CMU:DIY Guide To Getting Started In Music

By | Last Updated: June 2019

The CMU:DIY Guide provides an artist-centric beginner’s guide to the business of music. It explains how artists generate revenue and build a business around their music, and introduces the business partners they might work with along the way.

The guide is in eight sections providing a general overview of an artist business, tips on getting started, plus insights on social media, video, gigging, getting noticed, record labels and music publishing.

This CMU:DIY Guide is full of advice on how to make money out of music – how to turn what you do as an artist into revenue and a business. But why even bother? Well, if you ultimately want to give up the day job and focus on your music full time, then you are going to need to turn what you do into revenue.

At the very least you need to eat and pay the rent. But there are other costs to cover too. You need to start touring – gigging or DJing in new places – because that’s how you build a fanbase. But there’s not much money in gigging until you reach a certain level of venue. So touring will initially cost you money.

You need to make, distribute and market your music. Of course it’s a lot cheaper to make and distribute music today than in the past. And social media channels are great free marketing tools.

Though the best music is a collaborative effort. Digital distribution still requires a time investment. And everyone has the same social media as you, so you need to do something that makes your social activity stand out. All of that is going to at least cost you time, and possibly some money too.

So, you need to start making money from your music. Doing so can be very challenging – and there is an element of being in the right place at the right time to succeed – though it also pays to understand how successful artists make money and the business partners they work with along the way.

That’s what this CMU:DIY Guide aims to do.

There are three main ways artists make money from their music. They either create and exploit intellectual property. Or they stage and monetise live performances. Or they build a fanbase and monetise the fan relationship.

Intellectual Property
When we talk about IP we are mainly talking about content – ie songs, recordings and videos – but also merchandise.

There are different kinds of intellectual property, but in the music industry we are mostly interested in copyright. Copyright protects a number of different kinds of creative works, including:

• Songs – ie musical compositions and lyrics.
• Sound recordings.
• Film – ie videos.
• Artwork and photography.

The core ‘music rights’ are the separate copyrights in songs and recordings. Though the music industry also creates lots of video content and lots of artwork and photography. The latter are often given away for free as marketing or packaging, though can also be turned into income by printing the artwork and photography onto merchandise.

Copyright law says that if a piece of content is protected by copyright, the copyright owner enjoys certain exclusive ‘controls’ over that piece of content. For example, only the copyright owner can make copies, and distribute or rent out those copies, or adapt the work, or perform it in public, or broadcast it.

This is how copyright makes money. If someone else wants to make a copy of your song or recording, or adapt it, or perform it in public, and so on, they have to come to you for permission. And you sell them your permission. Hence money!

Some other copyright facts worth knowing…

• In most countries (including the UK) there is no copyright registration – the copyright exists as soon as the creative work is created. There are no forms to fill out or registration fees to pay.

• The law tells us who by default owns the copyright. These rules vary from country to country and according to the kind of copyright. In the UK, the songwriter owns the song copyright by default. Whoever organises and pays for a recording to take place owns the recording copyright by default.

• Copyrights can be co-owned. If five people co-write a song, they all co-own the resulting copyright. Though it’s for the collaborators to decide how the copyright is shared out (eg is it split five ways or does one person get more, because they did more work or are more famous?) When collaborating on a song you should always have a conversation about how the copyright will be split.

• Copyrights don’t last forever, though they last for a long time. So called ‘copyright terms’ vary from country to country and according to the kind of copyright. In the UK, for songs it’s the life of the creator and another 70 years. For recordings it is 70 years after release.

When you sell someone your permission to exploit one of the ‘controls’ of your copyright, that’s called licensing. There are different ways to license…

1. The most simple way is ‘direct licensing’. The person who wants to use your song or recording comes to you direct, you negotiate a deal, and assuming you are happy with the price and terms, you reach an agreement.

2. Self-releasing artists often license via a middle-man. For example, rather than every self-releasing artist negotiating a deal with Spotify or Apple Music, companies like Ditto Music and TuneCore negotiate deals, and then artists ‘piggy back’ on those deals. This saves the artist from having to negotiate a bespoke contract, which would be time-consuming and expensive.

3. In certain scenarios the music industry decides to license as one – which basically means everyone uses a middle-man and the same middle-man at that.

So, in the UK, all the songwriters and music publishers put all their rights in one pot and tell PRS For Music to do the deal in certain scenarios. And all the recording artists and record companies put all their rights in one pot and tell PPL to do the deal in certain scenarios. This is ‘collective licensing’. PRS and PPL then collect the money and pass it back to their members whenever their songs or recordings are used.

These organisations are variously called ‘collecting societies’, ‘performing rights organisations’ (PROs), and ‘collective management organisations’ (CMOs).

Collective licensing applies to radio and TV, when recordings of songs are played in clubs, bars, shops and work places, and – on the songs side – with live performance and the recording of cover versions.

While we are talking about intellectual property we should note that copyright doesn’t protect names. For that you need another branch of IP called trademarks. Trademarks are a registered right, which means you have to spend a bit of money to get the protection. Therefore it’s not a top priority for new artists.

But eventually trademarks could become a part of your business. Big stars make big money by trademarking their names (you can also trademark logos) and then giving other companies permission to create products using their brand, like drinks, gadgets, fashion lines, perfume and so on. And that’s trademark licensing.

Live Performance
Live performance is easier to understand. If people are willing to pay money to be in the same room as you while you perform your music, you can make money from live!

Though the live music industry doesn’t just make money selling tickets. For starters, there are the booking fees applied to tickets, and some artists and gig promoters also put some of their tickets onto secondary ticketing sites and earn additional mark-ups there. Though some artists think that’s a bad thing to do and the secondary ticketing market in general has become increasingly controversial of late.

Once you have the fans in the venue, you can then sell them other stuff. Most important is food and drink, but you can also sell them other services, like parking, cloakroom facilities, queue jump, access to a VIP area and so on.

Most established artists make more money from live music than anything else (until they start doing major trademark licensing deals!), partly because the artist generally gets a bigger cut of live income than record sales income for reasons we’ll explain later.

That said, at the outset, artists often lose money gigging. Live becomes lucrative once you start playing middle-sized theatre venues. While you are doing the smaller pub or club circuit, you will likely receive modest fees that may only cover your travel costs. And even if you put on your own show, it is hard making a big profit when you’ve only got 60 people in the room. At the outset live is more about marketing and building a fanbase.

The Fan Relationship
This is the newest part of the music business. In order to make money from your content and live performances, obviously you need to build a decent sized fanbase.

