A Songwriter's Guide to Packaging

Anyone can be a songwriter. Some songwriters are extremely talented. Some songwriters are extremely wealthy. However, it does not hold that talented songwriters are wealthy. Why is it that some very talented songwriters never earn a penny from their songs? Why is it that some mediocre songwriters reap incredible royalties from their songs? There are numerous factors that make a song a moneymaker. I think the first factor is packaging.

Packaging means getting your songs ready for sale to the public. The key in packaging is establishing your private right to claim sole ownership of your songs. By establishing your private right of ownership you have Marketable Title in your music.

Marketable title will give you the ability to enter into contracts and licensing agreements that will generate earnings from your songs.

Four steps to establishing your marketable title:

  1. File a performing arts registration (Form PA) with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can file a separate form for each song or register a "collection" or "album" of songs on one registration form. This gives you a presumptive legal title as composer of your songs, but they are not yet marketable.
  2. Perform your songs in more that one state at venues that have an ASCAP and/or BMI license. You may also want to sell your songs on the internet through an online CD or digital retailer. Either way will "publish" your song for public consumption in interstate commerce.
  3. Register both as a songwriter and your published songs with a performing rights society. For most, this means ASCAP or BMI. This gets you songwriter (and publishing) royalties each time your song is performed either in the media or live in a licensed venue.
  4. Get a publisher. You may want to self publish with your own publishing company. That will put you on a business footing for your own direct publishing or contracting out to a real publishing company (co-publishing) for its services. Plus, you can use your personal publishing company as a shopping agent and promoter for your songs.

Completing these four steps will give you marketable title to your songs.

For more information go to: www.musesmuse.com, www.starpolish.com, www.galaris.com, www.ascap.org, www.bmi.com, and the US Copyright Office. And for more information about music publishing read Music, Money and Success by Todd and Jeff Brabec, and A Songwriter's guide to Music Publishing by Randy Poe.

This letter has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The furnishing of this information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. You should not act upon any information provided in this letter without seeking professional legal advice.