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The Best Music Publishing Companies Of 2020 & How To Pick One

Photograph of the blog post author, Shamarley Fontaine

Shamarley Fontaine

20.3.2020

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You’re a songwriter! You’ve perfected every note and harmony to the highest standard. Now, you’re ready to share your music with the world through the avenue of a music publishing company. As a songwriter, you will spend the majority of your time creating music. It would be great if you had the time to write, keep on top of promotion and look for gigging opportunities. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. At this stage in your career, we recommend working with a music publishing company to give yourself the best chance of getting your music heard and protected correctly. Keep reading for a list of the best music publishing companies.

Building Your Platform

Social media platforms on a computer screen

Building a fanbase and establishing yourself as an artist is an important foundation before finding a music publisher. For example, let’s say you’ve got a YouTube channel, are working hard on social media. You have a SoundCloud page and have developed a fanbase, who are dedicated to you as an artist and your style of music. You’re getting comments, likes and shares. You’ve been gigging locally and maybe had your work played on independent radio stations. You’ve got a reasonable amount of music that has created interest and has potential to be taken on professionally. 

The feedback you receive in the early stages as a songwriter is a key indicator of your audience. Those listening, liking and sharing are vital in who becomes your fanbase as you create more music. These are the insights that you can use when searching for the right publisher. Plus, the engagement from your fans can be used to get your foot in the door with a publisher.

What Is A Music Publishing Company? What Does A Music Publisher Do?

A music publishing company takes care of all the publishing rights for your music. This includes finding opportunities for your music and making sure that you get paid for it.

A music publisher’s concern is that of the artist and their work. This ranges from the artist’s development to the music that is created. Music publishers deal with the business side, so that the artist can focus solely on creating the music. The business side includes things such as income. How will you be paid as an artist when your work is distributed and streamed throughout the world? For more on what music publishing means and what a music publisher does, have a look at this beginner’s guide to music publishing!

A girl with long curly hair holding a dollar she earned from a music publishing company

Income

Artists are paid through royalties, which are distributed according to whoever was involved in creating the song. Can you imagine spending lots of time in the studio or the basement or garage of a friend’s house creating beats? I imagine your answer was yes. Now, can you also imagine getting paid for it? Having a music publisher makes that possible. 

Artists are usually registered through PRS For Music, which is a UK Performing Right Organisation. They ‘pay royalties to their members when their work is performed, broadcasted, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public or used in film and TV’. In the US, this is ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. The publishers will liaise with these companies or your behalf. After all, you are the artist… so all you have to do is create beautiful music – all of this serious stuff is what music publishers do. That’s a reassurance when all you want to do is focus on the creative side, right?

Licensing

There is also the side of publishing which includes licensing. This involves monitoring where your music is used and that those who use it have the correct permissions in place. This ensures that they are legally allowed to distribute or play your music in terms of what has been agreed. If your music is not used as agreed, music publishers have the power to take appropriate action.

Orange wall with orange speaker or megaphone

Promotion

Music publishers also deal with the promotions of a songwriters’ work. This includes composers, performers, broadcasters, record companies, and ‘others who use your music on a commercial basis both nationally and internally’.

That’s a whole range of services! Most songwriters know how valuable music publishers are, but it’s important to find one that is right for you. Don’t forget that you also need to be right for them, as they will be helping with the business side of your creativity. Music publishers need to be able to sustain both you and themselves in this partnership.

The glitz of the services and the glamorous website can be alluring and eye-catching. The artists they represent can be enticing – but what can they provide for you? Are you what each other are looking for?

Which Company Is Right For You And Your Music?

So, you’ve got interest from fans, a steady following and music that you’re ready to share. Let’s now establish which type of publisher would be best for you.

Majors, Mini-Majors & Independents

Skyscrapers during the day: Major, Mini-major and independent music publishers

There are 3 main types of music publishing companies:

  • Majors: Large company affiliated with or financed by one of the three major record companies (Warner Music Group, Sony BMG or Universal Music Group).
  • Mini-Majors: Smaller, independent companies, but with distribution through a major.
  • Independents: Smaller companies that are 100% individually operated, with independent distribution.

