Straight from the Breaking News Department, Google sent an alert this morning letting me know that Duran Duran has inked a global publishing deal with Warner Chappell, a division of Warner Music.
Some of you might wonder if this is the same thing as a record deal and the answer is no, no it is not. At it’s most BASIC, a record deal is for the distribution of the music. Depending upon the details, those deals may include promotion, touring, etc. A publishing deal, is for what is written – the music and/or the lyrics. Music publishers work with the songwriters in the same way a publisher works with an author.
So, in this case, Duran Duran signed a deal with Warner Chappell that encompasses the majority of their catalog, from 1986 to present, including the album that will be released next year. The next question of course, is what that means.
Publishers are responsible for a number of things, but I would say that the four main “headings” they manage are the following: song registration, licensing, royalty collection, and creative matters.
Song registration is, well, kind of boring to explain. It’s nit-picky, legalese-type stuff, but there are performing rights societies (BMI, ASCAP and PRS). Those societies collect, maintain and pay out the royalties to songwriters and publishers. Each society is slightly different as to what categories or types of songwriters or publishers they handle or why certain artists or bands choose one over the other, but they all serve the same basic function. BMI and ASCAP are American societies, and the PRS is the UK equivalent. Bands and artists can only choose to affiliate with one in the US (Publishers help decide which is best for the band in question), and in the UK – they have no choice.
To give an easy example of how BMI, ASCAP and PRS work – radio stations pay for an annual blanket license (which is millions of dollars a year) to BMI, ASCAP and PRS, which allow that station to broadcast what they want, however many times they wish. Then the performing rights society pays the publisher and songwriter based on the number of radio stations that broadcasted the number of their songs. Then the publisher in turn, pays the songwriter if they are owed more.
Then there are other royalties that can be earned. Royalties can be earned for commercially released albums in a retail setting, or for songs that are made available for legal download. That’s when licensing comes into play. This is different depending upon whether you’re in the UK or the US. I only am familiar with US methods – and they can be confusing. So, the publisher has to license a song to a record label to begin with. So, in Duran Duran’s case – they’re writing the new music for the upcoming album. That music will have to be licensed from Warner Chappell to Warner Music Group first before royalties can be paid. Then that music can be put on an album, and then royalties are paid based on how many copies of that album are sold. Those are called “mechanical royalties”, and the publisher reviews those licenses.
Then there are the royalty collections, which of course is some of what was described above, but also includes synchronization royalties. Those are when you take Duran Duran’s music and synchronize it to a moving picture. Those royalties get collected too!
There are plenty of other intricacies involved with royalties that I’m not getting into, so just know that these are only the very minimal basics. DVD’s need another licensing, there’s other agencies that can deal directly with mechanical licensing…it goes on and on, and that’s why bands like Duran Duran sign global publishing deals, because someone else needs to handle it!
So there you have it, a little Duran Duran news, and a teensy bit of learning today. Have a wonderful weekend. I need a nap!