The 3 Types of Music Publishing Agreements (and why they’re important)

Music Publishing

If you write your own songs, either with a band or on your own, or co-write with others, developing an understanding of music publishing is probably the most important thing you can do for your career.

That being said, music publishing is the most confusing aspect of the music business. The number of blank stares that return my gaze after I explain music publishing to a fellow musician is countless, and perhaps warranted. This stuff is complex.

I’ve put this blog together to help reduce the confusion.

Music Publishing Revenue

Pub 1

In every song, music publishing revenue and ownership is divided into two halves: the Publisher’s Share and the Writer’s Share, as per above. The circle as a whole represents the total music publishing ‘pie’ in a single song. The Writer’s Share always belongs to you, the writer, and it can never be assigned or sold. If you never sign a music publishing deal of any kind, you will retain 100% of the music publishing revenue and ownership in your songs, meaning you will own the full pie.

If you sign a music publishing agreement, you give up part of the Publisher’s Share, or the left half of the pie. Let’s look at how that might happen.

music publishing

The 3 main types of music publishing agreements are:

1) Publishing Administration Agreement

Often artists want to retain ownership in their music publishing, but hire a third party to exploit their catalogue of songs (through film/tv placements, etc.). A music publishing administrator also helps ensure that the correct amount of music publishing revenue from your catalog of songs is being paid and collected around the world. You’d be surprised how many commercials and films and video games use music and fail to pay the writers of the music. This is where an administrator can be your best friend, by ensuring your songs are generating the most music publishing revenue possible around the world.

If you sign a Pub Admin deal, the administrator does not acquire ownership in the copyrights in your songs, but administers them for a fee (ranging from 10-25%). You as writer give up a percentage of your music publishing revenue, with the hope that the administrator will help your songs generate more revenue to offset the fee. In the diagram below I’ve illustrated a 20% pub admin deal. The 20% only applies to the Publisher’s Share (the Writer’s Share is untouchable), so that’s 20% of 50%, or 10% of the overall publishing revenues generated by the Artist’s songs. The Artist retains full ownership of the full pie, but gives up 10% of the total music publishing revenue to the Pub Admin company.

Pub 2

2) Co-Publishing Agreement

The Co-Pub deal is the norm in the business today. The music publisher and the writer co-own the copyrights in the musical works and the music publisher administers the copyrights in the works. This is a deeper commitment than the Admin Deal, as the term is often longer…often equal to the life of the copyrights (which equals the life of the author plus 50 years!). In exchange for this deepened commitment, a music publishing advance for the Artist is normal. The standard Co-Pub deal involves half of the Publisher’s Share going to the Publisher, meaning we’re left with a 75/25 split in favor of the Artist (i.e. 50% of the Publisher’s Share half is given away, or 25% overall):

Pub 3

3) Buy-Out Agreement or a “Full” Publishing Agreement

Buy Out deals are not as common today as they were in the past, and are typically seen when a significant advance is being offered for the Writer’s catalogue. The Publisher owns 100% of the copyrights in the musical works and has sole administration rights. The overall split of music publishing revenue is 50/50, as the Writer is left only with the Writer’ Share of music publishing revenues from performances.

Pub 4

What Does a Music Publisher Do? 

Generally speaking, music publishers administer, promote, exploit and protect your catalogue of songs throughout the world. The two key revenue streams for music publishers are mechanical royalties (royalties from the ‘mechanical’ reproduction of the songs) and performance royalties (royalties earned from the public performance of the songs).

Any time you hear a song on the radio, at the grocery store, at a hockey game, or on a video game, music publishing revenue is being generated and collected (in theory) by a publisher on behalf of an artist.

Until the 20th Century, a music publisher’s main function was administrating printed music in all its forms. However, as 20th Century technology extended the use of music, so the responsibilities of publishers similarly widened to include the licensing of music on records, radio, television, films, concerts and, more recently, tapes, compact discs, satellite and cable distribution, karaoke, video games, computer software, CD-ROMs and other forms of multimedia, etc.

Publishers may also actively ‘pitch’ songs to other artists to record, or ‘plug’ songs to radio, tv/film, and other users.

What is Sub-Publishing?

Once you’ve signed with a music publisher, they will often hire other publishers in other countries to help exploit your songs and collect the revenues around the world. These other publishers are called Sub-Publishers. Often times your publisher will have pre-existing agreements with sub-pubs in every territory in the world.

The advantages of sub-publishing are obvious: the foreign publisher, ideally, has the necessary contacts to expose works in that territory and the administrative skills to collect subsequent royalties. Securing covers is part of the job, but having a sub-publisher ensures proper registration, licensing and documentation of a catalogue. Also, a sub-publisher can, through membership in local mechanical and performing rights societies, collect and distribute income generated by an original recording. Of course, major publishers with offices in many territories don’t usually require sub publishers.


