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how to make money with publishing

How do you make money in music publishing?

Have you ever wondered why the main songwriter in one of those megastar bands can afford to buy a mansion when the other members in the band can only afford a small house?

The answer is music publishing.

If you write or co-write a song, you are owed royalties every time that song is played in a public setting. This includes radio, TV, movies, restaurants, venues, and more. You are also owed a publishing royalty every time someone purchases your music (in any format — CD, vinyl, MP3, etc.)

Music publishing has the potential to generate big money for songwriters, composers, and lyricists. If you’ve written a song and haven’t signed away the rights to someone else, then YOU are the publisher—which means that all royalties collected for that song should be paid to you.

Five most common kinds of publishing royalties you can collect

1. Mechanical royalties

As a songwriter / publisher, you are owed a royalty every time your composition is sold,or reproduced with the intention of being sold (on vinyl, tape, CD, MP3, etc). The mechanical royalty is generally equal to 9.1 cents per reproduced copy, regardless of whether those albums or singles are sold.

So, in other words, if someone covers one of your songs and they manufacture 1000 CDs — they owe you $91 regardless of whether those CDs ever get purchased.

You are also owed a mechanical royalty for the sales of your music on YOUR OWN albums. Though if you’re acting as your own label, you’ll basically be paying that royalty to yourself from album proceeds.

On-demand streaming services such as Spotify also pay a small mechanical royalty every time your song gets queued for streaming.

2. Performance royalties

As a songwriter/ publisher, you are owed a royalty whenever your compositions are performed “in public.” This includes…

  • plays on terrestrial and satellite radio (Sirius, KEXP, etc.)
  • usage on network and cable TV.
  • plays on internet radio (Pandora).

3. Licenses for synchronization

Synchronization refers to when a piece of music and a picture are “synced” together like in a movie soundtrack.

When a recording is used as the soundtrack for a TV show, film, commercial, video game, presentation, or YouTube video, a fee is owed to the songwriter/publisher, AND the copyrighter owner of the master recording. If you wrote the song and haven’t sold the rights, you are the publisher. If you own the recording you are the copyright holder. In this case you would get paid both royalties.

4. Licenses for sampling

If someone wants to use a drumbeat, sound bite, or any other portion of a song you have written and recorded, they must first get your permission and then also pay you royalties for its use.

Both copyright holders (the owner of the master recording and the songwriter/publisher) are owed money when an artist uses a sample from another artist’s original work.

5. Print rights for sheet music

As the songwriter/publisher, you are paid whenever your composition is duplicated in print form, including sheet music, lead sheets, fake books, etc.


Are you ready to start collecting all these royalties for the music you write? CD Baby Pro was designed to help artists like you get paid.