The copyright in a musical composition is owned by the creator of that work and can be assigned to a third party, normally a music publisher. Music publishers nurture and develop songwriters and composers, and take care of the business aspects of their career. Helping a writer or composer to develop their skills can involve providing financial support, advising on writing for particular markets and introducing a writer to new contacts, such as record companies and film and television producers.
AMPAL, the Australasian Music Publishers Association Limited is the trade organisation representing music publishers in Australia and New Zealand. For more information (and FAQs) on music publishing and music publishers please visit the AMPAL website. Answers to FAQs are found here.1
In his book, Music Business, now in its third edition (2006), Shane Simpson devotes Chapter 9 to a 25-page exposé of music publishing.2
The Arts Law Centre of Australia offers a music publishing checklist ($A7.50), introduced as follows:
This checklist outlines the basic concepts of music publishing agreements. Music publishing is one of the most complex areas of the music industry. They act as an interface between songwriters or composers and the rest of the music industry. A music publisher operates by first acquiring the copyright in a musical work from the songwriter. The publisher will then encourage others to use those works in a variety of ways. In return for permission to use the work, the end user (eg. a record company) will pay royalties to the publisher. A percentage of these royalties will then be paid back to the writer. Publishing contracts should not be confused with recording contracts.3
Mark Callaghan. Last updated: 2 July 2007.