Music Publishing and Licensing Blog

LicenseQuote serves and supports a large variety of music publishers

LicenseQuote serves and supports a large variety of music publishers, each having their own unique business model, catalog specialty and related marketing objectives. This article surveys the most common kinds of  music publishing activites and specialties of music publishing and licensing.

Music Publisher definition and background

If you are new to the music publishing or want to become a music publisher, let’s start with a basic definition of the music publisher:

Music Publisher
– A person, company or organization that is authorized to license the compositions and/or the reproductions of particular musical works embodied in sound recording. More broadly, the publisher typically licenses mechanical, print, master, synch and performance rights on behalf of itself and any of its rightful co-writers, producers or other owners.

Please also visit these links for an overview and more detailed background. See section under “What makes you a music publisher” on the Why License Your Music article.  For general background about contemporary music publishing, visit this Music Publisher (popular music) article on the wikipedia site.

Overview of music publishing activities

Traditionally and in many current applications, the copyrights owned and administered by music publishers are one of the most important forms of intellectual property in the music industry. The other is the copyright on a master recording which may be owned by a publisher, recording studio or record label company or some ownership share (percentage) of these.

Publishing companies therefore play a central role in managing these vital (composition and recording) assets in that the music publisher is responsible for ensuring the songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions and/or master recordings are licensed for commercial use.

It is through a publishing contract (agreement) that a songwriter or composer assigns the copyright of their composition to a publishing company, unless they are acting as their own self-published publisher. Regardless, the publisher licenses the compositions, helps monitor where they are used, collects royalties and distributes them to the composers. The publishers also secure commissions for music and may promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television.

In summary, music publishing and licensing is a very dynamic relationship between the administration of the copyrighted compositions and/or master recordings (intellectual property) ownership, with the marketing and sales of its various licensed uses.

Music publisher types…

The self-published ‘primary’ publisher

In today’s digital era, most music publishing companies are started by songwriters, authors or composers who intially retain their own copyrights and build their catalogs with their own original collection of compositions and (usually) master recordings.

The songwriters typically write songs with lyrics, the authors normally write only the lyrics for the songs, and the composers write the music, most commonly for instrumental works, though sometimes lyrics can later be added.

In the process of the music creation, small catalogs (starting with as little as 10 – 20 songs), are copyrighted, published for presentation, made available for licensing sales, and then further growth and development. The music creators can perform and record their own material, collaborate with other musicians (vocalists or instrumentalists, etc.), hire musicians to create the recordings or license the compositions to other artists for performance and recording sales.

The co-publisher

After a music creator starts building a reputable catalog, they are typically in a position to attract other successful writers or established publishers. This can be achieved through co-writing and related publishing collaboration which often leads to co-publishing partnerships. This means the publishers will share their income from the licensing sales of their combined catalogs, or alternately, only the co-created compositions are shared on a partnership basis, assuming no formal business partnership for their publishing/licensing service is formed.

The sub-publisher

Sub-publishers typically collect and organize (aggregate) and license music on behalf of the primary publishers who own the compositions and/or master copyrights. This could be any kind of music ranging from stock music to famous “hits” or new custom-created music for specific or limited purposes. Licensing sales shares/splits will vary, but 50% is quit common, and the sub-publisher issues periodic sales reports to the primary publishers and sends licensing royalties when due.

The mass aggregation sub-publisher

In this business model the publisher acts as an aggregator of multiple sub-publishers. For example, if each of 25 sub-publishers has an average of 3,000 song titles (tracks), the publisher would manage an aggregated library of 3,000 x 25 = 75,000 tracks. Depending on the commissions negotiated, they could range from 25% to 75%, with 50% being a typical average, which usually includes the compositions and the masters, and assumes most are cleared and available to be licensed as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

Music publisher specialities

The main 3 areas of music publishing speciality activies are:
1. Publishing both the music compositions and sound recordings – Regardless of catalog type, music publishers can offer these bundled together for their songs, but is most likely available from the indendent (self-published) publishers as described above, or larger libraries who have aggregated smaller catalogs which are organized to offer both the compositions and master recordings together from a “one-stop” shop.

2. Publishing only the music compositions – Some publishers may specialize in only publishing and licensing the compositions, for example, the score notation, midi files, sheet music or folio, also known as “imprints”, while others don’t have any recordings and may refer to a record label or other artist/publisher who can supply the master recordings. This is often the case for publishers who have previously dealt with established record labels who own the master recordings. In this case they also have the option to create new re-recorded versions, license the mechanical rights to clients who want to create their own recording, or refer their clients to the record labels which control the requested masters.

3. Publish only the sound recordings – This most commonly applies to recording studios, producers or custom production houses that specialize in the recordings of well known cover songs such as standards and popular “hits”. Normally they don’t own the composition copyrights, hence they will only license the sound recording portion of the licensing rights. In most cases they will be able to refer their clients to the original composition publishers when, for example, sync or other licensing rights are required for for the requested commercial usage.

LicenseQuote enables and supports all music publisher types and specialites

Regardless of the type of music publisher, publishing specialty activity, brands or catalog/libary sizes, LicenseQuote enables and supports virtually any business model, licensing profiles, rate cards and catalog growth management scenarios. Here’s some examples:
LQ 75 – starter plan for new self-published publishers, including artists, songwriters, composers, producers or start-up record labels. Includes all catalog, licensing and store features for up to 75 preview + 75 master files.
LQ 200 – ideal plan for experienced music creators with a desire to grow their catalog and represent more composer/catalog brands. Includes all features with up to 200 preview + 200 master files.
LQ 500 – suitable for experienced music creators or multi-brand publishers to organize their catalogs. Includes all features with up to 500 preview + 500 master files. Upgrading available to LQ 1000 or custom plans and pricing.
LQ 1000 – recommended for advanced aggregators, labels or sub-publishers. Includes all features with room for up to 1,000 preview + 1,000 master files.
LQ Custom Plan – for publishers/aggregators/labels who want to include more than 1,000 tracks in their catalogs, library and e-commerce store. As with all plans, this includes unlimited brands, genres and licensing profiles. Get a quote based on your library size, storage and subscription payment options.

For more details, please visit our Plans & Pricing page.

% Responses

  1. Helpful article. Thanks Michael.