Guitarist - The Jezabels
There is no point in not having a publishing deal, because it is very valuable to have a team of people actively seeking more income for your band. Just make sure it's the right deal!
You start out being a purist with your music. We acknowledged early on that we would never place our music alongside any advertisements, and would only place our songs in TV and film if it made sense.
How naïve we were! You really have to allow your music to be rented out, otherwise no one will hear you and you will have no money to tour and produce your music, etc. We still maintain a stringent policy of ok-ing things. We still almost never say yes to advertisements. Nobody likes a 'sell out'. But still you need an income. You basically have to walk a fine line.
Regarding image and values, never compromise on that. I'd like to hope that all publishing deals allow the band the final say on everything. For example, if you were a smaller band, and your song was asked to be on a major world-wide advertising campaign, I would say don't do it because you'll be at essence forever linked with that advertisement. But these are some of the things bands need to decide themselves.
How publishing deals usually work is that a band signs a deal with a publisher, and they are given an advance. This is an amount of money that could be used to finance a tour or pay a great producer to make the band's next album. And indeed it needs to be put back into the music, because there really is a dearth of income out there for bands and musicians.
You can have a deal where for each album you release, you receive another advance from the publishing company. That is an incredible help in the album cycle because you know at the end of it all you will have another amount of money to get you through the next album.
At the root of problems like dense contracts is your manager. Your manager should know everything about your impending contract and should be able to explain it in basic terms. But on that note, it may be worth the money to ask an entertainment lawyer to go over any contract and see if there are any abnormalities in there. Horror stories abound in all of this stuff so basically just be super careful.