ION INDIE MAGAZINE August 2015, Volume 15 - Page 66

Songwriting Series: Part Two By Paul Bordenkircher In the June issue, we talked about the importance of understanding what publishing really is, and how you lose control of your works when you sign away your publishing. But there may be times where signing a publishing deal is actually a good idea. A publisher usually has a long list of established relationships with record labels, music supervisors, advertising agencies and the like. If they're interested in your music, chances are they already have some ideas where your songs could be placed. In order to know whether a publishing deal is right for you, you need to understand the kinds of deals you may be offered, and their differences. Deal #1: Publishing Company Deal This is the type of deal that most songwriters know about. A bigger company is interested in your works and wants to sign an exclusive contract. "Exclusive" is the key word here. It means that the songs--and maybe even you--will not be allowed to do a deal with anyone else. If the deal is only for your songs, it’s usually called a single-song agreement--a bit of a misnomer, since it can involve more than one song. If the deal includes you as a songwriter as well, it’s what most songwriters consider a publishing deal. This is the songwriter equivalent of getting a record deal. With this type of contract, it usually involves a monthly stipend (i.e., salary) to write a certain number of songs over a time period. It also involves the songwriter to be an exclusive writer with them, typically 3 to 5 years. In that time, everything you write, co-write or sing in the shower is automatically in their publishing company. This type of deal is usually a permanent arrangement--in other words, your songs are in their publishing company for the next 35-40 years minimum. And like we mentioned last time, whomever owns the publishing is the one who decides when and where a song can be used. They now own them. Deal #2: Co-publishing Deal In this type of deal, the publisher offers to split the publishing with you. That means you get all the songwriter royalties, plus a portion of the publishing income. This type of deal makes you one of the publishers on the song, and you retain a degree of control over the songs. (It also means you need a publishing company. We’ll cover that in a future column.) To get this kind of deal, the songwriter typically has already had some success (i.e., a significant track record of royalties). It's not usually a deal offered to new songwriters, but I have seen some indie labels offer co-pubs as a way to sweeten the pot for a newly-signed recording artist.