At AIMP Luncheon Execs Reveal the New Model of Music Publishing


Moses Avalon

At the House of Blues this past Thursday the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) held its monthly luncheon.  These are always nice places to catch up with colleagues, but this time it was rather unique due to revelations made by the music publishing Execs and their demands on those seeking publishing deals with them– we want your recording rights as well.

The panel, hosted by veteran music barrister, Henry Root, consisted of executives mostly from major publishers. Each opined as to what they will be looking for when signing candidates in what each claimed are “transition times,” for the music industry.

The panel consisted of business affairs executives, David Lessoff (New West Records), Alan Melina (President New Heights Ent.), Robert Allen, (Universal) and Greg Sowders (Warner Publishing)

When responding to Root’s question of how 360 Deals, often described as “land grabs” by industry insiders,  play a role in a publisher’s decision to sign or not to sign, each panelist gave more or less the same answer using carefully chosen words, which was basically this: If you plan on signing with us, make sure you come with all your rights intact.

Meaning that if you have a previous recording contract on a label and now you have the interest of a major publisher–maybe because one of your recordings has gained some traction–you might have to go back and get out of your record deal.

What the F–k?  Did I wake up after taking the red pill r’somthing?

For publishers it used to be, don’t call us unless you’re signed to a major.  Now it seems to be the opposite.  Since when is a publisher concerned about a songwriter’s recording commitment?  Answer: since they started up streaming development deals to major record labels.

Melina: “If the artist already has a [label] deal we basically say you have to re-negotiate so you can give us the 360 rights so we can up stream them to [our sister] major.”

The panel seems in agreement on the point that publishers today are interested in the whole package, even if it’s for rights they themselves do not plan to exploit; just like 360 deals on record labels, who take an interest in an artist’s acting roles, live shows and other things peripheral to the sound recording revenue.  Majors traditionally broker those rights to third parties for exploitation.  Publishers are now entering that game, parsing off recording rights to labels with which they are “comfortable” doing business.  Presumably this will often mean their sister labels.  For example a publishing deal on Warner Chapel will likely only yield a record deal on Warner Music.

What if the artist wants to stay indie while licensing their publishing rights for needed cash.  One panelist commented that this might not be possible in the new paradigm, “If you are signed to label that we don’t like, you are f–ed.”

And the same works in reverse:  If you already signed to a publisher it might impede your sign-ability to a major label recording contract.

Lessoff: “If an artist already has his publishing tied up and then there is only those shiny disks to bring in revenue the deal is not as good for us.”

In the old days, before offering an advance publishers wanted a writer/artist to not only have a record deal, but a guaranteed release with a pressing of at least 100,000 units.  This was the signature of a known entity.  Now, however, they see a prior deal as an impediment because they are expected to up stream their development act with all rights in place.  And they can not do that if an artist still owes an album to the bedroom label who took a chance on them.

Once the publishing world would light up over a Carol King or Bob Dylan.  These configurations of artists came with large amounts of rights to parse.  But now, even that seems too limiting.  To get an advance in “transition times,” according to the panel, you need to be something like Prince: artist, writer and producer.

Saunders: “A home run for us is signing a writer who is a producer and has direct access to [other] artist[s].  The self contained singer/songwriter is still possible but difficult.”


On the down side, this trend, if carried through to its logical conclusion, would mean that artists looking to enter the major label system– excuse me– the major label/publishing system, will now find themselves more laterally integrated than they may wish to be; If your publishing is on UMG then so must your record deal be on a UMG distributed label, etc, etc.

This limits the artist’s strategic choices and consolidates the power that one company has over the artist’s destiny.  True, there is an advantage to having one group handle everything for you, if they are really good at exploiting everything.  But what if you’re happy with the job that Bedroom Records is doing for you; promoting you discreetly and in a way that keeps your street cred, but want a high level publisher or Copyright Admin company, like Bug Music, to be a bull dog about getting that ASCAP and sync money?  Once you had that option.  But it seems the trend is working towards taking that away.  Now, if you want that high tower publisher you may to jump to a high tower label, and their weighty 360 Deals.

