Often times as a songwriter I am faced with the reality that I still have so much to learn about the music industry. There are so many details that they seem to never end.

When I really sat down and found the vocabulary to describe my dream job (being a staff writer for a publishing house) I once again came to the realization that I have no idea how publishing works. Now after some research, interviews, and lots of questions later here is what I have learned so far:

Publishers/publishing houses are essentially managers of their songwriters’ songs. They help songwriters pitch songs to artists, keep track of songs that have been written, as well as helping their writers establish relationships.

As a songwriter you need to essentially create a database of all of your completed songs (I would suggest using a mixture of dropbox and google drive). This database needs to include an audio recording (work tape or master), the writers’ name, publishing information, PRO (performance royalty organization), and the date the song was completed (NOT the start date).

In addition to keeping track of songs until you are offered a publishing deal as a writer your goal should be to actively show that you are writing and putting out music. While a publisher is there to help their writers it is not their job to make you write or motivate you. Publishers are looking for hardworking, driven, writers to hire.

Now that being said once you are offered a publishing deal there are a couple ways the deal could work. There are three main types of publishing deals (that I know of).

  1. A SSA (A Single Song Agreement)

This type of deal is for one song only. It typically occurs when the writer doesn’t particularly have a relationship with the publisher. What often happens is that a publisher somehow ends up hearing a writer’s song and wants to pitch it and publish it. That is when a publishing contract is offered but only for that one specific song (that being said there is often a connection established that may lead to a deeper relationship).

2. An Exclusive Songwriting deal

This is where you become a true staff songwriter. What happens is that you write by yourself or with other writers (often belonging to the same publisher) and you write how every many songs your agreement specifies and then the publishing house will pitch the songs as they see fit. If a song gets cut (released by an artist) then the publisher will recieve the publishing royalties (60-40, or 70-30).

3. A “Co-Pub” deal

This deal usually is offered after a songwriter has had many successful “cuts” (songs they have written that have made it to being released by artists). The songwriter has a bit more freedom and is generally about to retain more of their royalties (closer to 50-50, rather than 60-40).

Don’t worry about copywriting your songs until they are talking about getting cut. Also often times your publisher will be able to offer advice and advise you on copywriting as a the music business in general.

Hopefully that was a general overview of some helpful information. I can assure you that as a songwriter or just someone interested in the music industry there are always options open as long as you are willing to work for them.