Understanding the basics of music publishing
How songs can be used
Many songwriters work with representatives to help navigate and collect royalties on the use of their music globally. Generally, a song you write can be used in three ways:
- Performance: When a song is performed or transmitted online (including streaming) or played in a public place.
- Mechanical: When a song is reproduced digitally or physically.
- Synchronization: When a song is used in visual media.
Finding your performing rights organization
It is important to become a performing rights organization (PRO) member to receive your writer’s share of the performing rights income. When signing up with a PRO, make sure you understand how they collect on performances and what they offer in terms of resources and networking opportunities. Research your country or region’s performing rights organizations, as there may be more than one organization to consider.
Registering copyrights to earn mechanical royalties for your songs
If you’ve contributed to a song that could get streamed or purchased in the United States, and do not plan to work with a music publisher, you’ll want to sign up and become a member of The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC).
The MLC issues and administers blanket mechanical licenses to digital services such as Apple Music and collects and distributes mechanical royalties to its members.
Through The MLC, you’ll be able to register your songs’ copyrights and identify songs that contain your copyrights via the public copyright database, ensuring that you receive mechanical royalty payments when those songs are streamed or purchased. Apple Music has been a licensee of The MLC since January 2021.
Finding your music publisher
Music publishers register your copyrights and help manage the administration and revenue collection for the use of your music around the world and may also provide creative services such as an A&R (Artists and Repertoire).
When considering teaming up with a representative in the publishing space, make sure you understand what types of services they’ll provide (which may vary by country or region), contractual terms or commitments, and how your copyright ownership might be impacted. Seeking out independent legal advice before entering into any agreement is always recommended. Research your local music publishers association to learn more about music publishers in your country or region.
If you are releasing music, your distributor may also offer music publishing administration.