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If one of your songs is commercially released and you do not have a publisher, then your name should appear under the title of the song.

Underneath your name should be the words ‘Copyright Control’ or ‘PRS for Music’ if you are a PRS member. This will tell others that you are the copyright owner of the song and have not assigned it to any music publisher.

Signing with a music publisher

Many composers and songwriters choose to sign with a music publisher to benefit from their services and in exchange give up a portion of their royalties by doing so.

There is a number of benefits to a music publishing contract, including:

  • Advances based on future royalties
  • Administration deals, where a writer has set up their own publishing company and uses a larger corporate publisher to administer catalogue and collect royalties
  • Promotional assistance - the chance to get music placed with major recording artists
  • Free demo time and help securing a record deal
  • A good music publisher will also aggressively promote your compositions to film makers, television production companies and advertisers.

What is negotiable in a publishing deal

  • Length of contract
  • How long a publisher holds the copyright to your songs
  • Royalties and advances
  • Accounting statements and your right of audit, so that you can accurately check statements
  • Copyright and your moral rights, which allow you to claim ownership of your work and object to any distortion or modification to it
  • How damages from copyright infringements are split, and reversion and determination clauses if the music publisher fails to exploit a song or goes bankrupt.

Always seek advice from the MU before signing a music publishing contract to ensure that the agreement on offer is fair and comprehensive. For advice on negotiating the best deal for you, please contact you Regional Office.

Self publishing

At a certain point in your career, including at the early stages when you cannot secure representation, you may wish to look after your own catalogue of works and receive all publishing income directly.

To protect your work, we encourage you to view our Copyright for Songwriters and Composers page and to apply for music writer membership of PRS for Music.

You may wish to set up a publishing company, although this is not always necessary and you should seek advice from the MU before doing so. However, it is advisable to go down this route if you are representing other songwriters and composers, as well as looking after your own works.

If you set up a publishing company you will need to join PRS for Music as a publisher member and pay a higher membership fee.

For additional advice and support, MU members should contact their Regional Office.

Contact the Musicians' Union today

The MU has a network of experienced teams available to help musicians in all areas of the industry. If you have any questions about our services, membership or how the MU could help you, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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