Music Publishing: The Basics

What is a Publisher?

A publisher, first of all, makes sure that all works by a composer are registered with the collecting societies all over the world, so that there's protection for their copyright. The second thing they will do is arrange for the score and parts to be available for hire, and where appropriate, for sale. These days, most publishers would expect a young composer to be able to use Sibelius (or other programmes), and to present a score in a form that the publisher can use to publish or to print scores and extract parts. If you have a publishing agreement as opposed to just assigning each work to the publisher as they come up, then proceeds are usually split 50/50 in some form or another.

– Sally Groves, Director of Schott Music

The role of a classical music publisher is to make the music it publishes available, whether it is for sale or for hire, and to thereby generate and increase usages of this music, creating income for itself and for its composers. This mainly includes live performances, both of concert works and operas, and also choreographies, broadcasts and what is known as synchronisations (which covers music being used as soundtrack to films, TV programmes and advertisements) and audio and audio-visual recordings (distributed via traditional physical media such as CD or DVD, or via non-terrestrial media such as the internet, ringtones, etc).

Publishers support composers by increasing the various types of usage of their music, and also by editing and note-setting scores and performing materials for their works, and by registering their works with collecting societies and ensuring payment of royalty income.

– Emma Kerr, Head of Promotion at Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers


For further information on music publishing consult the MPA: Music Publishing Association

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