top of page

Music Publishing 101: The quickest way to understand music publishing

Talented, passionate artists often don't realize that they are the default music publishing company before they sign with any major publisher. They're not just artists; they're businesses. The widespread misinformation and lack of knowledge about music publishing can significantly impact their careers, leading to missed royalties and a feeling of never truly owning their work. However, every artist deserves to fully understand and benefit from their art.

Once I cracked the publishing game open, I created this channel to share the insights and strategies I learned. Here’s your quick guide to understanding music publishing.

1. Music Publishing Represents the Musical Works Copyright

In the vast ocean of the music industry, understanding the significance of music publishing is paramount. At its core, music publishing deals with the ownership of the song. This encompasses the lyrics you pen down and the melodies you craft. When you control this, you ensure two critical things: proper credit for your work and rightful compensation for its use. In essence, owning your musical copyright is not just about business—it's an affirmation of your artistic authenticity and originality.

2. You Are Your Default Music Publisher

Before venturing into the glitz and glam of big publishing deals, recognize your inherent power. By default, when you create, you have the rights to your masterpiece. This initial control is not just about authority; it's about empowerment. It's the foundational belief that every artist, irrespective of their reach or fame, should have the first say in the fate of their creations.

3. A PRO Is Not a Publishing Company

The world of music rights can be confusing, but distinctions are vital. A PRO, or Performance Rights Organization, has a very distinct role—it tracks and ensures you get paid for performances of your songs. However, it doesn't lay claim to any rights. This clarity, understanding that PROs aren't publishers, is liberating. Just as every role in music production is distinct and essential, so is its function in the artist's journey.

4. Three Main Publishing Royalties

Your music travels. It plays on radios, streams online, and resonates in movies. And for every avenue it takes, there's a royalty associated. These are the Mechanical, Synchronization, and Public Performance royalties. It's not just about multiple streams of income; it's about understanding and ensuring every penny you deserve finds its way to you. Your art has value, and that value translates to various forms of compensation.

5. You Don’t Need a Music Publisher to Collect for You

One of the myths in the industry is the indispensability of the middleman. The truth? You, as an artist, can chart your course. With determination and the right knowledge, you can independently collect the royalties your work earns. This isn't just about monetary gains; it's about breaking free from dependencies. True independence in artistry transcends the stage—it extends into its business and transactions.

6. U.S. Companies That Help You Collect Without a Middleman

The music industry is vast, but not all of it is a labyrinth. There are allies, like BMI and ASCAP, The MLC, and Music Reports, and The Harry Fox Agency, designed to help you manage and collect your royalties. These aren't just companies; they're bridges to your independence. By partnering with them, you can ensure that while you maximize your reach, you still remain firmly in control.

Isn't It Too Complicated to Manage All This on My Own?

It's natural to feel overwhelmed, especially when faced with the intricacies of the music business. However, like all things, it becomes more manageable with knowledge and practice. Plus, remember, you're not truly alone. There are resources and platforms like the 60-Day Record Label designed to guide and support independent artists.

Wouldn’t a Major Publisher Have More Reach and Resources Than I Do?

A major publisher does have a vast network, but it comes at a cost—often, a significant slice of your royalties and sometimes even creative control. By handling your publishing or working with more of the four main U.S. companies I mentioned, you retain more of your earnings and artistic freedom.

What If I Make a Mistake in Managing My Own Publishing Rights?

Mistakes are a part of any learning curve. It's essential to stay informed, double-check contracts, and your song registrations before signing or submitting and perhaps even consult with industry professionals or legal counsel when uncertain like me. Over time, as you familiarize yourself with the process, the likelihood of errors will diminish.

Here’s What You Can Do

Your music is more than just melodies and lyrics; it's a legacy. By understanding the core principles of music publishing, you're not only ensuring your financial future but also solidifying your autonomy as an artist. Begin your journey of knowledge today, and remember, you have the rights, the power, and the tools at your fingertips. Dive deeper into my resources below this video to uncover every detail of music publishing, and ensure your art gets the compensation, recognition, and reward it deserves.

Check This Out!

If you're a music creative or executive looking to build your label or publishing company in 60 days or less, grab the 60-Day Record Label Course and get it done today! You’ll gain the ability to get real funding, avoid contractual pitfalls, and keep the middleman out of your pockets. Click the link below to get started now! If you’re skeptical, grab the free guide, "10 Ways to Increase Your Record Label Profits," which comes with a free split sheet download.

By Getting This Right, You’ll Be Able To:

  1. Make choices benefiting your art and finances.

  2. Retain your inherent music publishing rights.

  3. Fully tap into all publishing income avenues.

  4. Use platforms like ASCAP and The MLC without losing control.

  5. Understand the difference between PROs and publishers.

  6. Navigate the music industry confidently and assertively.

Keep Getting It Wrong Looks Like…

  1. Lost Revenue: Missing out on potential income from royalties.

  2. Lost Control: Prematurely signing away valuable assets.

  3. Confusion: Stumbling into unfavorable deals due to misunderstandings.


At the start, you may have stood at the crossroads of creativity and commerce, unsure and uninformed. Now, armed with knowledge and direction, you should be poised to navigate the music industry with confidence, ensuring your art and business flourish hand in hand.


bottom of page