When Should I Pursue a Publishing Deal, and What Can I Expect? (Questions from SXSW, Pt. 3)

April 8, 2013{ No Comments }

Publishing Deals for MusiciansPublishing Deals for Independent Musicians

HELPFULAW FOR THE INDIE ARTIST is a legal advice column on matters pertaining to the music industry.  If you have a suggestion for a future article that you would like to submit to our columnist, entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below or send them to her at Christiane.Kinney@leclairryan.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @musicalredhead for more helpful indie-artist tips.

To read part 1 in this series (“How Do I Get an Endorsement Deal?”), click HERE.

To read part 2 in this series (“How Do I Pursue Sync Licensing Opportunities?”), click HERE.

[Editor’s note: if you’ve secured a traditional publishing deal, great! If not — and if you’d like publishing administration help — check out CD Baby Pro. We’ll make sure you get paid ALL the publishing royalties you’re owed for the usage of your music around the world.]

When Should I Pursue a Publishing Deal, and What Can I Expect?

Now, and a really complicated contract …

Would you like me to expand a little more?

Many artists wanted to know about pursuing publishing deals, in terms of timing and what to expect.  Publishers are in the business of acquiring rights to songs, and looking for opportunities to license and exploit the song for money.  When you just want to focus on making music and have someone else handle the business end of things, a publishing deal can be a wonderful arrangement, like Lennon and McCartney, Nutter Butter, or pickles and ice cream (for the pregnant readers).

In terms of timing, this will obviously be personal to each artist, but the industry has changed drastically in recent years, and advances to artists are not what they once were.  It can be best to wait until you are at a certain stage of your career if possible so you have the most bargaining power in the deal. The best deals often come to legacy acts with a solid earning history on their catalogue; artists with top charting hits; and artists who are about to “break.”  If you don’t fit into one of those categories, you may still be able to get a publishing deal, but the terms will be less favorable, like showing up on a blind date with one of the Baldwin brothers, only to realize it’s Daniel instead of Alec.

Legal Issues Related to Publishing Deals

Publishing deals come in many different shapes and sizes, and almost everything is negotiable.  There are publishing and co-publishing deals, single song agreements, songwriter agreements, and administrative deals – much like the Baldwin brothers, some more coveted than others.  In all of these deals, you can limit the rights under which a publisher may license your songs, or impose other restrictions, with the caveat that if you don’t have high bargaining power, they may quickly lose interest.

If you are offered a publishing contract, this is one of those areas where I highly recommend that you consult with a music attorney to review the agreement, explain the terms, and negotiate with the publisher to get the fairest deal possible.

So, here’s the quick recap:

Publishing deals are basically whatever both parties agree to.  If someone is really interested in one of your songs, consider a single song agreement rather than a publishing deal of your entire music catalogue.  Since these agreements are so broad, I would advise writing down what you want before negotiations start, then hiring an attorney to fight for those terms, and ensuring that the contract reflects what the parties ultimately agree to.

Here’s the quick quick recap:

Every contract is different, expert advice highly recommended.

Here’s the quick quick quick recap (yep, this is called beating a dead horse):

Clear contract, be smart, and get sound advice.

Wow; when you sum it all up, that’s my exact same advice for hiring circus performers.

And now, here’s some not so quick fine print.

© 2013 Christiane Cargill Kinney.  All rights reserved.  This Blog contains information of a general nature that is not intended to be legal advice and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice.  Any reader of this Blog who has legal matters involving information addressed in this Blog should consult with an experienced entertainment attorney.  This Blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this Blog. This Blog contains no warranties or representations that the information contained herein is true or accurate in all respects or that it is the most current or complete information on the subject matter covered. Do you need a quick quick quick quick recap?  Oops, ran out of room, so sorry.  Christiane Cargill Kinney is a Partner and Chair of the Entertainment Industry Team of LeClairRyan, LLP.

To make sure you’re getting paid all the publishing royalties you’re owed around the world, sign up today for CD Baby Pro. For more information about the world of music publishing, download our FREE guide below: 

Guide: Make More Money From Your Music

[Music score image from Shutterstock.]