Job Highlight: Music Publisher

Job Highlight: Music Publisher

With billions of dollars every year generated from the collective success of our favorite artists (streaming, touring, synch, etc) - it’s safe to say that music is a lucrative industry - over $28 billion in 2023 alone, according to statistics.

Music publishers play a major role in ensuring songwriters and composers get the compensation they deserve for their works, while also keeping an eye on potential commercial opportunities. At its heart, music publishing involves the management of musical compositions, copyrights, licensing, and royalties.

In this article, we offer a comprehensive music publishing guide. We’ll look at what a music publisher does, how they do it, and what the future landscapes of music publishing may look like.

What is Music Publishing and What Does a Music Publisher Do?

The broadest definition of a music publisher is that it is an individual who acquires, administers, and promotes musical compositions on behalf of songwriters, composers, and other music creators. (Often, this individual works for a larger music publisher company.)

Music publishers act as intermediaries between artists, and those who might want to use an artist’s music for commercial purposes - such as record labels, film and TV producers, advertisers, and digital streaming platforms. Music publishers are responsible for securing licensing deals for the use of musical compositions in various media, while at the same time ensuring that creators receive fair compensation for their work.

The day-to-day work of a music publisher might involve jobs such as:

  • handling the registration of copyrights;
  • collection of royalties on behalf of an artist;
  • enforcement of intellectual property rights on behalf of clients

Additionally, music publishers often provide creative and administrative support to songwriters and composers, helping them negotiate the tricky landscape of the music business world.

What Skills and Qualifications Are Required for Music Publishing Jobs?

Music publishers need to have a blend of creative, business, and legal skills within their skillset.

There is no set list of requirements for how to get into music publishing, but here are some of the things you might want to have if you’re hoping to find employment as a music publisher:

1. Strong Musical Background

It should go without saying, but music publishers must have a good understanding of the music world and music industry trends if they want to effectively promote music works and ensure that their clients get fair value for their creations.

Music publishers should have a solid grasp of music industry economics, copyright law, licensing agreements, and royalty structures. This is the bare minimum required for music publishers so that they’re able to negotiate favorable deals for their clients.

3. Networking Skills

While having the requisite legal and industry knowledge is important, it’s also important to cultivate relationships with artists, industry professionals, and licensing partners. Business is often about communication and who you know - and the music industry is no different.

4. Digital Awareness

In today’s world, modern music publishers face an added demand that the music publishers of previous generations didn’t have - they must always be aware of the latest digital trends and how this can affect the rights of their clients. A perfect example of this is the evolution of platforms like TikTok; six years ago, only a small percentage of people in the music industry were even aware of it - whereas now, it’s a major player in the music royalties world, with music publishers scrambling to make sure their clients get fair compensation for their works being used.

Understanding the Role of Music Publishers

So what is the exact role of the music publisher? Collecting royalties? Negotiating deals? A good music publisher does all of these things:

A music publisher will register musical compositions with performing rights organizations, securing copyright protection, and monitoring unauthorized use of music.

2. Licensing and Sync Deals

Negotiating licensing agreements for the use of music in films, TV shows, commercials, video games, and other commercial media.

3. Royalty Collection

Tracking and collecting royalties from various sources, such as streaming services, radio stations, and live performances.

4. Creative Support

The best music publishers are able to provide feedback, guidance, and opportunities for collaboration to songwriters and composers, to help them develop their craft.

5. Market Research

Stay on top of identifying emerging trends in the music industry, analyzing consumer preferences, and exploring potential new revenue streams for artists.

The Future of Music Publishing

Music publishers are expected to remain essential in the future of the industry. Looking ahead, music publishers will continue representing artists, connecting them with audiences, and helping them stay rewarded financially so that they survive as artists and thrive.

Due to the rise of digital streaming platforms, social media, and online content creation, music publishers might have to work harder than ever - but they also have new opportunities to promote and new avenues to monetize music on behalf of their clients.

The future of music publishing is likely to be shaped by digitization trends such as data-driven decision-making, personalized marketing strategies via social media platforms, and the increased globalization of the music markets.

If you’re interested in becoming a music publisher, it’s important to remember that success in this field is not just about making deals and collecting royalties (although that’s obviously an integral part), it's also about fostering creativity, building relationships, and championing the power of music creators to connect with audiences.

If you think you can work hard for artists and help them get what they deserve from the works they create, then a music publisher role might be perfect for you!


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The number of opportunities may surprise you, and you won’t need to be an expert concert pianist to succeed. If you're considering a path in the music industry, take the first steps and follow your dreams! Read The Beginner's Guide to Working in Music for you to get started!