Getting your songs published...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Hategear, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    One of my friends at work is pushing me to get some of my songs published. The only advice he had time to give me was, "If they ask you to pay them, get the **** out of there and go somewhere else!" Anyway, I know some of you have to be published musicians -- what does a guy need to know about getting his song(s) published? Any companies that are better/easier to deal with than others? Can any of you TalkBassers provide contact names and/or links? Does an attorney need to be involved? Once a song has been published, what does that mean to me, as the author of said song? Do you need to provide sheet music, or just a recorded copy of the tune(s)? Thanks!
  2. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
  3. First of all, you need to understand how the biz works.

    A songwriter writes a song. So? Big deal. At that point it doesn't mean anything to anyone except the songwriter.

    A publisher MAY decide to publish a song...however...there HAS to be money involved. The sole purpose of a publisher is to get a song recorded, promote it, and to then split the royalties of that song with the songwriter.

    Now, how does one get royalties? Royalties start rolling in when radio stations and other media fork over money for playing your song. Say you have a song on commercial radio....commercial radio stations pay royalties to one of the royalty collection agencies like ASCAP or BMI, who in return for a small handling fee then distribute that money to the publisher.

    A publisher is in business to make money so you have to have a song that is going to get airplay or be used in some other a movie, before it is worth the publishers time to sign you.

    Ok, now to answer some of your other questions. The FIRST thing a songwriter does after writing a song is to get it copyrighted. Check out the US Copyright Office for details.

    Then what most folks do is record a demo and try to shop it around to publishing companies. Usually, you look for a publishing company that has a track record or recording songs in your genre.

    Now getting a publisher to sign your songs is very tough because you have to CONVINCE them that you can make them money. Bands that write their own material that have a following of THOUSANDS of people have the best opportunity to do this, provided that the song is good enough. Usually to help a publisher decide to sign you, the songwriter will have recorded a demo in the style of the performer, or the style of the genre in which the song will likely be considered commercially viable.
  4. your best bet, first off, after coyprighting your material, would be to sign up with bmi or ascap. (there's also sesac, but they are very selective about who they sign up, and they ask for demos first!) then, make up your own publishing company name and register that through bmi or ascap, depending on who you signed with as a writer. then, when you get enough of a rep to attract publishing deals from the warner-chappels, bugs, bmg's etc., only sign an administration or co-publishing deal - never sign away 100% of your publishing!
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    CJ nails it.

    Never sign with a publisher who wants a part or all rights to your material.
  6. CJ_Marsicano wrote

    CJ, you can do that and form your own publishing company, but it does cost $250 if you do so with BMI. ASCAP is a little more selective in their Catch 22 idea of first having credits out there as a songwriter before you can join them.

    You will also need to start your own business and pay the fees in your state and city.

    Of course you can do that and keep all of your publishing rights....but and this is a big an independent you have no leverage in the music business except the popularity and quality of your songs. Is a recording company going to take a chance on you? Not unless you can sell a LOT of records.

    Or you can just be a indie with your own label and say the heck with it. That is what I have done...but don't expect to make any money at it.
  7. JMX wrote

    I don't think that this is always the case. As I was trying to get at above, publishers DO serve an important function in the music business in that they have contacts and "ins" into the biz that you and I don't and probably never will have.

    A publishers job is to get the song recorded by someone who can make money for all concerned. So big publishing houses have the ear of managers, stars, and the ceos of other publishing companies. You can't buy that kind of influence in the biz, its not for sale unless you are a big publisher.

    So a lot depends on what you the songwriter want to have happen. If you have a commercial viable product chances are you have to play the game somewhere and sign over some of your rights so that a publisher can help you. The normal deal is a 50% - 50% cut, but that is up to the songwriter and the publisher.

    You can also try to be an indie as I outlined above, but to make any money being an indie, you have to become very popular and have your material known to thousands of fans before you can turn a profit.

    Or, you can be like me and do it for the self satisfaction...and be happy to operate in the red.
  8. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I did some more research today and found this, at

    "Under the 1976 Copyright Act, which became effective January 1, 1978, a work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created. A work is created when it is "fixed" in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. Neither registration in the Copyright Office nor publication is required for copyright protection under the present law.

    There are, however, certain advantages to registration, including the establishment of a public record of the copyright claim. Except for certain foreign works, copyright registration must generally be made before an infringement suit may be brought. Timely registration may also provide a broader range of remedies for an infringement of copyright."

    What I get from this is, my song(s) are already copyrighted once they're recorded, but in order to bring an infringement suit against anyone using my song(s) without permission, I need to have it officially registered, right? So, would a "poor man's copyright" (sending a recording to myself in the mail) cover that?
  9. Thanks for the link Hategear.

    I often wondered about copyright. I've got about 7 or 8 completed songs at the moment and know jack squat about copyright. Should I just record them? Anybody with a brighter bulb than me have any suggestions?
  10. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    That's what I was getting at, keylock71. I mean, if recording your song automatically means it's copyrighted and sending a copy of that song to yourself is enough to establish when that song was copyrighted, why spend the 30 or 40 bucks per song to have them "officially" copyrighted (I think at one time, was charging $60 per song)?

    BTW, for those that do not know what the "poor man's copyright" is, it's when you sign your work, seal it up and send it to yourself in the mail. When you get it back, DO NOT OPEN IT until you need to (if someone should steal your work, an attorney would be the one to open your package or envelope). The postage mark serves as proof of when said item was created. I've done lyrics like that, but never a CD or cassette recording. When I do my lyrics, I address the envelope to myself, with the return address also addressed to myself. Then, before I send it, I write the title of the song on the back of the envelope, so when I get it back, my dumb ass doesn't have to open it to see which song it was!


  11. Think I'll start doing that. I never even really thought about it until our guitarist's girlfriend asked us what we would do if someone stole one of our songs. My initial response was , "Who in their right mind would want to steal one of our songs". Thanks for the info.
  12. There is a way around paying $30/song and it doesn't involve the so-called "poor man's copyright".

    What you can do (and it says so on the copyright forms itself) is copyright an entire group of songs under a collective title.

  13. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta / Macon (sigh)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Screw that! Start your own publishing company, and try to get an adminstrative deal. It's a company who's main job is trying to get your stuff recorded and hunting down any money that you may be owed, once they get your royalties, they send the money to YOU. Sometimes there are even cash advances involved. My friend signed with Bug Music and got an advance of 60k last year, and he recouped within the first quarter.

    BTW, as for copywriting, instead of $30/song, put about 20 songs on one CD, and you'll be charged $30 for that one CD, but all of the songs would be protected. That's what I did.
  14. earth calling woodchuck!

    I already made both of these suggestions earlier in the thread. please try and catch up while the 21st century is still in effect. :p