What to Know About Music’s Copyright Gold Rush

Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham, Shakira, and others recently sold their song catalogs to the flashy music publishing upstart Hipgnosis, in deals that have implications for the future of the recording industry.

By Marc Hogan

“First, a quick refresher on how music copyright works, because it’s absurdly complicated. There are two types of copyrights in the music industry. One set of rights is for the song or musical composition, also called the “publishing,” which means the underlying music and lyrics—essentially, whatever could be written down as traditional sheet music. The other is for the sound recording, or “master,” which is the finished track that ends up on streaming platforms. Contracts vary, but the songwriting copyright is typically co-owned by the songwriter and a publisher, which is a business that helps the songwriter collect royalties. To massively over-simplify: If you write a song and I record a cover of it, you’ll get the song royalties (with a share going to your publisher) and I’ll get the master royalties (with a share going to my record label). Song rights break down further into mechanical rights from streams or physical sales, performance rights from radio play or live renditions, and synchronization rights when music appears in TV shows, films, or commercials. Long story short, owning the publishing to songs that generate popular covers and turn up across visual media can add up to steady income over the long run.”

Source: Pitchfork