In the digital age, you can connect with these fans online, via email, social media and other digital channels. And you can connect with core fanbase on a very regular basis, and work out what they like and what they want. Once you’ve worked out what they want, make that thing and sell it them!

Traditionally the music industry built a fanbase and then tried to sell them records, tickets and t-shirts. But what if your fans don’t really want to spend money on those things – or not very often? Then find out what they do want and sell them that instead. And with a direct-to-fan store on your own website, doing that is much easier than it used to be.

Plus, once an artist has built a decent sized fanbase, brands may start to spend money with the artist to reach that audience. The brand may also want access to tracks, videos or merch (so IP) or tickets (so live), but they may also simply want a relationship with the artist’s online fanbase.

The music industry is simply people and companies who help artists turn what they do into money – ie to unlock all the revenue streams we’ve just discussed – so that artists can focus on writing, recording and performing great music.

Most music companies specialise in one revenue stream. So you have the live music industry that specialises in putting on gigs and you have the music rights industry that specialises in intellectual property.

Though the latter can be split further into the music publishing industry which deals in song copyrights; the record industry that deals in sound recording copyrights; and the merchandise industry that creates products around an artist’s visuals and trademarks.

On top of all that, there is a whole new side to the industry emerging that is focused on direct-to-fan.

Most established artists will have a number of different business partners at any one time, each one focused on a different revenue stream. Key business partners include:

The Record Company (or Record Label) exploits the sound recording rights. They work with the artist to create great tracks and videos, hiring the recording studios, record producers, sound engineers and video directors. They then distribute that content and usually lead on artist marketing, promoting the artist via their key album releases.

The Music Publisher exploits the song rights. They handle the licensing of songs – either directly or via the collecting societies – and make sure all the royalties due are flowing in. They may also seek ‘sync deals’ and original song commissions on behalf of the writer. Traditionally the publisher published sheet music (hence why we call them ‘publishers’) and some still do.

The Merchandiser handles the production of merchandise, obviously. They might have their own sales platform online and/or might distribute merch to other sellers. They may also license the artist’s artwork or trademarks to third parties who want to create products using the act’s visuals or brand.

The Promoter stages gigs, tours and festivals. They take the financial risk on the show, hire the venue and all the production staff, and put the tickets on sale. They market the show and may seek sponsors.

The Booking Agent sits between the artist and the promoter. They are constantly looking for opportunities for the artist to play live – whether their own shows, club or festival slots, tour support slots, corporate gigs etc – and also negotiate the deals. The agent may also get involved in seeking sponsors for live activity.

The Ticket Agent sells the tickets, obviously. They will provide an online platform via which to sell the tickets as well as customer support. They will also likely have a mailing list and may get involved in marketing the show. And they may be able to provide the promoter with cash flow to help get the show off the ground.

Direct-To-Fan Companies are the newest part of the music industry. Most D2F companies currently are technology-based – ie they provide the platform for building and selling to an online fanbase. Though you are starting to see people specialising in running direct-to-fan stores. Labels and promoters are also getting involved in this.

Brand Partnership Companies negotiate deals between artists and brands. Because brands often want content, merch, tickets and access to fanbase – but don’t want to have to deal with a label, publisher, merchandiser, agent, promoter and D2F company – they often look for a third party agency to do all the leg work. Many labels, promoters and agents also now have brand partnership teams.

Artist Management
Obviously at the outset a new artist has no business partners. You have to do it DIY – more on which in Part Two. The first business partner you probably need is management – this is the one person involved in every aspect of your career.

At the outset the manager has to do a lot of work – because they basically perform the tasks of all the business partners: getting content made and out there; logging songs with PRS; setting up merch; looking for gigs; possibly putting on gigs; doing all the marketing, social and D2F; and maybe looking for brand partnership opportunities too.

But the manager is also looking for business partners. The right label, publisher, merchandiser, promoter, booking agent, ticket agent, D2F platform and brand partnerships team. They will slowly do deals with those business partners, handing over some of the work (and some of the control) as each deal is done.

Once every deal is in place, the manager’s job is to ensure both artist and business partner deliver on all their obligations, while also seeking new opportunities and thinking long-term – where will the artist’s career go next?

There has been a lot of talk in the last decade about artists going the ‘DIY’ route. Though that usually means that the artist builds a business without doing a conventional record deal with a conventional record company, more on which in Part Seven.

It doesn’t actually mean the artist doing everything themselves without any business partners; because realistically there are only so many hours in the day, and every artist will want some help on some aspects of their business, especially the boring bits!

So many successful artists who claim to be doing the “DIY thing” will often still have management and an agent, a lawyer and an accountant, some sort of content distribution partner, and will work with promoters and possibly a publisher too. The thing they skip is the conventional record deal.

Though at the outset, most new artists really are doing everything themselves – ie they are truly DIY. But that’s rarely out of choice.

It’s usually because the artist doesn’t have any money to pay companies to work for them – and while many music companies will work with new artists for free, the new act needs to create enough momentum themselves to persuade such companies to invest time (and possibly money) into their career.

While many new artists still want to sign to a record company (despite some high profile acts getting established without a traditional label partner), the chances are that the label isn’t the first deal they will do, and arguably it shouldn’t be. Most artists will get management in place first, then probably a booking agent and a promoter, then some sort of distributor, and then a label. And somewhere along the lines you need a lawyer to help with all those deals!

If the manager is the first business partner, then you’re probably wondering “how do I get a manager?” The good managers will tell you that, when you’re ready, they’ll find you. Which basically means, rather than sending speculative emails to every artist management company, you should get some content online, start gigging, do social media well, start building a fanbase, and then the local music industry will notice you.

So, first things first, you need to get started as a DIY artist. This is going to be a whole load easier if you find other DIY artists to collaborate with. That doesn’t necessarily mean forming a formal group, band or collective, but instead finding other people at the start of their careers that you think you could work with.

Firstly, that means other musicians and performers. Most of the best music ever made was a collaborative effort, where the input of different songwriters, record producers and performers made something a whole lot greater than the sum of its parts. So start looking for other music makers to collaborate with.

Do you have friends, or friends of friends, who make music? If you are at college, are there any networks or societies you can plug into? And look out for industry events that are a great place to meet potential creative collaborators – like the events CMU:DIY presents with Urban Development, the Featured Artists Coalition and others.

When you first start working with other people on making music, it’s best to initially suggest something small, so you can all see whether you get on. If you decide that you want to do something more regular, that’s the time to have a conversation about copyright and money.

Don’t forget, every time you write a song you create a song copyright. Every time you record a song, you create a separate recording copyright. You need to agree who has a stake in any copyright and what the splits are.

