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Copyright And Who Gets What?


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Hi Guys,

I have been them member and main songwriter of a band for the last 4 years. We are a bunch of aging 50 plus’ with aspirations to give our music a wider audience. To get to the point we have recorded some tracks with a local producer, who has done an excellent job, and we have five tracks with about another twelve to go. The other night the producer said if we are to release the tracks as downloads and potentially make money we should decide who “owns” the songs. This question has given rise to a whole bunch of other question that I was hoping someone could help us with.

1. The producer, to save time, has played all the instruments on the tracks. We have played him a hefty sum for his services but do we need to include him in any cut?

2. We have split the songs in to melody and lyrics. I am responsible for the melody so no argument there however the lyrics are more of a complex problem. For instance I have written three verses with the last verse written by the lead singer. As there are five verses to the song do you think he should get say 10%?

3. I guess if we are to go down this route we will need to examine all the songs and decide who gets a cut of what?

Obviously the whole thing could fall flat and no one makes anything, in which case problem solved however the producer was fairly keen that we decide.

Any comments would be gratefully appreciated.

Thanks Again

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Hi Guys,

I have been them member and main songwriter of a band for the last 4 years. We are a bunch of aging 50 plus’ with aspirations to give our music a wider audience. To get to the point we have recorded some tracks with a local producer, who has done an excellent job, and we have five tracks with about another twelve to go. The other night the producer said if we are to release the tracks as downloads and potentially make money we should decide who “owns” the songs. This question has given rise to a whole bunch of other question that I was hoping someone could help us with.

It's to the producer's credit that he brought this up. Establishing expectations at the outset should save hard feelings down the line.

1. The producer, to save time, has played all the instruments on the tracks. We have played him a hefty sum for his services but do we need to include him in any cut?

You should draft (better, have a lawyer draft) a work-for-hire agreement establishing that the producer was paid for services rendered, but did not make any musically significant contributions from a compositional standpoint. Then there would be no question about him claiming a share of copyright. It sounds like he would have no problem agreeing to this...

2. We have split the songs in to melody and lyrics. I am responsible for the melody so no argument there however the lyrics are more of a complex problem. For instance I have written three verses with the last verse written by the lead singer. As there are five verses to the song do you think he should get say 10%?

3. I guess if we are to go down this route we will need to examine all the songs and decide who gets a cut of what?

This can be decided any way you all agree on. I am personally of the opinion that any musically or lyrically significant contribution deserves an equal share, however mathematically insignificant it may seem. I haven't heard the song, but maybe there's something about that one verse that takes the song to another level. Neither of you could have gotten there alone. Also, in a band situation it can sometimes be contentious just to determine who helped write what, let alone establish percentages, etc. How much time do you really want to spend on that?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi again,

Thanks for the reply. This is great advice. However please take a look at my new post as I may about to make a mistake.

Thanks

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