How the Music Industry Works

The music industry is complicated with a lot of fingers in a very big pie.  From artists themselves to the various music distribution channels and record labels all looking to get paid it can make the setup fairly hard to understand.  Add into that how the music industry has changed so much since the internet has had such an impact on how music is sold and distributed, it can be a complicated mess to try and untangle.  Let’s take at how the music industry works.

The Artists

The whole industry is driven by the artists who create and perform music.  You have the songwriters who actually write the lyrics and music and you have the performers who are singing or playing the instruments you hear in a song.  Often they may be the same person but in modern pop music that is rarely the case.  Artists put in years honing their craft and often they are the faces of the music industry.

Music Publisher

The publisher is there to represent the work of the songwriter, the work of the songwriter is called the composition.  Some music publishers deal with artists and their entire catalogues or they can just represent some selected works.   The publisher will help the songwriter by connecting them with revenue streams, they will help them get airplay, connecting with other artist and licensing of their music for advertising.  Here is a closer look at everything a music publisher does.

The Publishing Agent

Most of the publishing agent work under the umbrella of record labels.  That is a significant fact, you need to understand that more than 70% of the Billboard top 100 songs are represented by 4 publishing agencies.  Publishing agencies have enormous client bases and they will sign talent in the hopes that someday they will make it big.  A small minority of their clients provide most of their income and the rest are largely ignored.

Tying it All Together

Music publishers will sign an artist to a contract for three years and represent all of their work, if the relationship works the contract is generally extended one year at a time.   When an artist is signed there can be an advance on future royalties, this sound good in theory but in practice it is a way to get an artist under a contract with a publisher.  The publisher will withhold any earnings until that advance has been paid.  If has not been renewed within the length of the contract then the contract will automatically be renewed.  As an artist you should be very wary of any deal you sign.