So, this piece is going to be informational – about what I’ve learned of publishing deals, the benefits (and consequences) of having one, etc., etc. As I go on writing and cranking out songs that I think have potential in the country realm – or even in another realm that simple isn’t my type of music – the idea of having a channel of selling and ultimately bringing these songs into being becomes all the more enticing. Enter the publishing deal.
Before I dive into what a publishing deal can offer, I’ll tell you what you’ve got to do without one: co-write with people who do. Sure, there are ways to be independent and sell your songs freelance, but at the end of the day, it comes down to getting those demos into the hands of artists or the people who make decisions for those artists. One major benefit of a publishing deal is having people called, “pushers,” on your side and willing to pitch your song to those aforementioned important people. Otherwise, you could have written the best song anyone’s ever heard, but with no one accepting unsolicited submissions and no one listening to the new kid on the block, it’s pretty likely that no one will ever hear it. Connections, connections, connections.
With that being said, one major downside of a publishing deal is the percentage the publishing company gets for their services – especially if you don’t lawyer up and have someone actually review the deal before you get involved. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting wrapped up into deals where all they get is an advance – which is stable income in an unstable financial market – and maybe a sliver of the royalties earned on a song, while the publishing company gets the rest. But, I think if you enter into meetings with the mindset that businesses are out for themselves, you can usually come out with a deal that benefits you both.
Money aside, there are things that publishing companies offer that are just simply unattainable on your own – the main one being those, “connections, connections, connections,” I mentioned earlier. I’ve heard a few cases now where artists are actually being developed by these companies, which involves everything from co-writes with big names to setting up shows in well-known venues, and it all comes from the weight of the name. It’s everything in Nashville – where number-one hits can be bought, artists can be produced, and pitch can be tuned.
I did try to keep this short and sweet, so I could highlight the benefits and the major consequences of having or not having a deal. As a sort of exercise for myself, it’s good to write through these things and view them in a tangible sort of way because it’s easy to get swept off your feet in this town by promises of fame, money, success – or whatever – and never see those things come into being. Clarity is key when contracts are involved, and whether you remain a freelance writer or sign up to be on a company’s payroll, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into and if it’s right for you – if it fits into your goals and your path through music.