Hello Colleagues,

A work I submitted to a publisher has been accepted, and they have sent me a contract to sign. This is the first time this has happened, so I am not familiar with how this works, curious if anyone else has had a work published and if so, does their situation match mine. The basic details of the contract are that I assign exclusive copyright over to the publisher and remove all copies I have from the internet. In exchange, they put it up on their website for sale and I get 10% of the profits. If you are published, what is your experience? Similar? Different?


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  • Hi Gav, I'm not published but I thought that these might help...

    I think they are rooting for exclusivity on the copyright which is understandable. They are giving you the option to give them full rights in order to get the 10% of the profits. If you have a better chance to make a better deal with someone else I think that you should check that option out. However if this will be the only opportunity for you to generate a profit from this particular work, I think that you have nothing to lose. One thing that you can ask them is what kind of copyright they are seeking. You'll also want to set an end date for the contract.

    There are different durations to the copyrights as explained here: Copyrights

    Here's a standard agreement document that is available: publishing agreement

    Copyright duration for musical compositions and sound recordings | Copyright Corner
  • Congratulations Gav! 10% does seem a little low but I am nor versed in these things. I would be very rigorous with the contraact and query any points you are not sure of. A reputable publisher should be happy to explaIm. Is there a period of exclusivity? Is it in perpetuity and can it be cancelled. Can you break the contract. Are there clauses forbidding anthing which they might consider competitive ie publishing similar pieces elsewhere. Is the copyright being asigned for the music or the engraved score. If they want copyright for the music itself I would be very carreful. Do you mind telling who the publisher is?

  • Hi Saul and Charles, thanks for your input, I also checked with other boards I am on and the contract is not atypical according to answers I got from people who have been published. The contract is only a few pages long and seems straightforward to me, although who knows how these sorts of things actually work until you try one. There is a reversion clause (meaning rights revert back to me) under certain circumstances. I’m inclined to go with it because I know from having tried a few times over the years how difficult it is to get in. The publisher is Hamar.
  • Congratulations, Gav.

    Can I ask how you approached this? Did you send a score and a recording, virtual or actual?

    Best of luck with it. 

  • Hi Dane, thanks! I sent them the Finale file through their web site

    Dane Aubrun said:

    Congratulations, Gav.

    Can I ask how you approached this? Did you send a score and a recording, virtual or actual?

    Best of luck with it. 

    I’ve Been Accepted By a Publisher question
    Hello Colleagues, A work I submitted to a publisher has been accepted, and they have sent me a contract to sign. This is the first time this has happ…
  • With the usual I Am Not A Lawyer disclaimer, I can contribute what is solely my personal, amateur opinion on contracts for creative work.

    I think it's inadvisable to sign any contract without having it looked at by a lawyer. And personally, I would never unconditionally give away my copyright.

    I'd want to know what would happen if my work didn't sell and I was convinced it was because the publisher wasn't promoting it effectively.  Would I just have to let it sit in their inventory because I couldn't have it posted again on the internet by me or by another publisher? What happens if the company closes?  Who has the copyright then? What am I allowed to do with the work then?

    If someone else puts the work on the internet without my or the publisher's permission, and perhaps without my name on it, would the publisher do anything about it?  Would I be liable myself for anything if this happens? (This is not a theoretical concern -- I myself have had my creative literary and musical work posted on the internet by others without my knowledge or permission, and in some cases without attribution to me.)

    Does a contract have a "hold harmless" clause -- these common but unconscionable clauses mean that if someone sues the publisher over my creative work, I agree to pay any court awarded damages myself.

    Does removing all copies from the inter apply to MIDI or live performance recordings?

    And there are many other things I would question.

    In a wider sense, I don't see why it would be necessary to sign such a contract.  There are plenty of ways to distribute one's work, for sale or for free, on various web sites without having to sign such a restrictive agreement.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Jon!

  • Gav,

    Why don't you try sheetmusicplus? they only require non-exclusive contract and you can take off your music at any time with no obligations?

  • Hi Saul, I am on SMP and other self-publishers. But this is an actual publisher.

  • Many years ago a colleague of mine composed a piece and had it performed by the local orchestra. As a result, a publisher offered him a contract, which contained conditions similar to those offered to you in that he had to forfeit his copyright. However, he wasn't offered 10% of the profits, but instead a "lump sum", i.e. a one-time payment of a fixed amount of money. He was very content with it because it was a considerable amount. I don't know what is the best option in your case. If you estimate that your piece will sell well, 10% is not bad. If you are less sure and can use a bag of money, perhaps you can propose a "lump sum". In both cases you lose your copyright, and that's really pesky but  perhaps inevitable. Success with your negotiations. 

    Since it is the first time you received such an offer, I would recommend to accept reasonable conditions and not be too demanding. The publisher takes a risk, while you receive money and your name as a composer gets branded. Except when there are very uncommon stipulations in the contract, its always a good deal. Sign the contract and get rich :)

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