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Publishing: 4 Main Types of Contracts

Original Article in Symphonic Distribution

As a songwriter in this industry, there are 4 main types of publishing contracts you may see throughout your career. We’re here to break them down so you know exactly what’s right for you and what to expect. Here’s everything you need to know…

Full Publishing Contract

A full publishing contract is likely the most commonly discussed deal in the industry. In this type of deal, you assign your full publisher share over to a music publishing company in exchange for their services — typically creative pitching and administration services.

Simply put, you assign your publishing rights over to the company and in turn, they will pitch your music to artists, labels, and for sync opportunities, and they register your songs at publishing collectives (think PROs, mechanical societies, etc.) and distribute those royalties to you.

Though you assign your publishing to the company, in most cases you would retain your rights to your writer’s share of performance income. Typically a writer advance is also given in this type of deal, and your writer’s share of mechanicals is usually used to recoup the advance.

Co-Publishing Contract

In a co-publishing deal, you assign partial ownership over to a music publishing company for their services. Typically, co-publishing deals are 50/50 writer and publisher, but publishing can be split in many different ways (75/25, 33/66, etc.).

Though co-publishing deals are generally more sought after (due to the fact that the writer gets to keep partial ownership of their catalog), these deals are harder to come by. These deals are also generally offered to writers who have already had some type of commercial success. Similar to the full publishing deal, a writer advance is typically given in this type of deal as well.

Publishing Administration Contract

In some cases, you might not have the need or want for creative services from a music publisher or want to assign any part of your ownership. Administration Agreements for songwriters typically focus on registration and collection of publishing royalties from CMOs (Collective Management Organization), and do NOT include creative services (pitching to artists or labels, or pitching your songs for sync opportunities).

Plus, these types of agreements generally come with a percentage based fee for the administration services offered.

Work for Hire

You might be asked to create a song for a very specific reason (think specific works for films, commercials, etc.). In some of these cases, you might be asked to sign a work for hire agreement.

Work for hire agreements generally offer some type of upfront payment to the creator, but in exchange, you give up all rights to the song you create and any and all future royalty opportunities. Before you sign any agreement, just make sure you are aware of any and all rights you are assigning, whether that be ownership or administration rights, or both.

In Conclusion…

Publishing contracts don’t have to be a struggle. There’s money out there sitting in royalty collection societies just waiting to be collected if you are composing your own tracks. That’s why we want to make sure you have all the information and resources you need to do it as effectively as possible.


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