And also agree other logistical matters – who is going to log the song with PRS and the recording with PPL, and who is going to upload the track to YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music? And how is that person going to share the money with the other collaborators?

Beyond collaborating with other musicians, you should look to build a team that can help you with other things – like photography, videos, artwork, blogging, social media, website building, networking and admin.

Assuming you can’t afford to pay for any of that up front, you need to find people who are likewise trying to get their careers off the ground – a budding photographer who needs someone to photograph, a budding web designer who needs a website to build.

Again, when you collaborate remember to discuss copyright (who owns the copyright in your photos? – the photographer is the default owner) and what happens if what you are collaborating on starts to generate money, for example, you start selling t-shirts with one of the photos on them.

As well as keeping track of who owns what copyrights, if and when your musical activities start to generate money there are other things to think about, like should you have a separate bank account for your music income?

Maybe a very basic business bank account into which all the your music money goes, and from which you pay expenses related to your music, like sound editing software, travel to gigs, t-shirt printing, and other people for their services.

If you are band, group or collective, and you set up a business bank account for the group, who has access to the bank account, and how do you decide what your money is spent on? If and when you start taking out money to live off, how does that work?

As things start to gain momentum you probably need to get an accountant to help with that side of the business – and they can advise you on when it is right to set up a limited company (which costs a little money and means you have to do some paper work every year, but provides certain protections, in that your personal finances and business finances become formally separated).

All that said – don’t get too distracted by the formalities. You need to be thinking about these things and having the right conversations as momentum builds – but at the same time, you need to be writing and recording great music, and then get out there to perform and build a fanbase. Most of your time should be spent on the creative side.

Which brings us to this. In addition to your songwriting and recording, and honing your live performance, you should give some thought to your brand.

Part of this is identity and visuals. What name are you going to perform under? Will you have a logo? Will you have a visual identity that runs throughout your social media, your website, the artwork that accompanies your tracks, and the visuals that appear on stage? What will that look like? Have you got arty or designer friends who can help?

Beyond the visuals, what are you going to stand for? What’s you on-stage and online personality going to be? Will you have an on-stage persona that’s different than your real persona? If so, will that apply to social media? Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer any of these questions on day one – your brand will evolve as you write and record and perform. What are you comfortable with? What seems to really engage your fans?

There are some formalities with the brand too! Once you have picked a name, it’s worth registering a web domain, which will usually cost about £10 a year, and then set up both a website and email address using that domain. Because most of the good .com domains have gone, you might have to go with a variation of your brand for your online identity, or go with one of the more unusual top level domains (eg .xyz)

Once you have started recording your music, you need to get that content out there. You don’t necessarily want to upload everything you record to the web, just your best tracks. Though at the same time, don’t be such a perfectionist that you never actually get round to making any tracks publicly available. Maybe put tracks out in sets of four as an EP, so that you can talk up the EP release on your social networks.

The obvious places to post your content are YouTube and SoundCloud, and you should make your music available to stream on both (you can also offer a download via SoundCloud, but a stream is probably enough). Put some effort into your YouTube and SoundCloud profiles, with your visuals and links to your website and social media.

Have a mailing list and give people a reason to sign up – eg “be first to hear about my new music”, “get priority access to tickets to all my shows”, “get discounts on t-shirts and tickets” (though make sure you can make good on any promise made!) And become a ‘content partner’ with YouTube and tell it to post ads alongside your videos – it will pay 55% of that ad money to you – more on that in Part Four.

But you should also make sure your music is on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and all the rest. The royalties paid by these services are generally much higher than YouTube. And while you probably will only make nominal income through any of these services at the outset, it sends out the message that you are properly in the business of making your music available through commercial channels. And you can encourage fans to listen on paid-for streaming services where you will earn more.

It’s easy getting your content on these services, just sign up to a distribution platform like AWAL, CD Baby, Distrokid, Ditto, EmuBands, Spinnup or TuneCore and they will get your tracks onto all the key services. Some of these distribution platforms charge an upfront fee while others take a cut of any income you generate. You need to decide which one works best for you.

You might also want to make your EP available as a download via a direct-to-fan channel like Music Glue, Bandcamp or Reverb Nation. While less and less people are now downloading music, core fans might do this anyway to help support you. Plus you’ll get their email addresses and know that they are key fans.

Remember, ultimately you are looking for business partners in the music industry to help you unlock all your revenue streams. If you get the momentum going – and prove there is an audience for your music – then you will find music companies are much more interested in working with you.

But you need to start networking so that key people know what you’re doing. First of all, once you start playing live, make sure you clearly communicate your name and website to any audience you play in front of – and maybe give them a reason to check you out online (eg to see photos of the gig, or a backstage video, or get a free download).

There is no point bombarding the entire music industry with unsolicited emails. But occasional bespoke messages to people who are working with newish artists like you – linking to one of your SoundCloud tracks – can be worthwhile.

If you see industry people at your gigs, send them a quick thank you email and a link to some music online. And whenever you get in front of industry people – for example at CMU:DIY events – ask them for advice, and have a very quick story to tell about your music so that you stand out.

Once you have some momentum, there are some brand-led initiatives and grant funding programmes aimed at new talent. It is worth checking these out to see whether you qualify. Big brands tend to spend most money with big name artists, but some brands like to have relationships with new talent as they break. They are unlikely to write big cheques, but they might have a platform, event or competition that can bring you exposure, or they might be able to help you make an event or video or competition happen.

As soon as start performing or releasing your music, you need to start capturing and talking to your core fanbase online. Your entire business will be built around this fanbase, and the sooner you can build a direct channel to your fans the better.

There are various digital channels artists use to connect with their fans, though the starting point is social media. Which social media you should use depends on who your fans are and where they live, and also which social networks you are most comfortable with.

‘Social media’ is a loose term used to describe digital tools that enable you to have an online profile; publish words, images, audio and video; and/or organise and communicate to a network of friends, fans or customers. Social media come and go all the time, of course, and some platforms have gained more traction than others.

For artists, there are probably six social media you need to be considering…

First Facebook, simply because it is by far the biggest social network. Though if you have a younger fanbase, there’s a very high chance they aren’t active users. But the industry will almost certainly check you out on Facebook and it will become more important as your fanbase grows. So you should set up an artist profile on Facebook and post at least occasional updates on what you are up to – include images and video, because these generally get more traction.

