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How to set up your own music publishing company

Setting up a music publishing company gives you control over any music you intend to record, perform or distribute. Many beginning musicians find this concept intimidating, and it can be if you don't know what you're doing. In a nutshell, setting up a music publishing company is necessary so that in the event your music generates revenue from a recorded or performed version, you can receive payment for your work.

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  1. Determine what music publishing association you want your publishing company affiliated with. In the United States you can either choose the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)or Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI). Your company cannot affiliate with both.

  2. Navigate to or and download the application forms from the appropriate website. Each application will ask you to provide at least three potential names for your publishing company. It's important to pick three names that are either unique to your music or unusual. Neither association will approve a company name that is currently being used by another publisher. Be creative.

  3. Register your music with the national copyright office. Go to and download the "Forms SR" documents to register sound recordings. Fill out all your personal information, and all information related to the body of work you want to register. You can fill out the forms online, or send the forms and the £22 processing fee to:

  4. U.S. Copyright Office

  5. 101 Independence Avenue SE

  6. Washington, DC 20559-6000

  7. Register the copyrighted songs to the publishing association of your choosing -- either BMI or ASCAP. Go to your publishing association's website and fill out the appropriate forms online.

  8. Tip

    The differences between the two associations are very slim, but subtle. The main discernible difference that matters to a music publisher is the contract length. ASCAP allows you to renew or terminate your publishing contract at the end of each calendar year, while BMI requires that you maintain a two-year publishing contract with them.


    This information should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have a large body of musical work that you want under the umbrella of a music publishing company, you should consult an entertainment attorney before setting up your company.

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About the Author

Ezekiel James began as a music writer in 2003. Since then, James has served as a writer for several music, technology and design publications. His work has been published on eHow, and in print for the "The Potrero View" and "Punk Planet." James is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Portland State University.

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