How to Set Up a Publishing Company

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by Donald Passman

I am now about to save you an enormous amount of time and frustration in setting up a publishing company. The tips I'm giving you here, revealed in print for the first time, were gained by yours truly through a series of hard knocks that will become obvious as you see the proper way to do it.

The Absolute First Thing To Do

Before you do anything, and I mean before you do anything, you positively must take this first step: Affiliate you company with ASCAP or BMI. The reason you have to do this first is that these societies won't let you use a name that's the same (or similar to) the name of an existing company. They don't want to accidentally pay the wrong party, and so they're tough about the name you can use. And you don't want to have label copy, printed music, copyright registrations, and everything else in the name of a company that can't collect performance royalties.

You can affiliate and secure your name by completing an application and giving the society three name choices,

ranked in order. That way, at least one of the names should be clear. If you're also a songwriter and haven't yet affiliated, you should affiliate as a writer with one of the two societies at the same time (they won't let you affiliate with both.) You'll have to affiliate as a publisher with the same society that you affiliate as a songwriter. This is because the societies insist on having a song's publisher affiliated with the same society as the song's writer. And for this same reason, if you're going to be a "real" publisher (meaning you're going to publish other people's songs, as opposed to only your own), you'll need to have two companies, one for ASCAP and one for BMI.

The publishing company affiliation forms are pretty straightforward; they ask you who owns the company, the address, and similar exciting, provocative questions. You also need to give them information about all songs in your catalog (writers, publisher, foreign deals, recordings, etc.), so they can put the info in their system and make sure you're properly credited (read "paid"). You can get affiliation applications by contacting ASCAP or BMI at the following address and telephone number:

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