Remember, just because someone ‘likes’ your page on Facebook doesn’t mean all your updates will appear in their personal news feed, Facebook filters what everyone sees. Subtly encourage people to share and comment on your posts, as this will make future updates more likely to appear in their feed. You can pay Facebook to push your content into your fan’s feeds, and beyond, though it’s probably not the best use of your money at the outset, even though you can do Facebook ad campaigns for a few pounds.

Second Twitter, because it is quite widely used within the industry by bookers, A&Rs, journalists and other decision makers. This is for more regular shorter updates of course. Although users see tweets from everyone they follow in their feed, they usually only see those posted while they are online. Again photos and videos stand out better in a user’s feed.

Third Instagram, especially if you have a younger fanbase. With Instagram you need to decide whether you are going to use it as a snap-and-post platform, where you snap things you see and immediately post them, or if you want to use it more as a channel for your visual identify, posting edited photos according to some sort of organised schedule.

Fourth Snapchat, again if you have a younger fanbase. If you’re not a Snapchat user, experiment with the service before you officially start connecting with fans via the platform. Obviously Snapchat is designed for short-form, short-lived content, and unlike other social networks you don’t leave a trail of old posts behind you. The ‘stories’ feature allows you to share slightly longer content and those posts also stick around a little longer.

Fifth YouTube. When most people hear about a new act or a new track, they immediately go and look for it on YouTube. So you need to have a channel there! If you don’t have the budget or skills to make a video, it’s fine to upload audio with a static image, though proper videos are better.

It’s OK to just have a few tracks on your YouTube channel if you just want it to be a place people can check you out. But if you want to try and actually build an audience via your channel itself you will need to post much more regularly – though videos don’t need to be track-based, so think carefully about what kind of chat content you could create on a regular basis.

Whatever you upload, make sure you plug all your other channels in the descriptions below your videos. And become a YouTube content partner, that way if any of your videos do gain traction, YouTube will put ads around them and share the income with you. More on all that in Part Four.

Sixth SoundCloud. Industry people who hear about a new act or a new track are much more likely to go looking for you on SoundCloud. So make sure you have a profile set up there too with all your tracks available to stream (and possibly download).

Once you’ve decided which social media to use and have set up all your profiles, you need to decide what you are going to post and when! You might use some social networks to mainly make people aware of gigs and new tracks (eg Facebook) and others for regular chatty posts (eg Snapchat). Remember, you want to post content that people will like, share and comment on – interaction is key. Photos and video tend to gain more traction, and people always like cute and funny.

If you are in a group or band you need to decide who runs the social media day-to-day, and who decides what to post and when. As you start to get business partners in place, you might hand over some of the social media activity to them. If social networks are being used primarily to share content and promote activity, it’s fine for business partners to run them. Though if you are using social networks to interact with fans, it’s much better if the artist themselves is leading everything.

Social media doesn’t replace your own website and email list, and you should look to get both of these set up as soon as possible too. Getting an email address off a fan – and permission to occasionally email them – is really important, and you should give fans reasons to sign up to your mailing list, like discounts and extra content. Services like MailChimp can help you manage your email lists and monitor who is opening what and when.

Even though you will initially make much of your music available for free, you should also offer fans a way to spend money with you. Direct-to-fan platforms like Music Glue, Bandcamp and ReverbNation are great for this and definitely worth investigating. And once you have a engaged a bit of an online fanbase, it’s well worth checking out services like PledgeMusic, which help you come up with sales and marketing campaigns that give fans who might otherwise be happy streaming your music for free an exciting reason to spend money with you directly online.

And finally – as we said in Part Two – while it is important to get your music onto YouTube and SoundCloud, you should make sure your tracks are on all the other digital platforms too, like Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes. You will earn more money when your music is consumed on these platforms – especially on the paid-for streaming platforms – so it’s good to encourage committed fans to play your tracks via these services. Companies like AWAL, CD Baby, Distrokid, Ditto, EmuBands, Spinnup or TuneCore can help you get your music onto all the key digital services.

Video has been a key part of the music mix for decades and became an important marketing tool for record labels in the 1980s when MTV first rose to prominence. But arguably video content is more important in music today than ever before, and that is in no small part because of YouTube.

YouTube is the biggest streaming music platform in the world. It has over 1.8 billion unique users each month, and while that is across the wider YouTube platform – so includes plenty of content beyond music – music videos and music channels are nevertheless a big part of what all those people consume.

For the music community, YouTube is actually a number of different things:

1. It is a publishing platform that allows artists and labels to publish video content free of charge.

2. It is a promotional platform that allows artists and labels to build audience.

3. It is a free streaming service that competes with companies like Spotify and Apple Music.

4. It is a ‘non-commercial micro-licensing platform’ that enables artists and labels to earn royalties when individuals use their music to soundtrack home-made videos.

5. It is a media platform that is now home to a range of influential online TV channels.

So, artists and labels can…

1. Use YouTube to publish their video (and audio) content free of charge.

2. Use YouTube as a promotional platform, encouraging blogs and media to embed their videos, and fans to playlist and share them.

3. Earn income when official videos are played, providing there is ad content around the video (YouTube pays approx 55% of ad revenue to the artist or label).

4. Earn income when their music is used in user-generated content via a system called Content ID, which enables artists and labels to take a cut of ad revenue from other videos that use their tracks.

5. Pitch releases to music-based YouTube channels with a decent audience and relevant editorial policy.

The music industry currently has something of a love/hate relationship with YouTube. Record labels love the free publishing tools and promotional platform. And they love the royalties they get paid from their official videos and user-generated content.

But they don’t love the fact that YouTube generally pays much lower royalties than audio-streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Especially when the likes of Spotify and Apple Music point out that it is harder to get young consumers to sign up to their paid for subscription services, because so many young consumers get all their music for free on YouTube.

There are various reasons why YouTube gets away with paying less, but a big reason is that YouTube doesn’t rely on the labels to get its music content, because fans are constantly uploading tracks, whether audio only, or the official music video, or as the soundtrack to a piece of original content.

Labels can request that content be removed and the aforementioned Content ID system helps with that process. But keeping all your content off YouTube is time-consuming for artists and labels. So, it’s better to just keep it there and take a cut of ad revenue.

Except that cut of ad revenue is never as good as the royalties you earn from Spotify and Apple Music. Hence the love/hate thing. The record labels are currently trying to persuade, guilt and force YouTube into paying more money into the music industry. Meanwhile YouTube is trying to placate its music industry critics through its new paid-for premium service. But tensions remain.

Whatever the politics regarding YouTube in the music industry, as a new self-releasing artist, you almost certainly need a YouTube channel. And although you can upload audio with a static image – or a simple lyric video with the words appearing in sync on the screen – for your channel to stand out, proper video content is best.

