If you’re an up-and-coming musician who wants to succeed in the industry, it’s important to know that the decisions you make at the beginning will influence what happens in your career later on. It isn’t just about money, although that’s one of the primary considerations; it’s also about how much control you’ll have over your artistic endeavors, creative output, and much more.
When you’re working on getting your music published, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is to find the right music producer; it could even be an online music producer from a site like Tunedly. You need to find someone who’ll be able to make your vision come to life, as well as give you honest feedback as you work out the details together. Recording and producing your music is just the beginning of the process, though; to publish it, you’ll have to decide whether doing it yourself is the right choice, or whether you should find a music publishing company.
Self-publishing music vs. using a publishing company: is one better than the other?
There are some advantages – as well as disadvantages – for either option. When making the decision for yourself, it will mainly boil down to your own preferences. In other words, neither option is necessarily better than the other over the long term, although experts do tend to recommend self-publishing music for musicians who are just getting started.
Comparing self-publishing music with using a publishing company
For every advantage, there’s a trade-off that makes the other option suddenly seem more appealing. Which one is best? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
You’ll get more money by self-publishing.
The industry standard for music publishers is that they get 50% of the royalties. If that seems high, that’s probably because it is. This means that no matter how successful you become as an artist, you’ll be handing over 50% of the royalties to your music publisher. Publish your music yourself, though, and you’ll be able to keep 100% of the royalties.
Publishing companies will take care of promotion for you.
If you decide to self-publish your music, you’re essentially gambling on the fact that you’ll be able to get your name out there just as effectively as a music publishing company. For many artists, the steep cut in their royalties is worth the time and effort that a publishing company spends to promote their music. After all, there’s no point in trying to build a music career if nobody ends up hearing about it. If you aren’t prepared to go above and beyond to promote your own music, a publishing company might be a better fit for you.
Self-publishing gives you more control over your music and brand.
It’s safe to assume that you want people to listen to your music. The question is, which people do you want your music to be marketed to? Depending on what’s in your contract, a music publishing company could license your songs for use on anything they wanted, from music that’s played on a popular radio station to the backing song for dog diaper ads. If you’ve retained control over your content by going the self-publishing route, though, you’d be able to decide more or less where your music gets played. This is about more than just building a fanbase; it’s also about shaping your brand to project the right image.
Will you be the musician who’s known and loved by the people who appreciate your music, or are you just trying to sell your songs to whoever’s interested? Either approach is completely legitimate, but it’s a decision that should be made very early on in the process. Otherwise, a few bad choices at the beginning could hurt your career and make it harder to achieve your end goals.
Publishing companies take the admin work off your hands.
From registering your songs to drafting license agreements, publishing music takes a lot of work. Not only in terms of actually performing the necessary tasks, but also in terms of knowing the legal requirements for each one. There’s a lot of background knowledge involved, and that’s a steep learning curve for someone who’s new to the industry.
Music publishing FAQ
Publishing music – whether you’re doing it on your own or using a publisher – involves a lot of moving parts. Not only do you have to decide between countless options, but you also have to figure out what the options are in the first place. With that in mind, here are a few frequently asked questions about music publishing.
Will I have to tour in order to generate interest?
That depends. If you’re both the composer and the performing artist, then the answer is probably yes. The competition is fierce if you want to rise above all the other new musicians, and if you don’t go on the road to promote yourself, you’ll be missing out on a lot of opportunities to generate interest. However, if you decide to focus on songwriting and leave the promoting and touring to someone else, you could reasonably expect to skip the need for touring altogether.
How important is networking?
In a nutshell, networking is everything. Making those key connections can give a new musician’s career a real boost – and it’s also why so many musicians opt to use a music publishing company that already has an extensive network. Without this, it’s up to you to make your own connections. It’s possible, but it takes a ton of work, motivation, and persistence.
Do I have to sign over exclusive rights to whatever publishing company I use?
Not at all! You can even publish a single song with a publishing company. Unless you actually want to, there’s no need to sign over the rights to all your existing songs, much less for songs that are written in the future.
Publishing your own music is a journey, whether you’re taking care of it on your own or using a music publishing company. One thing is for sure, though – if you’re in it for the long haul, it’ll be well worth the effort.