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How to Become a Music Publisher

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Music publishers handle the business aspects of composing and producing music. They secure copyrights for the musical works of songwriters and composers and ensure these artists receive royalty earnings when their work is used for commercial purposes. A college degree in a relevant field, industry experience and the right skills are must-haves for individuals who want to become music publishers.

Get Started

Aspiring music publishers can get started by earning a bachelor’s degree in music business or merchandising. Students pursuing this degree program learn about copyright laws, music licensing, artist management, concert management and publicity. Beyond the degree, aspiring publishers need a considerable amount of music industry experience. Some aspirants may begin as artist managers or music producers and move into music publishing after gaining a thorough understanding of the industry.

Develop the Skills

Music publishers need strong marketing and product management skills. To maximize the revenue of a copyrighted song, for example, the publisher may focus on licensing the song for use in advertisements, motion picture films or other profitable platforms. Skill in building relationships is also important because publishers need to develop and maintain positive relations with professionals such as film producers and directors, record producers and promotion managers. When entering into contracts with artists, music publishers require negotiation skills to reach mutually profitable deals and a keen eye for detail to detect any potential legal bottlenecks in music contracts.

Join a Professional Association

Prospective music publishers who join a professional association, such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, have access to networking opportunities that may prove useful. During ASCAP-hosted events, for example, publishers can interact with songwriters and composers, some of whom may be looking for a publisher to copyright, distribute and license their work.

Get a Job

Beginning or newly qualified music publishers may find jobs at established music publishing firms, record labels, artist management companies or performing rights organizations. As publishers gain more experience and build industry connections, they can move into self-employment by starting their own publishing companies. To thrive in self-employment, however, publishers need additional knowledge in business administration, as well as skills in personnel management. According to, a website for music career information, the annual salary for music publishers varies widely, often depending on the quality of songs in their catalog. While small, independent publishers make as little as $20,000 a year, publishers with large companies selling hit songs can earn up to $1 million or more.


Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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