Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.
A publisher’s job is to get your songs recorded. They generally do this in return for the ownership, or copyright, of your song. A publisher may sign you or your song. If they just want one or two songs, they offer what is known as “single song agreements.” That means they will pitch that one (or two) songs in exchange for the copyright. You won’t get a monetary advance for this.
A publisher may offer to sign YOU, which is to say they may offer you a staff songwriting deal (aka a publishing deal). Publishers usually pay their staff songwriters an advance against future earnings. This advance (or “draw”) will be paid back by you as royalties come in from the songs that are part of your publishing deal. Basically, the unrecouped advance money is withheld from your royalty check by the publisher until they are paid back. You’ll continue to receive your advance, though.
If your deal ends with you still owing money toward the advance, you don’t have to write the publisher a check. They will continue to collect any royalties on the songs they own until you’re recouped.
Publishers used to mainly help their writers by just pitching their songs. However, in today’s country market, not too many outside songs are getting recorded. The most successful publishers are acting more like the songwriter’s agent- helping the songwriter make good relationships with decision-makers and helping the songwriter get artist cowrites, etc. It’s less about pitching a song than it is about putting the songwriter in the right room, giving them the best chance to succeed.
What about you? What’s your experience been regarding publishers? How do you see their role changing (or not changing) in the current music business? Let us hear from you!
THE PRO KNOWS
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