The music industry, like any other entertainment industry, is a complex one. When navigating it as an artist, composer, songwriter, etc., it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of a music publishing deal. This agreement can come in different forms and can drastically change an outcome for an artist. It’s the backbone of how musicians and creators can earn a rightful income based on their talents. 

Below, you will learn what a music publishing deal is and find a full breakdown of different publishing deals and their benefits and drawbacks. Let’s start with the basics. 

What is a Music Publishing Deal?

At the most basic level of interpretation, a music publishing deal is an agreement written up as a contract between an artist and a music publishing company. This can be a singer, songwriter, composer, or musician. The agreement between both parties will allow the publisher to use the creation of the artist in the way the contract allows. 

This may cover areas such as licensing, distribution, and royalties. The artist then will receive financial compensation as well as increased exposure to future and present fans. The details can get very specific, as they should. 

How Do Music Artists Benefit from a Music Publishing Deal?

Sometimes, an artist may feel like a music publishing deal can handcuff them, thanks to the bad rap that music publishers get. But in reality, artists, both up-and-coming and notable, can benefit greatly from working with an honest music publisher. 

  1. Financial support is a major benefit to artists who are starting out. While social media has helped with viral hits, becoming a successful artist still requires resources. One of the more common benefits is an advanced payment to the artist for rights to their work. This can help start the growth of a career. 
  2. Royalties is a term all artists should be familiar with. As the music or creation is used, an artist will receive financial compensation through royalties and continued use of the work. 
  3. Artists who sign with music publishing companies that have resources will be able to gain unique exposure. This can be through commercials, TV, movies, and many more avenues. Exposure is one of the biggest assets a music publishing company can give, because it can set the stage for an artist. 
  4. Last but certainly not least, a music publishing company will be able to help protect the artist legally. There are a lot of intricate laws, such as copyright, that can land an artist in trouble. This is an expensive resource and one that is worth having. 

An artist who signs to a music publishing deal should be on the lookout for these benefits included in the contract. Not all music publishing companies are good ones. That is why knowing your terms is incredibly important. 

Types of Publishing Deals in Music

Understanding that there are different types of deals is the first layer an artist should delve into. Here, we have three types that are most commonly dealt with. 

Full Publishing Deals

Full publishing deals allow for the music publisher to obtain all the rights to the work of the artist. What this means is that the music publisher will have complete and all control over how the work is used, all the royalties, and any decisions involving licensing and placement. 

What the artist gets in exchange for this is usually a decent advanced payment as well as ongoing royalties. But keep in mind they have to give up all rights on how the music is used. Typically, this deal is seen for new artists who need substantial financial support and immediate funding to continue their careers. 

Co-Publishing Deals

If an artist is trying to find balance, then a co-publishing deal is it. This approach is much more of a partnership between the artist and publisher in terms of how the work is used. This type of deal usually administers close to 50% of the publishing rights to the music publisher, and 50% stays with the artist. 

It is a perfect scenario for the artist to feel like they have some creative say in how their work is used while also taking advantage of the benefits offered by the company. 

Administration Deal

An administration deal is a deal that is very different from the two previously mentioned. That’s because this deal allows for the rights to remain in complete ownership to the artist. The difference is that the publisher is given the responsibility of collecting any royalties, license negotiations, and handling all administrative tasks. 

We often see this type of deal with notable artists who have bargaining power. They take much more of the generated income but still want to use the resources and partnership of a music publishing company. 

3 Types of Music Publishing Royalties to Know About

We have mentioned the word royalties a few times now, so it’s worth breaking down the different types. 

Mechanical Royalties

Mechanical royalties come from any reproduction of music. The term is outdated as it meant the mechanical production of CDs, tapes, etc. Now, it also refers to the digital production of music, such as downloads and streaming services. 

Every time a copy is made of the work, whether it be through a digital download or a physical copy, mechanical royalties are generated. Where it concerns streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, these platforms will pay an artist a fraction per stream. However, the royalties are split, they go to the artist and music publisher. 

