Should you keep your own publishing? It depends on the facts of each situation. While you do retain a larger percentage of the revenue generated from your music when you hold on to all or a portion of your publishing, you will not have a publisher's expertise in placing your material or developing your music and your talent and therefore not necessarily actually receive more revenue without a publisher.
For most songwriters, there is a time and a place that a publishing agreement is advantageous. A publishing agreement may be entered into for example, for the purpose of obtaining a publishing advance which may allow you to complete a record. Without such an advance, some Artists never find a record deal and therefore generate no revenue from their music. There are many other reasons why you might want to give up all or a portion of your publishing, that is, enter in to a publishing or co-publishing contract with a publisher, the above noted reason is not the only reason, nor it is necessarily the most definitive. You may also choose, for example, to enter into an agreement with a publishing company, with or without a nominal advance against royalties, with the expectation of getting a cover version of your song. If the cover version does not happen within a reasonable period of time from entering into the agreement, within twelve, eighteen or twenty-four months, for example, you could then contract to have the publishing rights revert to you.
Clearly, one should not “give up” one’s publishing for no compensation or consideration. Generally, you want to be reasonably compensated for your publishing rights and/or have some means of getting them back after a period of time. It is important to note that a writer customarily never receives less than the writers' share, that is 50% of net income, in any publishing agreement.
What are the terms of some standard publishing agreements? A publishing agreement might be structured on a 50/50 net basis, which means that the writer would be entitled to the writer’s share, that is 50% of the revenue and the publisher would be entitled to the publisher’s share, that is 50% of the revenue. This type of agreement is still referred to as a standard songwriter- publisher agreement and under such an agreement the copyright is owned by the publisher. In a typical co-publishing agreement, which is the more common agreement, the writer/co-publisher retains half of the copyrights and half of the publisher’s share, that is 25% of the publisher’s share of revenue, plus the writer’s share, that is 50% of the revenue, for a total of 75% of the revenue. The other co-publisher is entitled to 25 % of the revenue and obtains half of the copyrights.
The timing of the decision whether to enter into a publishing agreement is also important and is subject to the facts of each case. An Artist may enter into a publishing agreement after their music has gained some value. For example, the Artist may have achieved critical acclaim or released records which have achieved gold or platinum sales status and thereby the value of their publishing catalogue has increased. This certainly places the Artist in a more favourable negotiating position. The decision to enter into a publishing agreement will depend upon the specific set of circumstances and in every case, skilled legal advice should be obtained prior to making such decision and prior entering into any publishing agreement.
© Paul Sanderson