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The Magic Bullet
~ Lite Version

Seminar 3

Music Publishing…
Songwriter/Publisher Contract

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In this session, we will take a look at music publishing. But before we dive into it, let us first review what we have learned so far…and…how we have learned it (or, how we should have learned it!).

It is important, not only to learn WHAT you have to know, but it is even more important to know HOW to learn it! This is because if you learn HOW to learn, that understanding will carry forward into every endeavor you are faced with in life. It will make your life a whole lot less complicated. If life is easier in general, learning WHAT you have to learn becomes easier as well.

I hope these seminars will sharpen your abilities in BOTH of these areas.

If you have been following our method of learning so far, it would be summed up simply by saying...

a. Overview everything to try to see the "big picture."
b. Determine how specific situations fit into the big picture.
c. FOCUS in on the matter at hand.
d. And then go through the process of realization clear through to fruition.

And, the key to attaining fruition is DISCIPLINE. And this discipline must be focused AT EVERY POINT to be able to stay on track.

This is the "catch 22" of takes discipline to come to fruition, but it takes going through the realization process unto fruition over and over to develop discipline!!

That is why much of life before you are 30 (well, nowadays make that 50...since we've digressed so much!) takes on the character of "making a mess and cleaning it up." Or, as is the plight of many at that point in life, simply REaction to one crisis after another!

In short, attaining discipline takes learning AND experience. Or, more precisely, attaining discipline takes learning and experience after learning and experience after learning and experience after learning and experience!

So, the true reality of life is, "in the early years," i.e., life before (without) discipline, many many hours will simply be chalked up to "learning and experience."

To put it another way, in the "life before discipline" (LBD) years, you are not a "seer," but a "busybody doer."

Seers are able to foresee. Seers avoid much of the busy work and "crisis management" that are the earmark of the LBD years...the attention deficit syndrome years. They are able to do this by combining their prior learning and experience skills into a mastery. With this COMBINED knowledge they develop what is called wisdom. And it is wisdom that avails the making of correct interpretations. No wisdom…no ability to see (foresee). No ability to ability to avoid potentially disastrous situations BEFORE they happen.

The whole point here is that all this good news is based on discipline (learning plus experience), while all the bad news is based on the lack of discipline.

It's your choice.

Seers are disciplined...Non-seers fall into pits and walk into walls.

Those with wisdom are disciplined...Boneheads...not disciplined.

These are the cold hard facts...if you are not disciplined, you will never be a seer, you will never attain wisdom. You will spend your entire life climbing out of the pits you continually fall into as you walk blindly in the dark. Or, you will "live" a life of "immobility" as a result of being bound up in casts trying to heal all the broken bones you got from banging into all those walls and falling off all those cliffs!! Or, you will walk blindfolded off the plank of the "ship of the music business" and end up in a sea of sharks who will devour you in an instant.

(And by the way, the word seer also has double meaning that spreads the gamut from good to bad...a gypsy fortune teller "seer" who steals all your money with bogus "seeings" into the "future" vs. a seer who foretells the future because he's not a thief or bonehead, but because he's a wise, seasoned, mature person, in action giving witness with/to his mastery...he sees it, proclaims it, and lives it...he IS it.)

Now, back to the present...let's quickly (but importantly) look back at where we've been to this point in this course to enable a proper reassessment, to enable a proper pinpointing of where we are in our realization process, and thereby enabling us to proficiently move forward in our learning and move forward in and unto discipline, then to mastery, then to useful action.

In Seminar 1 we overviewed the possibilities of the music business. In Seminar 2 we discussed copyright in order to learn what it is that maps out the whole music industry. It is the copyright law that is the basic governing set of principals for the song, and therefore for the entire music industry.

Now, we will take up with the music publisher in this session's lesson. Remember, we are still sitting and learning...we are still in Part III.


Music Publishing -- SMP Hot Link

The music business is a vast and very complex business. It is for this reason that one should enter this arena with care and respect. With care, so as not to get burned, and with respect for those who know how not to get burned!

