This episode about music publishing administration was previously published on the Profitable Musician Show.

Bob James is from the UK and he had many years of mentoring and coaching indie artists in the music industry. He’s going to talk specifically about music publishing administration, songwriting, publishing, deals, and all of that stuff since many get confused about those stuff.

Bob expressed his creative side through deejaying at the age of thirteen. He later set up a company called Music House doing radio, TV, and college club promotion. He also went into management and managed various artists. Bob had a lot of success with some double platinum artists and also songwriters and producers, both in the UK and in America, which led him to a very deep understanding of publishing.

He stresses the importance of networking because of an incident. Once he accidentally got drunk on a boat in France with somebody who owns the college where he was eventually invited to be a business consultant. He needed to replace one of the tutors when he was sick and he taught about artist management. He enjoyed it and have always done teaching afterward. He teaches at Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA) in the UK. Before that he taught at University of Surrey and guest lectured at most of the big music colleges and universities around the UK and throughout Europe. Bob has taught Music Publishing at a degree level and a Master’s level here in the UK.

Bob shared that he doesn’t have a degree yet he teaches on the degree and has a Master’s. He has PGCert and is qualified as a teacher. He’s got many years of experience in the music industry, which includes working with TLC, Simon Cowell, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and Britney Spears. He also worked with Darude and Corona.

The biggest misconception is that a publisher and a record label do the same thing. They don’t. The key thing about publishing is that there are different ways for an artist to use publishing. One, it can be a check when you have success. They collect the money that’s owed to you as a writer, and you get a nice big advance if you have big hits and everything else, or you can use a publisher creatively to help develop yourself as an artist. If you’re a professional songwriter, the publisher is key to your business relationship. If you’re just a performer and don’t write music, then the record deal is the key deal that you do. If you do both, you’ve got two deals to do.

A lot of people think that the majors own publishers and record labels, but they work separately. If any label offers an artist an all-encompassing record and publishing deal, Bob recommends separating it. What you’re trying to do is you’re trying to get as many areas of potential and possibility and more people working on it rather than just the one team doing everything.

When you’re working in the music industry, you are an entrepreneur. Therefore you need the three core tenets of being an entrepreneur. Your tools in education are the concept of motivation, which is you do a week’s or a month’s worth of work, and we’ll give you a salary. You do your academic assignments, and we’ll give you a qualification. It’s literally, “You do this, and you get a reward.” That’s motivation, but an entrepreneur works on inspiration. With inspiration, there is no reward. You just need to create something.

Bob also did pop music in the promotion. They then set up a pop promotion division, and they were the only ones doing it. They literally controlled the market. Sometimes, you got to wait for the market to come around you. Face what’s happening now as an artist, especially. Be authentic. Don’t chase the market. The market will come around. It always changes, but you’ve got to be who you are, real and authentic. Your songs have to come from emotion and authenticity.

A lot of people overthink it. There is a certain income stream. Maybe on YouTube, you’ve got to be a creator, and there are registrations you’ve got to be very careful about. The level of success you’re going to have is going to be across everything. It means there’ll be a lot of money to collect, and you will have people that will come along and offer to do that. At that point, you’ll have your lawyer. You’ll negotiate a good deal. You’ve got the negotiating advantage because there’s money to collect. If you try and do that deal early, there’s nothing in it for them.

Bob recommends that you work with any publisher. In the early base, you may have to do the best deal. Get some momentum. Get something going. As long as the term is short or as long as you’re only giving one song away, there’s always going to be more songs. What you don’t want to do is sign a terrible deal for yourself as a writer for a long period of time. That is an absolute no.

A good publisher working with a good writer can open doors. The bigger companies, people go to them first when they’re looking for sync because of the catalog they’ve got, and they get better rates for sync. They are the ones that can place the songs. They’re dealing with the A&R people at the record labels on a daily basis because they’ve got such big names, and some of them they publish. There are going to sometimes better results. It comes down to gut feeling. Go and meet the teams.

Understanding all the different parts of copyright is so important. Bob James teaches a 25-week module just on publishing. His Master’s have even gotten deeper. The key thing is understanding your rights. Don’t rush into deals. Do not do anything without having an attorney or a lawyer to overlook any contracts.

When you pitch for sync, it is the icing on the cake. The only thing you can do with sync is to make someone aware of your music. That’s it. You can’t persuade someone to use it because that’s not how it works. You’ve got to be the filter and don’t send in stuff for sync that doesn’t accurately meet the brief because you will get to the point that people won’t even listen to your music if it’s not on brief.

It’s not quantity. It’s always quality. You’ve got to be able to filter your own output. The other thing goes back to what I said at the very beginning. It’s the entrepreneurial spirit. If you don’t believe in your music, why will anyone else believe in it?

If you believe in something, then surely you’ve got to get behind it. You’ve got to gather your troops. If you believe in something, you know it’s going to be a hit. In which case, you know you’re going to need a lawyer and your team. Maybe start talking to publishers or trying to pitch for singers because if you don’t believe that it will do that and you’re not going to invest in it, nobody else will either.

Remember, music, art, technology, and fashion are linked. If you’re going into the industry, you need to embrace everything. You have to embrace technology because that’s the world we live in. That’s how you get your music to an audience now.

Part of it is the journey. It’s not about having financial success. It’s about expressing your creativity. It’s being authentic to who you are. That gives you joy. Understand the industry so you don’t make those mistakes.

Connect with Bob James on his socials. Everything is @BobJamesUK. On Twitter is @BobJames. If you go his website at, there’s a contact form there if ever you need to get in touch.


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