Exclusive VS Non-Exclusive Music Publishing: A Musician's Guide

One option for any producer or musician is deciding whether or not to sign an exclusive publishing deal. It's a big decision because you are putting your trust in them and their ability to push your music. There comes a point though where it makes sense.

Exclusive and non-exclusive publishing deals both have PRO's and CON's but it's important to understand your options. In this article I'll compare the two models so you can decide which works best for your situation.

Exclusive Publishing 
  • It saves a ton of time because you only have to worry about one publisher. 
  • It pays. A lot of the time publishers and libraries offer you higher commissions when your music is signed exclusively. 
  • Some publishers will pay upfront money when you sign exclusive music into their catalog.
  • Libraries often promote exclusive music over non-exclusive music. 
  • It's easier to focus marketing and promotional efforts to one source. 
  • There are no inconsistencies in licensing fees. 
  • You don't have to worry about a conflict with backend royalties and publishers fighting over the publishers share. 
  • Your music wont be re-titled and re-submitted to your PRO. 
  • A lot of VERY top tier publishers and libraries only accept exclusive music. 
  • Some music supervisors prefer not to deal with non-exclusive music. 
  • Exclusive deals create an invested interest to get the best and most profitable licensing fees.

  • Your eggs are in one basket, if the publisher or library fails so does your music.  
  • You're music could get hung up with a publisher that is not pushing your tracks. 
  • Potential loss of opportunities to license your music elsewhere. 
  • Some deals don't have reversion clauses.

Non-Exclusive Publishing 
  • You are able to cast a wider net with your music. 
  • It's safer because if a music library fails your music can is still available at other places. 
  • You have freedom to explore new licensing opportunities in the future. 
  • Your music is not locked in anywhere. 
  • Less risk because if your music doesn't do well, you can move on and try somewhere else. 
  • More potential to have your music heard and licensed. 
  • You have more control over your music.

  • Typically you will receive less commission being non-exclusive. 
  • There is a chance your music will be promoted less when they also have exclusive music. 
  • Your music can be re-titled if your participate with music libraries that practice that policy. 
  • Your music could be pitched to the same person with two different prices. 
  • Some music supervisors wont purchase non-exclusive music. 
  • It takes longer to upload, keyword, describe and in general takes more time to maintain. 

There are producers that make a lot of money exclusively but there are also producers that have success non-exclusively. The best option is to do a little of both and have some music that is exclusive while offering different music non-exclusively.

This is important. Make sure you don't sign anything putting your music into a publisher or libraries hands exclusively in perpetuity. Perpetuity means forever. Make sure there is a reversion clause so after X amount of years, you can do something different with the music, if the deal is not working.

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