The first of a series of regular guest posts from Aaron Davison, music licensing specialist


indieberlin is proud to welcome: The first in a series of guest posts by music licensing expert Aaron Davison from

To Self Publish Or Not Self Publish…. That Is The Question

Today, let’s look at an issue that comes up frequently for songwriters interested in getting involved in the field of music licensing. It´s the question of self publishing vs. working with an outside publisher. In today’s post I´m going to walk you through the pros and cons of both approaches and give you my perspective on what the best approach is in general. First, let`s look at dealing directly with music supervisors…

The upside to placing your music this way is that if you´re successful in placing your music in a project directly through a music supervisor you´ll be keeping all the publishing royalties, as well as the writer´s royalty and all of the licensing fee. By placing your music yourself you´re essentially functioning as your own publisher and instead of sharing all the money that you would normally share with a publisher, you get to keep it.

The downside is that as an unknown songwriter you probably don´t know and have connections with music supervisors like established publishers do. This mean you´re going to need to do a lot of cold calling, emailing, etc to find out about projects and determine who is looking for what. This is certainly do-able, but it takes a lot of hustling and persistence.

I would say on average, when I´m contacting supervisors for the first time, I have about a ten percent success rate. Which means that about ten percent of the time I´ll get the greenlight to move forward and submit music. This isn’t bad in my opinion if you consider how many variables are involved in the world of music supervision, but compared to publishers, who I would say I have a closer to fifty percent success rate with, it pales in comparison.

The upside to dealing with publishers, as opposed to music supervisors, is that IF they are established, then they´re going to have established relationships with music supervisors and this will help you get your music heard more easily. Of course you´ll have to share the licensing fees and royalties they generate on your behalf. Usually publishers split revenue generated 50/50 with writers. Sometimes they take less and sometimes they take slightly more. But 50/50 is pretty standard.

I suggest taking a diverse approach to getting your music licensed. Develop a portfolio of songs like you would a portfolio of stocks. Try placing some of them with non exclusive libraries and publishers, place a few more with high quality and credible exclusive publishers and represent some yourself, pitching them directly to supervisors, ad agencies, etc. Since just like with the stock market, you have no way of knowing for sure how different companies you sign with are going to pan out, it´s best not to put all your eggs in one basket and instead diversify and see who performs best. Then move forward with the companies and people who prove to be the best fit for you and your music.

Article by Aaron Davison from