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What's The Difference Between A Record Label And A Publisher?

Knowing the difference between labels and publishers can be the difference in your financial career as a musician. Big record labels will have both a primary label and an in house publisher such as Universal Music & Universal Music Publishing. This effects where and how your royalties are collected and given to you. Which is important to take full advantage of all the different ways you can profit from your music.

What's The Difference?

Record Label

Record labels represent artists. Their primary focus is to take care of the artists on their roster. This does not mean songwriter however. An artist is different than a songwriter. For example Rhianna's song "Diamonds" was recorded by her as an artist, but there were 4 different songwriters who wrote the song. In this case Rhianna is the artist who records the song. The songwriters are those who write the song.

Rhianna is entitled to the recording royalties of her song but not the songwriting royalties which is where publishing companies come in.

Recording royalties come primarily from the top streaming sites. Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple Music who all provide the artist their share of the recording royalties.

Publishing Company

Publishing companies represent songwriters. These are the people who write the song. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are the ones recording (singing) the song. In our example of Rhianna's song "Diamonds" the 4 songwriters would each split their share of the songwriting royalties.

Songwriting royalties come primarily from venues, radio stations, department stores, and bars. Publishing companies have complex systems that scrape the internet and give out what is called a "blanket license" to all of those in commercial businesses that use your music.


Having both your recording royalties and songwriting royalties registered is crucial when collecting all your money. On different projects you may be doing both or one of the other. Which is why you will want to have both covered before you distribute your songs.

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