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A music publisher is a type of publisher that specializes in distributing music. Music publishers originally published sheet music. When copyright became legally protected, music publishers started to play a role in the management of the intellectual property of composers.
The term music publisher originally referred to publishers who issued hand-copied or printed sheet music.
Examples (who are actively in business as of June 2019 [update] ) include:
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In the music industry, a music publisher or publishing company is responsible for ensuring the songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Through an agreement called a publishing contract, a songwriter or composer "assigns" the copyright of their composition to a publishing company. In return, the company licenses compositions, helps monitor where compositions are used, collects royalties and distributes them to the composers. They also secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television.
The copyrights owned and administered by publishing companies are one of the most important forms of intellectual property in the music industry. (The other is the copyright on a master recording which is typically owned by a record company) Publishing companies play a central role in managing this vital asset.
Successful songwriters and composers have a relationship with a publishing company defined by a publishing contract. Publishers also sometimes provide substantial advances against future income. In return, the publishing company receives a percentage, which can be as high as 50% and varies for different kinds of royalty.
There are several types of royalty: mechanical royalties derive from the sale of recorded music, such as CDs or digital downloads. These royalties are paid to publishers by record companies (through the Harry Fox Agency as well as through American Mechanical Rights Agency in the U.S.). Performance royalties are collected by performance rights organizations such as SESAC, BMI, ASCAP or PRS and are paid by radio stations and others who broadcast recorded music; and are paid by venues, event organizers for live performances of the compositions. Synchronization royalties are required when a composition is used in a film or television soundtrack. These royalties typically pass through the hands of a music publisher before they reach the composer.
Publishers also work to link up new songs by songwriters with suitable recording artists to record them and to place writers' songs in other media such as movie soundtracks and commercials. They will typically also handle copyright registration and "ownership" matters for the composer. Music print publishers also supervise the issue of songbooks and sheet music by their artists.
Traditionally, music publishing royalties are split seventy/thirty, with thirty percent going to the publisher (as payment for their services) and the rest going to the songwriter – or songwriters, as the case may be. Other arrangements have been made in the past, and continue to be; some better for the writers, some better for the publishers. Occasionally a recording artist will ask for a co-writer's credit on a song (thus sharing in both the artist and publishing royalties) in exchange for selecting it to perform, particularly if the writer is not well known. Sometimes an artist's manager or producer will expect a co-credit or share of the publishing (as with Norman Petty and Phil Spector), and occasionally a publisher will insist on writer's credit (as Morris Levy did with several of his acts); these practices are listed in ascending order of scrupulousness, as regarded by the music industry.
The most unscrupulous type of music publisher is the songshark, who does little if any real "legwork" or promotion on behalf of songwriters. Songsharks make their profit not on royalties from sales, but by charging inexperienced writers for "services" (some real, such as demo recording or musical arranging, some fictional, such as "audition" or "review" fees) a legitimate publisher would provide without cost to the writer, as part of their job. (By comparison, a bona fide publisher who charges admission to a workshop for writers, where songs may be auditioned or reviewed, isn't wrong to do so.)
Rock-n-roll pioneer Buddy Holly split with longtime manager Norman Petty over publishing matters in late 1958, as did the Buckinghams with producer James William Guercio almost a decade later. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival was sued by his former publisher Saul Zaentz (who'd also served as his manager) over a later Fogerty song that sounded slightly like a CCR song Zaentz published. (Fogerty won in court.)
Several bands and artists own (or later purchase) their own publishing, and start their own companies, with or without help from an outside agent. The sale or loss of publishing ownership can be devastating to a given artist or writer, financially and emotionally. R&B legend Little Richard was largely cheated on his music publishing and copyrights, as were many performers. Brian Wilson and Mike Love of The Beach Boys were crushed to learn that Murry Wilson (father to three of the Beach Boys, Love's uncle, and the band's music publisher) had sold their company Sea of Tunes to A&M Records during 1969 for a fraction of what it was worth – or earned in the following years.
A large factor in the Beatles' breakup was when their publisher Dick James sold his share of Northern Songs, the company they'd formed with him in 1963 (then taken public in 1967, with shares trading on the London Stock Exchange), to Britain's Associated TeleVision (ATV) in 1969. Neither the Beatles nor managers Lee Eastman and Allen Klein were able to prevent ATV from becoming majority stockholders in Northern Songs, whose assets included virtually all the group's song copyrights. Losing control of the company, John Lennon and Paul McCartney elected to sell their share of Northern Songs (and thus their own copyrights), while retaining their writer's royalties. (George Harrison and Ringo Starr retained minority holdings in the company.)
Musical composition can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other musicians. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) is an American not-for-profit performance-rights organization (PRO) that collectively licenses the public performance rights of its members' musical works to venues, broadcasters, and digital streaming services.
