If a band or artist writes their own material, they are by default the publisher of those songs. For many songwriters, publishing royalties can be their most consistent and dependable sources of income – more so than master recording royalties (record sales), touring (where there’s no guarantee you sell enough tickets to make money), or other more precarious revenue streams in the music industry.
The majority of an artist’s publishing income comes from its mechanical and public performance rights. Mechanical rights cover the reproduction of a song on a record. In the standard contract between a band and a label, the label is required by law to pay the composer a fixed rate per song simply for the right to use the composition on commercially sold recordings. As of 2018, the mechanical licensing rate in for the U.S. and Canada is 9.1 cents per song. With the performance rights, a song's copyright covers every time it appears on radio, television, in restaurants, bars, and more.
Publishing’s importance is increasing as the Internet enables new methods of music distribution. Advances in digital music distribution have made independent music available to a much wider audience with many different types of payment models. This has created a significant increase in publishing revenues for many more songwriters.