What does a music publisher do?

Whoever composes music or writes texts for music recordings is the author of these works. The music or text you write automatically creates a copyright, because your creation is your intellectual property. As an author you are entitled to payment when others use your compositions and/or texts. Therefore, an author is often a member of a copyright society, such as GEMA in Germany, SGAE in Spain or SADAIC in Argentina. Worldwide exist more than 150 societies which are representing authors. Most of these societies demand that their members‘ rights be exercised exclusively by them throughout the world. The individual companies have concluded reciprocity agreements with each other for this purpose.

This should actually mean that an author as a member of any of these societies should receive the money to which he is entitled - no matter where in the world his work is performed, played on the radio or purchased as a download from iTunes. So much for the theory.

Reality is a different story. With more than one million authors worldwide and more than 100 million reported works, it is understandable that the individual author rarely gets what he or she is entitled to. After all, in most countries those who use music pay to the societies. But often this money does not reach the author.

The copyright societies also do not actively take care of the works registered with them. They manage their catalogue sometimes well sometimes not so well, but are not responsible for ensuring that the individual works are offered to the market (film, television, advertising).

That’s the job of the music publisher. The Publisher is a kind of agency that takes care of the creators‘ works. The author instructs the music publisher to register the composition with the copyright society, to exercise the rights to his intellectual property and to distribute it further. This means, for example, that the publisher endeavours to collect money as directly as possible wherever a work is used in the world. And thus if possible before it has disappeared in the bureaucratic jungle.  A music publisher should have a professional network for this. This includes, for example, contracts with other publishers who are at home in the countries where music is used. But what is even more important - a good music publisher is actively committed to ensuring that the works it represents are distributed more widely. It advertises and promotes these works i.e. to movies, television or for commercials. In that way additional income can be generated. By doing this the music publisher assumes tasks that go far beyond the capabilities of a single author. As a rule, authors are people who like to act creatively and who lack both the time and the professional network for such activities as a music publisher does. 

How does the music publisher earn his income?

The publisher receives a contractually agreed share of the revenues of the works or of the income generated by commercial use. This should ensure that every publisher has a great interest in supporting the works entrusted to him and to manage them profitably. If this doesn’t happen the author has the possibility to terminate the contract according to german law and also in accordance with our contracts.


What are the main points of the contractual agreement with a music publisher?

For the cooperation between author and publisher, the first thing to clarify is which form of contract should be concluded. There are two basic forms of contract:

An exclusive contract stipulates that, for a period defined in the contract, all works created during this period, as well as all works not yet published, become the subject of the contract and thus part of the publisher’s catalogue.

A single title contract refers exclusively to a list of works defined in the contract. This could be, for example, all of the author’s works that have not yet been published.

Once the question of an exclusive or individual title contract has been clarified, there are three further important factors for any contract form:

The territory defines the countries for which the cooperation is agreed. In most cases, the agreement is “worldwide”, since the publisher can hardly become active for the author without a worldwide possibility of use.

The percentage distribution of income is another important part of the contract.

The duration of the contract should also be agreed upon. Most publishers want to exercise their rights for the term of protection provided by law. In most countries, this is up to 70 years after the death of an author. This is a long period, but it makes sense if a work has become known through the activity of the publisher. In such a case, the publisher naturally wants to earn money, especially since it is not easy to turn a work into a hit, which can then also generate income that can last for decades. Of course, a shorter contract period can also be agreed by mutual agreement.


What is the focus of the music publisher “Ediciones La Palmera”?

“Ediciones La Palmera” concentrates on a special area of music. As the Spanish name suggests, the catalogue of the Hamburg-based publishing house contains music from Latin America and the Caribbean. The idea for the name was born when looking at a palm tree on the beach of the Pacific. From such a high palm tree one should be able to get a good overview of the surroundings.  “Ediciones La Palmera” is a small publishing house. Its owner is Matthias Möbius, who has lived in Latin America for many years and has built up an intensive relationship to this continent and its music. In “La Palmera” the works of the individual author do not disappear in a giant catalogue. The direct contact between the publisher and the authors and composers, who always have a contact person, is crucial.

In order to be an optimal representation on the worldwide market, the publishing house has entered into alliances with other independent publishers in various countries. No one can promise miracles, but “La Palmera” is committed to the works it represents and takes care of its distribution with pleasure and appreciation of the music. 


How does “Ediciones La Palmera” become active after concluding a contract with an author?

The contractual works are presented and offered for use in the publishing area of the “Danza y Movimiento” web portal. As a member of GEMA, we register the works with GEMA. Furthermore, we make sure that the works are also registered with the national copyright societies in all countries in which income can be expected. This should actually be done by GEMA, but unfortunately, as already mentioned above, this often does not work. On request, we propose individual works for film projects or commercials. We offer individual works specifically and actively, e.g. on compilations, which are made available to creative people in the music field. Even if “Ediciones La Palmera” is a one-person publishing house, we are talking about “we” here, because our partner publishing houses are also active in the distribution of the works.


What is important for a good cooperation between the author and “Ediciones La Palmera”?

In our experience, communication with the authors we represent plays an important role for success. Some authors are musicians themselves. The more we know where concerts with their music take place and which pieces are played there, the easier it becomes to track whether the payments of the concert organizers also reach us or the author. The more we learn from the author himself what happens to his music, the easier it becomes to do a good job for him.


What is the difference between the rights to a recording and the rights to a publishing work?

A music publisher doesn’t produce music. Nor is it a music distributor. Unlike a record label, a publisher has no rights to music recordings, but to the composition and/or text of a music title. However, he is very interested in the works he represents being recorded, performed, distributed and known in all conceivable variations.

Often music publisher and a record label are united in a company. This makes sense because film producers prefer to have a single point of contact for the various rights they need to use a recording when selecting their music.

That’s the case with “Danza y Movimiento” it has a record company and music publisher under one roof.

In order to be able to work smoothly, the music publisher “La Palmera” tries to obtain rights for recordings released by other record companies, in order to be able to offer these recordings to the market together with the copyrights.