Is My Record Label Also My Publisher?

Is My Record Label Also My Publisher?

As the years go by, creators have more and more freedom over how they want to distribute their music and with whom. Whether you’ve signed a record label deal, you’ve hired a publisher or you work with an independent distributor like Symphonic, it’s important to understand what you’re entitled to as an artist. Look no further, we’re here to break it down. Here’s what you need to know…

Is My Record Label Also My Publisher?

Let’s Talk Record Labels…

A record label is the entity responsible for releasing your master recordings to the public on retailers, streaming services, radio, etc.. Major parts of a record label’s work involve promotion, marketing your music, landing sync placements and more. In addition, major labels often pay out advances to cover the recording costs for the album or single in addition to paying to produce physical releases like CDs or LPs.

(Contrary to popular belief, an advance is NOT free money. — Learn the truth about advances here.)

Think of it like this: A record label is to master recordings what a publisher is to musical compositions.

It’s actually not uncommon for some record labels, especially the majors, to launch publishing divisions in order to exercise more control over the music they release. By acquiring administration rights for the musical compositions (as well as whole or partial ownership), they are able to exploit compositions for licensing opportunities, register songs, collect all publishing-related royalties, etc.

(For example, think Warner Chappell Music; the publishing division of Warner Music Group, or Universal Music Publishing Group; the division of Universal Music Group.)


While a record label is only responsible for the recordings songs that they control, a publisher is responsible for the underlying music composition itself, which includes covers by other artists that may have been released to physical or streaming formats.

Music publishers handle the administration of musical compositions. They collect royalties and licensing fees, seek out sync deals for TV and film, register copyrights, negotiate licenses, and more. Similarly to labels, publishers can also involve advances within their publishing deals. Typical publishing deals can include administration only deals, full publishing deals, or co-publishing deals.

Publishing Royalties

The two most common music publishing royalty types, central to any independent songwriter’s income, are performance royalties and mechanical royalties.

So, is my record label my publisher or not?

Short answer is, maybe.

Your record label is not always your Publisher, unless the record label:

  1. establishes itself as the publisher of your songs in your label contract,
  2. registers your songs in royalty collection societies, and
  3. collects the publishing royalties and distributes them to you.

If your record label claims to be the publisher but you have never received any publishing royalties (performance, mechanical, etc.) from your label or from your chosen PRO, then it’s time to confront your record label about this issue and get some clarity.

In Conclusion…

We hope this post has made the relationship between record labels and publishing a little easier to digest. With each service, you get different benefits as an artist. Depending on what you need, one path may be more beneficial than the other. — Regardless of what you choose, you are rightfully owed royalties for your published work. It’s important you understand what you’re owed and how to get it. Otherwise, you may be missing out on hard earned royalties and opportunities. Don’t just sit back and let corporate entities take control of your life. Get involved, do your research, and work with a team that has your back.

Good luck!

How To Self Publish Your Music

How To Self Publish Your Music

Self publishing your music comes with a lot of benefits. You don’t have to share your copyrights with anyone, you aren’t bound to any publishing deals and you get ultimate control over where your work is used and how. Keep in mind, self publishing isn’t for everyone. You need to be able to commit significant time and effort to doing everything a publisher would usually do and more. But if this is something that you’re ready to take on, here’s how to do it right.

How To Self Publish Your Music

Let’s Talk Basics…

Self publishing your songs means you take on the role of both the artist and the publisher. Being a self-published writer ultimately means that you hold all the rights to your Intellectual Property (IP), which means you would be in full control of how your compositions are used and would receive all royalties associated with your share of your compositions.

This is awesome, but these perks come with a little extra work. If you’re still interested, here’s what you’ll need to do to self publish your songs…

Step 1: Make Sure Your Music Hasn’t Been Published Yet

If you’ve worked with a distributor before, you may have opted in for publishing services without even realizing it. For example, our publishing administration services are very popular with our own clients. Before you do anything, definitely make sure this doesn’t apply to you.

Step 2: Register with a PRO

In order for you to receive the royalties you’re rightfully owed, your songs need to be properly registered with a Performing Rights Organization like ASCAP, SESAC or BMI. PRO’s rely on the information you provide to determine who they need to pay and how much.

Start setting up your company by going to either or to obtain/fill out an application.

  • If you are a songwriter and have not yet affiliated, make sure to only do so with only one of these, not all of them.
  • To ensure you do everything right, check out this post to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Step 3: Sign Up with the MLC

The Mechanical Licensing Collective maintains the world’s most thorough database of music composition copyrights and their owners. They collect mechanical royalties from digital music streaming services and transmit those royalties to copyright holders based on the ownership claims.

Signing up with them ensures that you get all the royalties that are rightfully owed to you. You’ll need to “Connect to Collect” and become a Member of the MLC in order to collect the digital audio mechanical royalties owed to you.

Step 4: Time to Promote

Once you’ve completed those steps, you can finally start getting your publisher’s share on top of the writer’s share. Now is the time where the duties of a publisher fall onto you.

Typically, your publisher would be the one networking, seeking out sync deals for TV and film, registering copyrights, negotiating licenses, and more. When you self publish, it’s all on you.

In Conclusion…

Self-publishing typically just entails registering with a PRO to be able to manage and publish your own compositions, but it doesn’t have to end there. If you want to go even further, become a publisher and start your own publishing company! Doing so lets you do everything yourself and also gives you the ability to relay your services onto other artists who need it.

You got this.