What is the difference between Music Publisher & Music Library?

Other music libraries also hire a lot of producers, writers and even artist under a “work for hire” agreement” in a contractual basis. In this practice, all works created by the producers, writers and artist are legally owned by the music library. This is different from traditional music publishers because the songwriters are not under a “work for hire” agreement. This means that songs written for the traditional music publishers are not entirely owned by the music publisher but a split ownership with the songwriter.

Summing up the definition, you can say that:

All music libraries are music publishers but not all music publishers are considered as music libraries. If you are searching music online, almost all the independent music publisher websites are also called music libraries because:

1.) They owned 100% of song copyrights.
2.) They owned 100% of master recording copyrights.

Most traditional music publishers left are the big ones (for example Sony music publishing, etc.) with a small percentage belong to independent publishers. Advantages of dealing with music libraries than traditional music publishers:

1.) Licensing music from music libraries is obviously faster compared to traditional music publishers. The primary reason is that music libraries can only issue a single license (for the use of songs and master recording) then it’s done. With traditional music publishers, they do NOT own the master recording copyright so you need to get TWO licenses from TWO different persons (music publisher for the song copyright and recording label for the master recording copyright) just to completely clear your project licensing requirements. This takes a lot of time.

2.) Traditional music publishers (those in big companies) are dealing with major label artist songs that are promoted heavily in the radio, TV and everywhere. So the cost of licensing with traditional music publishers can be very high because the songs in their catalogue are popular and heavy promoted.

music library pics

music library pics

Image credits: University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Unless you intend to license a very popular song then it’s not a problem. But for most projects this is not practical. You only need music to fill some space and most of the time, licensing popular song is not necessary. You can shop for a lot of quality music in music libraries. Make sure to check the background and legality of the music library you are dealing with (e.g. double check if they hold the rights to the song and master recording or ask for documents/proof if necessary).

Content last updated on July 29, 2012