Tips for Musicians: How to Publish Your Own Music Album

Three Methods:

  1. Publishing Music Yourself Through a PRO
  2. Working with an Outside Publisher
  3. Sharing Your Album with the Public

There are more ways than ever before to share your music album with the world, which is a great thing for an artist. However, this rapid expansion of options has perhaps made publishing an album a bit more confusing. It is worthwhile to go through the process, though, because publishing is typically a key element in earning royalties. You can become a music publisher and publish your album yourself, or work with various publishing entities to register and circulate your music.


Publishing Music Yourself Through a PRO

1/ Publish your album if you’re looking to earn money from it. In the simplest of terms, you want to publish your music because of the money. If you want all the money due from a public performance of your song (such as radio play), the song (and/or album) should be published by a music publisher and registered with a performing rights organization (PRO).
  • You can try to find a reputable music publisher who’s willing to take you on as a client, or publish your own music and register with a PRO.
  • It is possible that you may be able to register your music with a PRO and earn royalties without working with or becoming a publisher. Consult an attorney for the laws and rules where you live and/or create music.
2/ Select a performing rights organization. In the U.S., you can choose between three PROs: ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Look them up on the Internet, gather information on them, and choose the one that best suits your needs.
  • As a publisher, you can register with multiple PROs, but you can only (and need only) register a single work (like an album) with one PRO.
  • Outside the U.S., look for PROs that operate in your country, such as SOCAN in Canada.
3/ Choose a name for your publishing business. To become the publisher of your own album, you’ll need to create a business name. It’s suggested that you pick three names out, just in case your first preference is already being used. PROs (and you) do not want the money you should be receiving going to someone else, so they will reject names that are even similar to names already registered with their or another organization.
4/ Form your business as a legal entity. After the name clearance with your chosen PRO, you should form a business in your state or country. This process will vary based upon where you live and/or operate, but may be fairly simple if your business is just going to be you.
  • However, if more than one person is involved in the business (such as co-writers, band mates, etc.), it’s strongly recommended that you form a more structured business, for example a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation. The operating agreement or by-laws for the business should address who does what, who owns what, how members are compensated, how new members join, and how members can leave.
  • It is entirely possible to set up a LLC or alternate business entity without assistance, but it may be easier for you to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
5/ Register your album (as its publisher) with your chosen PRO. After acceptance of your publisher application by the organization, each of your songs/albums published by your publishing company should be registered with the organization. Register your new album, and make sure to include the name of your publisher (the company you’ve created) and your PRO on distributed copies of your album (physical or digital).
  • For example: If your songs are played, the radio station lets ASCAP know that they played your songs and sends ASCAP a check. ASCAP then looks up the album on their registration, finds it registered to “Your Name Music Publishing,” and cuts you a check.


Working with an Outside Publisher

1/ Think about using an established music publisher. Do so especially if you prefer a more hands-off approach to publishing your album. The publishing rights organizations (PROs) that operate in your country will likely have online lists of affiliated publishers, possibly searchable by the titles of songs they have published. You can also check out the liner notes of your favorite CDs and see who the publishers are.
  • Landing a successful publisher is far from a sure thing, of course. Try to build up a network of contacts with various publishers, artists, and others in the music business, and be prepared to be turned down one or maybe many times.
2/ Consider utilizing a publishing administrator instead. A publishing administrator performs essentially the same functions as a traditional publisher, but is a more recent creation of the digital age. If you are particularly concerned about proper royalty collection when your album is downloaded, streamed, or used online, signing up with a publishing administrator — such as Distrokid, for example — might be worth your consideration.
  • A publishing administrator may charge a one-time fee (for example $75 U.S.) and a percentage of your royalties (perhaps 10-20%) for its services.
  • Make sure the publishing administrator has an existing working relationship with the PRO you are using, so that the process of collecting and distributing your royalties is streamlined.
3/ Work directly with an online music service as another option. If you want to focus on publishing and disseminating your album through a particular online music service (such as Tunetrax, iTunes, Google Play, etc.), you may be able to work directly with them. Once again, similar to a traditional publisher or a third-party publishing administrator, you will pay a fee and surrender a percentage of your royalties/revenues in return for having the administrative work done for you.
  • For example, the Google Play Artist Hub charges an initial fee and thirty percent of your revenues in return for global distribution of your album across the company’s various music platforms. Using Tunetrax, artists retain 100% of revenue and how their music gets distributed.
4/ Decide if a little more money or time is most valuable to you. Basically, if you are willing to spend the time to do the administrative work, you can become the publisher of your own album and collect one hundred percent of any royalties it earns. However, if administrative tasks are not your strong suit, or you simply prefer to focus your energies on creating and sharing your music, it may be worth the initial payments and royalty reductions to sign on with an existing publisher/administrator.


Sharing Your Album with the Public

1/ Copyright your album. Technically speaking, your music is copyrighted as soon as you create it. In practical terms, though, registering your copyright according to the procedures in the nation where you live and/or operate applies legal “teeth” to the copyright you possess.
  • In the United States, for example, you can submit a digital or physical copy of your album to, pay the fee (currently $35), wait several months for processing, and receive a copyright registration that will protect the ownership of your musical creation in U.S. and many international courts of law.
  • Whether you’re working with a publisher, acting as your own publisher with Tunetrax, or not using a publisher at all, register the copyright for your work. Protect your legal rights to your album.
2/ Upload your music. Just like registering your copyright, signing up with a PRO or utilizing a publisher (whether yourself with Tunetrax) is not legally required. Instead, it is simply a better way to protect your rights and claim any money due to you by way of your album. If, for you, “publishing” simply means getting your album into the hands of listeners, you can upload your music to your chosen social media pages, personal websites, and even easier on Tunetrax.
  • If you’re an independent artist looking to distribute your album freely and start to make a name for yourself, this simpler approach might work; if you’re seeking to control dissemination and earnings, follow a more structured publishing approach.
3/ Make CDs and sell or hand them out. Once again, depending upon your definition and expectations, publishing can be as simple as making up a batch of CDs of your album and selling them (or giving them out) at a coffee shop, flea market, or other venue. This may be your easiest route if you’re a new, independent artist trying to spread the word locally.
We Hope this Help.

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