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Hi All,


Not sure if this is the best section to ask this but I am hoping to get some advise on how to approach this situation.


I have been asked for some ghosting on Vocals for a track by a producer and I understand that I will not be entitled to any copyright/royalties etc but instead be paid a fixed said amount for my work.


I have no physical interaction with any of the parties but have done a bit of homework and things seems to be in the clear. 


Now for my question, if I go ahead and record some vocals, and send it through to be evaluated, how do I do it without any risk of "not getting paid".


Do I send through an ..edited lower quality .mp3 instead of a full high quality .wav? or how do I do this?


Any advise will be appreciated.



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Forgive me, but if I correctly understand what you said, you're writing the lyrics, creating the melody and doing the vocal track?

Since lyric and melody are the only 2 truly copyrightable parts of a song, essentially.....it's your song!

What exactly are they bringing to the party?




Sorry, was referring to Vocal Melody in response to HoboSage,  

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I understand that, but I wanted to be sure you understood that....if you are the one writing (creating) both the melody and the lyrics, then for purposes of ownership (copyright), you are the writer of the "song". Those 2 things are the only truly copyrightable portions of a new song.

So....are you actually writing both? If the answer is YES, then for purposes of ownership, this should be YOUR SONG....NOT theirs. That was my point.




Wow, I'm then very confused =/. They created the instrumental track with everything except vocals and asked me to write and sing anything I like on it. For example, if you had to take and example, lets say... Wake me up from Avicii. The guy "Aloe Blacc" that sings, he just..sings to the song, does that mean he should have copyright and Avicii not? or am I very confused???

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If you just sing you should be paid as singer. That would be it.


If you write the words that you sing yourself you are a lyricist as well and are entitled to the respective royalties.


If you invent the tune - the vocal line - as well you are also a composer. That may not make much sense if it's rap, though. Also, if you sing to a so-called beat claim on any royalties would be expected to be shared with the composer of the beat.


I guess that your title "ghostwriter" may be misleading.




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wow, hehe ok, a lot of good advise here but never knew it could get so complicated.


Confirming what I understand then for this to be considered as Ghostwriting would be for them to provide me with the instrumental track, lyrics & a sample of how they want it to be sung which requires no creativity from my side.


Sooo in that case, it seem like this would be a bad idea to proceed with this in terms of me only getting a fixed payment for a lot of creativity work.


Thank you for the advise, think I understand much better now :)



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A ghost writer can still be paid in royalties, they just don't get accreditation.

It is true, as a normally writer you would be entitled to copyright the song. The usual flow would be for you to write the words and melody, making it your song, and then to hire a producer to record the track. You then pay the producer either by flat fee, flat fee and royalty or royalty alone. Much of that negotiation depends on where you are both in your career. For example, to work with a top producer you may be willing to give away a larger share of royalty than you would with an unknown producer. Similarly, if you are an unknown band a producer may well prefer a flat fee, as even 50% of nothing is still nothing (in the event your sales are very poor.).

But it used to be a royalty for producing the song that was traded, trading royalties of the song has only become more popular as producers have begun to work with bedroom musicians and were helping writing the songs, so they rightfully deserved a shared.

What this producer is doing is not uncommon in today's market, but it is wrong in many ways.

The normal way of things would be for you to write the song and to license the song to the artist. It appears this producer is really abusing the term, as they are actually the artist. Knowing how to operate computer audio doesn't make a producer. It is really beginning to piss me off how so many people call themselves a producer but have no idea what a producer is! In this case they may be the artist, and the arranger, and indeed have created a production... But if they don't create the melody and words, they are not a writer, and to call them a producer is generous.

That aside, a ghost writer is what they are looking for... Ie someone to write the song as them, ie you will get no accreditation, you will have no moral rights. It is not uncommon, especially in the book writing world, however, a share of the royalties may well be something you want to negotiate.

By asking you to ghost write they are effectively BUYING THE SONG. In doing so you would have no rights. But you should know that the rights are yours to give up. So they should pay you a huge fee, maybe leave you some royalties if they are a big enough act (you may want to keep some anyway). You may even want to try and force them to give you an accreditation, so that it is not wholly a ghost write. Consider such things part of negotiation, and a measure of how much they want to work with you, versus how much they want to get the rights to songs cheaply.

Partly it depends on who they are and what they have planned. If they are a nobody, planning to tell their friends that the song is released then a royalty is unlikely to be worth anything. At least immediately, and likely forever.

If they are a known artist, with a large following, if they have major backing and support, then a royalty could be worth a lot of money. As such you may want to factor in their pulling power. If you do get accreditation on some level their fame and how much they are respected can also factor in reducing fees, for example if Madonna wanted to work with you, you may be prepared to accept a lower percentage just to have your name associated with hers and for the likelihood that working with her would bring you in some more writing work. If they are unknown then that doesn't stack up.

I suspect they aren't known, or at least not well known, that the label producer can be read "bedroom artist sitting in front of a computer" and that they are chancing their arms, ie it is more important that they get songs cheaply because they know how to put a loop together or how to shape a sound, but they have no idea how to write. They have then come across the term ghostwriter and thought "Ahha!". Their path to riches! Lol either that or, the more cynical view would be that, much like many producers and musicians at the bottom end of the market, they have low grade experience and have learned enough to allow them to take advantage of unsuspecting songwriters....

Note, if they pay you enough, and the terms are clear, they would not necessarily be taking advantage of you. It isn't their job to educate you. This is why songwriters, musicians, bands and even producers have to educate themselves, it is why Songstuff seeks to help... Because songwriters need the experience to allow them to effectively negotiate, knowing what they are trading away and how much it should be worth.

If you make them aware that you know they are seeking to buy your song, including attribution rights and moral rights, that the copyrightable parts if a song are the melody and lyrics, that will either push up the price or scare them off. Have you agreed a price at all?

Your call.

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Oh and as to the risk of not being paid, get a contract, either get paid upfront or a majority up front. To do what they suggest a contract needs to be in place, even if that is in the form of copyright ownership transfer. If they don't show you a contract up front, if they don't talk about terms and conditions, rights and obligations, and if they don't propose a safe way to do the transaction, then they are, at best, amateurs fumbling in the dark

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  • 4 weeks later...

Echoing John, and also echoing "Judge Wopner" in the early American TV show, "People's Court":  get it in writing.  First!


Before submitting any work-products which could possibly be covered under copyright, i.e. "to which you might plausibly assert any sort of a proprietary ownership claim," be certain that you have in your possession an executed contract which stipulates your entire agreement regardless of what the other party might ultimately choose to do with the material that you have furnished.


This contract should clearly specify the terms under which you are submitting the work to the other party "for their consideration," and it should set definite time-limits by which they must decide, and it should explicitly specify what either of their decisions must be.  It should expressly identify the material as remaining "your property" until that decision is made, and it should expressly state that the material remains "your property, unencumbered," in the absence of any decision.


If the contract does not exist, and/or if it does not clearly specify all of these things ... run away!

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Wow, John, you went way out to give me some proper advise. Same to you Mike.


I understand that if someone is serious enough about working with you, the approach should be much more professional with some black on white to back it all up. 


I decided to give this one a skip and will continue working with the people I know are "Legit" :)


Thank you so much for everyone's professional advise.


I really appreciate it!

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