What to Expect from a Music Publishing Deal: A Guide for Musicians

If you are a musician, you may be considering music publishing to make more money from your music. While this can be a great option, it is crucial to understand what to expect from a music publishing deal. 

This guide will discuss the different aspects of music publishing deals and what you can expect from each one. We will also provide tips on negotiating the best deal for yourself!

What to Expect from a Music Publishing Deal: A Guide for Musicians

What Is A Music Publishing Deal (And What Isn't It)?

What is a music publishing deal?

A music publishing deal can be a valuable source of income for musicians. It's not just about getting paid for the rights to your song – a good publishing deal will also include royalties for any songs you write or co-write with the publisher.

Here are some key things to know about music publishing deals:

1. A music publishing deal is not just about getting paid: A good publishing deal will also include royalties for any songs you write or co-write with the publisher. This means that you could be earning money even if your song doesn't sell copies on its own.

2. The terms of a music publishing deal can vary. Still, typically it will include an upfront payment, royalties on future sales, and sometimes other benefits such as touring support or promotional assistance.

3. The size of the upfront payment will depend on the popularity of the artist and the potential sales of their music, but it can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

4. The royalties paid on future sales are usually a percentage of the retail price, and they can vary depending on the type of product being sold (e.g., CDs, digital downloads, etc.). In some cases, the artist may also receive a portion of the royalties from songwriting and performance royalties generated by their music.

In addition to these financial terms, the contract may also specify other conditions such as how the music will be used, how often it can be performed live, and so on. It is essential to read and understand the full terms of any music publishing deal before signing anything!

What Are The Different Types Of Music Publishing Deals?

Any musician who wants to make a career out of their art will eventually have to start thinking about music publishing. But with so many different types of deals out there, it can be challenging to know which one is right for you. Here's a quick overview of some of the most common types of music publishing deals:

One-Off Deals

One-off deals are exactly what they sound like – a single payment in exchange for the rights to your song. These deals can be beneficial if you're looking for a quick payday, but they typically don't offer much in the way of long-term royalties.


Co-publishing deals are similar to one-off deals, but instead of selling your song outright, you retain a portion of the copyright and receive royalties on future sales. These deals can offer more money upfront, as well as a greater potential for long-term earnings.


An administration deal is the most basic form of publishing agreement. In this arrangement, the publisher agrees to promote and administer the copyrighted work on behalf of the songwriter.

The songwriter usually retains full ownership rights and control over the work. However, they will usually receive a lower percentage of royalties than in other types of agreements. 

Exclusive Agreements

An exclusive agreement is the most comprehensive type of music publishing deal. In this arrangement, the publisher agrees to administer, promote, and exploit the copyrighted work on behalf of the songwriter.

The songwriter usually receives a higher percentage of royalties than in other types of agreements. However, they may also be required to give up some control over the work and may be restricted from working with other publishers.

How Does a Music Publishing Deal Work?

This depends on the type of music publishing deal. First, you will need to figure out what kind of deal you are after (you can get an idea of what suits you best using the information above to make an informed decision).

Figure Out What You Need

Asking yourself some of the following questions will help you determine what you should include in your music publishing deal:

  • What rights am I looking to sell?
  • Do I want to retain any ownership rights?
  • How much control do I want to have over my work?
  • What are my long-term goals for this song or album?
  • What do I want to achieve with my music?
  • Do I want to get it heard by as many people as possible?
  • Am I actually looking for a record deal instead?

You will also need to decide what you are willing to give up in order to get what you want out of the deal.

For example, if you are looking for a one-time payment in exchange for your song, you will likely have to give up all future royalties.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a long-term publishing deal, you may have to give up some control over your work in exchange for a higher percentage of royalties.

Research Different Music Publishing Deals

research publishing deals 1

Knowing what you are after will make it easier to do deeper research into music publishing deals that might work best for you.

You can learn a lot by talking to other musicians who have already been through the music publishing process. Ask them about their experience, what they would have done differently, and who they would recommend.

It's also a good idea to consult with an experienced music lawyer before signing any music publishing deals. They can help you understand the legalities of different types of music publishing agreements and ensure that you are getting a fair deal.

How Do I Get a Music Publishing Deal?

The following are a few ways that you can go about getting a music publishing deal:

Look for Music Publishers Who Are Accepting Submissions.

Music publishers are always on the lookout for new talent, and they can help to get your music placed in films, TV shows, and advertisements. However, it can be difficult to know where to start.

The good news is that there are a few simple ways to find music publishers who are accepting submissions.

First, try using our music service directory. We have a list of music publishers, as well as their contact information and submission guidelines.

Another way is by doing a Google search. This will bring up a list of music publishers, along with contact information and guidelines for submissions. 

Another option is to check out the website of your local music industry association. This is a great resource for finding music publishers in your area.

Attend Music Industry Conferences and Networking Events.

Attend music industry conference and networking events

If you want to get your music published, it's important to connect with the right people. And one of the best ways to do that is by attending music industry conferences and networking events.

These events bring together a wide range of music industry professionals, including publishers, producers, and A&R representatives. Attendees have the opportunity to network and build relationships with potential business partners.

Additionally, many conferences offer panels and workshops on a variety of topics related to the music industry.

Get Organised

You will need to get your music into a format that is presentable to music publishers. This usually means having your songs recorded and mixed professionally (although there are some music publishers who will accept demo recordings).

Press Kits & Online Presence

You should also put together a press kit which includes information about you and your music. This should include a bio, press photos, and a list of your previous accomplishments.

Finally, you will need to create an online presence for yourself and your music. This can be done by setting up a website and social media accounts. It would help if you also considered creating a music video or EPK (electronic press kit).