On top of this you also have…

Music Publishing Administration Company

A Music Publishing Admin company is responsible for administering, registering and licensing compositions and collecting publishing royalties on behalf of the songwriter.  Under an Administration Deal, the copyright in the compositions remains with the original creators of the compositions (i.e. the songwriters). Essentially with a publishing admin deal, you usually get to keep all of your rights and creative freedom. In return, the publisher is slightly less hands-on and you give up getting an advance, but pay much less out of your royalties. (Usually only about 10-15% instead of the traditional publishing company figure of around 25-30%)

Now it’s time to look at some music publishing companies.

The Search For Music Publishing Companies

Men sat at a wooden desk with pen paper and smart watched on a Music Publisher search

There are numerous music publishing companies to choose from. It can be daunting going on a music publisher search and wondering if you’re looking in the right places. Also, how can you be certain that they’ll do what they say they will? Obviously we will give you a handful of some of the best music publishers available in a second. However, if you don’t find what you’re looking for once you’ve reached the end of this article, you can always look in the directory of the Music Publishers Association (or MPA) in the UK or the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) in America. 

It can be hard to know where to start when finding a company. Maybe you’ve done a few Google searches but are lost in all the glory of what music publishers can offer. Well, stop the search as we’ve compiled a list for you. Take a look below at what we consider to be the best music publishing companies of 2020.

The Best Music Publishers Of 2020

Below, we have compiled a list of music publishing companies that we consider to be some of the best in the publishing business. This includes both major and independent music publishing companies and gives an overview of what they offer artists. Each company has been given a rating out of ten for the services they provide. 

Wixen Music Publishing

Wixen music publishing logo  in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Wixen is the first of our admin music publishers in this list. This makes them a good choice for those of you that don’t need an advance and want some more creative freedom. Like many companies, they offer a variety of services including neighbouring Rights Collection and a detailed royalty review. 

Wixen’s musical catalogue includes UB40, Missy Elliot, T-Bone Walker, The Doors and The Beach Boys.

If this is a company that you feel your music would be suitably placed with, the best way to approach them would be via their contact section, which is featured in the ‘About’ tab. Click on the ‘Becoming a client’ link and fill in the required details to get started.

Make sure to have an updated CV with all your musical experience, and a completed list of songs and recordings (links from your Soundcloud Page, YouTube channel would be appropriate here), as Wixen require this information for you to be considered.

Rating: 5/10

Atlas Music Publishing

Atlas music publishing logo  in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Atlas defines a clear mission statement of what they can provide to their clients. They say ‘Like the mythological figure Atlas, music has the power to truly lift up the world’.

This shows a passion and love for music and its creators. With such a significant introduction, Atlas portrays itself as a company that not only has a love for music, but for its artists and what they create. The company clearly believes that their work should make a positive difference. 

They pride themselves on attentive client service and high-tech operations to ensure protection and efficient income collection. They also offer what they call their “Jet Stream” system to keep an eye on and understand exactly what they’re doing for their clients. On top of that, their accounting is quarterly instead of the standard half-year with most other publishing companies. This means you get more up to date statements as well as more regular payments.

Atlas boasts impressive clients such as Quincy Jones, John Denver, The Black Eyed Peas Above and Beyond, and the one and only Elvis Presley. It’s clear how much effort they put into getting your music recognised through their marketing and media channels.

Looking at the artists that they represent, and the service that they provide, the best way to contact them would be via email. As with any music publishing company you approach, make sure to give them general information as well as musical experience, providing links to your catalogue of music and performances and why you think they should represent you. 

Reference artists you have listened to that they represent, and how your music fits within their catalogue.  

Rating: 6/10

Kobalt Music Publishing

Kobalt music publishing logo in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Kobalt is an admin publisher that pride themselves on paying their members more money, faster. According to them, this is all thanks to their unrivaled technology which also means they have more transparency when it comes to finding out what’s happening with your music.

Kobalt represents artists such as Zayn Malik, Marshmello, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. They offer not only music publishing, but music recording and neighbouring rights. Kobalt represents more than 40% of the top 100 songs and albums in the US and UK, so they are definitely an impressive company to enquire about.

Kobalt works the music releases of their clients early to find opportunities to place music in advertisements, TV shows, video games, films, and movie trailers. This goes to show how involved and proactive this company is in regards to getting your music out there! They also have over 50 sync and brand experts across the world, which shows their vast music contacts and placement within the industry.

