Music publishing is the marketing of original songs through the issuance of licenses of various sorts which authorize use of these songs. The licenses a music publisher will issue involve mechanical, synchronization, performing rights, print and other licenses. Music publishing allows a musical artist or composer to focus on creating songs, and music publishers must have a not only skill in the business side of the music business, but also skill in spotting musical talent worthy of the financial and time commitments of music publishing.
In many ways, a music publisher fills the role that a “music patron” filled in an earlier time. The music publisher gives the musician the resources — both financial and material — to produce new art. In turn, the music artist can focus solely on creating imaginative new songs and not have to be concerned with the gritty business details of music production. So you can view a music publisher as a kind of patron of the arts, though one whose purpose is to make money instead of achieving a reputation as a lover of the arts (which was the motivation of many art patrons).
In the age of the copyright, though, music publishing mainly focuses on the need to copyright original songs, while also ensuring the copyright is enforced, the music is licenses and the proper individuals are paid royalties. Control of the song’s license therefore allows a music publisher to recover money they spend to publish an artist’s songs. In this way, a music publisher is more of an investor in music, and music publishing becomes the music investing. This is where the ability to spot the best (or potentially most marketable) music talent becomes so important, because a music publisher who cannot consistently make money off their artists will not stay in business.
Talents and Skills a Music Publisher Needs
I’ve produced a list of talents and skills a music publisher needs to understand in order to successfully publish music. This gives an idea how much trouble goes into buying song licenses and marketing those songs to the music-buying public.
- Offering advice to their songwriters and providing guidance to the artist about writing in the whatever genre or industry the music publisher works.
- Commissioning new songs and coordinating work flow.
- To register the music works with collecting institutions like “PRS for Music” (once known as MCPS).
- Producing scores and parts for each members of the band.
- Producing demonstration recordings or demos.
- Licensing the production of printed music versions of the song or songs.
- Physical production of promotional materials for the song or band, including scores and sample CDs.
- The promotion of the songwriter to other people in the business, such as record companies, fellow performers, radio broadcasters and everyone else involved in the commercial side of the music business.
- Licensing the music of the songwriter or musical artist for use in the industry.
- Track use of the music and making certain the licenses song is not used without compensation.
- Making certain that money payments for all licensed music is paid to those who are owed this money.
- Assuring that royalty payments are paid to the songwriter or songwriters in question.
- Finally, enforcing the license of the song through legal action, if necessary. This becomes perhaps the most taxing part of the music business for the music publisher.
As you see, when you ask what music publishing is and what music publishers do, the answer to that question is long and complicated. The music industry could not work without the important work which music publishers perform, though generally people tend to forget about the lynch pin of the music industry known as music publishing.