Publishing rights – the often forgotten source of revenue

What you'll learn in this post:
  • Why you miss out on a large part of the revenue generated by stores like Spotify if you don't register with a collecting society
  • What share of streaming revenue is distributed to songwriters

In the last post, we showed you what the so-called master rights entail. In this one, we will focus on the publishing rights. These go to the lyricists/songwriters and composers of a song and are therefore often shared between multiple parties. The revenues generated from publishing rights are forwarded to the artist either via a copyright collective or their distributor if they have a contract with one.

As we have highlighted in another post, the artist receives money when their song, for instance, comes on the radio, gets played in a bar, or is performed in a concert (remember this?). However, many artists forget that streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc. forward a portion of the generated revenues directly to the copyright collective or publisher, as well.

Here’s a concrete example: Let’s assume that Spotify paid 10,000 $ to your distributor for your song. This is therefore your share of the master rights. For the same song, however, Spotify also paid around 3,000 Euros to your copyright collective. If you’re not a member there and don’t have your song registered, you’re missing out on a significant part of the revenues that you are due.

Spotify keeps a third of the generated revenues, around half is paid out to the owners of the master rights, and a decent 13.3-16.6% go to the songwriters and composers. Other sources say that only around 10.5% are paid to the publishers and 52% to the master rights, while a significant 37.5% remains with Spotify. But these numbers are rather difficult to verify.

Master Rights50 - 53,3%
Publishing Rights13,3 - 16,6%

Most of the time there are multiple people involved in the lyrics and composition of a song. You should therefore come to an agreement on the distribution of the revenues well in advance and lodge the document with the copyright collective.

As we have previously shown, you’ll need a lot of streams to be able to live off them. It is therefore all the more important that you make sure to collect every single revenue that you are due.