The Basic Roles of a Music Publisher & the Challenges They Face in the Industry's Current State

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THE KEY ROLES OF A MUSIC PUBLISHER &
THE IMPORTANT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN MUSIC PUBLISHING.
A brief introduction into the world of the music publisher will help the understanding of the benefits and pitfalls that occur with the ongoing decline in the record industry, and how music publishing utilizes the advantages it possesses to insulate itself against the changing marketplace due to it’s diverse streams of revenue. The role of the music publisher has evolved over the years, for many music companies, it has become nothing more than a banking operation, and for some, this is at the cost of innovation and passion. But what is the role of a music publisher today? We shall discover… What is the music publisher’s role?

In Ann Harrison’s Music: The Business, she explains that a music publisher’s role can be split into three simple steps: 1. To issue licenses to people who want to use music.
2. To actively look for ways to use music (i.e. putting it in an advert/film soundtrack). 3. To collect the income from those licenses and uses.
Before elaborating on these three steps, we must first acquaint ourselves with the basic terminology that comes with dealing with a music publisher: The first thing everyone in the circle must understand is the meaning of copyright: * COPYRIGHT is a protection that covers published and unpublished works. It exists at the point of creation, arising automatically. The copyright work, however, must exist in material form, for example, that of a recording or sheet music. * Helen Gammons, The Art of Music Publishing.

Copyright subsists throughout original music, artistic, literary and dramatic works; it also subsists in sound recordings, cable programs, broadcasts, film and typographical arrangements of published editions. A copyright in a musical or literary work lasts for 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author/writer dies. If it is a co-written work, then the copyright is in effect until the previous terms are met by the last surviving copyright owner. In a publishing deal/contract, there are six main commercial terms to look out for. They are as follows: * TERRITORY focuses on what countries the deal covers (although most deals are worldwide). * TERM refers to the duration of the deal. If it is an exclusive deal (see below), then all compositions created during the term are within the conditions of the deal. * MINIMUM COMMITMENT underlines the amount of work/songs written, for the writer to meet the deal’s minimum requirements. An example would be (for a non-artist songwriter) – “five 100% controlled songs (or an ultimate percentage equivalent) released on an approved UK label in each contract period”. This means that a writer could co-write, having 50% ownership of the song, but if this is the case, the writer would have to accumulate the lost 50% on another song. * ADVANCES are the pre-payment of your share of gross income from your songs. This is not a loan, and will not need to be repaid if you leave the deal. The size of the advance will depend on previous earnings/success, the potential earnings, competition, and how much control you have over the album. * ROYALTIES are the earnings of the exploitations of your songs from which your advance will be deducted. A typical split in an exclusive deal would be 25% publisher, 75% songwriter. A typical split from a record deal can be around 15%/85% to 20%/80% (record company/songwriter). * RETENTION PERIOD is the length of time after which the writer deal (term) has expired, that the copyrights now spend with the music publisher for them to recoup their advance and make money for the writer. This period can be as short as three years, to as long as ‘life of copyright’. Step 1 is normally done in conjunction with the collection societies, which is a non-profit organization that represent the interests of publishers, record companies, authors and performers, but the one for music...
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