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Music Publisher

Music that is played and recorded is also published. Songs and musical compositions are managed by music publishers who focus on building a catalogue of songs or musical compositions by discovering new writers or by acquiring the rights to existing songs or compositions.

A music publisher pays the songwriter or composer a percentage of the earnings resulting from a variety of uses of their songs or compositions, including recordings, public performance, production of printed music and the use of music by other users, including filmmakers and advertisers.

Those working in music publishing may be concerned with:

  • artists and repertoire (A&R), finding new writing talent and pitching (promoting) songs to people that use music commercially, including recording companies, filmmakers, broadcasters and advertisers
  • rights administration, covering the contract and legal side of publishing, including registering copyright and taking action when copyright is infringed
  • production and editorial, commissioning new music, editing, proofreading and converting edited manuscripts into printed music
  • sales and marketing, including planning and implementing marketing campaigns, liaising with music dealers and organising promotional events
  • accounts and royalties, dealing with the financial aspects of the business, tracking the use of music and collecting royalties and fees.

Music publishers typically work office hours, Monday to Friday. Publishers seeking out new talent may work much longer hours, attending evening events and travelling.

Salaries range from between £12,000 to more than £60,000 for the most experienced music publishers.

A music publisher should have:

  • an excellent ear for music
  • thorough knowledge of musical notation
  • good judgment and understanding of what might appeal to particular audiences
  • negotiating skills and a head for business
  • a good grasp of copyright law
  • an interest in the changing trends in new music.

Many publisher positions are in London. Employers range from major publishers to independent and specialist publishers.

There is no one route into this type of work. BTEC Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), foundation degrees and degrees related to the music industry are available. Creative Apprenticeships can provide a route into music publishing. Experience in a related field like event organisation can be helpful.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant.

Training is mostly on the job and involves building up knowledge, experience and contacts. Experienced music publishers can move into managerial roles or self-employment.

What is the work like?

Music that is played and recorded is also published. Songs and musical compositions are managed by music publishers, in partnership with songwriters and composers, rather than by the artists who record them. Music publishers focus on building a catalogue of songs or musical compositions by discovering new writers or by acquiring the rights to existing songs or compositions.

Once a piece of music has been published it can be tracked for royalty payments due to songwriters and composers from sales, radio play or commercial use, such as featuring in a TV advertisement. A music publisher pays the songwriter or composer a percentage of the earnings resulting from a variety of uses of their songs or compositions, including recordings, public performance, production of printed music.

Music publishing involves several specialist areas. Publishers may be involved in one or several. Artists and repertoire (A&R), involves talent spotting and promoting the careers of songwriters and composers, including:

  • actively searching for new talent at concerts and gigs or by listening to demos sent in by artists and agents and signing up new writing talent
  • pairing up composers, who create the melodies, with lyricists or librettists, who write the words, to work together
  • pitching (promoting) songs to various users of music and responding to briefs issued by recording companies, in the hope that a recording artist will use an existing song or commission a songwriter to create a song for the artist in question
  • networking with commercial users of music, such as advertisers or broadcasters, to exploit opportunities for the publisher's music to be used.

Rights administration, covering the contracting and legal side of publishing may involve:

  • drawing up publishing agreements between publishers and songwriters
  • licensing the use of music
  • registering new works with the PRS for Music
  • liaising with international sub-publishers and overseas royalty collections agencies
  • taking legal action when copyright is infringed, for example, when any part of a composition is used without a licence.

Production and editorial, involving commissioning and publishing of new music includes:

  • reading manuscript scores received and deciding whether editing or rewriting is required
  • converting edited manuscripts into printed music using notational programmes
  • liaising with designers and printers
  • editing and proofreading the text and music
  • developing a catalogue of published music.

Sales and marketing, covering the distribution, sale and hire of music includes:

  • planning and implementing marketing campaigns for printed music products
  • liaising with music dealers
  • organising promotional events and circulating information to the media
  • managing a hire library and loans of music to performing organisations
  • invoicing, stock control and warehousing
  • licensing live performances.

Accounts and royalties, dealing with financial aspects of the business involves:

  • tracking the use of music, collecting royalties and fees
  • distributing the royalties to writers, composers and sub-publishers
  • preparing and analysing profit and loss statements, and balance sheets
  • payroll and credit administration
  • collecting and preparing statistics.

Hours and environment

Music publishers typically work regular office hours, Monday to Friday. Publishers seeking out new talent may work much longer hours, attending evening events and travelling widely.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Starting salaries in junior roles can range from between £12,000 and £16,000 a year.
  • Graduate trainees may earn between £18,000 and £20,000 a year.
  • After a few years' experience, music publishers may earn up to £40,000 a year.
  • Experienced music publishers can earn £60,000 or more a year.

Many music publishers work on a self-employed or contract basis.

Skills and personal qualities

A music publisher needs:

  • an excellent ear for music
  • thorough knowledge of musical notation
  • good judgment and understanding of what might appeal to particular audiences
  • negotiating skills and a head for business
  • the ability to juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines
  • self-motivation
  • the ability to network with people of all backgrounds
  • a good grasp of copyright law.

Interests

It helps to have an interest in:

  • changing trends in new music
  • the wider music industry and other creative professions
  • specialist musical genres.

Getting in

The largest major UK music publishers are Warner/Chappell, EMI, Universal and Sony/ATV. There are also hundreds of independents, for instance Chrysalis, peermusic and Mute Song, and specialist publishers for virtually every genre of music.

Many positions for music publishers are in London. It can be difficult to enter this occupation as jobs are often advertised by word of mouth. The Music Publishers Association (MPA) posts jobs on its website. Some music publishers begin their careers at PRS for Music.

Entry routes

There is no one route into this type of work and no specific qualifications are needed.

Employers often value practical work experience more than qualifications. Formal musical training may be an advantage when applying to a classical publisher.

BTEC Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), foundation degrees and degrees in music-related subjects are relevant. A degree or postgraduate qualification in music industry management may provide wider industry knowledge. The Music Education Directory lists music-focused courses and entry requirements.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

Other routes in could include:

  • finding work placements with record companies or music PR agencies
  • promoting local bands
  • organising and promoting local gigs
  • writing music reviews for local or student press
  • getting involved in student or community radio.

Experience in a related area like public relations, event organisation or advertising could also help. Knowledge of accounts and contract law is also valuable.

The MPA runs four induction courses each year for those new to, or seeking to enter, the music publishing business. Lasting one and a half days, these are designed to provide a general overview of the music publishing industry.

Training

Training is mostly on the job and involves building on knowledge, experience and contacts that have already been acquired.

The MPA, with the Music Managers Forum (MMF), runs a joint music publishing development programme. This comprises five modules, each run over two evenings a week, providing practical information about the current music industry. Members of MPA can also benefit from specialist seminars.

Getting on

With experience, a music publisher could move into a managerial role. It is possible for music publishers with enough contacts and experience to become self-employed. Overseas employment may be possible.

Further information

BPI, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7JA. 020 7803 1300. Website: www.bpi.co.uk

Creative and Cultural Skills, Lafone House, The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN. 020 7015 1800. Websites: www.creative-choices.co.uk and www.ccskills.org.uk

Music Managers Forum. Website: www.themmf.net

Music Publishers Association (MPA), 6th Floor, British Music House, 26 Berners Street, London W1T 3LR. 020 7580 0126. Website: www.mpaonline.org.uk

PRS for Music, Copyright House, 29-33 Berners Street, London W1T 3AB. 020 7580 5544. Website: www.prsformusic.com

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

 

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