publishing agreement terms
1. The amount of songs/compositions the writer is expected to deliver
during a specific period and that the writer is signed exclusively to
the publisher. This is usually tied to a specific product i.e., an
album of X songs written by the composer and/or co-writers
2. An Initial Period - usually 1 year with options to extend if the
songs have not been delivered, recorded or released, depending on the
wording of the contract.
3. Exclusive Extensions and Options - which will include further
minimum commitments and time periods. If signing to the publishing arm
of a record company these terms may reflect those in the deal and both
may co-terminate at the same time.
4. The territories and period during which the Publisher may control
and exploit the songs delivered in the agreement. 10 - 15 years or
shorter for successful writers is pretty standard, the shorter the
better as at the end of term the songs are returned to the writer who
can then choose to exploit the songs themselves or assign them to a new
5. A retention period for songs delivered to the publisher and not
exploited during a reasonable period of time should be included which
then allows these particular works copyrights to be returned to the
6. Territories is the term for the right to publish in various
countries. Assuming negotiation is possible the writer may wish to sign
agreements with other publishers or set up their own publishing
operation in certain countries.
7. Royalties to be paid to the writer and the basis that these are
calculated. This can be either a percentage of 'gross' or 'net'
receipts. If the publisher will only agree to pay on the 'net' receipts
received in the UK it is usually possible to negotiate a percentage of
the gross retained by sub-publishers will be set at a reasonable level,
otherwise the writer who shares the income will not receive very much!
8. Percentage of Royalties - for most writers this ranges between 60%
and 80% of gross income which also applies to the publishers share of
performance income. 50% of gross performance income is also paid direct
from PRS if the songwriting performer is a member. These figures are
reduced in the case of 'cover' versions (songs not recorded by the
writer as an artist), although there are exceptions to this.
9. Advances - this is an income paid to the writer, sometimes in
instalments, in advance of receiving royalties on songs written. These
reflect delivery and release of a product similar to a record deal
although there are other alternatives, i.e., instalments linked to
signing a publishing deal and/or record deal. The publishers advance is
repaid only when royalties are received from exploitation of the
product, if it doesn't sell the writer will often be expected to repay
the advance at the termination of contract depending on the terms of
10. The definition of an acceptable record deal should make provision
for signing with alternative companies other than the five majors.
11. The waiving of moral rights and full assignment of the copyright in
the songs subject to the agreement by the writer to the publisher.
Clauses should be included to prevent usage of work which has been
detrimentally and materially changed, i.e., the addition of parodic,
lewd or derogatory words to the original lyrics.
12. Publishers Obligations - Vague wording to the effect that the
publisher will use reasonable endeavours to exploit the songs delivered
by the writer are pretty standard as most publishers like to keep their
contractual obligations to a minimum! Occasionally a publisher will
agree to provide home studio equipment, demo facilities, tour support or
large equipment costs but any expenses like these are expected to be
recoupable. a) Registration of works to worldwide collecting
societies to ensure collection of income should be undertaken by the
publisher on behalf