On top of that, Kobalt Music Group owns AWAL, which you may also be familiar with as a different approach to a record label, offering some of the best record label services.

To send you music here for review, visit the contact page on their website and fill out your details in the form provided, including links to where your music can be found and listened to.

Rating: 7/10

Downtown Music Publishing 

Downtown music publishing logo in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Downtown represents popular music from all around the world and has nearly 100 years of experience of doing so. They aren’t afraid to embrace new technological ways to place music. Staying relevant and moving with the times is important to them, which is beneficial to the artists that they represent. They also have direct relationships with music streaming platforms.

Downtown’s vast catalogue of clients includes John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Shaggy and Naughty Boy. They offer a range of services – from dealing with an artist’s finances and royalty payments to marketing, creative services and career development.

However, Downtown doesn’t accept what is considered ‘unsolicited submissions of material’. This means that they only accept music which they have requested. Therefore, it is a good idea to send them your personal information, as well as the type of music you produce without adding any links. If you are someone that they are interested in having as part of their roster, then they will get back in touch with you and request links to your work.

Rating: 9/10

Sony ATV Music Publishing 

Sony/ATV music publishing lgo makes it into Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Sony ATV is one of the largest music publishers in the world. Like most publishing companies, Sony’s music publishing company works internationally, with offices in the UK, USA, China, and various other parts of the world. The type of music they support covers multiple genres, including Pop, Rock and Country. Their eclectic catalogue is clearly defined with each artist’s work. You can preview the work to give you a feel of what they do, and how well your music would fit. 

On top of their own catalogue they’ve built over the years, Sony also acquired most of EMI’s catalogue. EMI Music Publishing used to be a multinational music publishing company before it was sold to Sony among others in 2012 due to debt. Sony/ATV took over the company completely in 2018 and so now own the majority of EMI music publishing’s past catalogue, including Alan Jackson, ABC, Ashford and Simpson, The Beatles, ASAP Rocky and Camila Cabello.

Rating: 9/10

Concord Music Publishing

concord music publishing logo comes out second in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Concord has a catalogue of over 12,000 active music albums, and 390,000 copyrighted works. They specialise in all musical genres, and also deal with theatrical musical works. 

Their artists include Common, Evanescence, Esperanza Spalding, Ghost, Elvis Costello and many more. Like Downtown, BMI and Universal, Concord has a vast music vista in terms of the artists that they work with, that make them a company that you would love to be a part of.

As with Downtown, unsolicited material is not accepted. It would be a good idea to give them a call and ask them what would be the best way to send your material, or if they are looking for new artists to add to their catalogue.

Rating: 9/10

Universal Music Publishing Group

Universal music publishing group logo comes out top in Music Gateway's list of music publishing companies

Universal music publishing is another publishing company from a major record label. Their selling point is that they invest in their artists at every stage of their careers and strive to provide the most creative and commercial opportunities possible. They also say to provide UMG artists with the latest technology to keep track of the performances of their music, both financially and from a marketing perspective. UMG says they do this through ongoing investment in this area. They clearly find transparency and access to updates important.

They represent an eclectic list of artists, such as Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Florence + the Machine, Adele, Ariana Grande, Post Malone and Taylor Swift.

There is no direct form to fill in for Universal as they don’t openly look for new artists to sign. If you can somehow get in touch with someone from the company, find out if they are looking for artists to represent and if so, who would be the best person to send your work to.

Rating: 9.5/10

Final Thoughts

We hope enjoyed reading this guide and list of the best music publishing companies! Finding the right publishing company for you and your music is important – it’s not one size fits all and you should enquire with the companies before making a solid choice.

First, you’ll need to decide what type of publishing company you want to go for. Then, do some digging, find out which publishing companies are taking on new artists and you’ll find a good match. Just make sure to learn more about music publishing agreements and make sure that you’re happy before you leap.

Let us know if there are any more companies you think deserve a place on this list of the best music publishing companies!

If you’re interested in starting your own company, make sure to check out this guide on how to start a music publishing company!

If you’re interested in getting sync opportunities, collaborating with other songwriters, pitching for A&R opportunities and more but maybe can’t find your match or want to stay independent, make sure to sign up to Music Gateway. Try it yourself for free and get all of the above and more without signing away any of your rights.

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