top of page

Blurred Lines: Today’s Innovative Music Publishers Act A Lot Like Labels

This post was written by Riptide Music Group CEO, Keatly Haldeman. For more articles and updates from Keatly, you can follow him on Medium and LinkedIn.


Historic Roles of Labels And Publishers

Traditionally, music publishers and record labels had clearly defined roles. Publishers represented songwriters and songs/compositions, while labels represented artists and masters/recordings. While the three major record labels — Universal, Sony, and WMG — each have both label and publishing entities, they operate as different and distinct businesses.

A Unified Approach

Today’s market provides an abundance of opportunities that favors joint recording and publishing rights. Accordingly, indie publishing companies like Riptide Music work with both songwriters and recording artists; representing both their songs and masters in order to meet the needs of both the creators and the companies who license the music. Below, I’ve detailed several advantages related to this combined approach.

One Stop Sync Licensing

One advantage is simplification and speed of synchronization licensing. When multiple rights holders are involved with a song and master, music clearance is a pain. After taking too long to track down a laundry list of copyright owners for both the master and publishing of a song, it may end up being too expensive or unclearable because of just one uncooperative party. However, when a music supervisor only needs to coordinate with a single copyright owner or its representative, the door for opportunity swings wide open.

Streamlined Royalty Collection

Another advantage is the increased efficiency of royalty collection for songwriters and performers. Every time songs are streamed or broadcast, on digital services or traditional radio and TV, money is owed to the creators of the song and/or recording. A myriad of income streams for various types, including sync, public performance, mechanical, digital streaming, neighboring rights, and YouTube Content ID can be generated in the process, and these royalties are paid by thousands of potential income sources worldwide. For even the most savvy artist or manager, it can be challenging to fully understand this financial landscape and ensure complete collection.

Historically, publishers have only administered copyrights on behalf of writers, but the fast-growing demographic of writers-who-own-masters is best served by companies that collect for both master and publishing rights. This consolidation allows the writer-artist to simplify the process of royalty collection, communicating with and reporting song information to just one party and getting one all-inclusive royalty statement.

*If you’re an artist or songwriter, sign up here for free to start collecting your money.

Publisher Becomes Label

In addition to fulfilling traditional roles, such as helping its songwriters and producers craft commercially viable songs, the modern creative publisher supports the artist/performer. Typically, the purview of labels, publishers may focus on, among other things, release-ready recordings, marketing, and artist branding.

An artist-oriented publisher will have an A&R staff that gives mix notes, organizes session players, books studio time and oversees mastering sessions, and a marketing staff that promotes releases through playlisting, PR, content development, and influencer features.

TheUnder: A Case Study

A perfect example of an artist benefitting from this blending of publisher and label is the artist TheUnder, who makes hard-hitting trap that works great with trailers, promos and video games. Riptide worked closely with TheUnder to create a cinematic trap album and arranged writing sessions with rappers to feature on the songs. One of the songs, “Fight,” featuring Panther, was used prominently in the trailer for the “Fast & Furious” spinoff, “Hobbs & Shaw.”

Shortly after the trailer was released, the song registered over 10,000 “Shazams,” making it clear the song was resonating with the public. Riptide added fuel to the emerging fire by contacting appropriate YouTube channels and Spotify playlists, alerting them to the buzz around the song and asking for their support. “Fight” had been released a year prior to the sync, and the streaming count had long since tapered off, but after the placement and subsequent marketing efforts, the song logged an additional 1 million streams.

Come Together

There will always be songwriters who aren’t performers, and performers who aren’t songwriters. But with the lines between recording artist, producer and songwriter more blurred than ever, publishers must reflect the evolving needs of music creators and expand their area of focus to service both publishing and master rights.

bottom of page