Publishing Indie Music

Publishing Indie Music.

Earning a living out of your art is what every artist wants but is very difficult to achieve, especially in today’s world, when the generation only wants to stream or get pirated copies. It is becoming increasingly difficult to earn a name and make ends meet through record sales.

In order to sustain financially, it has become important for indie artists to find alternate means to generate revenue, rather than just making music. If making music is all you want to do and let someone else handle the rest, finding a good publisher is your best choice. Publishers will acquire the rights to your song and creatively exploit it in order to make money for you and themselves.

Publisher and You

Generally, publishers are also ‘ordinary people’ running a small business, who are subject to government oversight when it comes to making licenses, specifically mechanical licenses. The government tells them what they need to pay for all mechanical licenses (audio-only uses like a CD, digital download, streaming uses) with tech companies (Apple, Amazon, Google, etc.). The explosive growth of internet has led an enormous amount of people to download music, mostly illegally, for free. Because of this, publishers’ income has done a precipitous deep dive. To make up for this gap, the publishers are looking out for opportunities to license your songs and leverage flow of money. Therefore, in the initial stages of your career, you will not benefit as much from the publishing deal, as the terms will not be too favourable. So unless you come with a solid earning background, you do not enjoy much bargaining power in the deal. Considering this, the other option is to wait a little in your career, until you have earned a name and fan base, in order to get a good deal from the publishers.

In my blog on “How to Become a Better Indie Artist “, I have talked about how getting a publisher for your work helps indie artists. Producers charge exorbitantly, true, get them still. They will make sure you are connected to someone who knows more than you about making records. It is always good to know the experts. You get to learn by absorbing all the knowledge and become better at art. You would rather make great records than collect musical instruments.

How it works

You may also consider different forms of publishing deals. If you have one excellent song, consider single song publishing deal instead of publishing an album. Publishing deals are mostly flexible like single song agreement, album, co-publishing deal, administrative deal and comprise of what both parties agree upon.

It is important to understand what a publisher will do for you. A publisher handles song licensing & registration, creative matters and royalty collection. Licensing & registration is a tedious process that only a publisher can enjoy. A publisher should also be knowledgeable about developments in technology and current market trends. Like ringtones; this is a new and separate revenue stream that is becoming increasingly popular with the young generation. A separate license is to be issued to the phone carrier or ringtone provider for the use of ringtones.


Publishers often spend a large part of their time attempting to ‘pitch’ your creatively exploited song to advertising agencies, music supervisors who work in video game production, film and TV. The creative abilities of a publisher can bring untold new opportunities to an indie artist financially.

Finally, the publisher collects proper amount of royalties, both performance and mechanical, for you from all sources. The ‘synchronization’ royalties that occur as a one-time negotiated flat fee whenever music is ‘synchronized’ to a moving picture, requires an experienced publisher. Your publisher will negotiate the sync fees and issue the requisite licences. A music publisher works diligently to collect all of these income streams from the various sources.

Know what you want

When you are going to meet a publisher, do your homework well and be prepared with a list of points that are important to you. During the discussion, make sure you write down what has been agreed upon. If you decide to go ahead with the deal, it is advisable to get a music attorney who can best negotiate your terms and conditions with the publisher, in a way that is most favorable to you. This will also ensure that all the points are mentioned in the contract and your music is legally secured.

Do you need a publisher?

Why not? Ask yourself – what exactly you’re looking for in signing with a publisher. The administrative processes outlined above will quickly hamper your creativity and you should be more focused on the creative process than anything else. Just be creative – the right music publisher can handle the rest!

I hope my blog helps you in making decisions about publication of your music. Please leave your comments to share more experiences and i will add them in my future blogs!

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