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is a performance rights organization in the United States. It collects blanket license fees from businesses that use music, entitling those businesses to play or sync any songs from BMI's repertoire of over 20.6 million musical works. On a quarterly basis, BMI distributes the money to songwriters, composers, and music publishers as royalties to those members whose works have been performed.
A songwriter is a musician who professionally composes musical compositions and writes lyrics for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, as it pertains to the writing and composing of original musical composition or musical bed; although this term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring. A songwriter who mainly writes the lyrics for a song is referred to as a lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that song writing is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be composed by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have external publishers.
Copyrights can either be licensed or assigned by the owner of the copyright. A copyright collective is a non-governmental body created by copyright law or private agreement which licenses copyrighted works on behalf of the authors and engages in collective rights management. Copyright societies track all the events and venues where copyrighted works are used and ensure that the copyright holders listed with the society are remunerated for such usage. The copyright society publishes its own tariff scheme on its websites and collects a nominal administrative fee on every transaction.
A royalty payment is a payment made by one party to another that owns a particular asset, for the right to ongoing use of that asset. Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset or a fixed price per unit sold of an item of such, but there are also other modes and metrics of compensation. A royalty interest is the right to collect a stream of future royalty payments.
Saul Zaentz was an American film producer and record company executive. He won the Academy Award for Best Picture three times and, in 1996, was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.
The music industry consists of the individuals and organizations that earn money by writing songs and musical compositions, creating and selling recorded music and sheet music, presenting concerts, as well as the organizations that aid, train, represent and supply music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who write songs and musical compositions; the singers, musicians, conductors, and bandleaders who perform the music; the record labels, music publishers, recording studios, music producers, audio engineers, retail and digital music stores, and performance rights organizations who create and sell recorded music and sheet music; and the booking agents, promoters, music venues, road crew, and audio engineers who help organize and sell concerts.
Sony Music Publishing is the largest music publisher in the world, with over five million songs owned or administered as of end March 2021. US-based, it is part of the Sony Music Group, which is itself owned by Sony Entertainment. The company was formed as Sony/ATV in 1995 by the merger of the original incarnation of Sony Music Publishing and ATV Music, which was owned by entertainer Michael Jackson. Jackson had purchased ATV Music, which included the Lennon–McCartney song catalog, in 1985.
Centerfield is the third solo studio album by musician John Fogerty. Released in 1985, it spawned the hit singles "The Old Man Down the Road", "Rock and Roll Girls" and the title track "Centerfield". This was Fogerty's first album in nine years; After the decision not to release his Hoodoo album, Fogerty decided to take a long break from the music business because of legal battles with his record company. In the meantime, Fogerty's recording contract with Asylum Records was reassigned to co-owner Warner Bros. Records so this album was the first released on the Warner Bros. label.
A publishing contract is a legal contract between a publisher and a writer or author, to publish original content by the writer(s) or author(s). This may involve a single written work, or a series of works.
Music publishing is the business of creating, producing and distributing printed musical scores, parts, and books in various types of music notation, while ensuring that the composer, songwriter and other creators receive credit and royalties or other payment. This article outlines the early history of the industry.
Startling Music Ltd. is a music publishing company, founded in 1968 by singer, songwriter and musician Ringo Starr, drummer of the Beatles.
A music synchronization license, or "sync" for short, is a music license granted by the holder of the copyright of a particular composition, allowing the licensee to synchronize ("sync") music with some kind of visual media output.
Production music is recorded music that can be licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. Often, the music is produced and owned by production music libraries.
"The Old Man Down the Road" is a song by American rock artist John Fogerty. It was released in December 1984 as the lead single from Fogerty's comeback album, Centerfield. It became Fogerty's only top 10 hit single as a solo artist, peaking at number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and spending three weeks at the number-one spot on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart. Rolling Stone Album Guide critic Paul Evans regards the song as "functional swamp rock". Cash Box called it "a hard-hitting roots rocker which wastes no notes and pulls no punches."
Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. was an American music publishing firm formed in 1942 by Roy Acuff and Fred Rose in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Acuff-Rose's honest behavior towards their writers set them apart from other music publishing firms at the time and led them to fame throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Currently, the company's catalog is owned by Sony Music Publishing (US), LLC (Delaware).
Music Law refers to legal aspects of the music industry, and certain legal aspects in other sectors of the entertainment industry. The music industry includes record labels, music publishers, merchandisers, the live events sector and of course performers and artists.
Music plagiarism is the use or close imitation of another author's music while representing it as one's own original work. Plagiarism in music now occurs in two contexts—with a musical idea or sampling. For a legal history of the latter see sampling.
The Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, or Music Modernization Act or MMA is United States legislation signed into law on October 11, 2018 aimed to modernize copyright-related issues for music and audio recordings due to new forms of technology such as digital streaming. It is a consolidation of three separate bills introduced during the 115th United States Congress.