Pond 5 recently launched a publishing service for musicians that use its site. There’s 3 reasons you shouldn’t join it, at least not yet. First, getting your publishing royalties isn’t that hard. Second, it’s not clear how much money Pond 5 will charge. Third, Pond 5 reserves the right to change the terms at any time.
Let’s dig in to each of these points in depth. Or you can watch the video on Pond 5 publishing below.
Note: this isn’t legal advice, just my personal opinion.
Music Publishing in a Nutshell
There are 2 main revenue streams that are possible when you sell your songs through music licensing: synch fees and performance royalties. If you want to learn how to start licensing your music, check out this free five-day music licensing mini course.
First, you have the upfront fees that someone pays a library, like Pond 5, for the right to license your song and use it in their productions.
Second, if your song is publicly performed, typically on TV or in a movie, you can get paid if the following happens:
- You are a member of a performing rights organization (PRO) like BMI or ASCAP
- Your song is registered with the PRO
- The production company of the show files a cue sheet with the PRO
For each song you register, half of the performance royalty goes to the songwriter, and half goes to the publisher (basically, the administrator, but often publishers also actively shop your songs).
If there is no publisher, then you as the writer get 100% of the earnings.
By doing each of these steps is how I’ve earned thousands of dollars through songs that were licensed through Pond 5.
This article will show you how to license your music.
Pond 5 Publishing Explained
Pond 5 publishing theoretically will make life easier for you. What they will do is register all of your songs on Pond 5 with your PRO, and add ” – P5″ to the title so they can track it.
They will also register as your publisher, so by default, 50% of your earnings will go to them.
Then, they say the may follow with the clients to make sure that cue sheets are being filed where appropriate.
If your song generates a royalty, they will receive the 50%. But they promise to pass most of this along to you after subtracting a reasonable administrative fee.
And Pond 5 reserves the right to revise these terms.
Why You Shouldn’t Sign up For Pond 5 Publishing
As I’ll discuss in more detail below. I don’t plan on signing up for Pond 5 publishing. I will note that at the time I’m writing this (Sept 2019), not all of the details of Pond 5 Publishing have been fully fleshed out.
I’ll try to keep things up to date, though.
Running Your Own Publishing Is Pretty Easy
Once you learn how to do publishing (which takes a couple hours), it’s pretty straight forward to register your songs with your PRO. I’ve handled my own publishing for songs sold through Pond 5, and earned about $3,000.
If you want to learn how to start licensing your music and making some extra money, check out this free five-day music licensing mini course. Once you’ve got it down, it only takes a few minutes to submit a song.
So Pond 5 publishing will save you a bit of time, but I’m not sure if it’s worth giving up potentially serious money.
Will Pond 5 Publishing Lead to More Cue Sheets?
The biggest unknown with Pond 5 publishing is if it will lead to more cue sheets being filed.
As things stand right now, if a buyer purchased your on Pond 5, there’s no-one to follow up and make sure that a cue sheet was submitted. Pond 5 doesn’t share buyer data with you, so there’s no way for you to do this yourself.
Theoretically, if you’ve signed up for Pond 5 Publishing, Pond 5 will take care of the follow up.
What I question is how many opportunities this will apply to. I think the vast majority of buyers on Pond 5 aren’t using the songs for TV and movies.
Of that minority of buyers that do place songs, how many aren’t being diligent about filing cue sheets?
There’s just no way to really know. If you believe this is a large enough group, then Pond 5 Publishing might make sense.
The Contract is subject to Change
Another huge issue with Pond 5 Publishing is that the Pond 5 reserves the right to modify the contract at any time. So while they may currently decide to take only 4% per song (for example), in two years, they could change it to 20%.
Based on the way Pond 5 recently cut their regular royalty payments for synch licenses, I don’t trust them with this.
And it’s worth noting that while you may remove your songs from Pond 5 publishing after 18 months, Pond 5 will control your publishers share forever for songs that were licensed while you were using Pond 5 Publishing.
Meaning if you sold a song called “Smile” on Jan 1, 2020 while a member of Pond 5 publishing, and it was placed on a TV show. The cue sheet would call the song “Smile – P5.” Meaning that if it generated royalties Pond 5 would collect the publisher’s share of those royalties from that cue sheet. will always flow through Pond 5. So let's say you leave Pond 5 Publishing in August of 2021, and you license the song “Smile” again. All of those royalties will be yours from the second placement. But every time a rerun of the original show that played “Smile – P5” was broadcast, the money would flow through P5.
I think you should handle your own publishing. The bigger chunk of the pie is worth it for maintaining control of your destiny in this changing part of the industry. Especially because I think Pond 5 should only be a slice of your licensing portfolio.
Instead, if you’re interested in Doubling Your Licensing, you need to get your songs on multiple sites, and control as much of your portfolio as you can. Of course, if there really are a lot of people not filing your cue sheets, then you’ve got to join Pond 5 Publishing. But until we hear reports indicating that that’s the case, I think you have to avoid it.
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