How do I find a song's publisher?
June 4, 2013
Dear Music Lawyer,
I want to record a cover version of a song. I know I need to contact the publisher for a mechanical license, but how do I find the publisher?
The most common way to locate a music publisher is searching the records of the performing rights organizations (PROs). In the United States, those organizations are Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and SESAC (originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). Songwriters and music publishers affiliate with these organizations to collect public performance income for their songs (e.g., when a song is played on the radio or at a live performance venues).
You can search the song catalog on the PRO websites (www.bmi.com, www.ascap.com, www.sesac.com) to determine which performing rights organization controls the particular song in question. Once you have that information, you should be able to click through to locate the publisher name(s). If you're lucky, the publisher contact information will also be available on the PRO site. However, you may need to do additional research to obtain the publisher's contact information. Oftentimes, a simple web engine search will do the trick. I also find that the membership directory of the Association of Independent Music Publishers is a good source of current publisher contact information.
TIP: If you can't locate the song on a PRO website, you can call the performing rights organizations and ask for the song indexing department.
Amy E. Mitchell