Who here has their own music publishing company?
March 25, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Music Publishing company: You register your company name (doing business as, sole proprietor or LLC) with the Secretary of State for your county / state, and pay them a filing fee. You pay for two consecutive notices to appear in a Legal Newspaper. You submit Copyright form SRs to the Copyright Office, and pay fee for each form. Is that about it?

Has anyone here ever gone the distance and set up a music publishing company? Not that anyone would ever actually want to pay you songwriting royalties, but if they wanted to, you would have legal protection for your songs?
posted by shipbreaker to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, I had to pay a buttload of money to the city/county for "business licenses" and the lot.

Then there is all the BMI/ASCAP hoopla; then you actually have to get a moneymaker to record your song! (or become the moneymaker!)

I only got as far as city/county, sadly.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2012

Are you already a writer member of a performance rights organization (ASCAP or BMI)? If not, did you know that royalties go 50% to the writer and 50% to the publisher? So your eventual goal in terms of royalties is to become both a writer member and a publisher member of whichever PRO you choose.

Becoming a writer member of either ASCAP or BMI is easy and requires only a past public performance of your music in a licensed venue (which includes almost all bars/coffeehouses/etc. you may have played at -- you can ask the venue if you're not sure). So I suggest doing that first. And I recommend ASCAP myself, but I encourage you to google and make your own choice; there's no shortage of opinions out there. :)

Then you can worry about your Publisher application. In the case of the ASCAP Publisher application, your company can be a dba/sole proprietorship, you can use your own SSN, and you can even choose to have them send royalty checks made out to "your name dba company name" (meaning you don't strictly need a separate bank account for the publishing company -- not that a separate acct isn't a good idea to pursue for general business/tax reasons).
posted by kalapierson at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2012

FYI, if you choose ASCAP and you play live regularly, remember the 1st of July is the deadline for ASCAPlus (a program that gives small annual cash awards to writer members who report activities like live performances of their music). That app is also easy -- just requires you to put together a list of what you played in what venues over the past 12 months (which is certainly important to keep good records of anyway).
posted by kalapierson at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2012

you would have legal protection for your songs?

I'm gonna quote Wikipedia here (I know, I know, but it was the quickest link I could find):

"In all countries where the Berne Convention standards apply, copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees."

IOW, you don't need to create a publishing company to have your songs legally protected, if that's your main concern. You're the legal owner of the copyright as soon as you've created a "tangible form," with additional proof of ownership & legal advantages once you've registered the work with the Copyright Office.

AFAIK, the requirements for setting up an actual Company Doing Business, whether a "dba" sole proprietorship or an LLC or whatever depends totally on your state's laws, so if you want more specific info about setting up a business, you might get more answers if you let us know where you are.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:55 PM on March 25, 2012

To me, OP's main concern seemed to be royalties, since establishing a publishing company is unconnected with copyright. But yeah, Soundguy99 is right: copyright exists the moment you create a work and it's legally documented only once you register the work (ignore the recommendations of the legally meaningless "mail a copy to yourself" plan you'll hear all over the web).
posted by kalapierson at 11:26 PM on March 25, 2012

Rube R Nekker:

What county and state did you try to set up a music publishing company in?

Did you go to the Secretary of State's office and fill out and sign forms?

Did you write a $30 check to the Secretary of State for your county?

Did your county and state require you to have a permit to do business as a music publisher? What did the permit cost?

Did you have to pay a Legal Newspaper to publish your Certificate of Assumed Name two times in a row?

Did you get your business license? What did it cost?

=== === ===

To all others reading this: Is this a thing that can be done? So that if I wished to put "Copyright 2012 Shipbreaker Music Company, LLC (ASCAP)" in the liner notes of my album and have it be REAL and not just some bullshit that I typed in there?
posted by shipbreaker at 1:40 AM on March 26, 2012

I'm sorry it seemed like I wasn't answering your questions. Let me try again.

Yes, this is a thing that can be done. You are setting up a small business. Exactly how you set up a small business depends on the state you are in. There MAY be additional county or city requirements. So while the process is probably generally similar from state to state, you really really need to get this information from your state, county and city governments and/or a local lawyer. Rube's answers to your questions may not be applicable to you if you're in a different state.

pay you songwriting royalties, but if they wanted to, you would have legal protection for your songs?

kalapierson & I gave you "non-answers" because this phrase is unclear - "royalties" and "legal protection" are related, but not the same thing.

"Legal protection", to me, seems to be a question of copyright, and as I pointed out, you don't need to be a "publisher" to obtain & register a copyright. Nor do you gain any additional legal weight by having your song "Copyright Shipbreaker Music Company LLC" versus "Copyright [shipbreaker's real name]".

I actually mean to be reassuring, here. You seem kinda stressed about the complexities of creating a music publishing company, and I'm saying you can relax a little. You can get full legal copyright protection as an individual.

"Royalties" are monies paid to the owner of the copyright for various reasons, and that's the aspect kalapierson addressed. I'm not a member of ASCAP or BMI, so I'll stay away from this, except to say (and I do apologize if I seem condescending) maybe you need to learn a little more about what kinds of royalties there are, and who pays royalties to who, and what the role of a "music publisher" is in these transactions.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:54 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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