Whenever a song is licensed for use in television, a performance royalty is generated every time the song airs. Performance royalties consist of two halves, a writer’s share and a publisher’s share. Half of the royalty goes to the writer and the other half goes to the publisher. Unless you assign your publishing to someone else (a publisher or library), by default you are also the songs publisher and are entitled to the publishing royalty as well as the writer’s royalty.
However, in order to receive the publishing half of the performance royalty, you need to set up a separate publishing entity, apart from your writer membership, with your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc) in order to receive the publisher’s share of the performance royalty. This is easy to do and anyone can become a publisher. If you’re an ASCAP member it will cost you a one-time fee of $50.00, separate from your writer membership. If you’re with BMI, it will cost you $150.00. It's free to create a publisher account with SESAC.
Join ASCAP as a publisher here:
Join BMI as a publisher here:
How to become a publisher with SESAC:
When To Set Up A Publishing Company
If you’re licensing music through a publisher who takes 100% of your publishing income, you don’t necessarily need to register as a publisher. I licensed music for years through one publisher who took all my publishing income. During this period I didn’t have a publishing company to collect my publishing royalties, since 100% of my publishing royalties went to my publisher, since I worked exclusively with one publisher for many years.
Since then, I’ve signed with a variety of different libraries and companies, including several other agencies that don’t take any publishing at all, and strictly share in any upfront sync fees my tracks generate. For these placements, I’ve set up a publishing company to make sure I get both the writer and publisher’s share of any royalties my tracks generate.
If you’re licensing music through any agencies or libraries that either don’t take any publishing income, or only take a percentage of your publishing income (eg. 50%), than you should set up a separate publishing entity to collect your publishing royalties owed to you. If you don’t do this, your PRO won’t know who to distribute these funds to and you’ll be leaving money on the table.
Registering Titles As A Publisher
When you function as your own publisher, when you register your titles, you’ll also need to list your publishing company as the designated publisher when you register the titles with your PRO. If you don’t list your publishing company as the publisher and simply leave this field blank, your PRO will have no way of knowing who to send the publishing royalties to, so be sure to list your publishing company as the designated publisher for titles that you are planning to self-publish.
Picking A Name
When you sign up as a publisher, you’ll have the option of choosing whatever name you want for your “publishing company”. I simply went with “Aaron Davison Music” (ASCAP) for my publishing company. Most of the music I publish is my own, so I decided to keep the name simple and straightforward. You could certainly be more creative than this if you choose, and if you plan on representing a variety of artists and building a brand around your publishing company, than it would make sense to put more thought into your publishing name and choose a name that’s more representative of your brand. You’ll have the ability to check the availability of any name or names you come up with for your publishing company when you’re setting it up with your PRO.
Anyone can set up a publishing company. It’s easy, painless and the cost is minimal (or free in the case of SESAC). Filling out the application and registering with ASCAP took about five minutes and 50 dollars. I was approved instantly and received my publisher account number and info immediately. If you’re planning on licensing a lot of music through a variety of channels, then setting up your own publishing company is a no brainer.
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