How easy is it for a songwriter to self publish?
Do you own a guitar? Do you know someone who owns a guitar? If you can answer either of these questions with a “yes” you have enough musical knowledge to be a publisher.
One of the advantages of self publishing is the relatively low cost of basic supplies. A common mistake of a songwriter attempting to start their own publishing company is to go overboard with office supplies and equipment. Songwriter/performer John Prine was once asked what it takes to establish your own record label. He told to the questioner that “You should go forty miles into the desert and find a large rock, place both hands on the rock and state ‘I AM A RECORD LABEL.'” This may seem sacrilegious, but the same procedure will work for starting your own publishing company. If you don’t have a nearby desert and rock the kitchen will do.
The copyright: own your song
Most songwriters and publishers don’t go through the paperwork of registering a copyright until a song has been recorded or performed nationally. Once a song is recorded, though, it’s required that you register a copyright and deposit two copies of the song with the Library of Congress. It’s up to you to decide if you want to send the money to register a copyright even before you start pitching your song, or if you trust those you’ll be submitting songs to.
You will have total ownership and control of the copyright unless you sign over the publishing of your song to another publisher. Most publishers will ask for all the publishing on a song.
How royalties work:
Once you own your song through copyright you can receive royalties where each time someone uses your song you get a percentage the income.
You’ll receive all the writer’s share of the song’s royalties, and the publisher will receive all the publisher’s share (usually its a 50/50 split of the songs total income).
In a co-publishing deal, you may own a percentage of the publisher’s share, but usually the other publishing company will still want to control the copyright. In as administration deal, you act as your own publisher so you own and control all the copyright yourself. You just hire an administration firm to perform certain services for a percentage of the song’s revenue (but you don’t give up a percentage of copyright ownership in this case.)
Taken from: “How to Pitch and Promote Your Songs,” by Fred Koller.