Set of musical instruments during concert

How can we help you today?

Music publishing can be confusing (and even daunting) for some artists and songwriters. And if that applies to you, don’t worry because we’ve got you covered.

We’ve put together a useful FAQ list to give you a better understanding of the subject.

So let’s dive in…

What is music publishing?

Music publishing is the exploitation and collection of royalties from the intellectual property rights (i.e. the rights given to a person over the creations of their minds) of lyrics and music.

Why is music publishing important?

Music publishing is important to songwriters because it is where they earn most of their money; because every time a  song is streamed, broadcast or played out in public, or downloaded, it generates royalties.

What does a music publisher actually do?

A music publisher represents publishing rights of songwriters or composers; by administering copyrights, licensing songs to record companies (and others such as film and TV companies) and collecting the royalties.

How is a music publisher different from a record label?

Record companies deal with master (sound) rights, which are copyrights that are linked to the recording of a work by an artist, whereas a music publisher deals with the songwriter and song itself.

What are the types of royalties a song generates?

The key income streams and royalties for songwriters and composers are:

  • Performing Rights – when songs are broadcast or performed in public, including streaming, broadcast on TV or radio or being played live
  • Mechanical Income – from songs/music being reproduced in any form including CD, vinyl, streaming or digitally
  • Synchronisation – when music is married to a visual images; as in TV, films, adverts and games
  • Print Rights – when lyrics are published in magazines and books and when sheet music is sold

What is copyright and how does copyright work

Music copyright designates legal ownership (including specific rights) of a musical composition or sound recording.

Copyright of a musical work begins automatically once a piece of music is created and documented or recorded. In the UK, this is detailed in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


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When is a music copyright created?

Music copyrights are created automatically at the point of creation in a tangible form such as a recording or sheet music.

What are my rights as a copyright owner?

In the UK, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as the owner of your work’s copyright, you have the sole authority to:

  • copy the music
  • issue, lend or rent copies to the public
  • perform, show or play the music in public
  • communicate the music to the public (i.e. broadcasting it via TV, radio, internet etc.)

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How long does copyright last?

In the UK, copyright lasts for a period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. If the music originates from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the copyright lasts for as long as the music is protected by copyright in its country of origin, provided that this does not exceed 70 years.


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How can I avoid copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement is a very serious matter and it occurs when you use a copyrighted work without the copyright owner(s) permission.

Therefore the best and safest way to avoid copyright infringement is simply not to use anything created by someone else.!

What is the difference between performance royalties and mechanical royalties?

Although they are very different, in today’s streaming dominated music business these two types of publishing royalties are often mixed up, probably because both performance and mechanical royalties are generated when a user streams a track.

Performance royalties are generated when a song is broadcast or played in public (including radio, TV and streaming) whereas mechanical royalties are paid for the right to reproduce a song (including via CD, vinyl, streaming and downloads).

What is a Performing Rights Organisation (PRO)?

Commonly referred to as PROs, Performing Rights Organisations are worldwide organisation that collect performance royalties (the income generated for the copyright holder whenever a composition is performed publicly) on behalf of composers, songwriters and music publishers.


For an example, in the UK, the PRO is the Performing Right Society (PRS); in the US they have The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and SESAC; in South Africa, they have the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO); in Ireland they have The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and in Ghana they have The Ghana Music Rights Organization (GHAMRO).

What is synchronisation?

Synchronisation (or sync as it is commonly known) is a process for monetising music by combining it to moving pictures; for example in films, adverts, TV series, and video games.

How far back can I claim royalties for music used?

If you’ve not received performing royalties that you were expecting, you can make a claim under PRS’ rules for unpaid distributions for performances of your music in the following:

  • radio broadcasts
  • radio idents
  • TV programmes
  • TV idents
  • TV commercials
  • online
  • live events
  • cinema

Unfortunately, if it’s been longer than three years since you believe you should have been paid, we can’t look into the claim for the unpaid distribution.

However, you have up to six years to claim mechanical royalties for music used in recorded media, such as on a CD or DVD.

If you haven’t been a member that long, you can claim as far back as your official start date. Before that date, we weren’t legally representing your rights, so can’t collect any money.

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What happens to my royalties if I don't claim them?

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How do I decide on the splits for writing a track?

This is very much up to the writing contributors for any given work who should agree percentages at the time of writing. Very often this is split 50/50 between the musical component and the lyrical/melody component. However, it can be anything you decide so long as all parties agree.

What paperwork do I need to ensure my material can be fully exploited?

To allow a publisher to fully exploit and monetise your work, you should ensure you have:

  1. Song Split Sheet
  2. Written lyrics
  3. Signed agreements with any featured singers or musicians
  4. Details of the copyright owners