Music Business

The Different Types of Songwriting Publishing Deals

by Marty Dodson
Oct 27, 2020

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

Marty Dodson

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

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