Turning Melodies Into Royalties

The real revenue in the music business lies in the ownership rights to the hits. Here's how to publish and not perish.

you can receive an advance. An adminis
trative advance, however, is usually much smaller than a co-publishing advance. Under an administrative deal, the publisher will register you and each of your songs with the Harry Fox Agency and with whichever performing rights society you choose. The publisher also will be responsible for collecting all of your synchronization and print royalties, and handling legal issues.

“Administrative deals tend to work best for songwriters who have huge catalogs, and are able to get their own song published,” says Rosario. “Usually, these songwriters are hooked up with successful producers, or they may be recording artists themselves and have a vehicle for getting their music published,” she explains.

Missy Elliott is a songwriter who opted for an administrative deal for exactly those reasons. “I’ve just always felt like publishing deals were for people who were trying to make quick money,” says Elliott of her decision to sign an administrative deal. Last year, she inked a deal with Warner Chappell Music to administer her Mass Confusion Publishing catalog. Back in 1993, Elliott was a member of Sista, a a group that was signed to Elektra Records through Devante Swing’s (of Jodeci) production deal. Though the group never released its album, some of the songs that Elliott penned impressed Swing enough to enlist her to write for Jodeci. That work turned into requests to write for other artists. But Elliott admits that in the beginning, she really had to push herself. That meant using her connections and being creative about getting to artists with whom she wanted to work. One tactic she found useful was approaching A & R representatives directly with her songs.

While A & R representatives are generally thought of as the people who ink record deals, signing talent is only a small part of their job. The other part is finding songs for artists who are in production on their albums. Elliott notes A & R people are always looking for good songs and are often very open to someone who is more interested in having their music recorded by an existing artist than in getting signed themselves.
But even if you manage to convince a big-name artist to record one of your songs, you need to be prepared to make sacrifices for the opportunity to work with that artist. One such sacrifice may be that the artist asks for a percentage of your copyright to include your song on his or her album–the philosophy being that since he or she is popular, your song will get greater exposure, thereby increasing your earnings. “You may not want to do it, but sometimes you have to get your foot in the door,” advises Elliott.

In addition to being savvy about getting your songs to the right people, Elliott says if you are strictly a lyricist, it’s important to hook up with a producer who can compose musical tracks and create demo tapes of your tunes. In her case, Elliott hooked up with long-time friend and producer Timothy Mosley,

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