The question remains: should you sign a music publishing deal? There is not a simple answer. I’ve seen more and more artists moving away from the confines of Pub and Co-Pub deals, and opting instead for the freedom of Pub Admin deals. The advances are often lower, but the flexibility and independence are appealing.

So the answer really depends on the reputation of the publisher involved, the current state of your career, the offer on the table, etc. Along with choosing a manager and record label, choosing a music publisher is one of the big three decisions you’ll make in your career. In other words: a decision not to be taken lightly! Call me with questions, and I’ll be happy to help. music publishing

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127 Responses

  1. Great blog! This stuff is really helpful – I had a recording engineer ask for a portion of Publishing rights as a trade for lower recording costs. Glad I said No.

    Next time you’re in Regina, I own 2 Pub/Venues, The Lancaster Taphouse and The Capitol Jazz Club and Tapas Bar – come by and check them out!
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Judd. Yes, you should never give up songwriting/publishings rights unless actual co-writing is occurring with the third party. If you ever have questions about anything music related, don’t hesitate to email me at

      And I appreciate the invite to Lancaster & the Capitol — I’ve heard great things about both, and will be in town soon for our show with Judas Priest! I look forward to meeting in person soon.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

    2. I have two questions.

      1. Which is better. Signing a publishing deal as an artist/group OR as a label?

      2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each Publishing Deal?

      1. Not sure I understand the first question. The pros: a fat advance 😉 , increased exposure and use of your catalog, administration of your pub income, etc. The cons: you give up a significant amount of pub revenue to the publisher, and lose that independence in relation to your songs.


        Kurt Dahl
        Entertainment Lawyer


  3. Good evening
    I am a gospel recording artist . I have been working with a producer. He has done the music component while I have done the lyrics. At the beginning of the project, he suggested a 50/50split on publishing and I said yes because is thought it was fair. However, after reading your blog I don’t know if I should have agreed to this. Please advice. I have not signed anything and the more knowledge I am obtaining I would like to review this matter. Thanks

  4. Kurt! Thanks for this. We’re in a state of purgatory with this, hoping we can figure out the answer. I personally can’t keep up with publishing, and so I know we need a publisher, but the one publisher I’ve talked to won’t sign anything but a full-publishing agreement.

    Grateful for this read, and for your blog altogether. Best of luck with OBS, and hopefully I’ll catch you guys again soon!

    1. Thanks Dan. Sometimes full pub deals make sense, if the advance is substantial. Email and we can chat further, and I’m happy to help with the negotiations.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  5. Hi Kurt

    I am an indie publisher and doing an admin deal with a writer. The writers name in ASCAP is John M. He is self published under John M Music.
    When I do the admin – who is it will John M self published as John m Music (Writer)
    Or just John M Music (Publisher)

    1. You might want to check with ASCAP as to how they would like you to register things. In Canada, I believe the admin (you) would take 25% for example, then the remaining 25% of the publisher’s share would be John M Music, and the 50% writer’s share would be his personal name. But please check with ASCAP as things might be different in the US.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  6. Hi Kurt, I have co-written songs with two other people and am getting ready to release them. I want to be as educated and professional as possible and so am spending hours, days and weeks intensely studying about the industry, copyrighting, publishing, etc. The other two writers couldn’t seem less interested about any of this stuff. It’s hard to even get them to listen.This is clearly going to be an ongoing process. We are going for a publishing admin deal but as I understand it, there is still a lot of work to be done from ‘our side’ with regards to promoting the music and pushing it for potential sync licensing, etc, which will all fall down to me. In your expert opinion is it also fair/is it the norm in this situation, that I set up my own publishing ‘company’ and ask them to each do a co-publishing deal with my ‘publishing company’, so that I have the potential to recoup a higher percentage for all my troubles?

    1. Hi Becky,

      Setting up your own pub co makes sense at some point, but it may not make sense now as there are costs associated with setting up and maintaining your own pub co. I think a regular Pub Admin b/w you, your co-writers and the pub admin makes sense. But I’d have to hear more. Email me to chat further.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  7. Great article. I would love to talk with you! I need someone like you on my team man. I do have a question tho. Our Entertainment company only wants to deal with artist through songs only, so isn’t it a co publishing deal we should do with artist?

  8. Hi im an independent artist and writer, I was going to purchase a beat online and exclusive rights, to write my song to, the only thing is on that website, it says they will own 50% of publishing and I would own the other 50% does that sound like a good idea for me to purchase a beat from them?

    1. Hi Jason,

      These beat companies can be hit or miss. Do some research on them first. Many hip-hop collaborations are 50/50 on the writing, between artist na and producer. So if this beat constitutes all of the music and you bring the vocals/lyrics, then it might justify 50%. But read the fine print and make sure something is in writing.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  9. Hi Kurt,

    My husband is getting ready to sign a contract with a publishing company and there are some things we don’t understand. I found you while looking up “sub-publishing”. This paragraph in particular has me worried:

    (g) Except as expressly provided herein, no other royalties or monies shall be paid to you. You shall not be entitled to share in any advance payments, guarantee payments, blanket payments or minimum royalty payments which we shall receive in connection with any sub-publishing agreement, collection agreement, administration agreement or other agreement covering the Masters and/or

    They have full publisher’s rights, he keeps writer’s… and it’s supposed to be a 50/50 split of all net money brought in.

