Publishing – The cornerstone of Making Money as a Songwriter

jon and jpo

Publishing is one of the most misunderstood parts of the whole songwriting business industry, yet it is what everything revolves around.


If you don’t know anything about publishing, and you are already working as a professional songwriter, then you are literally throwing money down the toilet.


There are a lot of publishers out there circling new artists like sharks, signing anyone that they can get their hands on! Do NOT be in a hurry to get a publishing deal. It costs a publisher nothing to sign you (unless you get a substantial advance), but once you are signed, you can be locked in for many years and they can even control aspects of your career. A good publishing deal can help facilitate your career internationally– a bad publishing deal is like a death sentence for any songwriter. And once you are in a bad publishing deal, it is very difficult to get out.


I am going to be dealing with publishing in great depth in this blog as this is the backbone of what is going to empower artists. I’ve met so many artists that have made the mistake of signing onerous publishing deals early on in their career and have had to spend a small fortune to get out. I have also signed a bad publishing deal before and it was one of the worst business experiences anyone could wish for.


That’s why such a large part of the Songwriting Business blog is going to be dedicated to publishing.


There are VERY simple ways you can register your publishing properly and professionally, get the most money from your songs possible, retain the rights and control over your work forever and not to have to stress about publishing ever again. That is what I call good Songwriting Business!


So what is publishing?

Just thought this was funny ….

In short, publishing is the legal rights to your song. If you write a song, then you own the publishing. If you co-write a song with a partner or bandmates, then you need to decide who gets how much of the publishing pie. Is it 50/50 or is it 60/40? In a band, when you are splitting publishing a few ways, things can get tricky and you need to decide early on – are you going to split the publishing evenly among all the writers or are you going to work out everyone’s individual contribution in each song. Remember that these splits directly affect how much money each writer is going to make and these splits take effect for life. So consider carefully.


The song is then registered, either through a publisher or independently, and you become the owner of songwriting property for life!


In coming weeks, I will be talking more about publishing: when do you need a publisher, and how do you make money from publishing.


I’ll also be interviewing some leading publishers in the world, to talk about the role of publishing, globally, and showing you a few tricks of how to maximize what you earn as a songwriter through your publishing.


Please subscribe to my newsletter so I can let you know when these interviews may be happening.


Until then, please feel free to send questions by posting them in the songwriting business comments section below.


Happy songwriting.




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10 Responses to “Publishing – The cornerstone of Making Money as a Songwriter”

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the Blog.

  2. marc says:

    Cool Jon ive often wondered about publishing my own material as i dont trust publishers

  3. Justin says:

    Howzit Jon I have just gone through Maxplayand they are putting my album in Look&listen and itunes but the are taking 60% of the sale

    Is this cool?

    • Jon Savage says:

      Hi Justin

      That’s a good question without a simple answer I’m afraid. Firstly, Maxplay and Itunes are distributors, which means that their 60% cut of your song is for the actual sales of the digital recording of the song. They DO NOT OWN any of the publishing for that song (in fact, I havent seen your deal but i assume they dont even own the recording either).

      There are a few types of royalties on any song. The royalties you are talking about pertain to the master recording of the song, NOT to the actual song itself.

      In simpler terms; Itunes and Maxplay only make 60% of the sales of that particularly recording of that song when sold through those particular online stores. If you were to make an unplugged live recording of that song OR if someone were to cover your song and release it, OR if a TV company wanted to use your song on an advert, Maxplay/Itunes would have NO claim to any of the royalties to the song.

      YOU own the song itself (publishing)
      YOU own the recording of the song (master)
      Itunes/Maxplay have licensed the song from you in order to sell it.

      Make sense? We’ll cover these topics more as we go along. Let me know if you have any more questions…

  4. Neil says:

    Hi Jon

    Where can I independently publish / register my songs?

    Kind Regards

  5. Neil says:

    … it would really help a lot because I want to keep all my eggs in one basket and be in control of my music as mush as possible.

  6. Chris says:

    So confused about publishing deals . Thank you for all the information you provide ! I am very grateful .
    I have a publishing offer 60/40 I keep all my rights to my songs. I do not understand, and I am leary that my songs when published are no longer owned by me alone.
    They are also asking for a $599 upfront admin fee . They contacted me because an A&R rep stumbled across my music.
    Can you please help ? Should i be aware of hidden agendas , I do not trust the music business at all.
    Thank you Jon !

    • Jon Savage says:

      Hi Chris
      This is a great question. And this is the most important part of this whole business.
      A 60/40 deal is pretty favourable as a deal but you need to make sure that it is a publishing ADMINISTRATION deal and that it is not in perpetuity. Make sure there is a time frame on your offer of 3 years with YOUR option to renew it. There should not be a fee payable by you on a publishing deal. They should be offering you money upfront to incentivize you to sign to them. Be very careful with a publishing deal and do your homework on the company by speaking to other artists who are signed to them. A lazy publisher is WORSE than no publisher. And be sure to get hold of a lawyer before you sign anything. Email me on jon (at) songwritingbusiness (dot) com if you want to share the contract with me.

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