A music publisher (or publishing company) is responsible for ensuring that songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Through an agreement called a publishing contract, a songwriter or composer “assigns” the copyright of their composition to a publishing company. In return, the company licenses compositions, helps monitor where compositions are used, collects royalties and distributes them to the composers. They also secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television. Composition copyright is separate from Master recording copyright.

Master recording copyright is typically owned by a record label or record company.