    If this is too complicated to respond to, I totally understand. I just thought I’d give it a try.


    1. Hi Harper,

      I would have to see the entire agreement to give a fair assessment. Hopefully there is an advance involved? Also, do as much research as you can on the company and any success stories they might have. Look for artist reviews online, reach out to other artists that have signed with them, etc.

      Email me to discuss further.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  10. Hi Kurt,

    I have a friend who is signed to a publishing deal right now. He is a writer …basically for another artist (actually right now he is writing for one only artist since the artist doesn’t write and has been on this deal for 2 years or so…. artist hasn’t done anything as of yet). We plan on opening our own publishing company on a small level to start to help develop, write for artists and record them… we also own a recording studio. Question is – can my friend be apart of this new Publishing business venture (50/50 in an LLC) even though is is signed to another publishing company (doesn’t own it… just signed to it ONLY due to the artist he writes for)?

    Hope that makes sense ~

    Thank you in advance ~

    1. Hi Buzz

      It depends on the contents of the pre-existing deal that’s already been signed. Email me to chat further.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  11. Hi Kurt,

    Great content, it’s the first time it all made sense to me, thank you so much.

    I have a question..
    I have an artist friend (he’s writer, composer, producer and performer), who is about to release his 2nd soul album, independently (the 1st one was labeled by sony music).
    He is now considering signing a publishing deal with a Portuguese Publisher.
    Portugal has a very small music market to soul, so the main goal is to internationalize his work/music and secondly to get some good licensing agreement.
    This publisher is not a major player and he “offers” an exclusive world Co-publishing agreement, including Portugal where his work:
    – is already legally protected by SPA;
    . Is already playing in some radios
    The publisher doesn’t offer no advance to this artist what so ever.

    My question is:
    Should he go for it? What would you recommend to do in order to achieve his goals?

    Thank you in advance, and again great work you are doing to fellow musicians and friends 😉

    1. It really depends on the track record of the publisher and what plans they have for his catalog. And perhaps he can negotiate certain territories out of the deal?

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  12. Hey Kurt, Great article. I’m curious if in a typical Pub Admin deal (say, Cd Baby Pro), exclusive rights are granted to the publisher to license your songs. Or if–since they don’t own the publisher’s portion of the copyright–I would still be legally free to pitch my own songs for sync licensing opportunities myself (via a service like Songtradr) and receive payment directly (and not through the pub)… I’ve tried reading through the terms but it’s a bit hard to understand. – N

    1. I’d have to read the CD Baby terms, but yes, most Pub Admin deals are exclusive. But most admins will allow you to try to secure placements on your own, as it benefits everyone involved and sometimes artists/managers/their lawyers have connections that should be tapped to make the most of a catalog.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  13. Hey Kurt,

    Looking over a co-publishing deal that has language on options for publisher if the artist, my colleague, has their record deal terminated.(Which happened.)

    In discussing what to expect since receiving the notice last week, I noticed they included an 18 month Loss of Deal suspension clause in co-publishing agreement, where they’d get 30 days after that period to decide whether to terminate obligations or retain the artist.

    No language on what happens if publisher doesn’t give a prompt decision after that loss of suspension period.

    If the record deal is terminated, should we lean towards the opinion that the co-publishing deal will still be a shackle(Artist wouldn’t want to keep publishing deal if recprd contract terminates.)

    Just afraid of being caught in limbo because of the publishing deal since the publishing company was acquired and became another company.

    Thanks for your time.

  14. Hi Kurt,

    I first want to say thank you so much for your helpful information!

    My son is looking to sign the 50/50 publishing deal for music/beats he is producing. This would be his first time signing anything and he was promised healthy advance in exchange for their help getting his music out there. My question is shouldn’t the advanced amount be listed/written into the contract before he signs it? And also, shouldn’t there also be an end date for this contract listed on it? Lastly, what do you think would be an acceptable/appropriate time frame for this publishing contract?

    Any help/advice you can offer to him would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you so much for your help in advance.

    Tammy (future billionaire mom)

    1. Hi Tammy. Sounds exciting. Yes, the advance should be written in the agreement. Email me to chat further and I can review the proposed deal. Thanks

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  15. Hi Kurt, I’m about to release a song that was co-written with two other established songwriters both with publishing deals with Sony/ATV. Since I’m the only songwriter that doesn’t have a publisher, how is the publishing divided and how should the publishing info be entered for aggregator sites. Thanks in advance. Vanessa

    1. You would act as your own publisher Vanessa, so instead of giving a piece to a publisher, you keep it all to yourself. If it’s a three way equal split, then you register 33.3% in your personal name. Thanks

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  16. Hi Kurt, my daughter was given a beat to write and perform lyrics on, the song came out great. She is independent putting her own stuff with Tune Core. She signed a publishing arrangement of 50% for this song.It has done really well racking up over 7 million on spotify etc. Our local Australian collector APRA / AMCOS said they could collect all royalties, to date when looking at the royalty statement looks like only Australia / NZ royalties have been collected which amounts to not much money. We believe most of the plays are US based, the song was released 16 months ago, how can find out where the rest of the money is and how to get it?

