Get an introduction to the music publishing industry by reading this excerpt from Cool Jobs in the Music Industry.
While publishing is not often viewed as being the most exciting side of the music industry, it is one of the most important areas and continues to be a healthy and vibrant sector of business. The music publisher’s primary job is to ensure that the money that songwriters and composers earn through commercial use of their music is collected on their behalf worldwide.
While certain areas of publishing companies act as ac- counting firms, there is also a creative side to the company that puts writers together, signs new writers in an A&R capacity and pitches music to film, television and commercials for music licenses and soundtracks. Long after an artist’s popular career is over, a smart publishing deal and creative executives have the ability to ensure income streams for many years to come. Every time you hear a song on a TV show, a film or a commercial, a music publisher has negotiated on behalf of that artist to place the music in that location. Music publishers often work closely with record companies in the creative process.
What Is Music Publishing?
Although publishing is dominated by major companies con- trolling millions of copyrights, there is a thriving and widely successful class of mid-size publishers, as well as a burgeon- ing independent publishing scene. To be a publisher you have to have the infrastructure—or a deal with a larger company—to collect on songs in your catalog. You can be a publisher with three songs in your catalog or with 30,000: The process is essentially the same.
Artists choose to do publishing deals for a variety of rea- sons. For some, early in their career, artists may need money to live on to pursue their artistic endeavors; some may need the A&R and licensing support. Later in artists’ careers, they may choose to sell their catalog for long-term financial security. It is not uncommon for superstar artists to fetch hundreds of millions of dollars for a body of work, and in recent years the purchase and sale of artist catalogs has become an exciting business. In many cases, artists’ songs continue to go up in value long after they die. When disputes arise about usage of songs or copyright infringement, the music publisher defends the intellectual prop erty of its writers passionately and effectively. When you hear about legal cases dealing with Internet piracy, chances are that there was a music publisher involved in bringing the case to court. With that said, there’s a wide spectrum of work within the publishing industry—from legal and accounting to creative and A&R.
Like record labels, publishing companies also have departments that handle the creative, administrative and legal sides of the business, as well as senior management that oversees the entire business.