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Publishing Deals: Types You Need To Know

build your skills Dec 02, 2022

Before we dig in, let us make one thing very clear. Publishing deals are very different from record label contracts that you would have come across. They may include clauses on publishing and distribution, but they are not distinctively publishing deals on their own. To know more about label contracts, read our blog article on Record Label Contracts: Types You Should Know.


As an emerging artist in the music industry, terms like contracts, deals, royalties, and so on may intimidate you and it is very natural to feel so. However, we have broken down these things that you should know and research about before you step into a contract that you may not benefit from. Take a look at our article on Music Royalties 101: How Performance Royalties Work, for instance!


Publishing deals, as the term suggests are those deals that revolve around the idea of ownership of some part of your music or tracks (not as credits), to get to exclusively publish or distribute your tracks, to receive a certain percentage of royalties in return. There are three major types of publishing deals. Let’s take a closer look!


Conventional and Co-Publishing Deal


Conventional or co-publishing agreements represent the most commonly used category of publishing negotiations. A conventional publishing contract would necessitate that you give up 100% of your publishing rights in exchange for the facilities the publishing company guarantees to deliver. In a Co-Publishing Deal, you are required to give up 50% of your publishing rights and retain the other half, which makes up for the name of the deal. Do not confuse this share to be that of your writing or intellectual rights. You will retain 100% of your writer’s share, but only 50% of your publisher’s share. 



Contracts like these typically last 1-3 years and come with their due proportion of demands from you. Nevertheless, since the publishing house owns a portion of your work, they have a higher interest in ensuring you take the right decisions and earn as much cash as possible in royalty checks.


A further appealing aspect of this agreement is the controversial ‘advance,’ which refers to a large amount of cash presented to you. Nonetheless, don't ever be tricked by the alluring facade. An advance, despite popular belief, isn't free cash.


Administration Contracts


An administration agreement allows you to retain complete ownership of your creative works (and writer's share). Whereas, in return for the publication manager retrieving your behest, you must pay an administrative service charge. This is normally described as a small fraction of all inbound profits from your release, with a period of 1-3 years.




The plus point is the fact that publishing houses and companies do not obtain any share of your copyright under this contract. The admin fee is similar to how you would get royalties from your record label in a recording contract, but the one receiving the amount here is the administrator who is doing all the work for you and your music. You don’t need to worry about protecting your rights as a composer, producer, and so on if you have also written your own music. This deal allows you, the songwriter to retain full authorship of your compositions and recordings. 


At no point in the contract do publication managers claim ownership of your authorship. They will log your tracks with collection societies, collect revenue for you, as well as complete all the necessary paperwork for just all sync or mechanical authorizations you may obtain for a proportion of that royalty during the period of your collaboration. Speaking about sync, do read our blog article on Get Your Music in TV Shows and Movies: Sync Licensing 101.


Buy Out Deal


This is a little technical, so let us break this down. Originally, a buy-out agreement happens between two companies where the buyout implies an investment exchange where one company gets the control of the other company through an open purchase or by getting a controlling equity interest. 


In the music industry, however, this definition is slightly tweaked and molded to fit the clauses. A buyout arrangement is one in which the company procuring the work pays a fixed service charge for the track. This is used to obtain – or ‘buy out – the artist's authority and prospective royalty payments for their work. This is also called a ‘work-for-hire’ contract. A work-for-hire contract is exactly what it implies. This is an agreement in which someone, be it a person or a company, employs a lyricist, producer, arranger, and so on to develop distinctive composition(s) for their productions for a fixed amount. The fixed rate or the typical standard amount is something you should look into more. 



The possibility of losing all your copyrights and royalty checks to the companies under this contract is a major hindrance to most emerging musicians because there is no guarantee delivered on these terms. The fact that the company will have full freedom in employing your songs on whatever projects they like and in whatever format they desire is something you should worry about. That doesn’t always happen, though. Again, each deal has its terms and conditions so make sure you read them. Some publishing companies offer retainment of your copyrights (a percentage of so) under this deal, while a majority of them do not. You could mark your terms by including shareholding proportions in the deal or provide a revitalized window to try to obtain some sort of prospective income sources.

Before you sign any deal, make sure you have read up on other options, weigh the pros and cons, carefully go through the document's terms and conditions, change the clauses if possible and go through the shares, rights, fees, and terms they are demanding or allotting you on the deal. 

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