1. You are the writer of the song melody and lyrics.
2. Your song is performed by someone else or you have recorded it yourself.
3. You spend recording the songs or have someone record your songs.
4. You have to take responsibility of your songs as the “publisher”.
5. You are affiliated in songwriter performing rights as both the writer and a publisher.
6. You are affiliated with an agency that will collect mechanical royalties for your songs.
a. Make sure you have filed and registered all your songs in the US Copyright Office.By registering it, you have the copyright registration number for your entire work title. And you can use this during the licensing process to prove you are really the legal owner of the songs. At the same time, protection of your songs by registration means you are legally protected.
b. Obtain a written contract from all performers or other persons contributing the completion of your song in the process called “clearing the rights”. Clearing the rights means that your customer wants to be sure that you have the legal capacity to claim ownership. For example if you have written the song, the team which will carry out the execution of the music production project will be:
b.1 Songwriter- you
b.2 Performer/ Artist
b.4 Mixing engineer/ Recording engineer
b.5 Mastering engineer
What you will do is to initiate a single written document with all of them sign in a piece of paper that pronouncing all the song rights are yours, and that they claim no ownership of the songs. This process is called “clearing the rights”. If you have financed the recording and you have paid the performer, you can execute a “work for hire” agreement/contract and that you have hired them to perform and record the songs. Then you own both the copyright of the song lyrics, melody as well as the recording.
Remember that to be fully legally protected, if you like to own also the recordings of your songs. You have to file Form SR in the US Copyright. Owner of the songs lyrics and melody does not mean you are the owner too of the recording or the other way around. Unless you file both Form PA and Form SR in US Copyright.
At this stage, you should now have:
a. Copyright certificate of your songs.
b. Clearance from performers and engineers of your song.
The next stage you will do is to officially start your music publishing business. Only by music publishing (the business side of music) where you can earn royalties and income. So the next required step is:
a. Become a member of songwriter performing rights society for you to be able to collect performance royalties. This includes ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
b. Register both as a writer and publisher in those performing rights.
c. Register all your songs in their database, only by registering your songs that they can monitor the performance royalties earned.
d. Register your music publishing company in the same time as your “copyright registration name”. It just could be your name. This is needed to prevent any confusion when it comes to song ownership. If the author/copyright registration name is “John Doe”, you might as well register your name in ASCAP as a publisher “John Doe”. And you will name your publishing company also as “John Doe”. This creates consistency and will prevent confusion to royalty collectors in your behalf. Register with your local government and get some business permit or company number. This business license is important.
e. You can open a bank account under your company name so that all income are going to this account.
At this stage, you now have all the complete documents needed for your business. And the next step needed is to have forms for your licenses. “License” is needed for someone to use your song for commercial purposes. These licenses are forms of agreement and contracts. I suggest you know you target market very well as it dictates the price of obtaining licenses. This will ensure that all cost of licenses by your customers are keep at a reasonable amount.
Finally when all are set-up, it is the time to set up a website. Website is a very powerful marketing tool online and help spread the word of mouth faster than having no website at all. More than 80% of the people are using internet to find information, so this a good strategy to market you songs. For your website to be successful it should have these following functionality:
a. An online catalog where your prospective customers can completely see a list of your published songs that can be played online. It is important that they can only streamed the songs but cannot record or download it. This protects against unwanted downloading.
b. Each song should contain complete information like the songwriter of the songs, performer, clearances, or cases where it can be used (say movie soundtrack or commercials), lyrics of the song.
c. The most important is to link to the contact for every song in your catalog, this will enable them to contact you for quotes or licensing.
d. There is a search function where potential customers can search using either a Title of the song, theme, tempo, mood or any song classification. It could be genre also.
e. A song rating will be helpful for them to select or prioritize listening good songs in your catalog.
f. Promote your site until you get targeted traffic.
Once you get customers, document and track all licenses and coordinate them with the ASCAP, BMI or Harry Fox Agency as well as other songwriting organizations. This is for them to properly tracked royalties and to properly pay to your account.
Most publishers too need relaxation after years of hardship to reward success.