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4 Things you Should Know before Signing a Music Publishing Deal

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I’m a big fan of the series “Nashville”.

As a singer I loved watching this series.

If you watched this series then you must have come across the scene where “ Gunnar opens the mailbox and finds finds a first quarter check for $40,0000”.

But in real life, things are little different.

Let’s see how –

  1. Types of publishing deal –

    There are many songwriting deals. Every deal has its own importance and before signing any deal you should know clearly what it implies.

    While you can learn about many music contracts we will focus on Exclusive Songwriter Agreements, Co-Publishing Agreements and Administration Agreements.

    Exclusive Songwriter Agreements –

    This means to come on with a publishing company as a staff writer. Here generally you own the 50% and the other 50% is owned by publisher.

    So what can you get for giving your publishing ?

    Most of the cases you will get a salary, except that its recoupable.

    Co-Publishing Agreements-

    You can only get this deal after you  get a little success.You need to have great negotiating skills.

    In this agreement, you get 75% of the copyright of each song and 25% is taken by the publisher.

    Administration Agreements –

    In this case you hold 100% of the total copyright of each song. Most of the time you will need to hire an agency to handle tasks for which you don’t have time for.

    Some of the tasks include –

    Registering the song with US Copyright Office.

  2. Royalty Rate

    Under the US Law, the current royalty rate of  any recording or permanent digital downloads is 9.1 cents for songs of 5 minutes or less and 1.75 cents per minute or fraction of a minute over 5.

    What this actually means?

    This means that if you are the only writer on the song, you don’t have a publishing deal and you are not the artist performing it, you will receive this royalty rate.

    A co-writer gets a portion of this amount. Just keep a note that the amount varies sometimes.

  3. Duration

    Usually the contract is for a specific time duration. Incase of publishing company, you sign with will give you specific types of renewal options after completing specific time duration.

    For example, if you sign a two-year contract with two options, then after your second year, with each option your publisher can evaluate how things are going and either exercise the option to renew your contract for another year or choose to drop you.

    This is solely the decision of the company.

  4. Recoupable Advance

    The great thing about signing such a deal is that you a free to show your potential. Most of the times individuals and companies will believe a lot in you. This helps a lot.

    An advance is huge perk, but we need to understand as to the mechanics behind the advance.

    The only reason a publisher gives you an advance is in the hope of making double , triple of the investment. Hence after the contract expires the publisher looks at a lot of parameters before renewing the contract.

    So, don’t leave the publisher for granted.


    Hopefully you liked our article. I am confident that your knowledge of music contracts would have been improved and you can now take better decisions.


    Feel free to comment below any questions if you have any.

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