    1. Hi Chris. Congrats on the great success with this song. Sounds like APRA should be doing a better job. I know that SOCAN here in Canada will collect around the world. Some of my clients sign with publishing admin companies to ensure that worldwide collection is better. But I would chat with someone high up at APRA and ask why they aren’t collecting around the world on her behalf. Email me the song link as I’d love to hear it, and I will see if I can help further.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  17. So, is it right to say that when Songtrust declare they are getting paid 15%, as they give you in return 85% out of what collect for you, they are in in fact charging you 30% of the total publishing share? Do you think it Is a justified rate for just admin?

    1. Hi Kurt,
      Thanks for this. How is translation treated? One of my artists had a song covered in another language. My artist was cited – no worries there. But how would the publishing rights be divided between songwriter and translator for the lyrics part of the song?

  18. Just trying to nail down the difference between Publishing rights and Master rights. As I understand it Publishing rights are divided 50/50 between the writer and the publisher. And as you describer above, the publishing rights can be divided according to any one of three typical publishing agreements. So lets say I’ve written a song and self-published. I would own 100% of the publishing rights. Now I go and record that song. The result being a master recording. Does the master recording have a new set of rights attached it separate from the publishing rights? Can you describe the breakdown of the master recording rights?

  19. Do I get the same pay if I have 50 percent of the writer’s share and none of the publishing.?Compared to 100% publishing and 50 percent writer’s share?

  20. Hi Kurt,

    We spoke in person a few years back and I appreciate the good advice you shared. Currently I see sub-publishers on my SOCAN splits but I don’t have copies of any contracts. Can I get a copy of any sub-publishing contracts that involve me (whether I signed them or not) and how might I go about that?

  21. Hello Kurt Dahl,

    I just saw your website and the forum about Music Publishing and I wanted to ask you a simple question.
    A Chinese company named NetEase Cloud Music is offering me 15 000 USD for my entire label catalogue which contains 37 songs and they want 100% publisher rights ONLY for the territory in CHINA, not worldwide.

    Since I created my record label China is something like a weak point for me, I don’t really have many streams and stuff like that and I think it’s kind of a good move to accept this offer.

    As I saw in the contract – the recoupable advance is mentioned, the duration of the contract is 2 years and the royalty share is something like 50/50.

    Should I be careful about something else? They want 100% performer’s rights, 100% sound recording rights, video produce’s rights/ audiovisual rights and 100% publishing rights I guess.
    I can even send you the contract if you have the possibility to review it.

    Thank you for the Music Publishing article!
    You helped me a lot.

    Best regards,

  22. Hi Mr Dahl,
    Quick question I am an independent artist who is not signed under any publishing company. I have a EP in the works I worked a leasing deal with a producer for some music. It says he retains 100% publishing and I receive 100% sales. However he says it’s optional if we’re to want to share royalties. Now I wrote lyrics to the music and recorded songs. How bad of a deal did I get into and what royalties would i see?
    Thanks for any help/advice given
    Mike T

  23. Hi there, so I wrote a song and recorded it (paid out of pocket). A musicican heard it and suggested that I rerecord it with him and group of two other friends one of whom owns a recording studio .He said they do a kind of barter or favors for each other.I asked how will the payment for studio time be made but he said not to worry about it since the guy owes him favors.So we rerecorded the song. Now he talks of a 25% split for all of us. I argued that I’m the songwriter …it then became 50% for me and 50% to be shared among them.I didn’t come out of pocket for the studio time nor mastering the song.didn’t sign any contract but I know a split sheet needs to be signed in future. What advice,If any, do you have for me..what do I look out for in a contract( if I even sign one) I know I was naive in taking this offer for “free studio time” but now its a bit late. How do we decide producer rights or fees ..I’m in process of getting the copyrights for the song. Will I still own rights to it? Help

  24. hi!
    I have a question.
    I was collaborating with 2 artists.
    I wrote the lyrics.
    they wrote the song.
    they gave me 3of their old songs which werent registered.
    I put lyrics to the songs, vocal and additional arrangement and mixing and recording.
    I registered 1 song with CDbaby and published the song.
    I did royalty 50/50.
    I paid the fee to register CD baby.
    and I am promoting the song 100%.

    we had a fight the other day.
    they said its not a collaboration.
    they say they want me to buy out the i can cancel their royalty.
    it sure was a collaboration.
    but i dont mind.

    buying out songs is better for me too.

    i have many prooves, evidence of what they said in the past…
    email, whatsapp messages, facebook chat etc.
    so our agreement wasnt verbal.

    but they never respect that;-

    im worried about the future conflicts…
    i dont want to argue anymore…
    i dont really trust them..

    is it enough to have those messages as an evidence of our agreement?
    or should i make an legal agreement now?
    in case we will have a trouble in the future.

