Learn About International Music Publishing and Licensing

An important topic of study for students enrolled in a Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI) degree program is international music business. Expanding a music business into the possibilities of the international market has great potential. In the changing music industry of the digital age, doing business internationally is no longer as time- or effort-intensive as it once was. Music is now available in digital form online, reaching audiences in every corner of the globe in an instant.

Yet, particularly concerning music publishing and licensing, operating in international music markets also involves a number of challenges, as copyright laws surrounding performer rights and intellectual property rights can vary greatly from country to country. A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) or Society (PRS) is also generally country- or region-specific, necessitating membership in many such organizations — or at least membership in one organization with reciprocal arrangements around the world. International music business management can be complicated, but for the aspiring entrepreneur looking to start a publishing company or an artist beginning to perform overseas, the possibilities can be worth the time and effort.

Music Publishing, Licensing and Performing Rights Organizations or Societies

A large portion of performing artists’ income and music industry revenue comes from royalties and licensing. The main role of a music publisher is to make sure artists receive appropriate royalties and licensing fees anytime an entity uses their music. Artists and publishers enter into contracts regarding what percentages of publishing revenue are due to the artist and what is due to the publisher. Publishers register the artists’ work with the copyright office and a PRO, which monitors the music in media such as TV, radio or streaming services and collects appropriate “performance royalties.” The publisher further licenses this music to labels and collects “mechanical royalties” from physical sales or downloads. In addition, the publisher negotiates licenses and collects “synchronization royalties” from movies, TV shows, commercials, video games and other media when an artist’s music is part of the soundtrack.

International Publishing and Copyright Law

This process is similar for the international music business, although successful international publishers must understand unique markets and how best to approach them. Copyright law can also differ from country to country. Thankfully, international agreements now protect music rights and other artistic intellectual property rights. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886 pioneered a set of guidelines for nations to use when legislating artistic copyright. Currently, 171 countries participate in the modern iteration of the Convention, creating a large international network of markets that operate according to the same basic principles and laws. It falls to music business management professionals to decide which markets could prove most profitable, including those outside the Berne Convention.

For those interested in music publishing and licensing, learning the particularities of international music business in an online MBEI program can provide the insight to navigate potentially lucrative international music markets.

Learn more about the Frost School of Music’s online MBEI program.



BMI International

CISAC: Legislation

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