If you make and release music, chances are you’ve heard the word publishing thrown around. And you probably have questions. What is a music publisher? What are the options? And, when do you need a publishing deal? We went to the experts at Songtrust to get answers.

The world’s largest global royalty collection service, Songtrust is a publishing administration service that works with hundreds of thousands of songwriters, creators, and producers at all levels to collect the royalties you’re due. Below, get their tips on finding the perfect fit — and striking the best publishing deal for you.


Music publishing is an often overlooked and misunderstood part of the music business, but a vital piece of a songwriter’s long-term revenue. Without a basic understanding of what music publishing is and why it’s important to a songwriter, it can be difficult to know what to consider when looking for a music publisher to add to your team. 

The short version: Music publishing is the business of protecting and promoting song copyrights, and collecting the royalties that these copyrights generate. 

Whether you’re doing preliminary research into music publishers or ready to add one to your team and get your publishing set up, we’ve collected a list of four things to keep in mind when looking for a music publisher.

1. What does a music publisher do?

A music publisher or publishing administrator is responsible for the global registration of your songs and collecting the royalties due to you from the many pay sources within their network. 

A traditional music publisher will also offer creative services to their clients, such as pitching for sync licenses, pitching their songs to established artists to record, or setting up co-writes and other collaborations.

Publishing administrators generally do not participate on the creative side but focus only on registration, licensing, and royalty collection. They generally charge lower fees than traditional publishers.

2. What kind of music publishing options are available to me?

There are a few different kinds of publishing options that are available to songwriters, each having its own terms and conditions, barriers to entry, and expectations. 

In a traditional publishing agreement, royalties collected by the publisher are shared between the publisher and the writer, though the publisher generally retains creative control over the song’s usage. These types of deals, which can include substantial advances, can be quite competitive, and are, for the most part, unavailable to early-career songwriters. These agreements will often cover a songwriter’s entire catalog, and for active writers, may include a yearly delivery commitment.

In a co-publishing deal, the publisher and songwriter split publishing royalties (generally 50/50) across a songwriter’s catalog. The publisher, again, provides creative services. In addition, the publisher usually also provides an advance and other support.

In an administration agreement, the publishing administrator collects publishing royalties but does not have creative control over the catalog nor provide those services (though many publishing administrators do commission any sync licenses you secure for the catalog they administer). Early career songwriters often benefit from an administration deal first, as they can maintain rights while building their profile — and therefore leverage — before eventually signing a more advantageous traditional publishing agreement. Songwriters at all stages can benefit from more flexibility in terms of their creative partnerships allowed by an administration-only deal.

Songtrust is a global, platform-based, universally accessible publishing administrator. Songtrust clients have access to our network of over 60 collection partners, covering 245 countries (about 98 percent of the global music market) while retaining their creative control and all their revenue from sync licenses. With a one-year term and low fee, Songtrust is built to be artist-friendly, and the right fit for anyone looking to keep their rights while making sure they collect their publishing royalties.

Each deal has its pros and cons, which is why it’s crucial to research the options available to you, review the terms and agreements closely, and choose what makes sense for you at this stage of your career. And before you sign anything, have a trusted legal representative review the agreement.

3. How long is the agreement, and is there a minimum delivery commitment?

The length of the publishing agreement varies from deal to deal and is based on the type of agreement, as well as other factors like the advance offered, the type of creative support provided, and the rates. Some deals, like traditional publishing, may require a songwriter to deliver a set number of songs over the course of the contract. If you co-write any of your music, that can also impact that minimum deliverable number based on your share of those songs. 

Make sure you understand the term length and any delivery requirements before you sign the paperwork. An administration agreement term will generally be shorter than the term for a publishing or co-publishing deal.

4. When do you need a music publisher?

We believe songwriters should understand and consider a music publisher or publishing administrator as soon as they begin to write and release music. Music publishing isn’t a piece of the music business that’s only for veteran songwriters or managers with multiple artists — it’s important for songwriters at any stage of their career.

It’s worth taking a moment to assess where your career is and what you can reasonably expect from a publishing deal. At the end of the day, you’ll want a publisher who is going to support and advocate for you and your needs — whatever they may be — and that means determining what your expectations are before you sign.

If you have questions about music publishing, sign up for one of Songtrust’s Music Publishing 101 virtual workshops and/or download our Modern Guide To Music Publishing to get a solid, foundational understanding of how it works. If you are ready to get your publishing set up, reach out to our team to learn how Songtrust can ensure your global royalty collection.