The Different Types of Songwriting Publishing Deals

songwriting publishing deal types

There are two common types of songwriting publishing deals that publishers make with writers. But, you don’t have to limit yourself to those two options if you can think outside the box.  Here are the two common types of deals plus some ideas for creative options:

1) Staff Writer

  • Writes exclusively for one publisher.
  • Has a quota of songs per year that must be written and accepted.
  • Usually gets a monthly “draw” or advance on royalties – ranges from $0-Several hundred thousand dollars.
  • Publisher pays demo costs (with half recoupable.)
  • The publisher does all the admin for the songs.
  • Publisher pitches the songs.
    This may or may not include a Co-Pub. Beginners typically have no co-pub. They only get their writer’s share. More advanced writers may get as much as 1/2 of the publisher’s share in addition to the writer’s share.

2) Single Song Contract

  • Publisher signs rights to ONE song at a time.
  • The writer agrees to give the publisher exclusive rights to pitch the song for a specified period of time.
  • If the publisher gets the song recorded, they get a percentage of the publishing on the song. Ranges from 50% to 100%.
  • If the song is not recorded within the specified time, the writer should get the song back free and clear.
  • Sometimes the publisher will pay for a demo if there is not one. If so, the cost usually is recoupable. Meaning, they may reimburse you for half of the demo cost if you already have one and you have receipts.
  • This is an area where MANY writers get ripped off. ALWAYS have a lawyer look over a single song contract. ALWAYS. This is a playground where many of the scammers lurk.

3) Creative Songwriting  Publishing Deals

If you are in a position to not need a draw or if you make all of your own demos, you can often work out a creative deal with a publisher because you are very low risk to them. If they are not having to pay you a draw or pay for your demo costs it can make you more appealing. Therefore, if you do this kind of deal, you need to make sure YOU are getting something in return and not just giving your publisher your services for free. But, there are many creative ways to work a songwriting publishing deal if you don’t need a draw or demos paid for. If you have questions, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer!!

Write On! Marty


Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

18 thoughts on “The Different Types of Songwriting Publishing Deals

  1. Hi marty! One question. If I record a song on a digital tracker at home with drums bass guitar, rhythm guiatar and lead guitar and vocals would that qualify as the kind of demo that you are talking about here? Duncan.

  2. In a creative deal, what if the writer(s) are not well known… the writer(s) will receive the writers’ share and maybe part of the publishing to recoup demo, mastering and other related costs? Could you negotiate 25% of the publishing to go back to the writer(s) or is that too high?

  3. After a long time establishing relationships with several publishers, I seem to have progressed into the Creative Agreements category for now. With several of my songs I’ve received emails from publishers stating they would like to pitch my song for 6 to 12 months, and if the can place it they will be entitled to 50% to 100% of the publishing. They go on to explain while this is not an exclusive agreement, if I pitch it to another publisher who is also interested in pitching it that I let them know. Just thought I’d share this to show an example of a Creative Agreement.

  4. Hello: Can you say what the best music publisher might be at the moment for single-song deals?
    I’d also be interested to know about any firm that will actually speak directly to the writer.
    Many thanks, Charles

  5. You should really ask your publisher these questions because your contract is with him. Each publishing contract is different. But a good publisher will talk over all these points with you. I really recommend strongly that no one ever sign a contract without an attorney advising them.

    If you join songtown you can start learning about relationships between writers and publishers and also get advice from pros and fellow members.

    Cheers, Clay

  6. I have signed a publisher contract 03/29/2018.
    I didn’t have money’s to see a music lawyer…
    So I decided to sign the contract and leave all in god hands.
    It’s a person who’s a publisher a sign with.
    Frankly I’m a artist who stay focus on the music writing performing and recording.
    To the publishing in my position will take up the time I’m to be writing…
    So a get a publisher but it’s the first a ain’t know what a publisher to really do for a artist…
    On the contract it’s 50/50 but it ain’t say what the publisher will do for the artist and to my knowledge a publisher will receive there 50% and they didn’t work for it especially if you ain’t seeing them….
    I give the publisher 4 of my song’s already..
    I’m a reggae and dancehall recording artist
    Out the 4 song’s a want to release 3…
    1for free download the next two for purchase..
    Question? Is it the publisher duty to get the artist song’s playing on the radio station?
    Question?is the publisher response for your social media…
    Question?? Is it the publisher duty to get the artist stage shows
    Question? Is it the publisher duty to get the artist sign with music labels..

    The publisher want to open and account with cdbaby for the artist…
    The publisher said they will sign me up with ascap…
    So at this moment I have a lot thinking about..
    In April the third Friday I want to release 3 song’s digitally
    1 free download and two purchase and download..
    But Sunday coming April the 1/2018 the artist want to broadcast for two weeks his photos with caption about the 3 song’s when they will be release..
    So i want to know if it’s the publisher to being doings al I have mentioned.

  7. So how can one get the demos to you all for a hearing and what’s the procedure, time frame, feedback etc?


  8. My publishing deal is more like a single-song. My songs are already completed. I have a 5-year deal for 5 of my songs, and the publisher is shopping my songs around for commercial placement. I signed in February- we’ll see how it goes. I think I’ll go through ASCAP’s assistance with my next album, and start building industry relationships since I’m here in Los Angeles.

  9. How do you request a creative deal from a music publisher?
    I’m a song lyricist only and I want to deal with a professional music producer.
    I’m good at writing R&B song lyrics for female singers.
    All I want to do is get produced and heard.
    Still I want to deal with professional personnel.
    So many people in the music business call themselves professional but are not.

    1. Karl, we started Songtown for this reason. we are real pros that work in the industry. We don’t make promises. We show you how to do the work and the rest is up to you! Getting involved in the SongTown community is a real first step.


  10. Great information!! I’ve been researching publishing deals for a long time trying to find out what works best for me. I’m an out of town writer and I have a full time job, so I don’t necessarily need a draw, I just REALLY need a Nashville cheerleader! Someone on the ground doing the legwork that I can’t do. I’m not naive enough to expect a publisher to take a chance on an unproven writer like myself.

    I’ve been hoping for a creative deal like you mentioned. I guess my question is, how should I approach publishers about that kind of deal? And also, how common are those kind of deals? I have some publisher contacts and I’m finishing up my latest round of demos and plan to try to schedule some meetings after the first of the year.

    Thanks for all the great advice you offer!! Ive learned so much from your posts!!

    1. Travis, the best way to get on a publisher’s radar is through co-writing and making connections through word of mouth. Our members co-write a lot and 4 members have signed staff deals in the last 6 months. We also have publisher mentors you can book through the site to get your music heard.


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