    1. I always recommend getting something in writing, even if it’s simple. Especially if there has been disputes already.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  25. Hey Kurt!

    This is an awesome tool and a big help in my decision making process.

    I wanted to know, If I create a publishing company for my band under my DBA, can I later switch ownership once we solidify the bands LLC? Or should I just wait until we finish the LLC process?

    Thanks for your time man!!


    1. Hi Greg

      I think you could change it later, but it might be easier and less costly just to wait until things on the LLC are complete

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  26. Hi Kurt would you consider having a look at a contract I’ve been offered for licensing and publishing administration? I have a few questions and I don’t know anyone personally who can help answer them.
    Can I just send it to your email address that you wrote up above?
    For example i’m curious to know:
    if the contract doesn’t mention copyright ownership at all then does it remain mine? Should i make sure to copyright all songs before signing to avoid bad surprises?
    If the contract falls exclusively under UK law but i live in another EU country what do you think that could mean post-brexit?
    What is meant when stated “this contract shall not be deemed to guve rise to any partnership between us.”?

    Thanks so much,
    Sorry for the essay

  27. I am sending my music to radio, blogs, etc. Somewhere in your literature you recommended a particular file sharing service. What was it? I can’t it now.
    Thanks for the lit!

  28. Hi Kurt,

    I’m just starting the process to become a writer/composer for a Discovery Network Show and in our initial discussions, they specified that I would keep 100% of the writers share but traditionally, they keep 100% of the publishing. This is a show that is all over the world with over 150 million veiwers globaly.

    My question is, if I give up 100% publishing, do I see any revenue from the show’s airing around the world and how is my royalty affected from airplay including reruns?

    Thanks so much for your guidance?

    1. Congrats Corey. I would have to see the agreement but yes, you would get half of the publishing revenue (the writer’s share). I would suggest that their proposal is fairly common, but again, the devil is in the details in the agreement.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  29. Hi Kurt

    First of all thanks for that helpfull blog !
    Ive a questions related to the dealing between songwriter and buyer . What is the main key word should be in the “full copyright exchange” agreement to make sure I will not live any nightmares in the future as a buyer. Is that enough if I’ll put this paragraf on title :

    Writer hereby sells, assigns and delivers to Buyer, its successors and assigns, his entire undivided right and interest in and to the Composition above-referenced as his Writer’s Share, including the title, full music and music parts thereof, all worldwide rights therein, all copyrights therein and thereto, all registrations with respect thereto, and the exclusive right to secure copyrights and any extensions of copyrights in the same and in any arrangements and adaptions thereof, all throughout the world.

    Thank you advance !

  30. Hi Kurt, great website, really useful! Can you explain how publishing royalties work with eg Spotify, as my understanding (possibly wrong) is that the publishing royalties are only about 15% of what Spotify pays out. So the label/artist gets the lion’s share where Spotify is concerned? Is this correct?

    1. That depends on the label deal and publishing deal an artist may have! But yes, if you own the masters and have no label involved, you should get a majority of revenues from Spotify

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  31. Thanks. So you’re saying that the writer’s royalty/publishing are wrapped up in the Spotify royalty and aren’t broken out separately in any way? So in a rapper/beat producer scenario, for example, where the beat producer might claim 50% of writer royalties, how would this share typically be allocated from the total Spotify revenue?

  32. Hi Kurt,
    Great site! I have a question about pseudonyms. In order to pay for my music habit, I need to maintain a ‘day career,’ as I’m sure you can relate. I’d prefer to keep the 2 online personas separate.

    Spotify, Apple Music, etc. are now requiring distributors to provide the songwriter’s real legal name, not their artist name, for display in their players. I spoke to BMI and they said in order to use my artist name as songwriter I’d have to register as a songwriter using my real name and info along with a pseudonym (artist name). However, they maintain an external site that displays songwriters’ real names, which can lead to this:

    If even Facebook can respect people’s privacy (personally identifiable info), you’d think others can. Is there any way for an artist/songwriter/performer to keep their legal name separate from their artist name online?
    Not Very Anonymous

  33. Hi Kurt,
    This is an extremely helpful article. I am currently managing my son with his music. May I email you directly with my question regarding publishing? It is slightly confusing and complicated I to me.

  34. Hi Kurt,

    Could you tell how I can get a listing of all the PRO’s worldwide, territories, along with their respective websites, email address and possibly contact person? I know that’s a tall order.

  35. Hi Kurt,

    I’ve heard that when a singer on a master recording is used in a television commercial, and/or movie, that the singer(s) can collect from the Screen Actors Guild.

