Music publishing explained with Notting Hill Music

Alistair Palin from Notting Hill Music unpicks the mysterious world of music publishing...


Music publishing and music publishers play an essential role in the music industry eco-system, not only helping ensure emerging artists get paid when their music is used, but sourcing new talent and opportunities. 

Copyright is at the heart of publishing and the music industry. The control of copyright enables a publisher to recover any investment in songwriters and composers and, perhaps most importantly for a new artist, to ensure that writers are properly credited and rewarded for their creative work. 

Notting Hill Music is one of the key players in the publishing world with an extensive catalogue including more than 300 UK top 40 hit singles, including 18 number ones. They also help showcase a whole world of new talent with Kieran Leonard (pictured above) one of the company's latest signings. To help you get a grip on the music publishing, we caught up with Notting Hill Music's Alistair Palin for an extensive overview... 

As a new or emerging artist, what can a music publisher do to help my career? Why should I sign a publishing deal?
Mechanical and performance royalties, licences and accounting are just some of the things publishers can do to help songwriters.
Although these can all be learned yourself, some are complicated, and can take many years to completely understand which in the meantime may lead to you agreeing to unfair deals.
Unfortunately, royalties to songwriters and artists often go unpaid and publishers are there to make sure you get the royalties you deserve.
Additionally, publishers have wide connections within the music industry including other songwriters, record labels, artists, management, radio pluggers, music supervisors, sync agents, international royalty collection societies among others. This will help get your music to the audiences and the royalty streams it deserves.
To summarise, publishers know their game and will protect your rights for you, clearing time for you as the songwriter to concentrate on what you are good at - writing songs. 
What kinds of deals are available?
Normally songwriters sign to one of the following publishing deals:
Single Song Agreement (SSA): A single song agreement is a deal between the writer and the music publisher in which the writer grants certain rights to a publisher for one or more songs. 
Exclusive Songwriter Agreement (ESA): An exclusive songwriter agreement is a deal between the writer and the music publisher in which the writer grants rights to a publisher for all works during an agreed period.
Admin deal: The songwriter retains 100 percent of their copyright and the publisher acts as an administrator and takes an agreed percentage of any royalties earned from the song(s). 
What would you advise new artists to look out for when signing a deal? 
If you’re an artist, a songwriter, or both, it would probably be best to partner with a manager or a lawyer to negotiate the deals with you - whether it’s a record or a publishing deal. There have been many cases where artists have been caught unawares and given part or all their publishing rights away to the record label when signing a deal. 
Aside from these three key points, you also need to consider a clear end date to the contract, royalty rates that are as high as possible with as few deductions and a reasonable amount of control over approving usage of your songs. I also think you should research the potential publishing companies and have meetings with as many as possible. This will help you see how each one could help your project and further your career in different ways.
Could you explain a little about copyright - how can I as a new artist copyright my musical creations?
Music copyright is separated into two sides:

The composition itself - a song’s music and lyrics, apart from any particular recording of that composition. This copyright is owned by the songwriter and/or publisher.
The sound recording - a particular recorded version of a musical composition. This copyright is owned by the recording artist and/or label.

To protect copyright on your songs the best way is to become a member of a performing rights society and register your songs with them.
In the UK PRS For Music is the home of the Performing Right Society (PRS) and the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS). These societies collect royalties for its members' works when performed to the public (concerts, radio, television etc) and when its members' work is duplicated (streaming platforms, CDs, vinyl etc) respectively.
What are the biggest opportunities for new artists and how can they actually make money from their music when working with a publisher? 
We have a global network of sub-publishers who collect royalties in their individual territories which is critical for methodically collecting revenue from around the world. We also have systems in place to exploit the songs to generate more income in the fields of sync, and song pitching to established artists & label A&Rs.
Are there any new areas which are particularly lucrative? 
Global revenues from music synchronisation in film, television, and advertising (in the traditional sense and also internet sites such as YouTube and apps including Instagram & Facebook) continue to grow.
As music publishers we pitch and promote our songwriters’ work for international placing in these mediums which has become an established and hugely welcome portion of our income for both our songwriters and us as publishers. 

Visit for more information. 

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by Jim Ottewill
September 2, 2018
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