example of what this term means..In the event that you do not assign your publishing rights or any percentage of them to a Publisher THEN you hold those rights.
One case I'll describe is a writer who sent me a song that he stated was in a new motion picture coming out.Well he could choose to assign it to a Publisher,OR he can also choose to start up his own publishing firm with Ascap/BMI or Sesac and clear (reserve) a publishing company name and then once affiliated ,register the song and CUE sheet from that movie with his performing rights org. as writer 100% publisher 100%-(the cue sheet must reflect this information exactly along with the timing,and type of usage in the film.)If a writer has done this and he also has received a licensing fee from the film company to use the song/master-(and has a signed a synchronization and master license)--and THAT movie then plays on TV ----then his performing rights org will pay him both the Publisher and Writer air play shares as its surveyed on the different TV stations it plays on...At that point the song starts earning on its own legs and would be considered PUBLISHED but also then as SELF-PUBLISHED as the writer did not assign his publishing rights to any publisher in that case.The problem is that many writer's are not educated in how to handle the licensing or the administrative parts --and sometimes earned monies will fall through the cracks and they will not receive-- it nor do they know why.. Music publishers 'are in the exact business of getting usages'- exploiting copyrights, administrating ,collecting and accounting to the writer -(so a publisher and writer relationship whether its 100% or 50% or 25% is a long term relationship providing writers with direct ACCESS to exploitation opportunities) and with an expert who can handle getting YOU paid from all those sources)..
At least that's the WAY it should always work in the Publisher/Writer relationship.
Music Publisher's -----ARE in the business of selling your MUSIC and making money for you with your music -"continuously" ----and collecting that income for you---always.
__reprinted with permission (and gratitude) all rights reserved worldwide by Lynne Robin Greene, cr 1999.