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The Artist’s Agreement compared with the Publishing Agreement
The artist’s agreement regulates the performer’s rights to their performance; the publishing agreement on the other hand regulates the exclusive rights of the composer and the lyricist in their work.
Photo: Tabea Hüberli
Text by Céline Troillet
The economic producer (a label, for example) finances the production of sound recordings containing performances by p artists with the intent to subsequently promote and exploit the recordings commercially. The artist’s agreement regulates the resulting rights between the performer and the producer. The artist’s agreement is often confused with the publishing agreement. An overview of the differences between the two contracts.

An artist’s agreement between a performer and an economic producer (a label, for example) can be defined as the transfer by the performer of their performance rights to the producer for the purpose of producing and marketing a sound recording.

Transfer of the artist’s rights

The neighbouring rights transferred by the performer (performance rights) to the producer are the performer’s exclusive rights in their performance. These include the exclusive right:

  • to fix their performance on blank media and to reproduce such fixations (mechanical rights);
  • to offer, transfer or otherwise distribute copies of their performance; (right to market or distribution right);
  • to make their performance perceptible in some place other than that in which it was performed, either directly or through any kind of medium, in such a way that persons may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them (the right of recitation, presentation and performance, and the right to make available);
  • to broadcast their performance by radio, television or similar method, including by wire, as well as to retransmit the broadcast performance by means of technical equipment, the provider of which is not the original broadcasting organization, and to make their performance perceptible when they are broadcast, retransmitted or made available to the public (broadcasting right).

Obligations of the producer

The producer’s function is to produce, at their own expense, a recording containing the artist’s performance, and to promote and exploit the recording. The producer is responsible for promoting the recording in accordance with industry practice.


In consideration of the transfer of the performer’s rights, the producer is required to pay a fee for each recording sold. The fee is calculated on the wholesale price of every sound recording sold, at varying rates depending on the type of sale. For recordings sold in retail outlets (physical distribution), the rate is generally 8%, but it may go up to 12%. For online sales (internet and other), rates are usually between 15% and 30%. For other uses (e.g. for advertising or use in a film), the fee due to the performer is generally 50% of the amount received by the producer of the sound recording.

Comparison with the publishing agreement

A publishing agreement between an author and a publisher can be defined as the transfer by the author (composer, lyricist, arranger) to the publisher of the rights in the author’s work with a view to its publishing.

Transfer of the author’s rights

The author’s rights transferred to the publisher are the author’s exclusive rights in their work (i.e. in the composition and lyrics). These rights include:

  • the right to produce copies of the work, particularly in printed form, or as sound recordings, audiovisual recordings or on other media carriers (mechanical rights);
  • the right to offer to the public, to sell or otherwise distribute copies of the work (right to market or distribution right);
  • the right to recite, present or perform the work, or enable it to be viewed or heard in a place other than that where the work was presented, and to make it available (the right of recitation, presentation and performance, and the right to make available);
  • the right to broadcast the work via radio or television (broadcasting right).

Other rights may also be transferred by the author, i.e. remuneration claims managed by collecting societies (uses for teaching purposes, for example), graphic rights (the right to publish sheet music and/or lyrics and to distribute such copies of the work), arrangement rights (remixes, arrangement of a work), synchronisation rights (the right to combine the work with works of other genres, in particular with films or video games), or the advertising right (the right to use the work for advertising purposes).

For your information
Publishing agreement: “Publishing agreements: What do I need to consider?” (SUISAblog)
For more about music and films: SUISAinfo 2.09 (PDF, in German)
For more about arrangements: “Arranging works protected by copyright”, “Setting to music” as well as “Sampling and Remixes” (SUISAblog)

Obligations of the publisher

The function of the publisher is to publish, reproduce, and distribute the author’s work, to mediatise it, combine it with other works (in an arrangement, film or commercial), present it to the public (interviews, galas, show-casings), and to conclude contracts with sub-publishers for the publication of the work in other countries.


The remuneration for the exclusive rights and for the compensation claims managed by collecting societies are split between the author and the publisher following the distribution key of the competent collecting society, or by mutual agreement. According to SUISA’s Distribution Rules, the publisher’s share of performance and broadcasting rights may not exceed 33.33%. There is no cap on the publisher’s share of the mechanical rights. The remuneration from the management of the other rights is shared between the parties as provided in the publishing contract. As a rule, the remuneration is split on an equal 50: 50 basis. For sheet music, the author is entitled to between 10% and 15% of the retail price.

In a nutshell

The artist’s agreement is different to the publisher’s agreement. The artist’s agreement applies to a performer while the publishing agreement concerns the author (composer, lyricist, arranger). In the artist’s agreement, the performer transfers their neighbouring rights (performance rights) in their performance whereas in the publishing agreement, the author transfers the copyrights in their work. Lastly, the producer and the publisher do not have the same function in respect of their respective co-contractor, and the remuneration deriving from the artist’s agreement and the publishing agreement is specific to each. For example, if a film producer wishes to use a piece of music in their new film, they must obtain the recording rights from the label (which obtained them from the performer under the artist’s agreements) and the copyrights in the work (composition and lyrics) from the publisher (who obtained them from the author under the publishing agreement).

For your information
Specimens of publishing and sub-publishing agreements are available on SUISA’s website. The main points of these agreements are presented in a commented version.
SUISA manages authors’ rights for authors and publishers. Swissperform manages the neighbouring rights of performers and producers in their recordings.
“Why SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORM” (SUISAblog)

1 response to “The Artist’s Agreement compared with the Publishing Agreement

  1. Mathias Haut says:

    Hallo Liebes SUISA Team,
    ich bin Musiker und möchte mich auch gleichzeitig als Verleger anmelden. Wie sieht es da mit dem Vertragsrecht aus ? Haben Sie ein Musterbeispiel für so ein Anliegen ?
    Vielen Dank

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