That might be a music video for your key track or tracks. On a shoe-string budget, that will mean doing something really creative with your iPhone camera and some free video editing software; or borrowing a camera and editing technology from your college or similar; or best of all, finding an aspiring film-maker looking for a great new project to get their teeth into.

But remember: there is more to music video than the music video. Even if you make great music videos to go with your key tracks, most successful YouTube channels regularly post new content, and realistically you’re not going to be able to post a new music video all that often.

So have a think: what other video content could you create that would get people interested and which would complement your music? And how can you make these videos with minimum budget and time?

Once you have some content on your YouTube channel and are gaining some traction there, you should look to become a YouTube ‘content partner’.

You need a certain number of subscribers and views for this to be an option (and those requirements change from time to time). But once you qualify it is worth filling out the forms because this means you will get a cut of ad revenue on your channel. Realistically this is going to be very modest at the outset, but even so, it’s worth being fully signed up.

And if you use a digital distributor to get your content onto Spotify and iTunes (like Ditto Music, TuneCore etc), they may also be able to get you access to Content ID, so you can earn if other people use your music too.

But reality check: at the outset your YouTube channel is really a marketing tool. And to be effective, you need to make content that people will embed, playlist and share. That’s how you can drive people to your YouTube channel, which you can then use to drive people to your music.

There are important video channels online beyond YouTube.

First of all there is Vevo. You probably know Vevo because of YouTube, because many of the big artists and labels make their content available on YouTube via Vevo. Which means they give their videos to Vevo, which then sets up the channel on YouTube for the artist and label, and then manages that channel day-to-day.

But more than that, Vevo also sells the advertising, instead of YouTube. Which, in theory at least, means you get more relevant advertising and – in the main – better royalty rates. Vevo also has its own website, meaning videos get distributed beyond YouTube too.

Although best known for managing the YouTube channels of superstars, any artist can distribute their videos (and pretty much any video content) via Vevo, on both YouTube and beyond. Though you will need a middle-man distributor, like Ditto Music, to go this route. If you do, you are then faced with the question, do you just have a Vevo-managed channel on YouTube, or do you have a Vevo-managed channel and continue to directly manage your own YouTube channel too? That’s a decision you’ll have to make.

Facebook & Instagram
Next there is Facebook and Instragram, which are increasingly shifting over to video, and prioritising video content in their users’ feeds.

Facebook (which also owns Instagram) has only recently done its first licensing deals with the music industry, via which it is starting to pay royalties to artists, labels, songwriters and publishers. In theory, because of these deals, Facebook and Instagram will ultimately start to work like YouTube, in that they’ll pay (small) royalties as well as providing promotional tools. Though for now, especially for DIY artists, it’s all about the promo.

Most artists have so far used Facebook for shorter preview videos, with full videos posted to YouTube and Vevo. Though as Facebook starts to pay royalties, you’ll probably find more full videos are posted on the platform.

People will usually initially see your video via their news-feed with no sound. So you need to do something at the outset to persuade them to stop scrolling, activate the sound and then watch. This is why Facebook videos usually have text or subtitles, especially at the start.

As for Instagram, obviously it’s designed more for very short videos. And although the platform is starting to allow longer videos to be uploaded, short-form content still works best. Most artists are still learning how best to do video on Instagram, though as it becomes a key social network, creating videos that work on it becomes more important.

Playing live is a really important part of most artists’ careers, both creatively and commercially. And it’s especially important at the outset when it is arguably the most effective way to build an initial fanbase.

Though, while established artists make lots of money from playing live, at the start of your career it’s unlikely gigging will make you rich. Indeed, once you start travelling to venues beyond your home town or city, you might start losing money. Live only really starts to become profitable once you are playing mid-sized theatres.

Which means early on in your career you should treat gigs as a marketing platform. Which doesn’t mean the whole show needs to be one big sales pitch, but pick gigs that will let you play in front of the right kinds of people, and make sure your audience know where they can follow you online.

A good trick is to tell your audience that they can see photos from the show, or access some of the tracks you’ve performed, or get discounts on your next gig, by connected through social media or email.

But how do you get those gigs? Well, truth be told, until you can prove to a promoter or venue that you can pull in at least a small crowd of people to see you perform, they are going to be very nervous about booking you.

The easiest way to get your live career going is to stage your own shows, initially for friends and family, and slowly pulling in a wider crowd. Depending on the kind of music you make, these DIY shows might be gigs, or a club night, or simply a party, whatever works best to showcase you and your music.

If you need to hire a venue for your DIY gig, pick somewhere that’s the right size and which has the right vibe for your music.

You’ll usually find that a small venue early in the week isn’t very expensive to hire at all, and at certain times of the year they might cut you an extra special deal if you can get enough people through the door. Remember, small venues usually make more on the bar than they do from rentals or ticket sales, so if you can pull in an audience who will buy drinks, then they may well be up for negotiating on rates.

When booking a venue make sure you are clear on what you are getting for your money – what kit does the venue have, do they provide a sound person and security, do they have a mailing list or social media you can use to promote the show? Assuming it is a ticketed rather than a free show, who is selling the tickets, you or the venue? With sites like Music Glue and Eventbrite it’s now very easy to sell tickets online in advance. But what about on the door on the night?

Once your live career has started to gain some momentum, hopefully you will start being booked by other venues and promoters. That makes things a little easier, though there is still the matter of doing the deal with the show’s organiser.

At the outset you might be asked to play for free and you need to decide whether that is something you are willing to do – either because playing a show is good practice or it will enable you to play in front of a new audience made up of the right kind of people. But be very wary of pay-to-play gigs, which is usually where a promoter will force you to commit to sell a minimum number of tickets to play.

At some point you will probably want to hire a booking agent who will help you find gigs and, most importantly, will take over the ‘deal making’ and will often be able to get you more money – good agents drive a hard bargain!

Some artists start working with a booking agent before they get a manager though, as with management, the best way to get a good agent is to get things going yourself – ie put on your shows, get a few gigs – and then let relevant booking agencies (ie who specialise in your genre and work with new acts) know about what you are up to.

Two other quick things to mention about live – one creative, one commercial.

First, do put some time into thinking about what your live show is going to consist of, maybe playing at some parties with friends to work out what you are most comfortable with and what gets the best reaction.

Going live is easier for some genres than others. If your music is very studio/production based you will have to think of ways to make that work as a live performance. Either that, or promote your brand by DJing, dropping in a few of your own productions or remixes, and encouraging your audience to check you out online.

Second, whenever you perform your own songs in public, that is exploiting the ‘public performance’ control of your song copyright. And whenever your song copyright is exploited, you are due a royalty.

