Welcome to The Down Low. A new series where we uncover the secrets of the music industry to help the next generation get their foot in the door. Whether you are aspiring artists, DJs, or promoters, if you are just starting out or not sure how to meander your way through this sometimes unnecessarily complicated industry, then hopefully there is something of value in this series to help kick start your careers. In this first issue we take a look at the world of music publishing. The goal of music publishing is ultimately to get you paid from your music, so if this is one of your goals its important to understand how it all works.

A publishers role in a nutshell is the selling of licenses for a particular piece of music, and to make sure that you get paid for those licenses. The publisher will essentially create licenses for many different uses such as records, film, printed sheet music, adverts, and games to name a few.

The origins of music publishing were in New York City in the late 19th century and early 20th century, in an area named Tin Pan Alley. Back then, because musicians didn’t tend to write their own material, it was up to publishers to put musicians together to create, license and publish music. This meant that publishers had a huge influence over the industry although things have obviously changed a little bit since then. Artists tend to have more power these days with the use of social media and all, but it requires more work and eats into your time to be creative.

They are a few different things that publishers can do for an artist however, and the range usually depends on the size of the publisher. Below is a list of some of the different things they do in more detail:


The publishing company has copies of EVERYTHING you have ever made and tries to get it sync’d on TV, games, radio, etc. All you need to do is keep them updated with new material.


You hold bi-weekly or monthly chats with them about what you need. This could be access to vocalists, musicians or songwriters, an invite to a writing camp to work with other producers to get ideas, literally anything you need to succeed in your creative endeavours. They will then firstly introduce you to other artists, musicians, singers, and producers that they publish to make the whole process straight forward. If that doesn’t work, they will give you other options that they think might work.


Collection is usually handled by a performance rights organisation, or PRO for short. They are PRO’s in most countries and here in the UK there is PRS, PPL.

PPL and PRS for Music are two separate collective management organisations (CMOs).

PPL collects and distributes money on behalf of performers and record companies for the use of their recorded music on TV, Radio, in Clubs etc. This includes all the work you have made, including remixes.

PRS for Music collects and distributes money on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers, for the use of their musical compositions and lyrics on TV, Radio, in clubs etc. This is just your original material.

Another thing to mention is something called Neighbouring Rights. Neighbouring Rights is a term that relates to the royalty earned from the public performance of a master recording. This is similar to the right that exists in the composition of musical works but there are some differences that are worth knowing:

  • That copyright compensates the publisher and composers/writers of a song
  • The neighbouring right compensates the master owner and the performers on a master recording when it is publicly performed or broadcast.

In the context of neighbouring rights, public performances include music played in nightclubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, in addition to broadcasts on TV, Radio and streaming radio — put simply, anywhere that is not a private home. The term “neighbouring” refers to the fact that these rights neighbour the compositional rights.
As with most things in life nowadays, the internet has made it easier to acquire publishing so that independent artists can get paid without relying on larger music publishers. We have included a list below with some to get you started:

Ditto Music


Kobalt Music

Sentric Music

Many of these online publishers will help you with all your publishing needs at some affordable prices, and there is some good info about publishing in general on their websites if you wish to do some further research.

Follow us on Spotify