Public Performance Royalties

While the title sounds self-explanatory, it’s still worth mentioning. Royalties can be generated by a public performance or really any time the song is played in public. This has many avenues, such as concerts, radio, TV broadcasts, streaming, and even music that can be played in restaurants. 

Organizations dedicated to paying out these rights will collect the fees from businesses and distribute them to the songwriters and publishers.

Synchronization License Fees

This is commonly referred to as a sync license fee. This is when any part or the whole song is synchronized with visual media, like a TV show, commercial, video game, or any other type of online video. Music often gives more meaning and emotional impact with videos, which is why this deal is often a bridge between different types of artists. It helps both parties as it can double the exposure efforts. Track Club is an example of a sync license platform.  

Breaking Down a Music Publishing Deal

There are four key areas of a music publishing deal. Each part is integral to the entire agreement. 

Advance Payment

The advance payment is important for an artist to be able to take advantage of. This is often the exchange for giving up any or all rights to the music creation. The more rights you give up, in theory, the better the advanced payment should be. This is to offer good financial support to an artist that will allow them to continue their creative journey. It also will help fund future marketing and recording needs. 

Keep in mind that advances are meant to be recouped. This means that the amount given will be dedicated to future earnings or what we now know as royalties. The payment can be negotiated based on the potential of the artist and what a publisher deems as commercial value. 


Royalties are arguably the most important of a music publishing deal because they are the earnings that are generated from the commercial use of the song or music piece. Royalties often come at rates and are percentages of the revenue of sales of the work that is sold for commercial use. This means any streaming, public performance, or public use. 

The percentage that is negotiated is based on how much leverage the artist and the music publishing company have over one another.  

Term of Agreement

The terms of the agreement will outline how long the contract will be in place. It’s important for an artist to understand that a music publisher does not indefinitely own their work. Sometimes, these terms range from a few years to decades. When negotiating this part of the deal, the artist should consider their timeline of goals. 

Song Owner's Rights

The final key part is how the rights are divided between the music publishing company and the songwriter or artist. This will outline how the music can be used and who has the say. This part of the contract can be complicated as it needs to be tight in wording with no room for gray areas. 

Publishing Deal vs Record Deal

Understandably, some artists may confuse a publishing deal with a record deal. It’s important to know that they are not the same thing. While we understand what a publishing deal looks like, let’s talk about a record deal. 

A record deal is the right to the creation of music rather than the distribution of it. This includes recording commitments and production obligations between a record company and its artists. A record label will seek to assist financially to help an artist produce new music. 

How Do I Know If a Music Publishing Deal is Right For Me?

It can be daunting for an artist to think about engaging in a music publishing deal because it requires them to give up some control of the music they created. It’s even more daunting for an artist who has never dealt with this space before. 

The best approach to this is to consider long-term goals and the resources needed to achieve those. Often, new artists need exposure and financial assistance, which is why a publishing deal is a great avenue to long-term success. However, artists who have resources already built in may consider different avenues to gaining exposure over their music. This is especially true with social media as an aid. 

How Do I Get a Music Publishing Deal?

Ultimately, an artist can do a few things to better their chances of obtaining a music publishing deal. 

  • Focusing on building a strong portfolio of content is the most important. Being able to showcase your talent and why a company should invest in you is key. 
  • Don’t underestimate your power to network. Connecting with the industry and music publishing companies can help you find the right company to work with. 
  • Investing in working with legal counsel who knows the space well will help guide you in the right direction. 

With these tips in mind and a little patience, artists will find themselves on the roadmap to success.

Education Is Key

While creating music is the fun part of being an artist, it’s also important to be able to financially benefit from hard work. In order to do that correctly, understanding music publishing deals is important. There is a lot that goes into them, and this guide seeks to help start the conversation. 

Upcoming artists may be somewhat aware of these deals because they may have tried to acquire the right to use music in combination with what they already have. Now, with this knowledge, you can go forward feeling confident in finding a deal that’s right for you.