When you join collecting society PRS For Music you actually give it the exclusive right to license your so called ‘performing rights’. What that means is that if someone books you to perform your own songs, they also have to buy a licence from PRS covering the copyright in those songs, and PRS will then pass that money back to you minus its commission.

Which means that, in addition to any fee the promoter may pay you, you should receive some PRS money for every show you perform as well.

Providing, that is, you are a PRS member, that you logged all your songs with PRS, and you told PRS about the show and the songs you played. Of course this only applies if you perform your own songs. If you perform someone else’s work, they will get the PRS money.

So, you’ve written the songs, you’ve recorded some tracks, your socials are sorted and you’re starting to gig. Well done. So, what’s next? It’s time to further grow you fanbase and start connecting with the wider industry, and that’s where the music media – and especially those media focused on new music – can help. But which media? And how do you reach them?

There are numerous online and print music magazines published in the UK – plus some sites from abroad also enjoy a decent sized readership here – and these remain influential with both music fans and the music industry.

It’s no secret that most of the print music magazines have seen there circulations decline considerably over the last decade. Though many still sell tens of thousands of copies – which could mean they are read by 75,000-100,000 people – which is a large number in the context of record sales. And, of course, most of these magazines publish online too, and there they probably reach more people now than the print version ever did.

The online music press includes those magazines that used to exist in print but are now online-only; those which have print editions in other countries but are only available online here; and those titles that have only ever existing online. And, of course, alongside the online music press you have hundreds of music blogs.

The main task for new artists is working out which of these media to target. Sending a generic email to hundreds of magazines, websites and blogs isn’t likely to get you very far – it’s much better to send personalised emails to a small number of media. Obviously most music magazines and blogs specialise in a certain genre of music, so the starting point is working out who writes about the kind of music you make. And then look for those media who have a focus on new artists.

Once you have identified the target sites – and even better, the journalists who are most likely to be into your music – make sure you check out those magazines or blogs on a regular basis, and follow both the media and key journalists on social media (Twitter is especially good for this). When you send your personalised email, make sure it’s obvious that you know about the kinds of music the media you are contacting writes about – journalists like it when people do their research before getting in touch.

Radio has always been really important for promoting new music, and remains so even in the streaming and social media age. Most radio stations in the UK are music-focused, though many stations have similar formats in terms of programmes and music policy.

The first thing to know about mainstream radio on FM and DAB is that the DJ you hear talking between the music doesn’t usually decide what tracks get played. They are told what to play by a head of music. The head of music is pretty powerful, because they control most of the music that gets played on their station (and many heads of music actually control a whole network of stations around the country, which may use one name nationally like Capital, or may operate under different names in different cities).

However, with specialist shows and online radio stations the DJs usually decide most of the music they play. And on some more mainstream stations, the DJs might get some ‘free plays’ – a certain number of tracks per show where they get to pick what to play. Given it can be hard to get your music in front of a head of music without a label behind you, the best place to start is usually genre relevant specialist shows and online stations. Listen to the shows you are pitching to and send the DJs personalised emails with links to both your SoundCloud profile and where they can download a decent quality audio file.

One of the key things a record label offers artists it signs is access to editors, journalists, DJs and heads of music. Big record companies have specialist in-house teams who talk to all the decision makers in the music press and music radio on a regular basis. There are also numerous agencies that do music PR, and who have the media contacts, but they usually need paying, and it’s generally the labels who have the budget to do so.

Of course there is nothing to stop DIY artists from contacting media direct, and once you have some momentum going you should definitely do this. But remember that editors, journalists, DJs and heads of music get hundreds of emails every week (some every day!) and so, even if you write the perfect personalised email, there is a chance it won’t get read. Labels and PR agencies have personal relationships with their media contacts, which inevitably means their emails are more likely to be seen (though not always!).

But it is still worth sending personalised emails to the journalists and DJs you think are going to most like your music. Be persistent without being a pest – so if you don’t hear back, it is worth sending a slightly reworked email a few weeks later. Some PR agencies offer to send press releases to their mailing lists for self-releasing artists for a few hundred pounds, but arguably that’s not a good use of your money. There is still a very high chance no one will read that press release, and your targeted personalised emails will probably have more success.

At the record companies and agencies people usually specialise in the kind of media they pitch to. The big divide is between those who pitch to magazines and websites (often called ‘press’ or simply ‘PR’) and those who pitch to TV and radio (often called ‘promotions’ or ‘plugging’).

PRs and pluggers may also specialise in terms of genre, or primarily pitch to print press, or online press, or national radio, or online radio, and so on.

Whether you are doing your own PR, or you have a label or agency to handle it for you, whenever you start pitching your music to media for the first time you need to be ambitious but realistic. You are most likely to get your initial support from genre relevant blogs and online radio shows, which often take more risks in terms of what music they champion and which like to be ‘on to things’ first.

That can influence the new talent columns on the music websites and the specialist shows on FM and DAB radio stations, which in turn can influence the review sections of various media, which can influence the print magazines, which might influence the wider news and entertainment media, which can influence heads of music controlling daytime airplay and so on.

But don’t expect a sudden boost in fans, ticket sales or streams on the back of the first bit of blog coverage. Each bit of coverage can help you get the next bit of coverage, and slowly momentum builds.

With the likes of Spotify and Apple Music offering such a big catalogue of music, many users rely heavily on those services’ playlist functions – both the user’s own personal library where they organise the music they like, and the publicly accessible playlists curated by other users, media, labels and the streaming services themselves.

It is generally the services’ own playlists that enjoy by far the most subscribers and listens. In fact those playlists are now so influential that artists and labels now routinely pitch to the people at the streaming companies who run them. Meanwhile, for their part, the streaming firms are expanding their playlisting teams, often hiring ex-radio people to do the job.

As with mainstream radio, it is hard for DIY artists to get in front of the playlisters at the streaming services. Spotify now offers a website where you can submit tracks for consideration and your distributor might be able to help, especially if they see your music gaining traction.

But it is also worth trying to identify the people who are behind specific genre relevant playlists (you can often work out who they are through some Google and Twitter searching) and then sending those people occasional personalised emails, like those we described above.

Artists and labels can also set up their own playlists on the streaming platforms of course, and many do. To gain traction, these playlists generally need to feature music from other artists and labels, but if you can find an audience for your curation skills, then you have a ready made channel to promote your own releases as they go live.

Although the record company isn’t usually the first business partner a new artist signs up with, the record deal is still really important for most new acts.

