Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Should I Publish My Own Songs??

Being your own publisher can sometimes be a double edged sword. A good share of musicians/songwriters just want to write songs and/or play music. They don't want to be "bothered" by all the "business" side of the music. Music is the fun part...the day to day business is not. Both are necessary! But, there are advantages to being your own must be willing to take on the duties of a publisher.

So what are some of the pros and cons of being your own publisher? This is FAR from all inclusive but just a few thoughts for today's blog:


1. As a songwriter you keep 100% of the money. You get all of the writer's share AND all of the publisher's share.

2. You own and keep control of the "copyright" of your song. It also means that you are the one to "pound the pavement" to get your song recorded. And, you are the one to collect the money.

3. You as the writer can control who records your song for the first time. The copyright owner/songwriter only has a "veto pen" on who records a song the FIRST TIME it is recorded. As the publisher/copyright owner you can deny someone from recording your song...the first time. Once a song has been recorded and released to the public, all bets are off and anyone can record the song on the condition they obtain a "compulsory mechanical license". Compulsory meaning you have to give them the license and of course the recording artist must pay execute the license and pay the mechanical license royalty.

4. You as the songwriter might continue to try and get the song recorded many times, pitching the song into different markets etc. Most labels can and will publish your song for you if you don't have a publisher. That will work for "that" recording...but...after the song is recorded for the label will they continue to "work" your song to get it recorded multiple times? Most times not!

5. You as the writer must "vet" your own material to determine if it is of the quality to actually get recorded. Sometimes as writer's we are too close to the song to be objective about the quality of our own songs :) This could be a pro or a con if you have a good handle of good songs vs. great songs (another topic) :).


1. You have to split the money with the publisher. Usually the split is 50/50. You keep the writer's share and the publisher gets the publisher's share.

2. You give up control of your "copyright". The publisher becomes the "Copyright Owner" of your song. You no longer have control over the song. And unless you have a "reversionary clause" of sort in your publishing is "for life" :)

3. A publisher may/should have access to many more artists, producers, labels etc to pitch songs. If, as a writer, you don't have access or opportunities to pitch song you are dead in the water. Many of the larger markets are a closed box and open only to a few publishers as well as many have gone to "staff writers" (another future topic). So, to get a song into the bigger markets most times a publisher becomes a necessity. Many times this is "genre specific" as some forms of music (i.e. bluegrass, folk, Americana, some gospel etc) the artists, labels, producers etc are willing to let you pitch songs to them. Other genres are like trying to break into Fort Knox!!!

4. Once a song is pitched and no recordings come, the publisher may just give up on your song and move on to other songs. There are many songs sitting in publisher's vaults pretty much dead to the world and there is not much you can do about it unless you have a "reversionary clause" in your publishing contract.

5. As a publisher you have to do all the administrative work such as "issuing licenses", "negotiating licenses", "pitching", "filing copyrights", "filing with PROS", "collecting the money", etc...all the business stuff!! 

Of course there are many "PROS" of having a publisher as well and everyone needs to weigh the good and bad and decide which is the best for "you". A publisher many times has the resources and ability to pitch to bigger artists. They don't make any money unless the song gets recorded. The publisher should take care of all the business stuff that you as a writer/musician may not want to do. 

So, should you publish your own material? Only you can answer that question.  Of course there are all kinds of "in between" answers.  Things like "co-publishing", "single song publishing agreements", etc but that goes well beyond a "blog" :) There are many business considerations when it is smart to give up publishing on one of your songs.

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, but if you have interest in publishing your own songs, it can be done but be aware there are many pros and cons to consider. I really like the book by the late John Braheny..."The Craft & Business of Songwriting". It is one of my "go to" books for information and so sorry to hear of John's passing a while back. I would check it out as it is in soft cover and a very inexpensive resource for songwriters. 

As usual...your mileage may vary and remember:  Write more...whine less!!

Write on!!


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