Publishing Agreements

Publishing agreements are for the songwriter or writers and basically involve the publishing company issuing licences for people who want to use a particular song, looking for ways to use or sell the music and collecting the income from the licences. Â

The particular terms you need to be looking out for are: Â

Rights – Publishing companies expect to have an assignment of the copyright in your songs, quite simply it is unlikely that you will get away with anything other than an assignment (for the length of the rights period of course). The rights period is likely to either be for the length of the copyright or for the length of the publishing contract plus a retention period: this is a period of between 2 and 20 years (usually) during which the publisher retains the copyright.

Term – This will depend upon you. Basically if you are a writer artist you can expect the term to be on an album by album basis however if you are a writer composer you can expect the term to be year by year.Â

Obligations – Quite simply the artist will have an obligation to write a certain number of songs and the publisher will have an obligation to exploit these songs. Â

Territory – The rights that you assign may be for a certain territory or they may be worldwide. Which one you go for will depend upon the experience and expertise of the publishing company. Â

Advances – As with record contracts it is usual to expect an advance, of course this advance must be paid back before you can start taking any further royalties however there are no real costs to make back (with a record deal for example you would have to pay back the recording costs etc). Â

Royalties – Royalties for publishing agreements tend to be 20-25% of the gross income. There are two ways of calculating this either: ‘at source’ or on ‘receipts’. ‘At source’ basically means before any deductions such as tax, collecting society fees etc. Whereas if it is calculated via the ‘receipts’ method then all such costs will be deducted and any sub-publishers fee all before your publisher takes their percentage. Obviously you will be looking for an ‘at source’ deal, but in some cases i.e. where a publisher has little experience in certain markets then the publisher will have to appoint a sub-publisher and you will have little choice but to accept a ‘receipts’ deal. Where the publisher arranges for your song to be synchronised (with a film or advert etc)they may look for a higher royalty, usually this will only be an increase of 5-10% but nonetheless it is something for negotiation. Â

Originality – The publishing company will expect an indemnity from you to the effect that the songs you write are 100% original. Â

Obviously there are many other clauses in a publishing agreement however the above gives you a flavour of some of the most important clauses and things to look out for.

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