ION INDIE MAGAZINE December 2015, Volume 19 - Page 55

Whether you plan to do this forever by yourself, or hope to hook up with a larger company, you should already have your own publishing company. While the process may be intimidating, getting started is not as hard as you think. Here's the steps. 1. Confirm or establish your songwriter affiliation with a PRO. First things first: Have you ever established a songwriter relationship with a performing rights organization, or PRO? In the United States, that would be ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. If you have, then you must establish your publishing company under the same one. PROs are exclusive relationships - so you can't be a member of more than one at a time. To put it another way: if you’re a BMI writer, your publishing company must also be a member of BMI. If you’ve never been a songwriter member of one of these organizations, pick one. Here’s the basic steps to join. a. Click the Join link at the PRO’s website. Do the registration as a songwriter. b. Pay the fee. ASCAP charges a one-time fee of $50 for a songwriter. BMI has no fee. If you don't make a significant income from your music (think six figures a year), you'll probably need to apply to ASCAP or BMI. SESAC is a for-profit company, so it runs differently than the other two. Unless you're making a bunch of money, they probably won't accept your application. 2. Establish a publisher affiliation with the same PRO. Again, your publishing company needs to be affiliated with the same PRO as your songwriter account. Some people (mostly BMI affiliated writers) will swear you don't need a publisher, which is technically true — if you're with BMI. With ASCAP, you will need one. I always advise writers to get one, no matter who you go with. Reason is, it gives you a more secure ownership of your copyrights. Plus, it becomes a very valuable bargaining chip if you are approached by a major label or publisher. The same links used to register as a songwriter can be used to start your publishing company. Whether you go with ASCAP or BMI, the steps are basically the same. a. Click the Join link. This time, start registration as a publisher. b. Be prepared with several possible names for your publishing company. This is because the PROs have literally thousands of publishing companies registered. They will go through their database of existing companies, and reject names too similar to an existing one. c. Pay the fee. ASCAP charges a one-time fee of $50 for publishers. BMI charges a one-time fee of $150 companies established under sole proprietorships, $250 for any other type of business. In a couple of hours, you'll receive an email confirmation that your account is set up. Congratulations, now you're a registered music publisher! A couple days later, you’ll get another email, telling you your online account is set up. Now you can begin to register your original works through the member website. ASCAP and BMI's sites are a little different, so you'll need to read their tutorials to go through their specifics. 3. Register recordings with the Copyright Office. In copyright, it's essentially impossible to prove without a doubt that you own a creative work. If you invent a new type of mousetrap, you can lock it in a safe - can't do that with a song! All you can really do is build up as