February 14, 2018
My Thoughts On Music Publishing Administrators For U.S. Independent Artist-Songwriters
I am often asked by independent musicians (or their managers) if it makes sense for them to partner with a music publishing administrator or to control their own rights administration via my platform, TuneRegistry.
For the first time, I will share publicly my thoughts on the matter:
I founded TuneRegistry after spending several years managing independent artists, songwriters and music producers and dealing first-hand with the challenges of making sure that my clients’ music was properly and completely registered everywhere (this is necessary to maximize income potential and, in many cases, to optimize the exposure of the music itself).
The music industry is a digital industry.
As such, it is highly fragmented with many moving parts. Music is being created, published, distributed, licensed and monetized in lightening speed. And services like Dubset Media, Stem, Soundstr and DotblockchainMedia aim to innovative the supply chains and produce more accurate and fair attribution, allocation and distribution of royalties.
I knew this in 2015 when I began working on TuneRegistry while finishing my masters degree in music business (with a focus on music publishing and copyright administration) at CSUN Music Industry Administration. And I am happy to see that many more “rightstech” companies have entered the space since then to help rights-owners and music creators take control of their financial outcomes within the greater music industry.
All of that being said, I believe that a U.S. music creator has the power (and responsibility) to take hold of 100% of his/her available controllable music copyrights without giving away a chunk of his/her hard-earned royalties to a third-party whose only job is to file song registrations and passively collect royalties.
Notwithstanding a legitimate full service music publisher that is willing to invest in a songwriter (via an advance) and promote the songwriter (via pitching songs to artists and securing film/TV placements) and police copyrights around the world (including ligating where necessary), it does not make any sense (to me) to give up control of your copyrights and/or a chunk of your hard-earned publishing income.
Stated simply: I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT (MOST) MUSIC PUBLISHING ADMINISTRATION COMPANIES OFFER A U.S. SONGWRITER ANY REAL VALUE.
Take this financial breakdown into consideration:
Spotify publishing earnings: $10,000 all-in earnings yields $1,200 in publishing royalties (6% performance / 6% mechanical)
TuneRegistry cost: $15 per month (Solo plan) x 12 months = $180 annual subscription
Publishing Administrator cost (15% or royalties): $1,200 x .15 = $180
TuneRegistry subscription: $180
Publishing Administration commission: $180
Now, let’s say that an indie artist-songwriter earns $20,000 a year from Spotify (or combined earnings across all DSPs), then the publishing income would be around $2,400 ($20k x 12%).
TuneRegistry cost ($15 per month): $180
Publishing Administrator cost (15% of royalties): $360
You get the point.
If you earn over $10k in annual music revenue combined (streaming, downloads, live performances, synch placements), it makes MORE sense to register your own music and collect your own royalties than it does to PAY a third-party to do this for you.
In the United States, an independent artist-songwriter can DIRECTLY join music rights organizations (e.g. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange, AARC) AND create accounts with rights administration/clearing houses (e.g. Harry Fox Agency, Music Reports) AND deliver meta and rights data to every asset supplier/licensing agent (e.g. Gracenote, MediaNet, Crunch Digital, Loudr) as a self-published entity and handle all registrations to the aforementioned organizations via the all-in-one TuneRegistry platform for only $15 per month while retain 100% of your copyright rights and collecting 100% of earned royalties (versus giving away 15% perpetually to a company to file and collect for you).
But what about foreign publishing income?
In regards to foreign publishing royalties, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have reciprocal agreements in place with international music rights organizations around the world to exchange rights data and collect performance royalties on behalf of their member writers and publishers. They will pay their members the international performance royalties that they earn.
(Edit 12/14/18: I forgot to include in my piece that I do believe a writer would find value in partnering with an admin for international collection only. The heart of my piece is that a U.S. songwriter can register and collect in the U.S. directly. I make this distinction repeatedly. For creators earning foreign publishing money, it would make more sense to do an admin deal for the world excluding the United States. But most admins do not want to do that.)
For mechanical royalties earned around the world, Audiam is a reproduction rights agency that can go out and collect mechanical royalties for songwriters and publishers and limit its commission rate to this income stream only.
(Edit 12/14/18: I do recognize that Audiam currently focuses on digital mechanicals and does not collect broadcast mechancials in territories where they are earned.)
In a word, I think there are brilliant people across the music industry doing fantastic work for music creators and rights-owners. However, the U.S. music industry simply does not require nor demands that a third-party represents the exclusive rights bestowed upon independent music copyright owners.
As broken as the music licensing system may be (and I definitely believe it needs reform), I have yet to hear a single compelling argument as to why an independent artist-songwriter earning over $10k a year in music earnings should give away $1,200 of that instead of spending the hour or so to handle his or her own registrations.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Want to learn how to be your own label and publisher? Download my free e-guide “The DIY Musician’s Starter Guide To Being Your Own Label & Publisher” at www.daeboganmusic.com/writer.
[That being said, for those who simply choose not to do their own administration, there are some music publishing administrators out there who I respect because they are going above and beyond to provide services to their clients.]
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About Dae BoganDae Bogan is a music industry professional. Connect with Dae on Twitter at @DaeBoganMusic.
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