  36. I’m a solo singer and I’ve cut an album with songs written entirely by a musician in my support band. My deal with the label says I’ll get 13% royalties of record sales, so between record royalties, streaming and touring, who’s gonna make more money? I or he? Having recorded his songs, do I still have to pay him for playing them live? If yes, what percentage for each song?

  37. Hi Kurt!

    Thanks for the valuable information on this blog !

    I’m a solo singer and I’ve cut an album with songs written/published entirely by a musician in my support band. My deal with the label says I’ll get 13% royalties of record sales, so between record royalties, streaming and touring, who’s gonna make more money? I or he? Having recorded his songs, do I still have to pay him for playing them live? If yes, what percentage for each song?


  38. Hi Kurt,

    Thank you for this information. I am currently in an exclusive agreement that is expiring soon. I reached out just to let them know that I would not like to renew this agreement and was told that they have made blanket agreements with networks that they cannot break. In the contract it does state that they can make these deals without consulting me but how am I ever supposed to get out of this contract if they keep securing deals? And do these deals supersede the contract termination date that I have with the publisher directly?

    1. I’d have to see the deal, as it’s all about the fine print – but typically you can get out of the deal and they can keep earning on deals secured during the term but extended after the term…but again, I’d need to read the fine print! 🙂

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  39. Hallo,

    could you please give me an example of what a written letter, asking back 100% of rights to my publisher as our contract is due to expire, should look like? Also requesting all due payments still missing.

    Thank you.

    1. Sorry I don’t send out sample agreements like this! I would need a lot more info and it would be a custom agreement. Template agreements are worth what you pay for them (zero) 🙂

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  40. Hello. If I publish my music with a company like Cd Baby can I also sell the music on my own website without them? John M

    1. Hi John

      I would have to review the most recent terms and conditions on CD Baby, and I guess it depends which level of services you sign up for. I imagine you can but am not sure to be honest. Check their terms and conditions, and look for use of the word “exclusive”.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  41. Hi Kurt,

    I have a 2 part question.

    1. My husband co-wrote 5 songs with an ex band member. Before leaving, he verbally gave up all his rights to the songs. Would that be enough evidence to obtain full ownership of the copyright?

    2. We opened a business so that we could publish our own songs. Should we give complete ownership to our company to receive the 50/50 share, and then split one of the 50s with the other band members and producer? I hope that made sense.

    Thanks for your time.

    1. 1) The verbal agreement isn’t very binding legally.

      2) I’d need more info but I think what you’re saying makes sense, essentially self-publish and run half the income through your pub company.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  42. Hi Kurt,

    Thank you alot for this blog!

    I am a music producer in electronic music, i have signed a publishing deal with a sound engineer who is simply helping me with mixing my songs, recording vocals and helping me in legal matters.

    And there is one record label would like to release one of my songs but they would like to have the full publishing with them and not accepting co-publishing or anything with my publisher as they are saying it will hold them from any licensing and so on and as i am not that big of act yet and can’t promise with a big music listens and revenue they insist of keeping all the publishing.

    My question is, is the publishing deal that i have at the moment holding me back ? and is the label has a point or are they a fraud ?

    Looking forward your answer and thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Omar,

      I would have to see the actual agreement but typically, if you have admin rights to the compositions, you can do what you want with them without the consent of your engineer required, so it shouldn’t adversely effect you or your label.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  43. Hi Kurt,

    What a great find this article is! I think it’s brilliant that you’re offering advice to all these people, it’s so informative and reassuring.

    I am researching as my partner is a producer who’s been offered a 2 year pub agreement with a small independent publishing company/label with the purpose of providing sync music for them. Our concern is how much this will affect his own personal music projects, as it’s unclear first of all whether it’s a co-pub or full, it just says ‘standard’, and they state the publishing agreement applies to any and all compositions written within the term.
    As he doesn’t get much income from his personal projects, the issue is more about ownership, and whether it’s actually a good thing for that or if he’d be signing away a lot more than just sync masters he submits for them.

    We are trying all our contacts who might know anything about publishing and music law to have a look over the agreements, as, like you say, it’s pretty complex!

    1. Hmm…I’d have to see the pub deal and the language that they use. If you really want to “carve out” the personal music projects, that might be doable if you have a discussion with the publisher, and make sure it’s put down in writing in the deal.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  44. is 100% publishing share to the company, 100% writer’s share to the artist, and 100% mechanical to artist, is that 50/50? i’m confused

  45. What is the difference between copying and sampling. And how will the word sampling in his contract effect any new works am Enquiring for a songwriter friend And its in his contract for sampling clause which he feels he wants taken out of the contract as any new songs he writes will not apply to sampling.
    Can he have this clause taken out of the contract or just not sign it. Any thoughts or feedback appreciated. The songwriter has 50 yrs experience and is overwhelmed at new clauses being put in contracts which he feels undermines his work.


  46. Sony Records
    I sent a couple of my son’s songs to a radio station about 7 months ago.
    Sony Records is at the radio station today wanting to have a meeting with us
    and we could really use some advice. i know it is the weekend but could you give me a call within the next hour.

