What is a Music Publisher?

A music publisher is fundamentally responsible for licensing and administering the composition copyrights of songwriters. An important distinction to note is the difference between a composition copyright and a sound recording copyright. A composition copyright pertains to the collection of notes, melodies, phrases, rhythms, lyrics, and/or harmonies that make up the essence of the work. A sound recording copyright pertains to a particular expression of the underlying composition, produced and recorded by the recording artist.

Publishers vary in size: some are small, independent boutique firms and some are branches of multinational corporations.

Our guide includes detailed descriptions of the inner workings of the typical music publisher, an outline of the different types of publishing deals a songwriter may encounter, and some historical background and context as to how the music publishing industry came to look the way it does today.

Check out some of our other guides on music industry topics at Exploration Learn, or subscribe to our YouTube channel for more information.

In this newsletter:

The IMPF (Independent Music Publishers International Forum) released its fourth edition of the Global Market View, sponsored by Musixmatch, focusing on the independent music publishing industry's international impact.

The RIAA highlighted the impressive growth of Latin music in the U.S., citing a 20.7% year-over-year increase in paid streaming revenue, totaling $915.4 million for 2023.

The annual IMS Business Report, presented at the International Music Summit in Ibiza, revealed that the global electronic music industry continued its strong growth in 2023, with revenues increasing by 17%, reaching a total value of $11.8 billion.

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - April 26, 2024
Compiled by Ana Berberana

IMPF: Independent Music Publishing Sector Valued at €2.4 Billion

IMPF (Independent Music Publishers International Forum) has published the fourth edition of its Global Market View for the sector. Sponsored by Musixmatch, the report looks at the independent music publishing industry and its international impact and position. The latest report covers 2022, which is the last full year of data available. The report also cites case studies and trends from 2023 for France, Canada, India, Germany, and the USA. According to the IMPF study, the independent music publishing sector grew by 16.8% in value year-on-year to €2.43 billion in 2022, although there was a slight drop in market share from 27.1% to 26.7%. The figure represents revenues that go through the network of music publishers around the world, and does not include monies paid to songwriters and composers directly from the collective management system. The independent music publishing sector taken as a whole remains bigger than the biggest music publishing company, Sony Music Publishing, based on the report’s findings from multiple datasets. Revenues for the independent music publishing sector doubled in the five years up to 2022, from €1.25 billion to €2.43 billion. Estimates for 2023 suggest that the growth rate of the publishing sector is going to be at minimum 8-12%, and may be more depending on the state of the sync market after the Hollywood strikes. In addition, the major video streaming platforms have announced a slowing down of their investment in new content, which will have an impact on the sync business. Revenues are set to be positively impacted by the rise in subscription rates implemented during the year by all the major streaming services.

Latin Music Recorded Revenue Approached $1.4 Billion in the U.S. Last Year Amid Double-Digit Streaming Growth, Report Shows

The RIAA today shed light on the latest datapoints behind the quick-expanding genre’s stateside performance. For reference, this past October had seen Luminate identify a 22.2% year-over-year (YoY) spike in on-demand Latin music streams in the U.S. through 2023’s initial 34 weeks. And in keeping with that stat and other pertinent U.S. sales data, the RIAA pointed to a 20.7% YoY improvement in Latin’s paid streaming revenue, totaling $915.4 million, for all of 2023. Accompanying that estimated-retail-value sum on the year was $336.3 million in ad-supported on-demand streaming revenue (up 10.4% YoY), according to the relevant analysis, with an estimated $46 million in SoundExchange distributions (up 8% YoY) for Latin as well. Furthermore, Latin’s U.S. recorded revenue attributable to other ad-supported streaming sources yet finished at $31 million (up 1.6% YoY), the RIAA indicated. Cumulative streaming revenue made up a whopping 98.3% of the genre’s overall revenue for 2023, when the sale of physical Latin releases like vinyl ($6.9 million) and CDs ($1.6 million) slipped 31.2% YoY. Factoring also for the limited-in-scope sync category ($4.5 million, down 14.6% YoY) and permanent downloads ($9.9 million, down 14.7% YoY), north of 99% of Latin music’s 2023 U.S. revenue derived from digital, the breakdown shows. And as a portion of total stateside recorded revenue – which has itself been climbing for some time – Latin accounted for 7.9% in 2023, up from 7.3% in 2022 and 5.5% in 2020, per the report. Addressing the results, RIAA SVP of public policy and Latin music Rafael Fernandez Jr. noted the “new generation of stars” fueling the genre’s commercial expansion. “Latin music has exploded in the U.S. over the last decade as a new generation of stars boosts the genre and streaming puts this dynamic sector at everyone’s fingertips,” the RIAA exec of more than 23 years said in part. “No longer limited by language, access or outdated assumptions – Latin artists are shaping our culture as fans gravitate towards the spirit of this music, propelling faster growth than all other listening and expanding our horizons further every year.” Predictably, a number of industry players are working to capitalize on Latin’s growing revenue not only in the States, but on the global stage.

Global Dance Music Industry Saw Strong Growth in 2023

The annual IMS Business Report was launched at the International Music Summit in Ibiza yesterday. Now in its tenth edition, it found that the global electronic music industry continued to build on 2022’s strong growth last year, with revenues up 17% in 2023. The report values the industry at $11.8 billion. “2022 was an unusual year, in that it reflected the post-pandemic bounce back effect for live”, says the report’s author Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research. “There was a risk that 2023 would struggle to live up to those inflated expectations, but instead the electronic music industry grew strongly once again, with impressive growth across virtually all of its constituent parts”. “What is more, electronic music culture grew its fanbases faster than other leading genres, in part due to the rapid rise of African music and fans, illustrating the growing cultural footprint of electronic music culture and its vibrant global scenes”, he adds. Nearly half of electronic music revenues came from festivals and clubs, the report finds. Following that, the next biggest contributor, at around 25%, is hardware and software. Recorded music saw growth last year, with physical and streaming both up 10%, and that trend was particularly pronounced in the independent sector, with indie labels increasing their market share to 31%.

US Independent Vinyl Retailers Call For End to Artist/Label D2C Pre-Sell Exclusivity Windows

The independent vinyl retail community in the United States has called for an end to the practice of direct-to-consumer pre-sell exclusivity windows. A pre-sell exclusivity window is described as when an artist or label’s website “is the first and only destination upon album announcement” where fans can pre-order an upcoming new album on vinyl. According to the retailers, the practice can decrease the demand for LPs at retail – with independent retailers “disproportionately affected” by the practice because “they often lack the resources and negotiating power to compete with larger chains or online platforms”. In an Open Letter calling for an end to the practice, the US independent record store community and the US independent record label community, write that it “undermines the principles of fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility that are fundamental to the spirit of music itself”. The letter, printed in full below, reads: “By restricting pre-sale opportunities to yourselves, record labels create a two-tiered system that privileges certain consumers over others.” The letter adds: “This not only fosters feelings of exclusion and frustration among music enthusiasts but also perpetuates inequalities within the industry. “Independent retailers, in particular, are disproportionately affected by this practice, as they often lack the resources and negotiating power to compete with larger chains or online platforms.”

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