Negotiating a Music Publishing Deal

Music publishing is a complex and nuanced field, and there are no simple answers when it comes to negotiating a publishing deal. However, there are some key things to keep in mind when negotiating with a music publisher:

1. Establish what you want from the deal upfront. What rights do you want to retain? What percentage of royalties do you want to earn? What type of creative control do you need? These are all important questions to ask before entering into any negotiations.

2. Do your research and know your value. Know what similar deals have been signed for, and be prepared to fight for the best possible terms under which you can operate.

3. Stay calm and be flexible. It's important to remember that music publishing is a business, and the goal is to come to an agreement that is beneficial for both parties. Be prepared to compromise on some of your initial demands in order to reach a deal that everyone can be happy with.

Famous Music Publishing Companies

One of the most famous and well-known music publishing companies is Universal Music Publishing Group. They are known for working with some of the biggest names in the music industry, such as Taylor Swift, Drake, and Rihanna.

Another big name in music publishing is Sony/ATV Music Publishing. They have a wide range of artists on their roster, including Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Lady Gaga.

Kobalt Music Group is another company that is quickly making a name for itself in the music publishing world. They work with a number of high-profile artists, such as Beck, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Nicks.

These are just a few of the many music publishing companies out there that are helping to shape the sound of popular music. 

Music Publishing FAQs

Can a Music Manager Negotiate a Publishing Deal?

In most cases, music managers will not be involved in the negotiation of a music publishing deal. This is because music publishing deals are usually negotiated between the artist and the publisher with the help of an attorney or music business consultant.

Can I Sign a Publishing Deal Without a Record Deal?

Yes, it is possible to sign a music publishing deal without having a record deal. In fact, many music publishers are more interested in signing songwriters than recording artists.

This is because music publishers make money by licensing songs to film and television productions, commercials, and other projects.

What Happens if I Sign a Publishing Deal?

If you sign a music publishing deal, the music publisher will acquire the copyright to your songs. The music publisher will then be responsible for licensing your songs and collecting royalties on your behalf.

Do Music Publishers Secure Synchronization Deals?

When it comes to securing synchronization deals, music publishers have several key advantages over individual songwriters or artists. First, music publishers have large catalogs of songs that they can offer to potential partners.

Secondly, music publishers have extensive experience negotiating synchronization deals, and they know what terms to look for in order to get the best possible deal for their clients. Finally, music publishers often have close relationships with movie studios and TV networks which can help them secure lucrative synchronization deals.

Do I Need a Publisher for My Music?

The answer to this question depends on your goals as a musician. If you're interested in licensing your music for film and TV productions, then it's likely that you will need to sign a music publishing deal. However, if you're only interested in releasing your music independently, then you may not need a music publisher.

Is BMI a Music Publisher?

BMI is not a music publisher. BMI issues licenses to users of music, such as radio stations, nightclubs, and commercial establishments. The licenses allow the users to play the copyrighted music that is registered with BMI.

Is Distrokid a Music Publisher?

DistroKid is a music distributor, not a publisher. This means that they do not offer any publishing services, such as songwriting or copyright protection. Instead, they simply help to get your music onto online stores and streaming services.

While this may seem like a small difference, it can actually be quite significant. For one thing, it means that you will have to handle your own copyright protection if you want to ensure that your songs are not used without your permission.

Can I Be My Own Music Publisher?

Yes, you can be your own music publisher. In order to do so, you will need to register with the United States Copyright Office and then deposit a copy of your work with them.

You will also need to create a copyright notice for your work and include it in all published copies. Finally, you will need to enforce your copyright by pursuing legal action against anyone who infringes upon your rights.

Is ASCAP a Music Publisher?

ASCAP does not function as a music publisher but instead represents 850,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers as a professional organization. 

In addition to collecting and distributing royalties on behalf of its members, ASCAP also provides a number of resources and services to support its members' careers. These include educational programs, professional development opportunities, and industry news and information.

What Percentage Do Music Publishers Take?

This is a difficult question to answer, as the percentage music publishers take can vary considerably. In general, music publishers will take anywhere from 10-50% of the total royalties earned from a song.

The exact percentage will depend on a number of factors, including the popularity of the song, the popularity of the artist, and the negotiating skills of both parties. However, it's important to remember that music publishers are taking a risk by investing in an artist, and they deserve to be compensated for that risk. 

How Do Music Publishers Collect Royalties?

Music publishers collect royalties by tracking the use of copyrighted music and then issuing payments to the copyright holders based on that use. They work with societies like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to gather data on how often their music is played, where it is played, etc., then they distribute the royalties accordingly.

This process can be a little more complicated than it seems at first glance. For example, a publisher may have to track down the people who performed the song (the singers, songwriters, band members, etc.), as well as the people who own or operate the venues where it was played. They also have to make sure that all of the necessary licenses are in place for each use of copyrighted music.

Who Do Music Publishers Work With?

Music publishers usually work with songwriters and composers. They help these individuals to pitch their music to recording artists, TV shows, and other businesses that may want to use it. In some cases, music publishers may also help to market and distribute the music themselves. 

About Author

Arielle P

Arielle P

Songwriter | Music Producer | Engineer.

With a background in music production and a strong passion for education, Arielle is dedicated to helping emerging artists navigate the music industry. She has worked with a diverse range of artists, from indie rock bands to well-known hip-hop and grime artists. Arielle's unique approach to teaching focuses on empowering artists to take control of their brand, ensuring they retain creative ownership throughout their journey. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with new sounds in her home studio and sharing her insights through music production tutorials and workshops.

📧 Email Arielle