Discount Applied before Checking Out

When you Add 3 or more Packs


Your Cart is Empty

How Can I Publish My Own Music

May 08, 2020 7 min read

How Can I Publish My Own Music

With the modern music landscape becoming so focused on DIY success stories and independent artists soaring to the top of the charts, the art of publishing and distributing your own music is much more common—and simple—than ever. Historically, most recordings that found their way to the public in mass were handled by record labels and publishing houses, who would distribute the music and handle the publishing. That is still common today, however, distributing and publishing your own music is now a reality for several successful musicians. Additionally, for any musician looking to have complete control of their work, self-publishing will be ideal for reaping all of the financial benefits. 

An important fact to remember is that publishing pertains to the commercialization of a composition, not a sound recording, which is often handled by record labels. One of the main reasons musicians self-publish is to collect more royalties. Typically, royalties are split between 50% to the writer and 50% to the publisher. If you self-publish your own song, you get paid double because you own the writer’s share and the publisher’s share. In addition, you hold all the rights, IP, publisher's credit, and songwriter's credit. 

While that may sound like a no-brainer, self-publishing has its cons, such as being left to create your own opportunities, doing all of the admin work, and being the salesperson for your music. For some artists, the 50% is worth sacrificing in order to focus solely on the creative aspect of writing your music. Though, most independent musicians are used to wearing multiple hats, and the extra money and control is worth it for them. So, let’s get into the details of how to self-publish and self-distribute. 

Publishing Your Music

The first step to publish your own music is to register as a publisher with a Performance Rights Organization AKA PRO. PROs collect royalties for songwriters for both the publisher and the writer, and they are simple to sign up for. The three main PROs are BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. Once you are the publisher, you have full rights to your music and can license it however and wherever you want. You will take in 100% of the profits and you will have full control over your publishing career. 

However, it’s important to remember this also will mean you will receive no advances, no help with A&R and promotion, and all of the grunt work and administrative duties will fall on you. For many independent artists, this extra work can be worth it to retain full control. But it’s important to weigh the benefits of potentially signing with a publishing house that can help build up your career in ways you might not be able to on your own. 

Is BMI Better Than ASCAP?

BMI is the largest PRO in the United States, representing over 12 million musical works and nearly a million artists. It’s completely free to sign up as a songwriter, however, it costs $150 for individual publishers. ASCAP, on the other hand, is the second largest PRO in the U.S. There is a one-time fee of $50 for both songwriters and publishers. They are very similar, but many songwriters go with BMI because it’s free to sign up. But for those looking to self-publish, ASCAP is technically a bit cheaper. SESAC, on the other hand, is invite-only. Each PRO offers different yet similar benefits to their members, and depending on your individual goals, one may seem more appealing to the other. Now, let’s look at distribution.

Performance Rights Organizations

Can You Distribute Your Own Music?

Distributing music refers to the process of getting your music to listeners. For example, your distributor will upload your music to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, iTunes, etc. Typically, this is handled by record labels, but in the modern era of digital distribution, there are countless companies that allow artists to distribute their own music, usually for a small fee. A few of the most popular music distributors are:

  • TuneCore
  • CD Baby
  • Soundrop
  • DistroKid
  • Amuse

These companies will allow you to upload your music to various digital formats all over the web and cash out on your mechanical royalties.

On the other hand, you can self-release your music completely for free on websites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp. Both websites are easy to use and sign up, but they won’t allow you to monetize your music based off of streams like you could with Spotify or Apple Music. Bandcamp allows you to sell your music, whereas SoundCloud is purely promotional, unless you sign up for SoundCloud Go. You can also upload your music to YouTube free, and if you own the music outright, you can apply to monetize your videos through advertising.

music distributors

Can anyone upload to Spotify?

In theory, yes, anyone can upload their music to Spotify. However, there are a few caveats. 

