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You write your own music. Here is why you DO NOT need a publishing deal...

The goal of any aspiring songwriter or composer is to get their music published, right? However, signing to a publisher could for some people be the worst career decision they could make.

To be a songwriter or composer, you have to be a bit of a dreamer. Otherwise, where is your creativity going to come from?

But often those dreams extend to landing a publishing deal or a recording contract. That, for many, seems to be the goal. But it shouldn't be...

The goal should be to achieve a lasting and rewarding career. Getting a deal may be the first rung on the ladder, but a publishing deal isn't necessarily the right thing for everyone.

So what does a publisher do exactly?

A publisher promotes your music, as simple as that. Or at least they should. Sometimes they just sit back and let your royalties merely trickle in while they spend all of their energy promoting some other act they have signed.

If you sign with a publisher, then that publisher should promote your music in three major ways...

  • Get you a record deal.
  • Get other artists to record your music.
  • Get your music included in TV and film sound tracks.

There's not much more to it than that.

If you write, say, country music songs, then a publisher could potentially exploit your music in all of these ways. So a good publisher would help you earn more money, and the share that you give to them, which could be as much as 50%, will be more than recouped by the additional income the publisher's efforts can generate.

However, you may write songs that are so distinctive, or so individualized to your own personal style, that no other artist would possibly want to cover them. So this rules out one entire source of income. Add to that the fact that for most songwriters, getting into a sound track is a rare event, and the publisher doesn't seem to have much left to do.

To cut to the chase, you should get a publisher for any of these reasons...

  • You can't get a record deal any other way.
  • You write songs that can be covered by other artists.
  • You are desperate for money and the publisher has offered you an advance.

Otherwise, your publisher won't generate that much extra money for you, and you pay them up to 50% of everything you earn.

By the way... never sign your publishing to a record label. They won't do anything that they wouldn't have done anyway, and they'll just cream of a substantial extra share of your earnings.

By David Mellor Monday December 19, 2005