There is a significant amount of information regarding this question, as there are many angles to approach this. I'm assuming you just need some general information.
As a publisher, the composer interested in signing with your company, would assign their copyright to you in exchange for placement. Placement means finding a proper place for the compositions, thus maximizing opportunities, and ultimately, profits. You will be in charge of giving out "licenses" for the use of these compositions. You are given what they call "administration rights" by the composer. There will be other third party entities as well that assist in licenses.
So what you'll need to do is:
- Register with either BMI or ASCAP. These are the top two performing rights organizations. They will act on your behalf as the designated "agent" for performing rights of your entire catalog. (A catalog is comprised of your aggregate compositions that you are assigned by your composer/composers through a written contract). You will have to fill out some basic forms and send them in. You cannot sign with both of them. Just pick one. They are both good and perform the same duties. Please note: that you may just choose to sign up to SOCAN, which is the Canadian equivalent, but if the composer lives in the US, you may just want to go with BMI or ASCAP. They will collect any foreign royalties due.
- Set up your publishing company and get a business license. You will want to have a DBA (Doing Business As-or sometimes called a fictitious name). Not sure what the equivalent of that would be in Canada. You would have to check.
- Sign the deal with composer and then register the copyrights with the US Copyright Office. Remember, they (the composer) will own the actual copyright, however you have "assignment" to them.
- Register songs with your performing rights organization you initially went with. You can usually do this all on line, once you are set up.
Really, it takes nothing to become a publisher. What makes you valuable is your contacts and ability to place songs.
The money you make will depend on the various licenses you negotiate with interested parties. Some licenses, such as the American statutory is fixed. The current rate is 9.10 cents per song under 5 minutes. This is known as the mechanical license. (See Statutory Rates
). This is for the US. I don't believe that Canada has a statutory rate. Foreign mechanicals are also handled much differently.The Harry Fox Agency
This agency is used to handle mechanical licenses. You can work through them if you wish. Basically, if someone wants to use a song in your catalog, they could get the license from Harry Fox, directly on your behalf.
1. Mechanical Licenses. You make money from standard royalties. Record companies are famous for offering rate (which basically means a reduced statutory) - thus minimizing income potential. However if no major label is involved, it will be statutory. Thus, if you were to place 2 songs on a CD, or if you had 2 songs placed for digital download, it would be 9.10 cents per song.
2. Sync Licenses. Motion Picture, Television. Typically negotiated by the publisher.
3. Performance (ASCAP, BMI). PRO (Performance Rights Organization) issues blanket licenses to radio, nightclubs etc. and monitors activity.
4. Print. Sheet music.
Hope this helps. Again, this is a general overview - not by any means comprehensive. There are very specific issues within publishing, royalties, contracts and the like. I'm not an attorney, just someone who has been in the business for quite some time. I would suggest getting an entertainment attorney to help out with legal aspects.
Edited by Hugh on 10/21/2009 at 3:09 AM EST