  47. Hi Kurt,

    Have been reading your various articles and am learning alot. Thank you. I think my question is relatively simple. I composed and recorded an instrumental track and registered it with a PRO. Subsequently, a recording artist wrote lyrics and recorded vocals over said music (with a new song title than the title to the music track registered). She would like to now release that song for streaming and has suggested we split revenues 50/50. This sounds fair to me. Do I need to alter the PRO registration in order to proceed with the release? What agreements do we need to proceed cleanly?

    1. Hi Ali

      50/50 makes sense, as the standard split is music/lyrics in equal halves. I would keep your instrumental version out there, and register this new version. That way if the new song is a hit, your instrumental might generate more revenues as well. You definitely need something in writing between the two of you. Email me and perhaps I can help.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  48. Hi Kurt,

    Came across your site browsing the net for information on Publishing Agreements and Placements. It brought value and I found it very informative. Keep up the great work.

    I am a hip hop/rap artist/bedroom producer. My questions are, I was given a beat/music created by another producer who asked me to write, arrange, and record the lyrics and the melody in my home studio, and he would mix and master it in his pro studio for a movie placement for an independent filmmaker that his production company is working with. I was excited for this offer, first time, and did it without doing my due diligence in considering the business that should have been established first, rookie move on my end. I am aware of the 50/50 split, his beat my lyrics in songwriting. I am registered with a PRO for publishing and writing, and I registered the song, but I do not have a Publishing Agreement, and he asked me to send him a copy of mine. I looked on The University of Google to find one and get a quick synopsis of it. No luck, I cannot seem to find one I can download. Even if I did had one, or if he gave me one of his copies to sign, I am unsure if I would know what I am signing. How would this work with an independent producer/company, or what is my best course of action. Are there any other splits and shares he’s entitled to that I need to be aware of, because I am the writer, I arranged and recorded it in my studio, and who should own the masters? I am a very inquisitive person, but I did not want to blow the opportunity for the placement by asking so many question with the other producer and sounding like an amateur. Any help would be appreciated, and I thank you for your time and consideration.

    1. Hi Charles. You don’t need a publishing agreement necessarily. You can both simply sign a Co-Writer Agreement that outlines the splits and various other rights. And down the road, you can sign a Pub Agreement pertaining to your share of this composition (any anything else you write) if/when the time comes. But for now, you don’t need a pub deal. RE master ownership, I guess that depends on what you both agreed to, but typically, if you’re the artist releasing it, you should own or at least have the admin rights to the masters.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  49. Greetings I have a 20 year old co publishing and admin deal with UMG songs of Universal with a share on a diamond certified album and several more. I’m considering options to restructure or dissolve my agreements how can I contact you?

  50. Greetings I have a 20 year old co publishing and admin deal with UMG songs of Universal with a share on a diamond certified album and several more. I’m considering options to restructure or dissolve my agreements how can I contact you?

  51. Hi Kurt,
    In Buy-Out Agreement or a “Full” Publishing Agreement, if the publisher/company is dissolved, what happen to the song copyright?Does that mean the song becomes orphan? Does that mean all rights in and to the musical composition are automatically revert back to the writer? I have sent you email too. Thanks in advance.

    1. I would have to see the agreement, sometimes there’s a clause that if the company dissolves/goes bankrupt/etc, the rights revert to artist. If not, you could be stuck in legal limbo until you go to court.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  52. Hello

    I’m looking into leasing a few unexclusive beats.. Most agreements between songwriters or artists and producers is a 50/50 split in the writers share which I understand and it is fair.

    However, I have came across (most) leasing agreements that say this…

    “Producer shall own, control, and administer One Hundred Percent (100%) of the so-called “Publisher’s Share” of the underlying composition.
    In the event that Licensee wishes to register his/her interests and rights to the underlying composition of the New Song with their Performing Rights Organization (“PRO”), Licensee must simultaneously identify and register the Producer’s share and ownership interest in the composition to indicate that Producer wrote and owns 50% of the composition in the New Song and as the owner of 100% of the Publisher’s share of the New Song.”

    **I’m a songwriter and I am recording in my home studio, even if I leased a beat from a producer, am I entitled to any publishing rights/shares? besides just writers share?

    I’ve seen a few agreements that say this….

    “Producer shall own, control, and administer Fifty Percent (50%) of the so-called “Publisher’s Share” of the underlying composition.
    In the event that Licensee wishes to register his/her interests and rights to the underlying composition of the New Song with their Performing Rights Organization (“PRO”), Licensee must simultaneously identify and register the Producer’s share and ownership interest in the composition to indicate that Producer wrote and owns 50% of the composition in the New Song and as the owner of 50% of the Publisher’s share of the New Song.”

    So this one sounds fair, right? says they will get 50% of the publishers share, but the other portion goes to who? me the writer? even if it doesn’t state clearly in the agreement?

    Please help 🙂 thank you so much!

