Whats Does a Music Publisher do?

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The role of a music publisher in the music industry

A music publisher’s main role is to make sure artists and composers get paid royalties every time their compositions (songs) are used commercially. For singers wondering what does a music publisher do, here’s some information!

What does a music publisher do?

Publishing contracts

  • Through an agreement called a ‘publishing contract’, an artist/composer assigns the copyright of their recordings to the music publisher for which they will take a cut of what they collect. The music publisher then:
  • Licence compositions.
  • Monitors when and where a composition is used. Collect any royalties to give to the artist. The publisher takes a percentage of the amount to cover its services.
  • Promote commissions for the artists’ compositions to be used by films, television, advertisements and other recording artists. They also seek out newer ventures to promote the music to, such as ringtones for phones.
  • They take action on anyone using the music without the necessary licence.


The copyrights to compositions are one of the most important forms of intellectual property in the music business. The music publisher has to manage this asset as part of their role.


After agreeing to a publishing contract, a music publisher will collect various kinds of royalties. They may pay the artist an advance upfront if they can see there are royalties to collect and then take a percentage of the royalties, sometimes as much as up to 50%, but it’s usually around 20%. There are a few kinds of royalties that a music publisher can work with:

  • Mechanical Royalties – these are from the sales of recorded music, such as CDs and digital downloads. Record companies pay these to the publishers.
  • Performance Royalties – these are collected by performance rights organisations such as BMI or PRS. Radio stations and others who broadcast recorded music pay these.
  • Synchronization Royalties – these are paid when a composition is played in a film or in a TV show.

Find new opportunities

A music publisher can also take songs by songwriters and give them to suitable recording artists to perform. They also try to get them included in film and TV soundtracks. The music publisher will also handle copyright registration and ownership issues for the artist. Music publishers’ work alongside music print publishers supervises the issue of songbooks and sheet music for the compositions of the artist. Again, royalties are paid for songwriting credits and through the books containing how to perform the artist’s compositions.