Songwriting Publishing

What Is a Songwriting Publishing Deal?

James Naleski Journalist
Musical Songwriting Publishing

Publishing deals have been huge news for a long time. Publishing deals are a massive investment by a publisher in a songwriter and place great trust in the artistic vision of that writer. These arrangements are one of many strategies songwriters can use to further their careers in the entertainment industry. I believe that publishing agreements are the backbone of the entertainment industry. A songwriter can also have an arrangement with a label, or a songwriter may be independent and signed only to the publisher, not to a label. 

Contracts with a publisher do not usually require a songwriter to work exclusively with the publisher but require that the songwriter give the publisher exclusive rights to publish their work. Songwriters are not the publisher’s employees and do not receive a salary or other employee benefits. These arrangements usually require an artist to provide the publisher with a minimum amount of work, such as the number of tracks the songwriter must deliver or the number of songs that a writer must release. These contracts are made for a specific period of time. Typically the newer the songwriter, the shorter the agreement period.

The real benefit to a songwriter from a publishing contract is financial. The songwriter gets royalties on songs that are published. Royalties on a song are collected by the songwriter for their lifetime and then for 75 years after death by their estate. If the songs do well, the songwriter can collect a lot of money; however, there will be very little to collect if the songs do not do well. This arrangement works very well if the songwriter has some other means of support and can wait for more than a year for any return on his work. Publishing companies can offer a writer an “Advance.” During an “Advance,” money is given to a writer to live on while they write songs and must be paid back before any royalties are paid to the writer.

A great resource that songwriters have at their disposal is collaboration. New artists and songwriters should consider collaborating with an established songwriter and artist they respect. However, collaborations require a genuine connection between writers and are most powerful when they use the strengths of both parties. If you bring something new to the table, you will be able to find people who also want to collaborate with you. 

Finally, when collaborating with another writer, it’s helpful to have a discography or to have released songs independently. This approach is also attractive to publishing companies and other writers because it allows them to see your work. This tactic can also prove helpful as it builds an audience and demographic that support your sound and melodies. My other piece of advice would be not to name-drop. Ultimately, it’s about the results you can drive and deliver.