  • First, you must own everything in your recording or at least have cleared samples. If you upload your work to Spotify and there are uncleared samples, your music will be struck down and you may be sued to pay back whatever money you made off the recording and more. Unlike SoundCloud, you can’t just put up an unofficial remix or a beat with unlicensed samples. Spotify is monetized, and having your music streamed is the equivalent of selling your music. Most producers use Spotify for their official releases, whereas SoundCloud includes demos, works-in-progress, live sets, etc.
  • Second, you will need a distributor to upload the music, as Spotify does not allow artists to upload directly. For a short moment, Spotify toyed with the idea and gave a handful of musicians access to upload music on their own, but they quickly revoked the option, much to the delight of distributing companies. But with that being said, yes, anyone can upload as long as they have an original piece of music and a distributor. The same thing applies with the other streaming giants like Apple Music and Tidal. 

    Is it Free to Put Music on Spotify?

    Unlike SoundCloud and Bandcamp, it usually costssomething to upload your music to Spotify. This shouldn’t dissuade you from using Spotify, though. In most scenarios, the cost is very minor. And to be candid, in 2020, Spotify really isthe place to bewhen it comes to music streaming. There are competitors, of course, but Spotify is the current front runner.

    While there are distributors that offer free services to get your music on Spotify, there is usually a caveat; they want a portion of your royalties or there’s an annual service fee. This isn’t always the case, but as of now, there are few options for independent artists to simply upload their music to Spotify free of costs. However, there are options we’ll get into below.

    Who is the Best Music Distributor? 

    Unlike PROs, there are dozens and dozens of distributors you can go with. In many cases, the differences are negligible and it really comes down to just picking one that best fits your budget and release schedule, but we will go over a few benefits of five popular distributors:

    1. TuneCore: TuneCore provides you with worldwide digital distribution for albums, singles and ringtones. It conveniently comes with a Music Publishing Administration pack that gives you the option to collect royalties and find sync opportunities. 
    2. CD Baby: CD Baby is excellent for artists interested in physical distribution of CDs and Vinyl, in addition to digital distribution options. It is also the longest-running distributor on the market, and comes with loads of additional services many independent artists rely on.
    3. Soundrop: Formerly known as Loudr, Soundrop is best for musicians with a small budget looking to get their music distributed. There are no distribution fees, however, they do take a 15% commission on all of your streaming royalties.
    4. DistroKid: Distrokid claims to be 10 to 20 times faster than any other distributor to get artist music into digital download and streaming platforms. Artists are able to distribute unlimited songs for an annual fee and get paid 100% of their royalties monthly.
    5. Amuse: Amuse is a free service that allows you to keep 100% of your royalties and rights. The main con is that it is an app-based company, meaning you have limited access to get your work done on a desktop computer or laptop. There is also no mechanical license for cover songs and no admin publisher.

      How Do You Get Paid for Your Music?

      This is one of the most important questions for any musician to ask: when, where, andhow do I get paid? You’ve put in the hard work creating your sound, marketing your release, and jumping through the hoops to upload your music. Now, you’re owed your due. There are a few ways you will get paid:

      • Your Distributor: Whenever your music is streamed or bought, your distributor will pay you out, usually on a monthly basis, but it depends on the distributor. In some cases, they will take a percentage of your royalties, which may be a fair tradeoff depending on how much you’re planning on taking in. If your music is being streamed heavily, it might be more lucrative to pay a small yearly fee and keep 100% of your royalties rather than use the distributor for free but offer up a chunk of your streaming royalties. 
      • Your PRO:When your music is streamed or licensed in a commercial for example, your PRO will pay out your royalties. If you self-publish your music, you will get 100% of the profit. If you just register as a songwriter, you will get half, and the publisher will take the other half. These payments usually come as checks or direct deposits every quarter.

      get paid for your music


      Unlike 20-30 years ago, independent artists have infinitely more resources at their disposal to get their music out there and get paid. Whether you’re publishing your own music or distributing it, you have options to remain in control. However, there are always drawbacks to independence. Record labels and publishing houses have connections and capital that most up-and-coming musicians lack, and it can often be a smart tradeoff to give them a percentage of your profit in exchange for their ability to accelerate your career. But as we’ve seen more and more, independent artists are capable of making a living on their own. It will take an extra bit of hustle and business skills, but if you’re serious about being in control of your own vision, it will be worth it.

      Also in News

      James Blake Synths
      James Blake Synth Sounds Tutorial

      October 23, 2020 7 min read

      How to Produce Music
      Our Quick Guide on How to Produce Music

      October 22, 2020 10 min read

      vst plugins
      VST Plugins

      October 11, 2020 12 min read