Publishing Deal Shopping: What to Consider First


It’s important for songwriters to understand that getting a publisher isn’t the sole solution!  There is so much more to it than that.  You not only have to be sure getting into a publishing deal at all is right for you in the current state of your career, but also which one is right for you.  The idea of it all can seem really overwhelming. It is important to remember that this is a business of “people” before the “paper,” as our contributing mentor, entertainment lawyer Pierre Hachar Jr., Esq. likes to say.  Therefore, in order to be able to follow your gut to make the right decisions in your career, you need the right counsel, of course, but also enough knowledge to know how to navigate the task of having the the right people backing your career.  We want to save you the headache of ending up in the wrong deal!!  Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a publishing deal.

1- Do You Have a Major Release Out Now or Coming Out Soon?

By “Major” we mean a song for a high profile artist or major label project.  This detail matters because how much money a song is currently generating or has potential to generate is an important factor in determining what kind of deal you can get….if you should get one at all.  It is usually best to wait until you have some leverage, such as money you know is on the way, before you start considering shopping around for a deal.  These days, most pub companies won’t mess with you anyway without some traction, but, if they do, by chance,  because they see a lot of potential, you probably won’t get an advance or the best terms.

2-Do You Really Feel Like the People Behind the Paper are Going to Genuinely be There for You?

Pierre Hachar at the ASCAP Latino awards with BMG Publishers

[photo courtesy @redcarpetlaw instagram]

In our 1st online music publishing course Pierre Hachar, Jr., Esq. discusses this topic in depth.  He touches upon the fact that, while this is true in most business, it’s most common in entertainment for people to go with their gut on this, because most of the success of an artist depends on their team.  But, listen.  Teams are EARNED.  They don’t fall from the sky.  We get so many calls on a daily about people needing “handlers,” and once they have those “handlers,” they know they’ll make them money.  What? First of all, what is a “handler?”  You’re likely watching too much E! Television if you’re using words like that.  Second, how? If you’re so certain you will make them money, then explain how, with a proper business plan preferably, please!  This is the business of music, not the music of business.  (Well, maybe the “music” of business is actually instinct?)  Anyway, finding the right team is about earning mutual trust and respect, and, mostly, listening to your gut.  In publishing or record deals, it’s 90% gut, 10% terms.

3-Am I Actively Placing Songs Without the Help of a Publishing Company?

publishing-deal

Ideally, your publisher should work with you to help you get involved with co-writes and/or other situations that will help you to place songs.  If you’re going to have a minimum obligation requirement, then the idea is that they help you fulfill that obligation.  We’ll explain what that is in the upcoming webinars.  However, if you’re already actively placing on your own (e.g., an artists you came up with blows up a record, or you, as an artist, create an online streaming sensation record that just explodes), then you definitely want to weigh out if the timing is right for you.  Maybe you want to wait to get a few more hits under your belt, or maybe you create a situation where, unless you’re getting a fat check, you might be doing just fine on your own.

4-How do You Plan on Collecting The Monies Owed to You?

iPad displaying publishing earnings analytics

Remember that if you decide to self publish, you have to A) Register a Company Name, and B) Register Your Company with a Performing Rights Organization (e.g.,BMI, SESAC, ASCAP).  Now, that PRO will monitor all your broadcast royalties, but what about “mechanical?”  Sometimes, people hire lawyers to handle this publishing administration.  That’s an option.  Or, if you sign with a publishing company, they would handle collecting and distributing this money to you quarterly.

This is all just a bit of what you need to consider when venturing into the publishing deal world.  There is a lot to the art of negotiation, and even in finding the right lawyer to represent you. (That’s a whole other can of worms we’ll get into later!)

Feel free to leave comments or questions below. And, as always, you can tweet us @allaccessida !