Cutting Out The Middle Man; Be Your Own Music Publisher Feb 2

Most performers are more than happy to hand off the business end of music to someone else. But the more you hand off, the less money you stand to make and the less control over your work you are likely to have. One way to retain revenue and increase control is to cut out the middle man and become your own music producer. The first step, though, is to make sure you understand what a music publisher does.

Music publishers have been around longer than records. In fact, it can be traced back to the 15th century. Composers relied on publishers to sell the sheet music of their songs. As the music industry expanded with the arrival of the radio and phonograph, the role of the publisher also expanded. Currently, the main function of a music publisher it to administer song licensing and to track and collect royalties.

So act as your own music publisher, you need an in-depth knowledge into the different types of royalties can be collected. Mechanical Royalties initially meant anytime a record was played on any mechanical device, such as a jukebox or even a music box. The most common mechanical royalty came from records. Now the classification includes songs reproduced on CDs, audiocassettes and other devices sold on a per-unit basis.

There are also synchronization licenses which are collected any time a song is paired with a visual image such as in film or a video. Transcription licenses come when a song is used in a radio commercial. Print licenses for sheet music may be less common but many artists now publish their songs in books which also falls under a print license.
Even for professional music publishing companies, collecting money from foreign countries can be a crap shoot. Laws differ country to country regarding royalties so it is a common practice to enlist of foreign music publisher to administer your licenses in that country in exchange for a fee that averages about 20%.

If you feel you have the time and commitment to administer your own music publishing, you need to set up a company. After selecting an available name for your company, you need to apply for a publishing license from one of the performance licensing companies (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) which will require an application fee. Once they accept your application, register your business, use your DBA papers (Doing Business As) to open a bank account and you are set to start publishing your own music.

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