7 Steps to Start a Music Publishing Company
How to start a music publishing company can be relatively easy; however, finding, compiling, and selling your company’s music is where the hard work begins if you are unfamiliar with the publishing side of the music industry, that’s ok!
Music publishers make money when music products are sold or broadcasted to the public. Publishers collect their earnings in the form of royalties, which are a sales percentage of music products, including physical and digital recordings, the broadcast, or use of the recording on the radio, television, movies, and video games.
Depending on the contract the publishing company may own exclusive rights to recordings they created or purchased rights and share royalties with a contracted copyright owner.
If you are unfamiliar with what a music publisher does there’s really one thing you need to know. A music publisher makes deals with songwriters and in turn promotes these songs to musicians and anyone else who may need a song for advertising, movies or promotional campaigns.
Publishers will also issue licenses for the use of songs they represent and collect licensing fees. This can sometimes be called administration of a song. Music publishers earn money through the licensing fees and royalties of the songs they represent.
When speaking about ownership, the publisher gets 50% of the track, meaning the original copyright owner (the songwriter) turns over part ownership of the song to a publisher in return for their assistance in getting the song recorded by a major artist or licensed.
1. Become eligible!
The first step to starting a publishing company is to make sure your eligible to have a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) such as BMI, ASCAP or SESAC process your application. In order for the application to process, you need to have a product and in this case, that product is an official release or broadcast of the song you represent. The song can be part of a record, CD, digital release, motion picture, or broadcast.
2. Name your company
Now is the time to give your company its name. Every publishing company must have a unique name, you should be clever when picking one that suits your goals. Remember the name of your company will also be the face of it and what is recognized when you’re pitching to potential placements like radio play and TV shows or film placements. Make sure when naming your company that the name is appropriate, memorable and descriptive.
3. Register your company as a business
When opening a business under a different name than your own, you must register that DBA (doing business as) name with your Secretary of State. This will allow you to have a business banking account along with an assigned Federal Tax ID number.
4. Open a business banking account.
Since you are now a registered business you will need to pay taxes on your income. In order to keep your finances and taxes properly in order, along with making sure you are receiving all your proper earnings, you’ll want a bank account that’s only for your business funds.
5. Choose your PRO
As a publisher you will need to join one of the collection societies. If you’re already affiliated with a PRO as a songwriter you should choose the same one. If you are not already affiliated, it’s a great idea to become familiar with the options you have.
6. Copyright your company’s songs. (Optional)
It’s not completely necessary to register with the copyright office however, if someone infringes on your work, you will have much more legal protection. You’ll need to contact the US Copyright Office to register. This process has been made much simpler since you now have the ability to register online.
Please note that it can take a couple of months to process new copyright claims. If you already have music copyrights in your own name, you will need to transfer those rights to your new publishing company.
7. Register with Harry Fox
The final step for you is to contact the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) and register your new company as a publisher. Remember, this is done in addition to registering with one of the PRO’s mentioned above. The difference is the Harry Fox Agency issues and collects mechanical royalties from Mechanical licenses as opposed to collecting performance royalties.
At this point you’re a real company and now the real work begins.
So what comes next?
Once you have created your publishing company it’s time to get rolling. You are now going to be taking on the role of a music publisher, which can be tough, yet very rewarding. If you are a songwriter yourself you can continue writing your own songs however now you are in a position to pitch those songs to potential buyers.
Most publishing companies seek out new songwriters that are up and coming in a specific genre. By finding and signing individual songwriters you allow your team to grow along with your company’s “pitchable” content. The more material written and owned by your publishing company the more opportunities and variety you have when going into a meeting with a record companies or movie house.
Before you can pitch your company’s material you will have to create demos of the newly written songs. It’s a good idea to have a simple recording studio or demo studio available to you and your writers. Most demos are simple arrangements of songs, which allow potential customers to grasp the idea and direction of a song. Once the demos have been recorded you can now pitch your songs for syncs licenses in film, broadcasts, video games and other outlets.
As an owner of a music publishing company you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities. It may take time but building a strong network of potential customers will set your company on a strong path for success. By building relationships with record labels and artists, pitches and placements will become more frequent.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy this work yourself really depends on personal preference. For many creators the transition from creative to company owner can be difficult. However if you are a songwriter with connections, the opportunity to collect 100% of your royalties is sometimes too good to pass up.
Making headway in the music publishing business depends upon networks. It’s not a requirement to have a network before starting this venture, but connections made as a songwriter or any music industry connections can go a long way.
With all that being said, building a music publishing company can be immensely rewarding both personally and monetarily. If you have a knack for networking, music, and business this may be the perfect path for you!
If you are interested in starting your own record label check out. How To Start A Record Label.
If you are interested in learning more about the music business and how to start your own music publishing company, Dark Horse Institute’s Music Business Progam is a great way to take things to the next level when you are ready.