If you are interested in getting into the business side of the music industry, you may want to consider a career in music publishing. There are a wide variety of jobs in this field, such as talent acquisition, songplugging, copyrighting, licensing, business affairs and royalty collecting.
A publishing career may not seem quite as glamorous as working for a record label, but it is just as creative, and often provides more stability and job security. When the corporate powers are deciding which employees should be fired at their struggling music divisions, they usually start with the top execs at the record label. This is because publishing has always been looked upon as a very long-term business, where the royalties and profits are projected to develop at a steady but more gradual pace.
Of course, the most popular job in publishing is the A&R/talent acquisition exec, whose duties are quite similar to an A&R person’s job at a label. This position has two, main objectives: (1) discovering and developing new songwriting talent (usually artists/bands or writer/producers); and (2) acquiring the available publishing of artists already on the charts or purchasing older, classic catalogs.
As could be expected, competition is absolutely fierce for these top creative jobs. Most execs start out as interns or assistants, pay their dues, and work their way up the corporate ladder. However, sometimes a person will prove their creative success in a related field (as an artist, manager, club booker, music journalist, radio programmer, etc) and jump right into a high-level, exec position.
Another, sought after creative position is that of a “songplugger.” This job previously entailed simply plugging songs demos for current recording artists who needed outside songs. But over the past decade, it has evolved into developing writer/producers, and setting them up to collaborate with artists, because most acts today insist on co-writing most of the material for their albums.
An additional, different type of songplugging has emerged, which is promoting songs for film, TV and soundtrack projects. Every major publishing company now has a staff of execs whose objective is to exclusively focus on this increasingly lucrative field. It can now be said that film & TV pluggers probably earn more income for their companies that the traditional record pluggers. The exception would be in Nashville, where placing songs on country artists’ albums is still far more lucrative than film and TV royalties from country usage.
The creative/A&R side of publishing might seem more attractive, but there are many interesting and rewarding jobs on the administrative and business affairs side also. The administrative and business departments provide an equally important facet of the company. For instance, the copyright staff performs a critical function: making sure the literally thousands of songs published by the company are fully protected, via copyright and renewals.
The licensing department works hand-in-hand with the film and TV staff to negotiate the best fees for each song usage, and to help close each deal. The licensing execs play a crucial role in the song-placement process. They must develop great relationships with their licensing counterparts at the film and TV studios, or else many deals will fall through.
The business affairs department, of course, is of vital importance to any publishing company. The business execs draw up and negotiate all of the contracts, and are key in establishing a vision of the company’s overall operations. Most business affairs execs are attorneys, but there are other key positions where a law degree is not necessary.
Last but certainly not least, with usually the largest staff within any publishing house, is the royalty department. Numerous, well-trained employees are needed to meticulously collect and distribute song royalties from thousands of songs which are generating income from around the world. Every songwriter who ever had songs published by the company, must rely on the royalty department to deliver their hard-earned royalty checks to them, on time and with the precise amount.
In closing, there are truly a wide arrange of opportunities available in all facets of the publishing business, and you can explore and decide which department looks like the most interesting and suitable for your potential career.