  53. Hi Kurt,
    Your easily understood explanations of writer/publisher deals is very useful. Thanks. I would, however, be interested to know what to do in a current situation I have. I’m a songwriter. I have recorded a few albums/EPs etc which I sell through bandcamp and at live shows. My songs are registered with SOCAN. I’ve never sought publishing or other deals of any sort. Through a series of random snaps, crackles and pops, a tourism bureau for one of the regions in the province wants to use a song in its online and TV campaign.
    I can’t find any online info or references to sample contracts etc, pertaining to sale or licensing of a song directly between the writer and the end user.
    How should I proceed?
    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  54. First off – Thanks so much for putting this information out for all of us, to help steer us in the right direction. I am a singer/songwriter that writes in many styles of music (Country, Rock, Christian, etc.) – would I be looking for one publisher or is better to use different ones for different styles?

    Also, I’m not motivated by the dollar value, more than I am for giving my songs a “purpose” – it’s more important for me to keep control of where and how the song is used. Which type of deal should I be gravitating toward?
    Thanks so much !

    1. You would most likely work with one publisher for all styles, but not necessarily I suppose. And if you want the most artistic freedom, a pub admin deal is the lowest commitment offering the most artist control.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  55. Kurt – you speak of an “advance” as if publishers give them out to the artist, Could you touch on that briefly ? Also, with that said, I’m assuming we should be leery of publishers that want paid up front for their services ??

    thanks !

    1. Most definitely – most publishing deals include an advance (an amount of money paid to the artist which is recouped from publishing revenues earned during the term). The size of the advance depends on many things, like the bargaining power of the artist, the length of the term, the size of the pub co, etc etc

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  56. I wanted to ask something. Let’s imagine I have a publishing deal with a publisher for, say 10 years, then after the deal expires, who will own the publishing rights to the songs? Can I sign to a new publisher with the older songs or is there no way out?

    1. Depends on the deal. Most pub deals are for the life of the copyright for the songs released during the term. New songs could be signed to a new deal, but not the old songs that are signed away.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  57. I am American Rapper, Ascap Songwriter Capital B. Also Papermade Publishing is my current publishing company. I have a distribution company doing my admin work. My company Papermade Publishing/Ascap is also with Harry Fox. Is it good to license with multiple companies, as the many offers have different contracts? Is there any great companies than want licenses I should contact? Should I continue to be with soundexchange, soundtrust and the many other organizations or just a few good ones? I’m sure accountants will be needed soon

  58. I am looking into starting my own music publishing company but I am also a singer/songwriter/producer. I want to perform some of my own work but also publish and produce for other artist. First, how should I go about the rights to myself as the writer vs the publisher? And could I possible have and music publishing company that is a record label and recording studio all together?

    1. Exciting! You could incorporate a company and sign yourself as writer, as well as other writers. I would keep the pub co and record label separate through, for accounting and legal reasons.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  59. Hi Kurt,
    First off all thank you very much for your in-depth article and many of useful answers to questions following the article.
    Following the craze of warranted and unwarranted copyright infringement lawsuits, the just-in-case scenario to protect oneself (better to say, one’s private assets, such as properties (cars, house), savings, investments, etc.) seems prudent to consider.
    1. Let’s say the songwriter creates a new song.
    2. The songwriter creates an LLC that acts as a publishing company (for simplicity reasons, the songwriter is a sole member of the LLC and obtains a separate tax number for the LLC publishing company).
    3. The songwriter makes a written agreement, in which all the publishing is transferred from the songwriter to his/her LLC publishing company (effectively, a “Full” Publishing Agreement).
    4. Therefore, the songwriter as an individual entity is left with only the Writer’s share of the musical work.
    5. Warranted or unwarranted, someone sues for the copyright infringement of the new song created above.
    6. If that someone, say wins (for whatever reason) who pays the judgment ordered damages to the plaintiff? The LLC publishing company (which owns all publishing rights), or the songwriter (who owns only writer’s share), or maybe both?
    I am under an impression that the plaintiff could only collect the judgment from the publishing part of the song, hence, the monies (even maybe publishing right itself) held (in this case) by the LLC Publishing company the songwriter created. And that writer’s share would not be touched. Correct or…?
    Many thanks for your time to hopefully give this general clarification.
    My intent is to do whatever is (if it is) possible to protect my family financial assets in an extreme case (which unfortunately do not seem to be so extreme to come across nowadays) before I record and copyright any of my songs.

  60. I’m from Soweto and am in Senaoane Secondary. I started rapping at 13 and am working on my debut project. I need assistance with splitting, production but especially signing and have no problem sending a demo/recording in your Stu

  61. Kurt I have been requested to become a manager for an artist who has just received a PUBLISHING AGREEMENT AND OFFER from a major record company. Should I become the manager of the artist, here are a series of questions: what are the duties of an artist’s manager, and what shall I charge; and how and when do I get paid? In addition, I have looked over the contract and found that there are some details missing in the contract. What is your advise for the above?

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