Many of the experiences a person has to face in this business is often best done by a professional representative. An experienced professional can navigate the waters for you and save you from unforeseen disaster.

That's the good news.

Like with anything, there is also the bad news. The bad news is that, if they are professional but also dishonest, they can navigate you into a disaster from which you may never recover!!

So, no matter what the pain, you will have to learn enough so as to be able to at least recognize an obvious thief. However, the really bad news is that know matter how much you learn and know, there is still the possibility you may get stung. (About the only way to absolutely nullify the possibility of getting stung is to not own anything, or potentially own anything...thieves don't come after you if you don't presently, or in your "potential future," have anything to steal...The next best approach is to be a trial least then you can sue the thief and hopefully come out with it costing him a little more than it would cost you...that is, if he's not also a trial lawyer!)

But, like most in the music business, you probably are not a trial lawyer, and you probably own "stuff," or, have the potential to someday own stuff, the next best approach is to learn as much as possible about professional representatives. This will give you a big edge in your venture to success.

One such professional representative that can be of much benefit is the music publisher.

And, even though hooking up with a music publisher that would represent you and thereby unload much of the "what you must know to be successful in the music business" burden, you must proceed with caution. Caution is the operative word when you attempt to procure any type of professional representation.

Before you even start to look for a music publisher, you must have a relatively solid understanding of what music publishers do. Plus, you must be able to accurately evaluate what they can do for you both now and in the long run. And also, you must determine what their "track record" is by checking out what they have done for others in the recent past.

So, what is a music publisher and what do they do?

A music publisher is a business that secures the legal rights to musical compositions and exploits such rights with the intention of making a profit. Or, a person, called a "self-publisher," who engages in the same activity. As copyright proprietor, they administer the business and financial aspects of publishing that may include:

1) Registering (and renewing pre 1978) copyrights,

2) Securing licensing agents with regard to print licenses, mechanical licenses, compulsory licenses, purchase licenses, transcription licenses, synchronization licenses, and performance licenses, e.g., coming into contractual alliance with mechanical rights agents, performance rights societies, and with foreign publishers,

3) Coming up with the appropriate contracts to assign rights in copyright via licenses to music users, e.g., mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses and print licenses…and keeping records of any right transfers, assignments, or mortgages,

4) Obtaining record releases,

5) Collecting song incomes and royalties from licensed agents, e.g., royalties from publishing, performance, mechanical, print, synchronization, merchandising, etc.,

6) Auditing licensed agent representatives to insure they are paying proper royalties and deducting correct amounts for administrative service charges,

7) Accounting for royalties collected, e.g., to songwriters and co-publishers,

8) Reporting to the IRS on Form 1099-MISC certain royalties, independent contractor fees, salaries, commissions, interests, rents, pensions, medical assistance programs or health, accident, and sickness insurance programs, certain direct sales of consumer products for resale, and other compensations paid out. Each recipient is reported separately and the report must include the recipient's name, address, taxpayer identification number (social security number for sole proprietorships), and the total paid,

9) Paying the required employment and other taxes to the proper tax agencies, and

10) Distributing the proper royalty payments, accompanied by a royalty statement, to affiliated songwriters and co-publishers.

Some publishing deals only involve a music publisher handling a specified portion of the above listed overall responsibilities. For example, one limited type of publishing deal is called an "administration deal." Here, only a limited supervision of the song catalog would be handled, e.g., copyright registration and financial accounting. While obtaining record releases would be handled by the songwriter/artist or label/production company. This often happens where the songwriter/artist owns his own production company and label.

A full-time top rated music publisher will receive up to (and many music publishers in excess of) 300 unsolicited songs each week. The publisher will also receive many other new songs from songwriters they deal with on a regular basis.

When a publisher accepts a song and a contract is signed, the song becomes a part of the publisher's catalog and the publisher then may exploit the song to generate income which is split with the songwriter according to their contractual agreement.