On the up side, well there really isn’t an upside, unless you look at it like this– now an artist or their manager don’t have to shop the work twice.  You get two lousy deals for the effort of one.

What do you think of all this?  Comment here.

Mo out


  1. Moses Avalon says:

    We’re some of the people on this panel the same ones who thought a 360 Deal was a “land grab?”

  2. Mo: All this is about the past. No self respecting artist would sign with either a record company or a publisher. Today’s artists are educated musically and in business. They know where the money is and they will own their masters and their copyrights. Only artists lost in the fog of showbiz are looking for these deals. Check out The Reflectacles. ( They have built a solid performing act and have a world class EP with an album in production. They own their own record company and are in the black with operating capital in the bank. Money they earned from performing and merch sales. Every member of the band is a college graduate except one who will matriculate in 2012. Music is alive and well at the street level. Hartmann

  3. Andrea Brauer, Esq. says:

    So now publishers think they’re production companies too? This is not exactly new. Several disreputable indie publishing companies having been trying this for years. It’s just depressing that the majors are now jumping on this bandwagon.

    Or should I say re-jumping. Back in the early eighties, Ronald Regan (of all people) threatened the major label/publishers, like Warners, with anti-trust prosecution if they continued to condition their record deals on publishing deals with their sister companies. That’s why until recently, artists were free to shop record and publishing deals separately.

    I still maintain there are anti-trust issues in these “new” types of deals but given the decline in label revenues, I doubt the current administration will take them on. Ain’t progress wonderful?

  4. Jimi says:

    Majors cannot affrord themselves.
    So that means everyone starts over. Small specialty companies will start figuring out what is really neeeded for niche exploitation, & these startups will be able to work with artists without ripping ’em off. Eventually those miche companies will align with other niche companies to create more of an “ala-carte” network.
    Artists can then maximize & focus on their art, & those specialty companies can focus on what the do best without wasting time in places a particular artist’s work does not belong.
    The medical industry is a good example of this, GPs are few, but there are specialists for every field.
    And the drug companies rule the whole thing..

  5. Good one, Mo. Very helpful insight. Thanks for the research/legwork work/connecting the dots. Much appreciated. ~Michelle

  6. Bruce says:

    It’s enough to make me want to start my own label.
    These companies are REALLY starting to feel like dinosaurs….

  7. Dean Wolfe says:

    Is this really so bad: the only sustainable model
    that I can imagine is a label (and now publisher included)
    that is invested in an artist for the long haul- the whole
    career. This sounds like a return to bloody common
    sense to me. Am I not right Mo?

  8. J. says:


    But isn’t publishing the only cash cow left? Why would that division want to be saddled with the money-losing divisions? Oh, yeah, so that the same company can withhold your publishing royalties until all of the other expenses are paid for. Sweet!

  9. colin seeger says:

    The more things change, the more things stay the same….

    It’s a bit worrying when publishers think they can be record companies (and vice versa). The words “identity crisis” come to mind.

    That said, ultimately it’s “do or do not do a deal” and unless a publisher could demonstrate the capacity to use all the rights they want, I’d tell my clients to keep walking and talk to FIntage House about a collection deal.

    It’s a phase; or more likely “me-too- ism” for want of a better business model. They’ll get over it.

