This information is brought to you by Debbie Engel, an attorney whose practice includes writing and reviewing music contracts, running an independent label for over 10 years; and developing indie artists. She is knowledgeable of the economics of music, the DIY process, and has written an instruction manual for Indie artists, labels and managers called “For The Record” and teaches an on-line course. Debbie has a deep appreciation of the business of music as well as her legal knowledge as a practicing attorney. However, you should always consult with your personal legal and tax professionals regarding your specific situation before making any decisions.
So you just made the ultimate banger. Awesome! Quick question though… Who did you create the song with? Did you and a producer write it alone, did you collaborate with other artists, did you make the beat, buy the beat on-line? These details matter when it comes to getting paid, and that’s where split sheets come out to play.
What Are Split Sheets and Why Are They Important?
Here’s the deal…
In order to be paid in the music business you must register your songs. Performing Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), labels, publishers, and people who may sync your music will not Pay Out if there are concerns about who the creators of the song are and who the money should be paid too.
Most artists rely solely on their talent, which leaves them broke… But it doesn’t have to be that way! You want a career in music, and you want to get paid. So, there’s no excuse for not knowing the basics of how to do it.
What is a Split Sheet?
A split sheet is an agreement that identifies who wrote what percentage of the song such as the producer(s) and songwriter(s). Each creator has to agree about how the percentages are defined. Some artists will divide it evenly based on who is in the room writing and producing the song. Some will base the percentages on the person’s specific contribution lyrics, hook, melody, and beats. It is beneficial to understand the Artists position on splits so that there is no disagreement after the song is completed.
A bill collector doesn’t care about “vibes”. Publishing pays!!!! When the time comes and the song is picked up by a label or synced for a movie, believe me, everyone will be fighting over what percentage of the songwriting they own because that will determine how much money they get.
When do I need to think about this?
I have worked with a lot of clients who had done songs with “A” listers and never received one penny. Prior to going to the studio, when you are planning the date have a discussion about the split sheet. When you treat your music like a business, people respect and understand that this due diligence protects everyone. When this discussion occurs prior to getting into the studio, it allows everyone to still “Vibe” and be creative without worrying about the gritty details.
Split sheets should have the following information:
- Name of the song
- Legal name of everyone involved who contributed to the song
- Their role in the song (producer, songwriter)
- Percentage share of their contribution
- Their performing rights affiliate – AS BOTH A SONGWRITER AND PUBLISHER
- If they are not their own publisher than the publishing company that represents them
- Address or email in order to be able to contact them
- Signature of each creator
When the song is finished the creators should sit down and fill out the split sheet together. Once it is signed by everyone they all SHOULD receive a copy. Then it is time to Register the song so everyone can GET PAID. It is important, as a creator, to understand the VALUE of your work.
If you want to secure the “bag” it is vital to be proactive, treat your music like a business (not a hobby), and use split sheets to secure your financial stability.