DIY Blog

DIY Blog: CMU:DIY x Urban Development 06 – Songwriting, Publishing & PRS

By | Published on Thursday 21 April 2016

Last night we co-hosted our latest Industry Takeover Seminar with Urban Development at the Red Bull Studios. This session looked at songwriting, song copyrights and music publishing.

So let’s start at the start, there are two sets of music rights. If you write a song you create a copyright. Actually you probably create two – one in the lyrics and one in the actual music – but the music industry tends to lump them together and call them the ‘song rights’ or, more commonly, the ‘publishing rights’.

If you then make a recording of that song you create a totally different copyright – the ‘sound recording right’ – or what is often called the ‘master right’.

The music rights industry – so that bit of the music business that’s deals in content rather than gigs – can be split into two. The record industry monetises the copyright in sound recordings, while the music publishers manage and monetise the copyright in songs.

This means that, although many musicians both write and record music, and thus create both songs and recordings, they will often have two separate deals around their copyright: one with a record company covering recording rights and one with a music publisher covering song rights.

It used to be that the record industry and the publishing sector were quite different. Record companies primarily pressed the recordings they controlled onto plastic disks and sold them on the high street.

Publishers did once publish sheet music of the songs they owned – which is why we call them publishers – but for a long time music publishing has been more about ‘licensing’. Which is to say, giving permission to other people who want to make use of your songs – so press them to CD, or sync them to video, or broadcast them on the radio, or perform them in public – in return for money.

Though, as everything has shifted to digital, record companies are increasingly in the licensing game too, giving permission to download stores and streaming platforms to allow their recordings to be downloaded and streamed. Just like the music publishers.

Which is why some people reckon that labels and publishers should work more closely together (many are actually in common ownership), and that singer-songwriters should work with one music rights company on all their copyrights.

But there is still plenty that is different between publishers and labels – and songs versus recordings – and how the different music rights work. And if you are a songwriter you definitely need to understand how this side of the industry works and, most importantly, how to get every penny you are due as a creator of song copyrights.

Which brings us to the next Urban Development Industry Takeover Seminar with CMU:DIY, which puts the spotlight on all things music publishing: syncs, co-writes, performing rights, PRS, MCPS and all the ways songs make money. Come and join the debate!

You can check out the slides from the CMU:DIY talk that kick-started the proceedings below or download them as a PDF by clicking here.

For information about other Urban Development programmes CLICK HERE, and for updates on future CMU:DIY events sign up to the CMU Daily HERE.