This is because the label is the business partner who will not only work for free on the promise of sharing in future income (like other early business partners), but it will also put money on the table. This money will enable the artist to give up the day job and focus on their music full time, while also funding a significant marketing and PR push.

For most artists, a decent cash investment is needed at some point so that they can capitalise on organic growth and accelerate everything. The aim is to boost the fanbase to a sufficient size that the artist can live off their music for the foreseeable future.

Some artists secure that investment from elsewhere – or try to gain sufficient scale through more low-cost organic growth – though most new artists still look to the music industry to provide a cash injection, and it’s labels that are set up to do that.

That said, when a label signs a new artist, it provides more than just money. These are some of the things that artists can expect from a label:

A cash advance. This is the money the artist lives off so they can focus on their music full time.

Funding of a debut album. Many artists will have already put out some EPs or maybe even a full album by the time they sign to a label, or may come to the record company with a debut album already made. But labels will often send artists into the studio with the best songwriters, producers and sound engineers to put together the best album possible.

• The label also has an important artist and content development role. Management, other business partners and other collaborators will have been helping the artist develop their sound already, but the label also plays a key role here too. The label may also need to be the bad guy in the room who tells the artist they can do better!

• Creation of any visuals around the record, including artwork, photography and videos.

Marketing of the debut album. The artist will have been doing grass roots marketing from the start, but the label will organise a big promotional push around the launch of the album that will hopefully reach a much bigger audience than the artist’s own activity. This will include PR, plugging to radio and streaming services, more proactive social media activity, and possibly advertising in media, on billboards, on social and on the streaming platforms.

Distribution of the album. If there is going to be a physical release, this includes organising and paying for CDs or vinyl to be pressed, and getting them into shops and to the mail order sites. It also means getting those recordings into all the digital channels, and trying to drive maximum sales and streams.

• Once the album is out, the label looks after all the rights management, making sure all royalties that are due are coming in via the digital platforms and collecting societies. A good label will also be looking for opportunities to drive more revenue, such as getting a track on a compilation or key streaming service playlist, or synchronised into a TV show, movie, video game or advert (ie sync deals).

• Throughout, the label is also a big fat black book, with lots of contacts in the industry, in the live sector, in the media, with brands and elsewhere that the artist can tap into. Bigger labels can also often use their size to get better treatment with or better rates from some potential partners or users of the artist’s music.

The record company usually provides all of this for free. Which is nice of it! And if it works, the idea of this investment is that it escalates the artist’s business, so all the other revenue streams beyond recordings become much more lucrative.

But what do labels want in return? Under a classic record deal, the two main things the label wants are exclusivity and ownership of any sound recording copyrights created under the deal. Which means the artist can only make recordings for the label until they have delivered the required number of albums and/or tracks, and the label will own the copyright in those recordings and enjoy all the controls that come with the copyright.

As the label is the copyright owner, it – rather than the artist – will license third parties who want to copy, distribute, adapt, perform or communicate the tracks and collect the money. Whether or not an artist will have a right to consultation about or a veto over any new licensing deal will depend on their record contract.

That contract will also set out how any income is then shared between the label and the artist. Under a major label deal, the record company will get to keep most of the money. Some indie label deals might offer a 50/50 split. Though either way, the label will usually have the right to recoup (so take back) some or all of the money it spent on the artist before sharing any of the income – so the artist sees nothing until they have ‘recouped’ on contract. Every deal is different, and all this needs to be set out in a written agreement.

The one exception to all this is the money that is made when the so called ‘performing rights’ or ‘neighbouring rights’ of the sound recording copyright are exploited – which covers radio and when sound recordings are played in public places like clubs or bars. In these scenarios the artists will get 50% of the money direct from their collecting society (PPL in the UK) whatever their record contract may say.

Traditionally the record company would only want control of the sound recording copyrights the artist creates, and it wasn’t involved in the other aspects of the artist’s business. So the deal basically worked like this: the label spends a lot of money upfront and then takes the majority of the money that subsequently comes in from the tracks and albums it releases; but the artist can do separate deals around all their other revenue streams, where they will usually get to keep the majority of the cash because the other business partners aren’t making such big upfront investments.

That said, during the 2000s the value of recorded music slumped, meaning that even if an artist’s records do become hits, they probably won’t make as much money as they would have done in the 1990s.

With that in mind, many labels, when investing in new talent, will also ask for a cut of one or two of the artist’s other revenue streams to reduce their risk. It’s for the artist – and their lawyer and manager – to negotiate with the label which other revenues will be shared and on what terms.

Record companies sometimes get a bad rep. There are various reasons for this, including…

• The label’s investment does not guarantee success.

• The label may interfere artistically to safeguard its investment.

• The label may screw up the marketing and/or overspend (remember, the artist may not see any royalties until certain upfront costs have been recouped).

• The label and artist may just fall out over time – lots of creative and business partnerships ultimately sour.

• Artists often resent not getting any money from their recordings until they have recouped – so they might have a hit on their hand but not yet be seeing any money.

• Artists also often resent having given up the copyrights in their early and possible best records. They might be able to negotiate some or all of that copyright back in later deals (ie if they complete their first deal with a record company and then re-sign with the same label), though that’s not guaranteed.

But, despite all these potential issues, for many artists the label model basically works. The artist gets investment, plus creative, commercial and marketing support, just when they need it to help them take their own business up to the next level.

That inevitably means giving up some of the control and – when it comes to the recordings released by the label – a lot of the money. But the big marketing push can unlock all of the artist’s other revenue streams. And if and when the label profits from the deal, it commits to reinvest some of that money back into the next big thing.

Once an artist is ready to sign to a label they might have offers from multiple record companies. In that situation, the artist and their manager has to decide which label will make the best business partner.

It’s common to distinguish between the major and the indie labels. Major labels are those owned by one of the three major global music rights groups: Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music. The indies are everyone else. Independent labels vary in size greatly, from sizable operations with offices around the world to one-person operations run out of the owner’s home.

There are pros and cons with signing to major v indie labels, or to a big v a small independent. Smaller record companies usually offer more favourable deals in terms of how income is shared with the artist, and a smaller team mean it’s easier for the artist and manager to get to know all the key decision makers in the label business. But bigger record companies will usually have access to bigger budgets, so can finance very ambitious album projects and marketing campaigns.

Classic record contracts with both major and indie labels will usually involve ‘assigning’ the copyright in the sound recordings released under the deal to the record company – ie so the label is the copyright owner. Some artists don’t want to assign their sound recording rights, but still need someone to provide marketing and distribution services.

