3 Minutes of Music Knowledge: What Does a Publisher Do?

Kevin Day
3 min readOct 11, 2019


If you’ve read previous blogs you know how important it is to collect you publishing revenue by registering your songwriting with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). As you’ll recall, the songwriter share is only half of the Publishing Revenue you are entitled to.

To collect the other half of your Publishing revenue from places like international PRO’s as well as other significant sources like Mechanical License Royalties (see below), you will need have a Publisher.

Why do I need a Publisher?

Publishers represent your music and copyrights and are vital in providing a variety of services, some of this important stuff is outlined below.

1. Facilitate songwriting including demos and songwriting partnerships.

2. Pitch your songs for use in film, broadcast, games and other outlets (Sync).

3. Provide a strong network to find the best opportunities for your music or your songwriting.

4. Search out licensing opportunities for your music.

5. Look for foreign sub-publishing agreements.

6. Represent and monetize your written lyrics on-line or in print.

What is the best Publishing arrangement for me?

Here are the three most common forms of Publishing deals available to you, each option has it’s own advantages.

1. Publishing Administration Deal:

If you own your works, you can work with a publisher to be your Publishing Administrator or commonly called an “admin” deal.

Typically an admin deal registers your works and then collects the money for you.

The Publishing Administrator will charge a fee or a percentage. An admin deal will provide no other services.

2. Co-Publishing Deal:

Another option is that you may be offered a co-publishing deal with a larger company to help you market your works and collect revenue for you.

A co-publisher will provide services for you as outlined in the list above.

Your co-publisher will represent and market your works and is meant to be a partnership in your copyrights and content creation.

Sometimes this relationship includes funding however sometimes it does not.

Co-publishing deals will split your Publishing Share income with you 50/50.

NOTE: Co-publishers will not split your Writer’s Share revenue.

3. Self Publish:

If you want represent yourself as a publisher, you can do so. This will allow you to collect your revenue from your PRO directly and without fees. Understand however that there will not be as many opportunities presented to you if you self- publish.

On the other hand if you are new and have some traction, you can self-publish and then graduate to another deal later, as your career accelerates.

Here are a couple important steps you will need to take to establish yourself as your own Publisher.

NOTE: Self Publishing Pro-Tips.

Choose a PRO: You’ll need to join one of the PRO’s as a music publisher. If you’re already affiliated with a PRO as a songwriter, choose the same PRO that is collecting your “writer’s share” of your Publishing.

Register with the Harry Fox Agency: Contact the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) and register as a publisher. Do this in addition to registering with a PRO. HFA collects royalties from Mechanical Licenses. See this link

What are Mechanical License Royalties?

Mechanical Royalties were initially paid to Publishers from Record Companies on the sales of LP’s or CD’s and other physical formats of recorded music.

Mechanical Royalties are a set-rate or “statutory rate” and are defined by law.

Mechanical Royalties are now paid by streaming services or to publishers when the copyrighted content is streamed, as you can imagine, this is important.

In closing, you will register your music with a PRO to collect the songwriting share of your publishing. You also need to establish a publishing entity to collect the other part of your publishing share of revenue with the same PRO.

The information outlined here should be helpful in providing you with key information in order to make an important decision about your music career.

It’s time to get serious about the business of music.