PART ONE: What is Music Publishing and Licensing?

by | Jan 17, 2020 | Music Tech

Music licensing and publishing are huge opportunities. Here’s what you need to know.No one buys albums any more. Digital music distribution has altered the way artists get paid. And smart music promotion, gigging and distribution are only part of being successful.

The traditional revenue channels of yesterday (like physical album sales) are no longer the most successful channels for artists looking to get paid for their music.

But the recording industry is still a billion dollar business. So where is all that money going?Well, if you’re wondering the same thing then two simple words should be burned into your brain forever.

Especially if you’re looking to make a living from your music today and tomorrow:

  1. Music Licensing
  2. Music Publishing

What is music publishing?

Music publishing is the management of copyrighted music that gets used commercially. A publisher is responsible for things like the collection of royalties, the public use of music made by the artists they represent and finding licensing opportunities.

Licensing and publishing are complex parts of the music industry with more than a few twists, curves and dips. You might be wondering what music licensing and publishing even are…

So here’s everything you need to know about music publishing and licensing—the two most important concepts for working artists right now. Public use of music made by the artists they represent and finding licensing opportunities.

You can now share music from Spotify to Facebook Stories

Some artists take care of publishing on their own. It’s doable in certain circumstances but it’s basically a full-time job to make it really work.

Publishing companies have a huge amount of resources to get artists paid for the use of their music—resources that independent musicians wouldn’t normally have access to.


  • THE UPSIDE: of representing your own music for publishing is that you retain 100% of the revenue your music generates through royalties, placements and syncs.
  • THE DOWNSIDE: is that artist typically don’t have access to the same network and resources that a publishing house would so it’s a lot more work to manage.

Artists that can’t take care of their own publishing typically sign a publishing agreement with a publisher. The terms of the agreement determine what percentage of the revenue the publisher takes in exchange for their services.

Why Every Musician Should Have Website

The publisher is responsible for the creation of licensing agreements, collecting all types of royalties, and seeking out placements for the artists and music they represent (I’ll talk more about placements in a sec).

In exchange for their services, publishers take a percentage of the money made by an artist under contract with them.


Credit: Jonilar, Landr & KwabenaYi