  10. Paul Cooke says:

    From what I can remember of the deals in the 80.s they where always symbiotic anyway?
    And it is good to hear for a change that as an artist, writer and producer running my own publishing and digi label that I am a sought after commodity for once 🙂
    However major labels always wanted the whole deal and had to buy starter labels out to get control, so what is new here? It does lead us into new territory though as it could be connected with the fact that companies now insist on a fee for live performance as this is currently a BIG earner for most major artists. I guess what they are doing is consolidating the package to get as much worth out of all revenue streams in these hard times. I think they just cannot afford to do business in any other way in 2010, very sad but true. Its now all about controlling the artist, product as a brand and not anything else. This new business model does tend to create more distance between the indie artist and the major artist with the gap widening every year between new music and corporate music brands. Maybe that’s how we will all view artists with major deals in future as a ‘Twinkie’ to munch on in between work…

  11. J.Hancock says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that the fat cats are ever scheming new ways stitching up artists. But have they actually tried this yet? Is there a real world example? Or is this just conjecture?

  12. Jeff Collier says:

    This is the equivalent of signing the family farm over to the bank but still having to work it and hope that they’ll let you share in the profits. That’s of course if there are any profits, dependent solely on whether they do a good job selling your crops, something which you as the artist/farmer have no influence on whatsoever. Sharecropping for the 21st century. You’d have to be the absolute top priority artist to have a hope in hell of succeeding in a deal like this, and since there’s only one priority artist at any given time, there’s going to be a lot of “farms” going bust under this deal structure.

    If you’re desperate enough to sign a draconian deal like this, then you might as well sign on to work at your nearest brothel – for free. At least they’ll give you a bed. If not, then let the majors (labels and publishers) continuing fighting like desperate wolves over their diminishing scraps while you keep building and working your act (your farm) independently, selling your music, etc. (your crops) directly to your fans until you’ve built it up to the point where, if the majors start sniffing around, then at least you can negotiate from a strong position and decide whether they’re actually offering you something better than what you’re already doing yourself. Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s not any harder than signing a shitty deal now and watching your career come to a complete standstill because the company you’ve signed to has other things to do at the moment. I’d rather fight my corner with both hands free than have to fight it on my knees with both hands tied behind my back while my “trainer” is schmoozing with the celebrity boxers watching the fight from the front row…

  13. What’s a “sync” right?
    Always a good read Moses.

  14. Val Gameiro says:

    Man, this is f-ed up! Not that I’m surprised… that’s the corporate think… how can they squeeze every last dime out of things and put it into their pockets! Much like both sides of the political spectrum… enter the age of corporatism!

    Sounds like, to me, in the long run, they’re going to hurt themselves even more! I hope musicians, like most small business owners, realize that the big corporations means them no good, and that they need to take their future success into their own hands, and carve it out!

  15. SG says:

    Excellent article Moses!

    We (music creator’s community) can look at this through several lenses. Without our business partners (record companies and publishing companies) to help us, we’ll be stuck spending even more time away from what we should be doing, which is creating music.

    I’m a songwriter/producer and I know how important our business partners are to our success. Our community is under attack from people who condone the theft of our works. How much time do we want to spend fighting within ourselves? The people who want to steal from us, or low-ball us, use this dissension to their advantage.

    All the smart people who read this blog are intelligent enough to know how to read and understand contracts or, at the very least, hire an outside party to guide them through it.

    Instead of fighting, we should be negotiating. If you think a 360 has too much weight in one area… COUNTER…and COUNTER again… Keep going until the right arrangement is in place. It’s a stronger and a more unified approach.

  16. D. Woo says:

    Dude, what you’re doing is truly amazing. Thanks for being the change in this industry that needs to happen!

  17. When companies become so big and arrogant that they can’t walk through a flower garden without trampling over the beauty laying below, it becomes necessary to prevent from entering or sharing in this beautiful space. “Behold The Music”, protect it from those who only wish to make profit and control the creative souls of inspiration. Gather your instruments in all there forms and play together as one force. The battle for creative freedom has just begun, please join us.

  18. Adrian Cornes says:


    I thought this was a meeting of independent music publishers? Yet the quotes from members of the panel include representatives of Universal and Warner Chappell who are hardly small or independent.

