You own your music publishing rights by default when you are a songwriter, music creator or a lyricist and has not signed any deal with the music publishing company. Your music publishing right determines how the copyright of your original composition is used or exploited.


When your song is downloaded, streamed, performed, played live or on the radio, synced to commercials, tv, film or game, or manufactured in hardcopy, you should earn publishing money. In any of the above-said regards, the publishing income must come to you irrespective of whether you generate it through your own recording or if another artist covers your song.

Dividing publishing royalty

In most cases of publishing royalties generated through your music, 50% is paid to the songwriter and 50% is paid to the publisher. When you have not signed up any deal with a publishing company, you are the songwriter as well as the publisher by default.

Performance royalty

When you have decided who will own your publishing and what percentage of it, you must know how the money is divided between the writer and the publisher. If you are the writer and the publisher, you get to own both the shares meaning 50% plus 50% of all the royalties your song generates through live performance, radio broadcast, and internet distribution.

Mechanical royalties

When you are the songwriter and publisher simultaneously, you will own 100% of the licensing income you generate through the song. This will also mean that you will own the complete mechanical royalty generated from a list of activities discussed here.

Global streaming activity

This will mean downloads done outside the US. The mechanical royalties for all downloads are paid to the royalty collection society. Your music publishing administrator will have to claim this in your favor. For downloads done within the US, you will have to be paid the mechanical royalty through your distributor.

Manufacturing of your songs on physical media like CDs

The responsibility of exploiting the copyright of your compositions is entirely yours. Also, you must make the right efforts to collect the royalty payments. When you work with a music publisher for a fixed period of time or in perpetuity, the publisher will help you in finding the ways to make money out of your songs.

In this case, the income is split between you and the publisher in the 50/50 fashion. In case the publishing company is using its expertise to generate a big income from your song, they are entitled to get more percentage of the income.

How to collect the publishing royalties

It is nearly impossible for an indie musician to collect the royalties from worldwide. It will require a lot of effort and time besides the knowledge of how to do it. The alternative route you can take to avoid this hassles is to register your songs with the collection societies and get paid by them weekly as they can arrange to collect the royalties on your behalf from the different sources.

By Patrick Hill on September 24, 2018.