Great songwriting is the basis for some of the biggest hits ever created. Collaboration is one of the best tools to get them there. When it comes to joint songwriting, it’s important to understand who will get credit for what before the song ever comes out. Even bands with the best relationships have experienced drama when it comes to splitting the profits at the end of the day. Luckily, you can avoid these issues by adhering to a couple best practices along the way. Here’s what you should know…
How To Make Sure Every Collaborator Gets Proper Songwriting CreditEven bands with the best relationships have experienced drama when it comes to splitting the profits at the end of the day. That's why it's important to talk about who gets credit for what before the song ever leaves the studio. Click To Tweet
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.
Whatever it may be, it is beneficial to understand where everyone stands on splits so that there is no disagreement after the song is completed. — Learn more about split sheets and what’s in them here.
Entertainment attorneys get this question all the time: “Sometimes I co-write songs with other artists. Should we sign an agreement before co-writing sessions?” The answer is always a resounding, “Yes!“
Co-writing agreements establish clarity on things like songwriting splits, ownership of copyright, administration of songs, and more. There’s nothing worse than putting your all into a collaborative project and not getting the credit you deserve when all is said and done. Having an agreement for these items before you start collaborating will save you from any misunderstandings down the road.
Joint Songwriting Contracts
Let’s say two collaborators get together to write a song. — One writes the lyrics and the other writes the music.
In this case, either author can grant non-exclusive licenses for entire composition (provided they pay each other their share of income), BUT neither is allowed to just pick their part of the composition and leave the other without continuing to pay their percentage of all the income if such is generated from the use of the part which the party wrote and re-used.
For a situation like this, they needed a “Joint Songwriting Contract”. This type of contract is an agreement where joint owners of copyright on a particular song or songs set out the percentages of ownership and the conditions in which they are permitted to promote those songs.
- In the UK, joint writers are allowed to re-use lyrics or music they contributed in a song (provided there are not restrictions made by labels) but only when the portion of the work written is sufficiently identifiable from the other parts of the co-written work. This contract overrides this default and states that each writer owns an interest in the whole copyright, not just their contribution.
This contract is a type of predetermined agreement that sets out how the group is run on a day-to-day basis, how decisions are made and what will happen to the band’s name, domain and logo if the band is dissolved.
In addition, this agreement also deals with the question of who is entitled to what shares of the songs and the income. This is a very tricky subject and a very emotive one, which is why the band should deal with it at the beginning of the relationship BEFORE money starts to be earned. This document works as blue print that band members can refer to when taking important decisions and help them settle disputes easily.
Talk it out!
Disputes like these oftentimes are solely due to miscommunication. When working with anyone, whether it be publishers, other artists, producers, sound engineers, etc., be honest about your expectations. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the creative process and forget about the gritty details. However, contracts and agreements like these can save you and your collaborators from any confusion and uncertainty down the line.
The last thing you want is to lose great relationships over money.
But what if the damage is already done?
If the damage is done and you’re already experiencing conflicting claims or credit errors, don’t worry. Although it can be an annoying process, you can rectify these situations after the fact.
Your PRO will reach out and tell you if you have any issues directly, but if you don’t respond they’ll assume you’re in the wrong. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of these issues and respond as soon as possible with your claim. The best thing you can do is maintain your claim and stay firm on your stance. Even better, having a split sheet beforehand is a sure fire way to prove your claim if it happens.
- In the meantime, having split sheets and contracts set in place before you start creating can help you avoid any mishaps down the road. To help you out, Symphonic has contracts already made to make it easy for you. You can check those out here.