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There are a lot of myths out there about publishing, that are just inaccurate. As the creator and owner of your songs, you owe it to yourself to understand publishing inside and out.


When it comes to delivering your music directly to music supervisors and music editors, all the work falls in your lap. This is the equivalent of selling your house by yourself. If you’re going the For Sale By Owner path, then you have to do everything yourself to see the entire process through from start to finish. It’s up to you to market your house to the right buyers. It’s up to you to price your home competitively. You don’t want to give it away, but at the same time, you don’t want to be overpriced and not sell it. You must negotiate and handle all the legalities of the contract. Ultimately, it’s up to you to successfully bring the entire process to the closing table.

Sounds like a LOT of work right? Can you honestly say that you’re equipped with all the experience and expertise required to complete this process effectively?

Most people would say no, and that’s why they choose to work with a Realtor. The same is true when licensing your songs for potential placement opportunities.

While many musicians and songwriters are focused on working directly with music supervisors, that’s really the musical equivalent of going For Sale By Owner - or better yet, For License By Songwriter.


Licensing your music through a music library, is the equivalent of letting a realtor handle the entire process of selling your house. There’s a lot that goes into the process, such as: photos, staging, advertising, listing on the MLS, negotiating the deal on your behalf, and leading you through the closing process.

The commission paid to a Realtor is the incentive to get the best possible price for your house. As we all know, people don’t work for free. They need incentive… and so does a library who represents your songs.

But, what’s the difference? Publishing. 

Your song is your intellectual property, and understanding publishing is essential when it comes to generating long-term income from your intellectual property.

A music library needs an incentive to work your songs, and that’s generally through a split of the upfront licensing fees, as well as backend performance royalties. 


One of the biggest myths about publishing is that once you sign your music to someone, you no longer own it. This simply isn’t true. As the songwriter, you will always own the intellectual property, and thus you will always earn the songwriter’s portion of the royalties.

HOWEVER, you may no longer retain the administration rights to the song. By law, the publisher ‘controls the copyright.’ This means that it’s the publisher who administers the song during the term of your publishing deal.

It’s imperative for musicians to understand publishing, and how it affects the way their music is monetized. Those who are savvy, can use this to their advantage.  Let me show you how...

The following example comes from my blog Penny Wise But A Pound Foolish, which generated such a response, and clarified this for so many people, that it's worth repeating here:


I administered my catalog for a long time. But it got to the point where I was spending the majority of my time dealing with the business aspect of it, and not much time creating. Like most of you, I’m truly happy when I’m creating. Yes, the money was coming in, but as most creatives know, that’s not what drives us and brings true fulfillment.

So I realized it was time to hand my catalog over to a music library. What happened next was astounding… my placements increased exponentially…. And so did my income!!

Why?  Let’s look at two scenarios:

Scenario 1: 

You want to retain 100% of the rights to your music, so you’re going to administer your catalog on your own. To do this, YOU have to make all the connections, YOU have to do all the research on what styles of music the shows are using, YOU have to research and contact all the supervisors and editors, and YOU have to do all the negotiations to secure the licenses… That’s a LOT of work, but at least you keep 100%!

Let’s say in 1 month, all that work allows you to secure 2 placements:

  1. A $500 upfront licensing fee
  2. A $1500 upfront licensing fee

You made $2000 in upfront licensing fees that month, and you get to keep 100% of it.

Scenario 2:

You’re working with a music library, and just by the very nature of having a staff and many connections, they secure 6 placements of your music in 1 month. 

  1. A $250 upfront licensing fee
  2. A $300 upfront licensing fee
  3. A $450 upfront licensing fee
  4. A $800 upfront licensing fee
  5. A $1200 upfront licensing fee
  6. A $15,000 upfront licensing fee (for a national commercial)

Now the library takes 50% of the upfront licensing fees. Ignoring the 6th license, the total for the first 5 licenses is $3000, which means you’d take home $1500. Now seems like scenario 1 is the better deal right? 

100% WRONG!! 

Don't forget to factor in backend performance royalties! In Scenario 1, you only have 2 placements generating backend royalties. In this scenario you currently have 5 generating backend royalties for you. You’re going to have royalties coming in on 3 more placements, which will far outweigh the measly $500 more you’d make in upfront fees with Scenario 1.

Now, when you factor in the 6th placement, your portion of the upfront fees for the month jumps up to $9,000.


With Scenario 2, since you spent your time creating, and not administrating, you were able to add even more tracks and songs to your catalog, which allows you to generate even more consistent placements.

We haven’t even gotten into the discussion of how this plays into international royalties which you can learn more about here: How Much Can You Expect To Earn From One Song Placement?


I’ve experienced both scenarios in my career, and I’m a huge fan of working with exclusive libraries. It’s also imperative to develop a great working relationship with the employees at your music library… That’s what’s going to allow you to make that six figure income - or at least get into the high five figures. 

The reality is that the Income From Scenario 2 Far Exceeds That From Scenario 1, even with splitting the upfront fees.

With Scenario 1, you’re going to spend so much time administering your catalog that you won’t have time left over for creativity and building your catalog. In order licensing to work for you, you have to follow my 4 step process outlined in The 4 Step Plan to Licensing Success. The 1st step of the process is to continuously Build Your Catalog. It is absolutely essential.

Want to Learn How to Successfully License Your Music to TV and FILM?

Want Your Songs to be Heard by Millions AND Generate a Consistent Income?


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