Co-writing and deciding splits
The picture is only a joke before you all complain! But it seems everyone wants a piece of the action these days. Let me explain...
As a songwriter the pinnacle achievement is an Ivor Novello Award. Today it could be quite the norm for up to 9 people to grace the stage as the ‘writers’ of this award winning song. 2 or 3 perhaps wrote some words, another 2-4 made some beats, and the rest threw in a couple of words while they were in the same room. According to Music Week’s research, an average of 5.34 writers worked on each of last year’s top 100 singles.
So how do you decide ‘who wrote the song’?
‘Everyone in the room’ is a common answer, which basically means all those in the place where the song was being written whether they contributed half the song or a single word or just an idea are given equal standing. That can be what leads to 9 people being listed as the writers!
The simple answer is, when you write with other people, agree early in the process. I would also recommend you agree equal splits too. Trying to negotiate afterwards that you should have a bigger percentage because you came up with the title or the hook line is only going to lose you friends, upset co-writers, and probably establish a bad reputation for your future co-writes!
People are often very worried about protecting their copyright, well this is what agreeing splits does. If someone does run off with your song and makes a lot of money from it - you can celebrate, because you will have proof of your involvement!
You might never make a penny from your song or even intend too, but it’s still good practice to agree to the split because of the copyright point of view - i.e. who should be involved in what happens with the song in the future, who ‘owns’ it.
Another thing to consider is that maybe just two of you started with the song, but now you agree to bring in someone to produce music or create a musical part. When you do that, you should be crystal clear how this additional person is included. Do they now get a percentage or are they to be paid like a session player. Don’t leave it up in the air, discuss it.
However you come to the agreement, please write it down. You can do this via just an email, or if you want it more ‘contractual’ then you can use a simple song share agreement - as an example, the Musician’s Union have a form for this which can be downloaded from their website.
Happy co-writing, and remember play fair!
Today I help singers and songwriters explore their own potential, working alongside them to transform their ideas into fully finished songs they are proud of.
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