1. Who is the publisher?
Research who the publisher is, remembering that publishing income is far more difficult to collect than record income. It is vitally important that your publisher is a reputable company able to continue paying income over many years.
2. How long is the contract for?
Do not enter into a publishing agreement for a period longer than five years. The terms of an agreement will need to be reconsidered every so often in view of the writer's success. If possible only enter into an agreement for a period of three years although this will in effect, be one year plus two one year options.
3. What sort of publishing advances can the songwriter or composer expect to be paid?
The advances should reflect an accurate estimate of the income due to the artist normally over the next 12 months. If an artist has secured an album deal it will be higher than if the artist had secured a singles deal. The publisher is effectively advancing the income that will be expected on royalty payments to the artist through the release of recorded material.
4. How much money will a publisher take in royalty income?
a)The royalties should be a fair and accurate split; the norm today is 75% for the writer and 25% for the publisher. Royalties split 50-50 is not acceptable and are a hangover from a less regulated era.
b) Understand fully how royalties are calculated at source it means that when £1 is earned throughout the world the writer receives 75p.
However, if royalties are calculated on a receipts basis and the publisher has entered into a 75/25 split with its sub-publisher (even if it is a company the publisher owns completely) then the songwriter will receive is 75% of 75% - that is 56.25p in the pound.
5. When will the writer get the full rights to her/his music back?
Consider the retentions. Songs last for the writer's life plus 70 years and it is very important that writers get their songs back at some point so that they can enter into new agreements and maximise potential income. Songs are a writer's pension. Many songs which seem to have no real value after their initial success come back years later and are of considerable value. A 10 to 15 year retention period is fair, some publishing companies require longer, but you should not agree to a life of a copyright deal.
6. What control does the writer have over her/his work?
Deal with creative controls in a publishing deal as you have in a record contract. You want to ensure that the writer's work is not altered, amended or modified without permission. Ensure sync licenses (the right to put the music on film, TV) are not granted without the writer's permission. Impose controls on the publisher to ensure they register each song in each territory in order to protect them.
7. How can an artist ensure the right to the debut performance of his/her own song?
Contractual controls make sure that the publisher abides by any control composition clause and requirements for the granting of sync licenses imposed by the record company and that the publisher will grant to the writer's own record company a first mechanical license without the writer's permission. This will ensure the writer always has his or her own work available to him/her.
8. Who keeps track of the money?
Deal with accounting provisions as per the record company – it is very important in publishing agreements that the source of all income is easily identifiable.