Music publishers develop and protect the music that songwriters and composers make. Music publishers play a vital role in the development of new music. They take care of the business side of the music making process. This allows composers and songwriters to concentrate on their creative work. The business is diverse and demands a variety of skills.
These can include:
- Having the ability to spot writing talent and original music that is likely to appeal to an audience
- Promoting new music in a range of ways
- Ensuring that all uses of music are properly licensed and paid for.
The business of music publishing is dependent upon there being a strong copyright framework in place. The licensing of copyright works for enables a publisher to recover the investment made in and artist. Without copyright there would be no financial incentive for music publishers to invest in composers and musical works.
The relationship between a music publisher and a songwriter/composer is supported by a publishing contract. This sets out the rights and obligations of each to the other. Under these contracts songwriters and composers assign the copyright in their music to the music publisher. This copyright is exchanged in return for a commitment to promote, exploit and protect that music. The musician is paid the publishing and royalty fees, after the music publisher has taken their fee. Publishers often pay significant advances to writers to be recouped from their royalties.
Music publishers generally specialise in one of five fields:
- Artists and repertoire (A&R) - promoting the careers of songwriters and composers. They also network to persuade broadcasters and others to use their music
- Rights administration - covering the legal side of publishing, including negotiating contracts and registering copyright
- Production and editorial - commissioning and publishing new music, proofreading and editing, and converting edited manuscripts into printed music
- Sales and marketing - including planning and implementing marketing campaigns, liaising with music dealers and organising promotional events
- Accounts and royalties - dealing with the financial aspects of the business, including fees, royalties and administering payrolls.