Yasmin Cunningham, Esq.


Brief Answer:

The first step includes protecting your work through copyright registration. The moment, you create a song or beat, you become the owner of the copyright unless there is a written agreement by which you as the author, assign the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher.[1] The most efficient method to legally protect your work is to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Id.

The second step is to distinguish whether you want to (a) publish your work through a publishing company, or (b) sell your work online without a third-party distributor:

  1. Publishing your work means conferring certain rights to a publisher. Specifically, publishing your works allows the publisher to collect licensing and royalties on your behalf.
  2. Selling your work requires a “hustle” to promote on your own grounds. This means, you are responsible for your own royalties and promotion. Some examples include, creating your own website and selling your work; creating a YouTube channel to promote and sell your work; and/or selling your songs through Soundcloud, iTunes, and other distribution platforms.

Be sure to create a contract prior to selling your work. Although, as the owner of the copyright, you have exclusive rights to the song, sounds, and recordings of your work,[2] a contract will ensure that you retain your ownership rights and receive fair compensation for your work.


To properly understand your rights as an artist and of your work product, it is important to consult with an attorney prior to the selling and distribution of your artistry. Determine the route you want to take by selling your work online. Lastly, research what distribution company provides you a fair and equitable arrangement that advances your career a song creator.

[1] 17 U.S. Code § 101, et. seq.; U.S. Copyright Office, (https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#:~:text=Copyright%20is%20a%20form%20of,both%20published%20and%20unpublished%20works).

[2] 17 U.S. Code § 114 – Scope of exclusive rights in sound recordings.