What Are Publishing Admin Companies, And What Can They Do For You?

Sep 06, 2018

When someone streams, downloads, or otherwise uses music you've written, you’re owed two kinds of royalties… a mechanical royalty and a public performance royalty.

But how do you collect?

PRO organizations like BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC will handle your public performance collection (BMI is free to join, while ASCAP has a one-time $50 fee per songwriter). 

So in this piece, we’ll focus on mechanical royalties. Mainly because it's historically been more difficult to collect these kinds of royalties as an independent artist. 

For artists who don't sign publishing deals, or who retain a co-publishing share of their royalties, it's typical to work with a publishing admin company. Admin publishing companies collect royalties when your songs are streamed, downloaded, or physically bought (CDs/vinyl records/tapes).

So let’s look at the top admin publishing companies in the industry for independent artists, what they cost, and the royalties they collect for you.

The first two we'll look at are the publishing admin companies that double as digital distributors...

CD Baby Pro

CD Baby is one of the biggest music distribution services around. They're mostly know for placing music on digital download and streaming services. If you’ve never used them, you most certainly know someone who has. 

But in addition to distributing sound recordings, they also have an admin publishing service called CD Baby Pro.

Cost

Currently, CD Baby Pro costs $89 for an album, which includes digital distribution, affiliation with a PRO ($10 for each additional songwriter), and publishing royalty collection (a standard CD Baby account already collects mechanical royalties). They take 15% of the publishing royalties and 9% of the mechanical royalties.

Also, CD Baby does not offer a standalone publishing service. You must distribute your music through them in order to get the admin publishing service too.

Royalties For Songs You Didn’t Release Yourself

What about songs you co-wrote that someone else released? You’re owed those royalties, but CD Baby Pro will not collect them if they were not released through CD Baby. So you may want to see if the artist releasing your songs can do so through CD Baby.

International Mechanical Royalties

When someone streams your music on Spotify, the standard payout from Spotify includes the mechanical royalty — but only for streams within the United States. Any international streams you get, you’re also owed international mechanical royalties. Fortunately CD Baby Pro will also collect those international royalties.

Royalties From Cover Songs

When you cover someone else’s song, you have to buy a compulsory mechanical license or pay and report to the publisher directly. Most songwriter’s go through the Harry Fox Agency’s Songfile, which CD Baby works with closely.

TuneCore Publishing

TuneCore is another major digital music distribution company, and also has an admin publishing service called TuneCore Publishing.

Cost

Distributing an album through TuneCore costs about $30 the first year and about $50 each year after that ($75 for each additional songwriter). If you don’t pay the annual fee, your music is taken down.

TuneCore Publishing takes 10% of the publishing royalties, but you don’t have to distribute music through TuneCore in order to use their admin publishing service.

Royalties For Songs You Didn’t Release Yourself

Unlike CD Baby Pro, TuneCore Publishing will collect for songs you didn’t release yourself, like co-writes released under another artist’s name. This is a huge plus because regardless of what service the artist used to distribute that song, TuneCore will collect the royalties you’re owed.

International Mechanical Royalties

TuneCore Publishing will collect international royalties for you, thanks to the relationships they have with most of the international markets.

Royalties From Cover Songs

Like CD Baby Pro, TuneCore Publishing works with Songfile, so anyone wanting to cover your song can get a compulsory mechanical license through them. That way, TuneCore can make sure to collect those royalties.

Now we'll take a quick look at pure-play publishing admin outfits...

Songtrust

Songtrust claims to be the biggest publishing administration, working with over 100,000 songwriters. They actually operate the publishing admin for CD Baby, so if you already distribute your music through CD Baby, you won’t need to sign up for Songtrust as well. (But you can sign up with Songtrust regardless of who you use to distribute your music.)

Cost

In order to sign up, you’ll pay a one-time $100 fee per songwriter. Songtrust then takes 15% of the royalties off the top. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. They’ll even help you register with a PRO if you’re haven’t already.

Royalties For Songs You Didn’t Release Yourself

Because Songtrust is not a distribution company, they have no caveats on collecting royalties. So any song of yours that another artist releases, regardless of what distribution service they used, will generate royalties that Songtrust will collect.

International Mechanical Royalties

Songtrust collects international royalties, so no matter what country or territory you release your music, they will collect the royalties you’re owed.

Royalties From Cover Songs

Like CD Baby Pro and TuneCore Publishing, Songtrust works closely with HFA's Songfile, so they’ll collect the royalties owed to you when someone covers your song and vice versa.

Sentric Music Publishing

With over 100,000 songwriters registered, Sentric “guarantees to provide you with a publishing deal that collects more royalties, in more music markets” than any other admin publishing company. Sentric also runs TuneCore’s admin publishing royalty collection, but you can still sign up with Sentric if you use another distributor.

Cost

It’s free to sign up with Sentric, but then they will take 20% of royalties. And this is all in the context of a 28-day rolling contract.

Royalties For Songs You Didn’t Release Yourself

TuneCore uses Sentric for its royalty collection administration, so they have the same rules for this — they will get your royalties for songs you wrote/co-wrote but didn’t release yourself.

International Mechanical Royalties

Just like the other admin publishers on this list, Sentric collects international royalties for you. In fact, nowadays, you shouldn’t sign up with an admin publisher if they don’t.

Royalties From Cover Songs

Also, like the others on this list, Sentric will collect cover song royalties for you or any artist whom another artist covers.

Summary

If you’ve already released music through a distributor that doesn’t offer admin publishing services, you can just sign up with Sentric or Songtrust.

However, if you have an upcoming release, it’s worth considering a distributor like CD Baby or TuneCore. Keeping everything — distribution and royalty collection — under one roof can be very convenient.

And getting the royalties owed to you should be as easy as possible.


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