Music Publishing and Licensing Blog

Making Music Make Money – some quotes and comments about the book

A few years ago I read with enthusiasm the book Making Music Make Money – An Insider’s Guide To Becoming Your Own Music Publisher By Eric Beall – Berklee Press, a publishing activity of Berklee College of Music, a not-for-profit Education publisher.

What captured my attention about this book is the overall attitude of advice which the author, Eric Beall, offers his readers who have an active interest in learning about the music industry and how the business works.

But before I shed some light on his advice, I’ll mention that you can visit Eric’s profile on LinkedIN to see his past and current experience and credentials, which includes some of the following:

  • A&R; Publishing at Zomba Music Publishing/Jive Records
  • A&R; Publishing at Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc.
  • Vice President, A&R; at Sony ATV Music Publishing   

You can learn more about Eric Beall from from his Music Publishing And Songwriting site on his Berklee Music Blogs

Now on to the introduction to the book (from pages 10 – 14) where one of the most revolutionary concepts is revealed. Quoted portions are indented in Times font and offered only for insights and educational purpose. Yellow highlights added for emphasis. 

The purpose of this book is simply to let you in on a simple truth that has probably been lurking right under your nose. If it’s a hardworking, well-organized, well-connected music publisher that you’re looking for, look no further. You already have one. In fact, he or she has probably been around for some time now, having been with you since you penned your first potential hit. Your publisher is your greatest untapped resource, ready to take your assets (that’s your songs) and put them into action (put them somewhere where they can earn…)  to yield income (which is the goal here, remember). Whatever your publisher may lack in experience will inevitably be compensated for with an uncanny understanding of your work, and an unquestionable devotion to your career. So… songwriter meet your first, and quite possibly finest, publisher… You.

That’s quite a bold introduction once you realize not only the responsibility but the great opportunity involved with this kind of advice. Of course this is not yet any specific business or marketing advice which he gives in other chapters of the book, but only the “set up” so the reader understands the orientation and viewpoint from which they’ll be reading and studying this book. Next the author explains the paradox (actually two for the price of one!) which his first statement creates.

There is a paradox at work here. Until you take ownership of your own publishing company – which exists, at least in theory, from the day you complete your first song – you are unlikely to ever attract the interest of a major publisher, or for that matter, an important artist, A&R; person, or manager.

When an aspiring writer asks me how to find a good publisher, I usually reply, “Become one.”

This is the second paradox then. Not only are you the most likely to find a publisher by becoming one, you will usually be the most successful in working with a major music publisher when you reach the point of not really needing one. Starting your own publishing company is not necessarily a choice to avoid affiliation with a full-service music publisher. Rather, it is a proactive approach to structuring your music career.

When [you] as publisher affiliate with a larger publisher the approach is never one of a writer seeking a publisher, but rather of one business owner seeking a co-venture with another.

Great insights and advice. It reminds me a bit of another paradox we’ve all encountered as teens or young college students when looking for our first job. The employers usually wanted some experience, so they told us to “get a job” to get that experience, remember that shocking paradox? In other words, how could we get our first job if we didn’t have one yet to give us the experience we needed to get our first job? Of course eventually we got that first “job” (whatever it was), and with it came our first “green shoots” of experience. Let’s see how this relates to building an opportunity in the music business. Quoting again from the introduction:

Most publishing deals today are “co-publishing” deals, which means that the writer receives 100 percent of the “writer’s share” of income, but also a portion (usually 50 percent) of the publisher’s monies. If that seems like a better deal for the writer, it is – because it also leads back to the original paradox: to get a publisher, you have to become a publisher.

From a corporation’s standpoint, the advantage of going into business with a self-sufficient writer/publisher is obvious. Such a partnership allows a large company to affiliate with an ever-increasing number of writers, without significantly increasing the burden on their creative and administrative staff. The larger corporate entity can concentrate on those things at which it is most effective, while trusting that the writer’s own publishing company is competently handling the day-to-day duties of developing the writer’s career.

Smart business people see the world not as it once was or as they might wish it would be, but as it really is.

See where Eric is going with this? He’s basically giving the best reason “why” one should consider becoming one’s own self-published music publisher. The reason is because it can put you in a position (when you’re ready and have a great roster of songs) to negotiate co-publishing deals with others, perhaps larger publishers. In other words, being independent, organized and prepared will give you the best “shot” at making those important connections that people in the business are normally seeking. Sure, there’s always a bit of “luck” and favorable timing, but the greatest deciding factor is having done one’s homework and administrative due diligence to prepare for the opportunities ahead.

Now let’s look at some concluding remarks which are still part of the general introduction.  

This book is not intended to be a comprehensive, technical how-to guide to starting your own publishing company. Instead, it is an insider’s view of the music publishing business and offers practical tips toward helping you effectively assume a role as your own best publisher.< br />
While this book is clearly directed toward songwriters, I also believe that it can be useful to any music business entrepreneur: manager, club owner, DJ, producer, promoter, and independent label owner. Anyone who regularly comes in contact with new songs and new writers should consider establishing a music publishing enterprise. If done correctly, music publishing is a business that requires a relatively small upfront investment (no one’s asking you to build a factory, after all) and offers a long-term business from which you can quietly collect income for many years to come.

This offers some great direction as to the purpose for reading this book and applying its practical guidelines to your own music business, especially if you’re interested in effectively publishing and licensing your own music at some point or learning how to do it better if you already have some experience, or even a good head start.

The book is about 250 pages long (including the index) and covers a total of 24 chapters. It’s divided into these three main sections:

  • Part I. Start Me Up: Getting Into the Game.
  • Part II. Exploitation: The Real Work of Publishing
  • Part III. Taking Care of Business

Now you have a good intro to the book, not only what it is about but “why” it’s important to understand and learn the most basic concepts involved. Learning these principals, which the rest of the book explains in more detail and suggests how to apply, will make the difference between being an “outsider” or an “insider” who will be in the know. That said, I won’t spoil the rest of the story, so you’ll have to get the book and read it yourself. (lol)

But kidding aside, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a good foundation to build their music business career on. I’ve been sharing this book with others for about 3 years now, since I first read it. I’ve read some other good music industry business books before then, but this was one of the most helpful. Besides being easy and fun to read, it really keeps its focus to help you build on the previous chapters. Enjoy if you get a chance to read it and consider sharing it with others in your music biz circle or “team” when you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed and this will also give you additional knowledge for managing your own LicenseQuote account and e-commerce powered licensing store.

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