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Saturday, 9 December 2017

MUSIC PUBLISHING 101





“Music publishing is the owning and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights.” – Randall Wixen.

In most aspects of life, “exploitation” is a bad thing but in the music industry, exploiting a musical copyright is very, very good!

Music publishing is the business of turning songs into money; money that can be an additional income especially if you are also a performing artiste. 

Songwriting and producing is the act of creating the music. Publishing is the act of looking at that musical creation and thinking of the various revenue outlets for it.

Let me break it down. A song consists of two parts namely the;

  • Lyrics 
  • Composition

The lyrics are the words of a song and the composition is the melody of that song. 

A music publisher can deal separately with a lyricist and a composer. 

A lyricist may write the words of a song and may not be talented enough to provide the melody to that song. A music publisher can help with providing the melody to that song if she is musically advanced or the lyricist can collaborate with other songwriters to create a song.
 
A composer could be a music producer or an instrumentalist who creates an original composition on his or her musical instrument such as the drums, piano, violin, guitar, etc. Yes, the music publisher works with composers of this nature.

Now, there are some people who are vast in the writing of lyrics and in music compositions. This kind of person is known as the songwriter.

This songwriter will go to a music studio to record his or her song with a music producer. Only a song with a melody provided by the songwriter can be understood by the music producer. 
 
After the song has been mastered and mixed, the songwriter sends it to the music publisher for listening. If she likes it, she will invite you for a meeting to discuss the profit sharing ratio and other business matters. If you agree with these details, she will collect your details, give you a contract to sign and add your song to her music catalogue for marketing to users of music.

In music publishing, the songwriter is different from the music artiste usually known as the performer.

In advanced countries like the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, etc, music publishing is in operation and properly structured. Simple song lyrics that we take for granted and sing anyhow in our movies, radio, etc, are paid for in advanced countries.

The song “Happy Birthday To You” which is owned by Warner Chapell Publishing and written by two sisters, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, generates about $5000 per day ($2 million per year) in publishing royalties. 

The company insists that one cannot sing the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics for profit without paying royalties. This includes its use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public or even among a group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friends of whoever is performing the song. 

However, effective from January 1, 2017, the music and lyrics of the Happy Birthday song have now entered into public domain. In a future post, I will explain what public domain means.

Many times, when we hear popular foreign music on the radio and television, we are quick to assume that the popular artiste that you see performing a song in a music video is the writer of that song. Usually, this is not the case. 

Music artistes like Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Rihanna, Beyonce, etc have had their songs written by songwriters.

Performing music artistes can also write songs for other music artistes

For example; R. Kelly wrote, I Look Up To You and it was performed by Whitney Houston. He also wrote Back And Forth and Age Ain’t Nothing But A Thing, performed by Aaliyah; Platinum, performed by Snoop Dog, etc. This means that as a performing musician, I can also write songs for other music artistes/musicians just like Runtown wrote a song for Davido.

Read about the songs that Davido bought from other performing  music artistes

Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” was a mega hit. But the person who truly made money off this song was the songwriter Dolly Parton. 

Singer/Songwriter, The Dream, stated that he earned about $15 Million in publishing royalties for writing the song Umbrella for Rihanna. 

Chris Brown has also written songs for other music artistes like; Rihanna, Bad Girl; Fat Joe, Another Round, etc.

 

Solo Songwriters

A single person may write a song just like in the above examples or R. Kelly,The Dream. Michael Jackson and Chris Brown wrote most of their own songs.

Other examples of solo song writers who do not perform their music but write for music artistes are; Neil Ellwood Peart born September 12, 1952, is a Canadian-American musician and author, best known as the drummer and primary lyricist for the rock band Rush.

Bernie Taupin wrote most of Elton John’s songs.

 

Multiple Songwriters

Many hit songs have been written by more than one songwriter; collaboration, a case of two heads is better than one.

I do not know whether Nigerian songwriters who feature each other on their songs have such music publishing arrangements in place. This is necessary, for songwriters to earn money and for the music industry to grow.

The song, Irreplaceable, performed by Beyonce, was written by six (6) people; Shaffer  Smith (Ne-Yo), Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel, S. Eriksen, Espen Lind, Amund Bjørklund  with a little collaboration from Beyoncé.

I Have Nothing, performed by Whitney Houston was written by two (2) people; David Foster
Linda Thompson

 
End Of The Road, performed by Boyz II Men, was written by three (3) people; Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons.

So, one hit song can be written by up to twenty people. Having a seasoned music publisher will help you monitor and account for performance fees and royalties associated with that song.

The following are the ways by which songwriters can make money from their song;

Mechanical royalties
Performance royalties
• Licenses for synchronization
• Licenses for sampling
• Print rights for sheet music
 
I will explain each in detail in my next blog.

Cheers!

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