Music publishers manage the copyright of a song or composition as opposed to the recording
Music publishers generate income from the song by getting artists to record the song, pitching the song to Film & TV and protecting the song from copyright infringement
Publishers try to strategically grow their songwriter’s career through opportunities such as co-writing
In its basic form, publishing seeks to find an audience for every song. But as three publishing veterans reveal, there is much more to it given the opportunities and challenges of today’s music paradigm.
Each songwriter is different
As conduits between creativity and commerce, publishers take on diverse roles in a songwriter’s career. According to Marianna Annas, Vice President, Commercial & Creative at Universal Music Publishing (Tim Rogers/You Am I, Ruby Boots, William Crighton), it all comes down to the individual songwriter.
“Publishers work with songwriters’ rights differently depending on their strengths, career objectives and what the songwriter needs from their publisher. “
Publishers manage the copyright of a song (not a recording)
Generally, music publishing is the management of the songwriting process and the discrete rights in the songs. The latter, of course, relates to copyright in a song’s underlying composition.
Marianna emphasises how this is distinct from copyright in the sound recording, commonly administered by the record label or distributor.
“Labels manage the recording process, market and promote the release of recorded music. This is only one element of a song’s life or creative and commercial potential,” she explains.
“In contrast, the publisher manages the various rights attached to a song and the different ways these rights can be embellished, whether through live performances, new recordings such as remixes or ‘arrangements’ by other artists, reproduction of songs in film and TV, print rights and more.”
When a songwriter signs a publishing deal, they assign the copyright in their music to their publisher
Publishers try to generate as much income from a song as possible
The publisher tries to generate as much income as possible for their writers’ songs and compositions by pitching them to films, TV programs and advertisements; organising other well-known artists to record and perform them; and protecting their writers' works against infringement, such as unlicensed commercial use or plagiarism.
Publishers can provide management support to their songwriters
Karen Hamilton, General Manager of 120 Publishing (Bombs Away, Sam La More, Joel Fletcher, SCNDL), agrees with Marianna that every writer has different needs.
“Some writers simply need you to work closely with their label or management to maximise exploitation of their releases, some need a lot of A&R support, some need help setting up co-writes or securing or placing toplines and some want to write for other people.”
“For many of our writers, we also act as pseudo management – providing business affairs services to finalise their contracts, helping plan work and release schedules or helping them get a record deal or booking agent.”
Publishers can provide strategic support to grow a songwriter’s career
With their extensive network of contacts and resources, publishers can play a key strategic role in the career of a songwriter.
Damian Trotter, Managing Director of Sony Music Publishing Australia (Tame Impala, Sia, Paul Kelly, Delta Goodrem), says this was the case with APRA and ARIA Award winner Jarryd James.