Writer-Publisher Relationship

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There doesn’t appear to be a way to create a relationship between songwriters and their music publishers/administrators (other than using artist/label relationship to create a personal publisher). This is a huge missed opportunity.

By identifying the date range of the relationship, whether it is exclusive/non-exclusive, and the share of the writer’s interest represented, the publisher information can be associated automatically with all songs written by that writer during that period.

Moreover, if that relationship changes (e.g., writer signed to a co-pub deal and writer’s interest reverts), publisher information for all songs published by that publisher can be updated with a single change.

This would also allow licensees to readily identify which publisher controls which writer’s share of the song.

It also seems to be a mistake to lump labels and publishers together when they serve fundamentally different roles and require fundamentally different information.


The problem with this is where do you ffind the information.
Occasionally this sort of information is included in some of the works databases where the ipi of the publisher is included.
This sort of commercial information may not be public and if it is public how would you know if it is exclusive or not.


There are plenty of people within the music industry who could supply this information. I am an entertainment attorney and would be happy to supply my writer clients’ publisher/administrator information, and have that information available. However, if the data structure was modified to accommodate this, it wouldn’t require “inside” info to be useful. The writer-publisher/administrator association alone would be very helpful in clarifying rights with respect to compositions.

The major publishers have searchable databases that tell which songs they control for which writers, meaning that at a minimum, public records can be used to associate a writer with a publisher, then connect songs to that association. If a writer is known to have other publisher associations, those could be added to the writer as well, even without being associated with a particular song. Once these writer/publisher relationships are established, they can be used to clarify rights for new songs that are added.

For example, if we know Writer 1, 2, and 3 contributed to a song, and Publisher A, B, and C are also listed in the credits, and we see a prior association between Writer 1 & Publisher A, and Writer 2 & Publisher B, but have no known publisher associations with Writer 3, the user can be reasonably certain that Writer 3 is associated with Publisher C. This can then be verified by searching PRO databases to confirm if Publisher C appears on multiple titles with Writer 3 and/or searching the publisher database to confirm if the publisher claims that writer.

Conversely, if Writer 1 and Writer 2 contributed and the publishers are Publisher A and D (but not Publisher B, with whom Writer 2 is previously associated), we’d have reason to think that Writer 2 has a new/unknown publisher association. Since we know Writer 1 and Publisher A are associated, we can presume Writer 2 is associated with Publisher D. This can then be verified through the PRO and/or publisher databases, and a new writer-publisher association can be created.


IMO MB shouldn’t manage those links (possibly varying in time when rights are sold or when they fall in the public domain).
Official DB already do list who to send the royalties to.
It often is contradictory with how the credits are artistically listed in the releases (what we want).

A band would often want to not reveal who did compose and who did author and would then list the band name on most their tunes. Same goes with pen‐names. These are an intent that is followed in MB, isn’t it? :sunglasses:

Royalties collector/managing societies (JASRAC, SACEM, etc.) may have to replace pen‐names by identities or to split this credit into each band member so that they each get equal share of the benefit (which was also intentional in the first hand, IMO).
We shouldn’t set these kind of credits because it would almost always be wrong to say that each member did participate in both the lyrics and music. That’s not for MB, is it? :sweat:


Thanks for the input. However, MB already does allow for associating individual writers and for the various publishers with a composition (work), right? The problem is that currently, multiple writers can be associated with a work, and multiple publishers, but no connection made between each writer and the publisher who administers their share - they’re all just lumped together on an individual song.

A band that writes all of its own music and only wants to be referred to collectively as the writer wouldn’t be precluded from doing so merely by making a writer-publisher/administrator relationship - the writer (artist in MB) could still be the group. If they have a publisher or administrator, that connection could be made. If they don’t then that’s fine, too. However, in my experience, even when a group accords credit to all band members for songwriting, they’re still listed individually as writers.

While I agree that the collection societies generally use a writer’s legal name, what I suggest wouldn’t trump intent to use pen names, at least no more than the current MB data structure. For example, Benjamin Levin and Lukasz Gottwald are already associated with many works in MB, though they’re more commonly known by their p/k/a names of Benny Blanco and Dr Luke.

At the end of the day, the lack of accurate writer/publisher information for songs embodied in recordings is a huge problem in the industry, which in turn is keeping many songwriters from getting paid properly. For example, see prior attempts to address via Global Rights Database and now ICE. The way MB data is organized now, it only adds to the ambiguity, when a change to the data structure could actually help provide more accurate information, which I understood to be a key objective of MB.


Hi tdruth!