A Songwriter/Publisher Contract defines the agreement between a songwriter and his music publisher. If you are a songwriter, signing this contract allows the music publisher to exploit your song and generate income. So, procuring this contract is probably your foremost agenda when you are just starting out. However, it is possible that this contract can bind you into its clutches for many years. It is therefore imperative that you know all you can about it BEFORE you sign it.

Here is where you will need the SMP Membership Full Text Version of Seminar #3, along with the access it gives to the SMP Hot Links…you will find out how to "Take Care of Business" with various Contract Negotiation Tips, info about the standard royalty cuts, and a list of the 48 most important Clauses of a Songwriter/Publisher Contract!

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Now we have come to the end of Part III and only now are you able to enjoy the "first fruits" of your endeavor. Now you will be able to stand up (remember you are sitting) and take a few baby steps to "test the waters."

Part IV The Experience...Making The Moves...The Mix

Now, as we continue in our quest to follow the song from its creation to its fruition, the next step is to make the first move, as it were. And, be warned, it is from here on out where the big dangers lie!

As you go out and test the waters, remember, if you are well prepared, the sharks will leave you alone...if not, the bite will hurt! It may even "kill" may destroy your career. Yes, one big shrewd shark can finish you off before you realize your dream of riding your bullet to the top!

So, you are now armed with some knowledge about contracts and the copyright law is also on your side...but is this enough protection? You will soon find out! This is because you will now actually have to sign a contract and get into the mix of the music business!

Remember, learning and experience brings discipline, then mastery, then USEFUL action. The action you are now taking is TESTING action..."on the job" experience. With USEFUL action you make income $$$, with TESTING action the $$$ is sometimes "optional!" Or, to put it in street talk, "other people simply take your money."

It is now when you will usually meet your first song shark...when you are getting your feet wet...right at the water's edge! This is because the song shark usually presents himself as a "music publisher" with a Songwriter/Publisher Contract in hand...his contract...a "take it or leave it contract."

Often, to make a long story short, the contract is worded so he will get most of the income your song will generate. This is usually done by having the Songwriter/Publisher Contract assign all the rights in copyright to him...this then, assigns him all the money that those rights may avail!! Remember, although the copyright law was "freely given" to you at the creation of your song, it will only continue to protect you if you are "under its umbrella." If you assign your rights to another (sell the rights for a "bowl of soup"), you then "fall back" into a place where the law will not apply to will then not be able to apply the copyright law to protect yourself...but, instead, the shark WILL be able to apply the copyright law to protect himself!

Further, the shark is almost always a "vanity" publisher. He will want money up front to publish "your" song. The long and short of it is...he simply takes your money, and then takes your money.

Never pay to have a song published. That is rule number one in the music business.

OK, let's say you dodge all the "music publisher" sharks. Now, even with a good contract signed and in hand, you will probably have to go out and "shop" (plug) your song yourself. Even the good music publishers often will not make the effort needed to place your song so it will be recorded by a major record label.

It is in these waters where you may encounter new types of sharks! "Demo shops" that promise to make your song sound like a hit, will sometimes "take your money for a song"...if you know what I mean! "Tip sheets" that sell for big money, or other services that offer to "get you in the door" of the record label, can often cost an arm and a leg. Be careful. Try to get a word-of-mouth tip as to who can really help you in these areas. If you were prudent and signed on with a legitimate music publisher, they should be able to guide you through these waters. offers two ways to make contact with producers and record labels. The first is via a SongConnect Membership. SongConnect Members get a free list of music publishers and producers who are currently looking for songs to record by simply joining that membership site: Join SongConnect.

The second way to make contact with the pros is via the Get Signed! Tip Sheet which lists record labels and producers who are looking to sign new acts: Get Signed! Tip Sheet

When you plug a song, keep attacking. Position yourself to be available to the right people at the right creative. Do some legwork. Do some more legwork. Persistence will pay off!

If you use a demo shopping agent, be sure to sign a contract with them defining your agreement. Check out the "Demo Shopping Agreement I" that La Costa Music offers on our form contracts page: Form Contracts.

OK, we will stop here…see you next session!


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