Should You Get a Major Publishing Deal?

May 27, 2023

There are two schools of thought, and I am of the one who says don't do it. I can speak from my experience and the common experiences of other writers and producers who have been signed. I was signed to Sony ATV as a songwriter, and didn't realize how many doors would actually close once my publishing was owned by this entity. 

What does a publisher even do? Their only actual legal commitment to you is to pay you the advance that is defined in your contract. They are essentially a bank that holds all of your publishing rights until you can pay them that money back by getting huge placements. Your responsibility under this contract is to write songs and place them on major artists to generate revenue which your publisher takes half of. Usually a contract has a requirement of a certain number of placements you must achieve. If that number is 4, that number isn't really 4. That number mean 100% of 4 songs. Most songs these days are split amongst co-producers, co-writers, and the artist themselves, so you may only own a small percentage of that song. And this is the reason many of my friends are still stuck in their deals. They can't meet their placement requirement. 

Having a big publisher and probably some hot shot manager (who is likely a snake) does have the ability to open doors to very cool situations. But it's a hustle. You don't just get put in the room with Rihanna. When you first get signed, they will likely connect you with a couple other producer that they have signed, but from there it is kind of on you. You have to take what they give you and run with it, build on it, network from there and make things happen for yourself. If you do not make that happen, you will find yourself going nowhere fast, and your point person won't return your phone calls. If you DO make things happen, then you might start getting attention, then you might start getting more help. They will nurture people who begin to succeed, but they don't have much time for people who aren't making things happen. So be warned of the reality... But if it is your passion to go after that side of the music industry, you really want to hustle your ass off to write music for huge artists, you can certainly try. You might want to keep your day job in the meantime though. 

The main reason I am a big no to publishing deals now is that other opportunities to make money with music are no longer available to you once your publishing rights are owned by one company. My top two music revenue streams are writing music for tv and film, and getting hired to write songs for private clients like EDM DJs and the like. Sync Agencies that I use to go get my music placed in TV and film would not be able to work with me at all if my publishing is tied up. Sync is almost completely out the window, except for working with only your one publisher's sync department. I enjoy working with many different agencies by signing one song or one EP at a time to them. Then I have my freedom to do new projects with other companies. My EDM DJ clients wouldn't be able to sign their songs to labels if my rights as a songwriter are tied up. So these clients would not want to hire me and deal with my publishing company is they plan to release the song. 

Major pub deal to me = major opportunities to make money and feed myself are now off the table. 


Now that I am out of my deal and I’m a free agent, I make exponentially more money in music than I ever did a signed writer. Every 3 months I make the same amount of money as my SONY publishing advance was, that locked me up for 4 years.

Before you consider signing a major pub deal or major record deal, learn about the opportunities that exist for independent musicians, vocalists, songwriters, and producers to make money in music in this article where I highlight my top earning music revenue streams that YOU can take advantage of too. 

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