Many record companies will offer these services on a revenue share basis without assignment if the artist isn’t looking for a big cash investment, and some labels have standalone ‘label services’ departments to work with artists on this basis, usually offering much better royalties too. There are also specialist label services companies and distributors that work directly with artists in exactly this way.

Every record company is different but most have a similar structure, with the following departments or teams somewhere in the building:

A&R are best known for scouting new talent to sign, but they are also the artist’s primary contact at the label, overseeing the recording process, suggesting songwriters and producers to work with, and providing artistic feedback.

Creative teams will work with A&R to turn an artist’s recordings into digital and physical products, while also commissioning all the photography, design and video.

Sales & Distribution have the relationships with record shops, mail-order sites, download stores and streaming platforms, and make sure albums get to all the right places. Smaller labels may outsource distribution to a standalone music distributor or the distribution department at a bigger label.

Marketing are charged with the task of getting everyone talking about a new release. They plan the marketing campaign, brief PR and promotions, buy advertising, hire marketing, PR and social agencies, and implement some elements of the campaign directly.

Press & Promotions are responsible for getting new releases written about in print and online (in the case of ‘press’ or ‘PR’) and played on TV, radio and in the clubs (in the case of ‘promotions’ or ‘plugging’).

Licensing will look for other opportunities to generate income from the label’s catalogue, including sync and compilations.

Royalties process the money that comes in from record shops, download stores, streaming platforms, sync deals and elsewhere and calculate what cut the artists are due.

Legal look after all the contracts that are required, between the label and all their artists, and with all the digital services that use the label’s content.

At big record companies there will be whole teams of people for each of these departments. At a smaller label it might be one person per department. At really small labels one person might be doing everything!

We talked in Part One about the two sets of music rights – ie the copyright in songs and the separate copyright in recordings. The music publishing sector is involved in managing and monetising the former. It’s called publishing because if you go back a hundred years, you made money out of songs by publishing books of sheet music.

Today there are various ways you can make money out of the song copyright.

1. When a record company makes copies of its recordings onto CD or vinyl, they usually only own the copyright in the master recording not the accompanying song. They therefore need a licence from the publisher of the song giving them permission to make copies of it. Which makes the songwriter and publisher money.

2. When a download store or streaming service delivers a recording of a song digitally they need permission from the owners of both the recording and the song rights. Which makes the songwriter and the publisher money.

3. When a radio station broadcasts recordings of songs it also needs permission from the owners of both the recording and the song rights (except in the US where, because of the country’s copyright law, an AM/FM station actually only needs permission from the owner of the song rights). Which makes the songwriter and the publisher money.

4. If a TV, film or games producer, or an advertiser, wants to synchronise a recording of a song to their video they need to get a sync licence from the owners of both the recording and the song rights. Of course, the producer or advertiser could record a new version of the song, which means they’d then only need permission from the owner of the song rights. But either way, the songwriter and the publisher make money.

5. If a song is performed live in a public space then the promoter of the show (or sometimes the venue) needs to get permission from the owner of the song copyright. Which makes the songwriter and the publisher money.

6. If a recording of a song is played in a public space, then the management at the public space need to get permission from the owners of both the recording and the song rights. Which makes the songwriter and the publisher money.

7. If someone wants to sample a snippet of a track, they need permission from the owners of both the recording and the song rights. Even if they recreate the sample, rather than using the original snippet, the chances are they still need permission from the owner of the song rights. Which makes the songwriter and the publisher money.

8. Some music publishers still publish books of sheet music. Or they might allow a karaoke service or a streaming platform to use their lyrics. Both would make the songwriter and the publisher money.

By default, the copyright in a song is owned by the writer. If multiple people collaborate on writing a song then they co-own the copyright. But it’s for the co-writers to decide how the copyright is split – so if there are four co-writers, do you split it four ways, or does one person get more than everybody else? Whenever you write a song with someone else, you need to agree how the resulting copyright is shared out.

If someone wants to make use of a co-owned song, they need to get permission from each and every co-owner, any one of whom could say “no”. This can make sorting out a licence for using a song very time consuming!

Though remember the collective licensing system we mentioned in Part One. This is where pretty much all rights owners – so all songwriters and publishers – license as one through one organisation, usually called a ‘collecting society’, ‘performing rights organisation’ or ‘collective management organisation’. This way a licensee only needs to get one licence from one organisation, which then collects the money and passes it over to the relevant writers and publishers.

Collective licensing is very common when it comes to music publishing and song rights, partly because of the complexities around co-ownership. It usually applies to radio, live performance, the playing of recordings of songs in public places, the release of cover versions and TV sync.

We’ve already mentioned PRS For Music earlier in this guide, which is the main collecting society for song rights in the UK. Though there are actually two UK collecting societies for song rights: PRS for when songs are ‘performed’ and MCPS for when songs are ‘reproduced’. As a writer, if your songs are being both performed and reproduced, you will have to join both societies. Though PRS and MCPS work very closely together, so you can do all that via one website run by PRS For Music.

In the same way recording artists do deals with record companies based around the copyright in their recordings, often songwriters do deals with music publishers based around the copyright in their songs. Many artists are also songwriters, and many music rights companies own both labels and publishers. But if a musician creates both recordings and songs, they will usually do a record deal with one company and a separate publishing deal with another company.

There are similarities between the record deals we described in Part Seven and publishing deals. In the same way artists do record deals to access investment and services, a songwriter does a publishing deal to access both a cash advance and help administering their copyrights and seeking sync, co-write and original commission opportunities.

But there are differences between record and publishing deals too. For starters, generally when the money is split between the publisher and the songwriter, the latter gets more, even with the major publishers. There is also a big difference in the way the songwriter’s copyrights are ‘assigned’ – or transferred – to the publisher.

With a record contract, the label usually owns the sound recording copyrights covered by the deal outright. But in publishing, the songwriter actually assigns their ‘performing rights’ to PRS, which then has the exclusive right to license those elements of the song copyright. Then, under the publishing contract, the publisher gets the right to directly receive 50% of any money PRS generates.

Meanwhile other elements of the copyright – like the right to reproduce and adapt – are assigned to the publisher, which monetises those elements of the copyright and shares any income with the songwriter directly. This means that a published songwriter doesn’t need to be an MCPS member – the publisher joins the collecting society and is paid any royalties the society collects on its behalf. The publisher then shares that money with the writer subject to contract.

Like with recordings, some songwriters don’t want to assign their copyrights to publishers but do want help managing their rights and seeking other opportunities. Many publishers will provide these services without assignment under what is called an ‘administration deal’ if the songwriter doesn’t want a big upfront cash advance.