Songwriter Guide on the Business Aspect of Songwriting

Now with the publishing rights granted, it does not mean you will immediately publish all of your works on the Internet or anywhere else; published your works when it’s only necessary.

Your clients might still require some of your best songs to be “unpublished”. The primary reason why they are doing this is to make sure the songs are fresh and unexploited by other publishers or label. Further reason is to minimize issues associated with complex copyright ownership as a result of previous publishing. For example, if you enter into an agreement with a music publisher, then the song is now considered published. You cannot simply enter into another agreement with another music publisher unless the contract will be terminated which is not easy to do.

Careful about uploading your songs on the Internet; it’s because it can qualify your songs as being “published”. It doesn’t mean you cannot upload your songs but careful to whom you are sharing your songs with.

Earn some reputation first before doing the DIY publishing route

A good strategy of earning some reputation as a songwriter is to partner with a reputable music publisher. They will be the one that will publish your songs to be recorded or performed by some recording artist. Make sure you are pitching the best/high potential hit songs in your catalog to increase your chance of success. Depending on your luck and hard work, if your song will be recorded and could become hits, you will become a known songwriter and will earn a good reputation from your hard work.

This is the case with Diane Warren, one of the world’s most prolific songwriter. At the early stage of her career, she was signed to a publisher that releases her first hit song. After that, she went alone by building her own music publishing company. As a result, she now owns all the rights of her songs as well as all income that goes along with it (source:

The lesson here is that self-publishing would only work if you have some great reputation as a songwriter. Without this, no one will be interested to listen to your songs or do business with you.

Research music publishers that are accepting demos

Not all music publishers are accepting demos. Just because they are music publishers, you are not allowed to bombard them with your demos. Even if demo submission is allowed, you need to be sure if they are willing to accept unsolicited demos or not. Below are some example steps that you can adopt:

Step1.) Use any search engine (Bing or Google) to start your search.
Step2.) Supposing you landed on this page and you are a songwriter from UK. This page lists all music members of MPA (Music Publisher Association). Using this form you can search for music publishers that are accepting unsolicited demos or not (at your preferred music genre).

search music publisher

search music publisher

Step3.) Present your demos professionally to the music publisher. You need to know their requirements of submitting demo and ensure it is complied. Depending on their requirements, you can be submitting demos either online or off-line (using CD and hard copy of your press kits).

Step4.) If you will be offered with a publishing contract, then congratulations- make sure you fully understand what you are signing. Hiring an entertainment lawyer to review the contract will be a good move, especially if you found out that the clauses are confusing and difficult to understand.

Your income sources are from music licenses and performance

Once you have songs that are signed, published and licensed by recording labels, etc. You should be earning income for your songs. If you are signed to a music publisher, the income will be divided between you and the publisher depending on the agreement.

Songwriting income can further be amplified if you have successful hit songs that made to the top of the charts. It’s because public performance royalties can be a significant income source.

Music licensing is a completely different topic that is best left to a dedicated music publisher. But understanding the key music rights being licensed is also important to you as a songwriter. The following are some suggested tutorials:

a.) Guide on using copyrighted music for films
b.) Beginner tutorial on public performance
c.) Important insights on mechanical licensing

Content last updated on October 24, 2012