The Publishing Game: Majors v. Indies



Indie Publishers

By now, you may have already heard countless horror stories of artists getting screwed over by the major companies that “rule” the music industry. For instance, just last year, Megan Thee Stallion sued her record label because her unfair deal only allows her to receive 26% of her recording profits, while the label and distributor keep the rest. Through all of the chaos that the majors have been causing, specifically the ‘Big Three’ (Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group), independent music publishers have had an increase in success and popularity in recent years. In particular, independent music publishers like Brain Candy Publishing, Primary Wave, and Kobalt have been killing the game recently. Currently, Brain Candy Publishing is actually revamping its publishing catalog. Primary Wave and Kobalt have also taken home important awards in the past year with Primary Wave being awarded the 2020 Indie Publisher of the Year Award by The Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) and Kobalt winning Publisher of the Year at the 2020 ASCAP Pop Awards.



Majors v. Indies… What?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself what the difference between a major and an indie music publisher even is and I’m here to tell you it is not as complicated as it may sound. It should be noted that the publishing business is not nearly so dominated by the majors as the record business; however, I’m going to make this as simple as possible.


Essentially, there are major publishers that are affiliated with record companies, like Universal Music, Sony/ATV/EMI, and Warner/Chappell. There are also a number of independent publishing companies whose administration is handled by a major. What is interesting, though, is that the publisher’s affiliation with a major is sometimes only for certain territories, meaning that they could have a deal with the U.S., but have separate deals elsewhere. Then, there are those publishing companies that are not at all affiliated with a major and actually do their own administration, so they do the dirty work by themselves (like accounting…. math? gross).


Who Should You Sign With? Well…

If you are an independent artist, songwriter, producer, or just a person that is curious about the world of music, you are in the right place. All this talk about major publishers and independent publishers may sound like a talk about good and evil, which may not be too far off. Nonetheless, there is validity in the question of who you should sign with.


While you may think signing to a major publisher could be your break, you have to consider the risks at hand. A major publisher may have more money to back you up than an indie publisher, but they most likely will not have the time to give you their undivided attention. A major has millions and millions of copyrights to administer due to their large catalog. In this case, you should ask yourself if the exposure that you would get from a major publisher is really equal to compensation.


Indie publishers tend to have smaller rosters, which means you’ll most likely have a better relationship and will have a publisher that is communicative and responsive if you ever have to call them. Just be cautious and read your contracts, but do not let the name of a company or huge dollar amounts persuade your decision before thoroughly outweighing the risks. While getting a huge advance may seem like an amazing thing at first, it can quickly turn into a disaster in the end.



At the end of the day, it is totally your choice who you sign with, but do not forget the millions of terrible experiences that many artists have had with the majors as you are by no means excluded from possibly having a similar experience.


Interested in Brain Candy Publishing?

If you are intrigued by the idea of independent publishers by the end of this, send your music to Brain Candy! We are not here to give creatives empty promises, but instead, want to help artists do what they love while also living comfortably. Here at Brain Candy, we go beyond the traditional for artists and we can make sure that the exposure we get you will lead to actual compensation. As we continue to revamp our catalog, stay tuned to see the first-class guidance and expert administrative support we constantly provide our artists, songwriters, and producers with. The life of a creative is not always easy and straightforward but if you join Brain Candy, we will be with you every step of the way, guiding you through this turbulent world!


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