Having Your Music Published by a Publisher

Publishing Companies

Traditionally, securing a contract with a publishing company was perceived to be the ultimate achievement for an emerging composer. While this might no longer be the case, there are certainly many advantages of having your work published by a publisher. A publisher will usually: edit, produce and print scores and parts for your music; hire and sell the scores and parts; register your work with PRS or other collection societies; promote your work nationally and internationally to performers, orchestras and record companies, using their well-established network of contacts; and provide general management as well as specific feedback. This means you can focus on what you like most and do best – composing. However, such luxury comes at a price. Most sheet music publishers will take 50% of all income derived from the composer’s work.

There are other aspects of having your music published by a publisher which you might see as disadvantages: having to transfer the rights to your work to the publisher; having less or no control over the price that your scores/parts will be sold at; having less or no control over what your score looks like as publishers usually have a house style; and possibly being under
pressure to take on commissions you feel might not be right for you.

If you would like to have your music published by a sheet music publisher, bear in mind that most composers don’t get signed on the spot. Do keep publishers informed of your activities, especially if you’ve had first signs of interest from them, and use recommendations from contacts in your networks to get through to key people.

Lastly, if you are in a position to have been offered a contract with a publishing house, do get independent legal advice. You might be ecstatic about the chance of having your music
published, but, especially with contract durations usually being three to five years, it is essential to get the conditions right or the relationship between you and your publisher(s) might turn sour. 

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