    In my experience in the UK there are plenty of writers being signed for publishing alone and these tend to split into 2 distinct types of deal: (1) Big money deals where everyone is chasing a hot new writer /performer or group who have signed a record deal with a Major or a big independent record label with a proven track record – in the UK this could mean XL Recordings and Domino Recordings for example (2) Development type deals with modest advances and either bumps to higher advances based on sales achievements or release on a major record company label. Independent publishers can and are doing a great deal in helping new writers get a record deal. Indeed since publishers have in house media licensing departments they often represent the writer’s masters for synch and compilation rights until such time as the writer signs a record deal.

    I suspect the quote made by members of the panel are to try and scare monger young musicians into accepting these types of deals but it seems to me that in practice it is not necessary, certainly in the UK. If the larger publishers do insist on these types of deals they are handing over more opportunities to the true independent sector.

    As ever thanks for a stimulating read.

    Kind regards,

    Adrian Cornes

  19. It seems everywhere we go, everything we buy, eat, drink, etc. is controlled by a some big private equity or global monopoly. The music industry is experiencing this on many levels. LiveNation-TicketMaster-FrontLine which now control the Tickets sales, Concert Halls and manages most artist in one way or another have become the Goldman Sacks -Bernie Madoff of the entertainment industry. Its know wonder young kids rip off there music from P2P nets, there priced out of live shows, and the touring/recording artists pander up to these corporate monopolies oblivious to there fans or potential fan base. Record companies and music publishers pander to the itunes, Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world, feeding into this creative sucking frenzy, while artist are payed pennies or not payed at all. My fellow creative friends, time is running out, standup and fight for creative control. Listen to the Moses and others who expose the truths.

  20. Val Gameiro says:

    Am I mistaken, or is this the systematic elimination of the smaller label competition in favor of the big corporation labels?

    I mean, knowing this, an artist wanting to get a major deal would not attempt to get some recognition by signing with a small label unless they knew they could get out of it, right?

    This looks just like the gathering of Banksters eliminating or buying out the competition!

  21. W. Colter says:

    The success of independent song placement companies and pub admins like Bug Music, proves that there are viable alternatives. It seems to me these fellows are only cutting off their own supply of potential talent to exploit. They aren’t going to hurt the indie market one bit.

  22. ChuckG says:

    What next, rights to the artist’s DNA, in case they master cloning?

    If an artist can do without the ego boosts labels make possible, there’s plenty of good money to be made by going the Indie route.

  23. JJ Biener says:

    While I was reading this article, I kept getting this mental image of a goose and golden eggs. Come to think of it, that is a pretty good metaphor for the industry as a whole.

  24. Dr Huge says:

    I don’t see the controversy. This is a natural evolutionary process. The publishers, live promoters, record labels are all converging into the 360 model … so what? It was inevitable.

    What this really does is puts pressure on young artists who DO sign to get it right first time, because they’re gonna find it harder to get a second go if their back catalog is stitched up by another company. If you don’t get it right first go you’re back at the end of the talent queue …

  25. Brandon Rice says:

    Just do it all yourself, that’s what I do. I don’t care about the stardom or the money. I only care about writing and recording my own music. I do it all.

  26. Patrick Landreville Bald Ego Music says:

    The only possible scenario in which a 360 deal can be good for an artist is if it is structured as a joint venture with the artist. That way the artist is a full partner in the venture and will have access to all the books and will have an actual voice, not lip service, in all decisions made in each and every aspect of the deal, merchandising, promotion etc. With the caveat that all partners in the venture are fully capable and qualified in their respective fields of course.

  27. Janders says:

    Patrick – “The only possible scenario in which a 360 deal can be good for an artist is if it is structured as a joint venture with the artist.” Well said, couldn’t agree more!

  28. Joe Spall says:

    As a former author , it is surprising what you will give away in terms of your rights to get that first big deal. Sometimes you come to regret it, but it is clear where the balance of power lies.

    Joe Spall
    Senior Medical Analyst
    Supply Link

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