I’m Robert Kaye the Executive Director of MetaBrainz – the legal entity behind MusicBrainz. I wanted to chime into this discussion a bit since this exact topic has been on my mind for the last few years, especially with regard to the crashed and burned GRD. I’m interested in seeing what happens with ICE, but if the fundamental premise is even similar to the GRD, I would expect a similar outcome.

And like you, I see that MB could play a significant role, mainly because it can present a solution that is the antithesis of all things GRD. But, before I launch into my thoughts on how this could work, I need to throw out some caution about MusicBrainz, money and control.

MusicBrainz isn’t a code-base, a database or a non-profit; it is a community of people editing the data in a collaborative fashion. Without the community being intact and doing what they love doing, MB is worthless. Given that, we need to ensure that future proposals do not put the community in harm’s way.

And if MusicBrainz becomes in any way authoritative or partially influencing who gets paid, there is serious trouble on the horizon. The Internet is filled with crooks and people who want to make a quick buck and these people would quickly identify us as a way to divert money into their pockets. I learned this cautionary tale talking to former execs from PayPal. When I asked why the hell the fees were so steep for PayPal to move money from one PayPal account to another PayPal account (which amounts to a few cheap SQL transactions), the answer was: Fraud. PayPal needed to move insane amounts of money every day in order to be able to offset the costs of fraud prevention.

Needless to say, this was an eye-opening situation for me. So, one critical criteria part of any valid solution is to ensure that MusicBrainz isn’t inundated with fraud issues. We can’t, nor want to handle this mess.

Onward to my actual thoughts. Have a look at these slide presentation I gave to the European Commission a couple of weeks ago. It gets interesting slide 16 onward:

My idea is to create another new non-profit that would work closely with MusicBrainz, but that would also be independent and would then manage the more sensitive information that could in the end define how money flows in the industry. Forget the nonsense being bantered about in the industry about the blockchain in music – that is mostly rubbish. However, all of the people in that camp have some good motivations. I think a public (but central, since distributed is still very hard) ledger of rights would not be hard to setup and operate.

And your suggestion that this new resource contain links to other resources so that people like yourself can more easily do the due diligence to see how owns what, is the second time I’ve heard it suggested in as many weeks. Playing on that: If there are 5 resources and 3 agree, but two don’t, we can look at the quality rating of the 2 that disagree. Is the quality rating of those two lower than the others? That might be a strong indication that there is agreement about who owns (is allowed to license) what. Managing links and quality ratings are things that this new org could tackle. Im still not sure where the splits would factor in here.

Does that make any sense so far? Clearly I haven’t worked out most of the wrinkles in all of this, but I am keen to continue having conversations like this to see if we can figure out a way forward. Also, are you aware of the Fair Music Collective project at Berklee?

Finally, with respect to adding the relationship type that captures the writer <-> publisher relationship, let’s invoke our style leader @reosarevok – thoughts on this? I think it makes sense and when it comes from an obviously qualified source like tdruth, we should seriously consider it. Should I make a STYLE ticket for you?



The problem is what we do with the info when it comes from less qualified sources, because it’s not like we can easily check for correctness if the info isn’t generally public and findable. That said, if we are not basing any serious commercial stuff on this, it might be ok.


Collecting data for now is fine – no one is getting paid off this now. Should this change, we can take the needed action to rectify this. I’d say, for now, lets proceed with the process to add the relationship.


I won’t add this without community discussion (I want to let everyone present their reasonings why it is a terrible, terrible idea to see if some sound strong enough for us to change our minds) but you can add a style ticket as a starting point.


Hi Rob!

Would love to have a discussion offline about this as well, as there’s a lot to it (in the bigger picture).

To be clear, my basic request is just to create the relationship between writer and publisher. The other factors I mentioned as relevant to the relationship (date range and exclusivity) are admittedly probably beyond the scope of MB.

I fully agree that no one should rely on this to make business decisions or as the single authoritative source on rights. However, it could be a great central entry point vs blindly searching various PRO and publisher databases to see if they control a song, as required today.


Ok, here it the ticker where we’re going to track this issue:


Looking forward to chatting tomorrow.


“We’re metadata hippies” :peace: Groovy, I dig that.

"Rather than building a new database, labels and publishers
could appoint a staff member to be a MusicBrainz editor."
↑ I foresee the future of MusicBrainz becoming more professionalized, no more room for us amateurs :cry:
Yo, it’s the Age of Aquarius :aquarius:, down with the establishment, “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”


I’m personally going to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Ironically enough most people who work for labels are not librarians who have a clue how to catalog data. Fans are much better at this. :slight_smile: