Who Owns Your Music Publishing Rights and How Does the Money Get Split?

May 10, 2013{ 79 Comments }

shutterstock 91726409 300x199 Who Owns Your Music Publishing Rights and How Does the Money Get Split?Your music publishing rights and you

If you’re a songwriter, and you’ve not signed a deal with a music publishing company — you own your music publishing rights!

What are those rights exactly? Well, you get to determine how the musical copyright to a song you’ve written (meaning the composition itself, as a separate entity from any particular master recording of that song) is used or “exploited.”

And you earn money any time that song is sold, performed, or covered.

How do publishing royalties get divided up?

For all publishing royalties that are generated from the usage of your music, 50% is paid to the songwriter/s and 50% is paid to the publisher/s.

As I mentioned above, if you’ve not signed a deal with a publishing company, you are considered both the songwriter AND the publisher. You are owed both shares (50% for the songwriter, and 50% for the publisher) of any mechanical royalties, performance royalties, or licenses that your songs generate. However, it’s up to you to exploit the copyright to your compositions, and it’s up to you to collect the royalty payments.

Unless, of course, you work with an established music publisher who can (either for a fixed period of time or in perpetuity) help you find opportunities to earn money from your songs.

[With CD Baby's Sync Licensing Program, your music will be included in a catalog of songs available for use in film, TV, commercials, games, and more. Plus, you'll earn money for the usage of your music on YouTube.]

What does the publisher get out of the bargain? As mentioned above, a typical royalty split between the songwriter and the publisher is 50/50 — but 50% is a small price to pay if they’re using their publishing expertise to generate big income from the exploitation of your copyright.

How do you collect your publishing royalties?

When it comes to getting paid for the usage of your music, there’s a simple solution that will set you up to collect ALL the publishing royalties you’re owed. With CD Baby Pro, we’ll affiliate you as a songwriter with a performing rights organization (either ASCAP or BMI — your choice), we’ll register your songs directly with many collection societies around the world, and we’ll collect all those royalties on your behalf — paying you weekly!

Get started with CD Baby Pro today. 

Publishing 
Guide: Make More Money From Your Music

[Pie chart picture from Shutterstock.]

  • Brettly

    Thanks this was really helpful!

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Glad to hear it. Thanks.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, you'll have to check into the details of your contract to be sure, but normally if someone owns your publishing rights, then they own the song itself — not a particular recording of that song. Those are separate copyrights.

    But, they'd only own the publisher's share. You, as the writer, should still own your 50% writer's share. I'd give them a call to see what you have to do to "cover" your own song.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    You would make money from the sale of the album or single, as well as from SoundExchange (as the artist, performer, label owner, etc.)

    So, for instance, if you self-released a cover song that sold on iTunes for 99 cents, you'd get paid about 63 cents; you'd pay 9.1 cents to the publisher/songwriter of the track, and keep the rest.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hey John, y'all have the ability to come up with whatever rights-share works for your musical relationship. Think of "Lennon/McCartney" splitting 50/50 on every song either of them wrote, even if they didn't really collaborate much.

    So… you could either split everything into thirds, OR you could say that the producer is responsible for the music (50%) and each of the emcees gets 25%. OR… you could go on a song by song basis,… give the producer 50% if he does all the music, and then split the other 50% based on their contribution to the lyrics.

    Hope that helps. And let me know what y'all end up deciding upon.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Juven

    This is in regards to CD Baby. So since I'm not signed I don't have to create a publish company do I? I understand I'm the publish company already, correct? CD baby will be my administration team?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Yep. If you haven't signed a publishing deal, we'll act as your publishing administrator and help you collect your publishing royalties worldwide.

      @ChrisRobley

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      And no. You don't have to create a publishing company.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I've never heard of such a rule. I mean, basically… whether you own your publishing rights directly, or you administer those rights through your label, you're still going to have access to that 50% share of the publishing royalties. And then, of course, you'll ALSO have access to the 50% writer's share of the publishing royalties.

    The artist who records your songs aren't going to have any claim to publishing royalties for those songs anyway, so it's not like you're taking money from them.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hey K,

    There's no way of estimating how much you'll earn through CD Baby. We have artists who are making tens of thousands of dollars a month, and artists who haven't sold a CD in 9 years — and everything in between. So it really depends on your sales, as well as how often your music is played on radio, used on YouTube, etc. (if you're using us for YouTube monetization and publishing royalty collection).

    As for your copyright question, yes. You own 100% of your rights — and whoever you registered that copyright with, it remains that way.

    Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I think that depends on what the role of the producer was in the writing/recording process. if the producer composed lyrics and/or melody, then they should definitely own a portion of the copyright to the composition (and thus publishing). But if the producer acted more as a director of the recording session, or in the hip hop context, created beats, then it's a little more nebulous in terms of how that person's contribution is factored into copyright. It's typical for that person to be paid outright upfront — and thus being bought out of future royalties — or for the producer to get "points" on the sales of the albums/track, meaning they earn royalties in addition to their producer fee, but where this money comes from and how much should all be negotiated upfront. If you give me some more details I might be able to give clearer advice.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, there's no simple calculation — because you'd have to factor in performance royalties, mechanical royalties, licensing fees, etc. Plus, were you also an artist that performed on the record? But regarding the mechanical royalty, it's 9.1 cents per song/per unit. So for the CDs and downloads sold that included that song, you'd multiply the number of units/downloads sold by .091. Then split that number in half, since you share writing credit. (assuming there are 2 writers with equal shares in the copyright).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Rocky Peter

    Hi My brother. You are so kind!! I wrote and composed a song, and I am also the the performing artist and a producer produces and directs the song, how much publishing rights should the producer own? How much publishing rights does a publisher collects? I know that I own the copyright to the song by the way

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Well, if you're the songwriter AND publisher (or if you've never signed away your publishing rights), you get 100%. If you have a publisher administering your rights for you, you get 50% as the writer, and they get 50% as publisher. Regarding the producer, they don't get any publishing money UNLESS they're credited as a songwriter. If the producer has helped in the arrangement or construction of the song to the point where it warrants a songwriting credit, then they get cut in on publishing.

      Hope that helps.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hey A, I sent you an email.
    @ChrisRobley

  • Romeo Gabbana

    hey chris i got a few questions how can I get in contact with you? Im starting a music career and want to make sure I take the right steps with who I choose to work with for publishing (such as BMI.ASCAP..ETC) to get the bang for my buck.. Also how long the process is to get set up

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Just sent you an email.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    ASCAP does NOT pay the publisher’s share out to un-published writers in the same fashion that BMI does. We strongly recommend either affiliating as a publisher also (relatively cheap at ASCAP), or hiring and administrative publisher such as CD Baby to ensure that the publisher’s share of those performance royalties are collected by the writer. Check out http://members.cdbaby.com/pro.aspx

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If you have no intention of letting other people perform your music, the kind of publishing deal you'd want to seek out is one where they're going to exploit your composition to get it into film, tv, etc. (As opposed to the kind of thing where it's like a songwriting factory and then they try to match the song to recording artists). That being said, you don't need a publishing deal in order to make publishing royalties from your songs. With CD Baby Pro, you get worldwide publishing royalty collection (including performance and mechanical royalties), plus inclusion in our sync licensing program (which is non-exclusive, so you're free to work with other licensing companies to get placements too).

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Sure. I'll send it your way.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://soundcloud.com/bobby-breaux Bobby Breaux

    Chris, If I sign up with CD Baby as my publishing administrator, and I get a request from another publisher to use one of my songs in a movie or TV show, how will that work out? From what I’ve read so far, if I go with CD Baby Pro, then you guys are only making sure that I’m getting paid, but not anything beyond that, unless I sign up to allow my songs to be used by Rumblfish, which is another story. I want to sign up with CD Baby Pro but I need to be open to working out a publishing deal for song placement in film and TV. Can I do both?

    Also, I’ve been using your services since 2009 and I love it.

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Ah, great. Thanks for using CD Baby. As for our publishing admin AND sync licensing services, you’re still free to make your own deals, get your own placements, or work with other licensing agencies. With CD Baby Pro, we’ll make sure you’re paid all your publishing royalties worldwide, but you’re totally free to seek out opportunities to generate those royalties. And our sync licensing program is non-exclusive (except in the case of micro-sync/YouTube monetization), so you’re welcome to partner with lots of other agencies to get your songs placed in TV/film.

      @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    We just take the 15% of total collected publishing royalties. So, assuming you’re both writer and publisher, and that the song was composed entirely by you, you’d get the 50% writer’s share and the 50% publisher’s share — minus the 15% cut to CD Baby.

    @ Chris Robley

  • Christie

    Hi Chris, thank you for all your great advice on this blog! I have an album uploaded to CDBaby and ready for release. I am the songwriter, artist, and producer and I also have my own publishing company, affiliated with BMI. Why should I sign up for CD Baby Pro when I can just collect all the performance royalties from BMI? I understand that CD Baby Standard collects mechanical royalties for me already from worldwide channels. So why should I share 15% of all the publishing royalties to go CD Baby Pro? Would I make that 15% back and more with the extra collections that CD Baby Pro would be able to make that Standard wouldn’t be able to? Just trying to weigh whether it is worth it giving up 15%. Thanks!

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Hi Christie,

      With CD Baby standard, you’re collecting the normal per-stream licensing fee and download revenue, but you are NOT getting paid mechanical royalties. Those are held by the streaming and download platforms to be paid to publishers via a publishing rights administrator. That’s where CD Baby Pro comes in — to make sure you’re paid mechanicals as well (for global streaming and international downloads).

      Side note: in the US, download retailers like iTunes DO pay the mechanical royalty to the distributor, and we pass that on to you. Thus, it’s the artist or label’s responsibility to disburse mechanicals accordingly for US-based download sales. But iTunes Europe is NOT paying us mechanicals, just the regular revenue for the download.

      As for “making back the 15%,” it’s difficult to say in the short term, since I don’t know what your streaming activity is like, or your international downloads. But the benefit of CD Baby Pro is that you’re set up for the long term, in multiple areas of publishing (both the performance royalty side AND the mechanical side, as well as sync — which comes as part of our standard package).

      @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Will send you my contact info.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Give us a call at 1-800-Buy-My-CD and we can talk through it. Basically, we need the paperwork done in a certain way so that it’s clear you’ve granted us the right to act as your publishing rights administrator. (Which allows us to collect not just performance royalties, but mechanical royalties which PROs do not collect).

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, there may be a little overlapping confusion for that small amount of time — but I honestly don’t think it’d be much of an issue. To be sure, send us an email at cdbaby@cdbaby.com with the details, dates, song titles, etc. We can have our publishing admin experts look into it for you.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If you’ve written the whole song (music and lyrics) then you own the whole song. You would be both the writer AND the publisher (unless you’ve set up a publishing company or signed a publishing deal). So the artist would not have any ownership in the song itself. If they’re funding the recording (acting as a label), then they would own the master sound recording — but not the song.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    It depends on how you define producer in this context. If that person is responsible for creating musical elements that are crucial to the underlying composition (melody or lyrics) then they should get a percentage of the publishing royalties (and songwriter credit). If they’re a producer in more of the pop/rock sense, and just overseeing the recording session, suggesting arrangement ideas, etc. — then they don’t get publishing (unless they make significant changes to the song as to warrant credit as an additional songwriter).

    If the artist is also the songwriter, they obviously get a cut of publishing royalties too. But if the artist is just a performer, they do NOT get publishing royalties.

    Basically, publishing royalties are only paid to the writers that actually wrote the song (melody and lyrics), NOT people who merely contributed to the arrangement, production, etc.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If you feel like the artist or label ended up using beats unlawfully, I’d suggest hiring an entertainment attorney.

    @ Chris Robley

  • GangstaBeatz101 .

    Thanks a lot you help me get a understanding about my situation.I was concerned
    About the artist signing with a Publishing company with all The Songs which the “instrumentals”
    I am the composer(producer) the artist also Used the titles Of the instrumentals as the actual “Song” Titles which basically dictated the actual content of the song So I went so far as pretty much Producing the Beat and Concepting the song with the Title I Name my instrumentals before I sent them to the artist

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Are you listed as writers on the track? If so, yes. If not, no. CD Baby Pro only collects royalties for songwriters/publishers. BUT… if that track is being sold on CD Baby through someone else’s account, you’d need to talk to them about getting you registered with CD Baby Pro.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    It all depends on the terms of the contract y’all signed, or the terms of the verbal agreement when you bought the song. But yes, that sounds standard. You’re the publisher; they’re the writer. Each would get 50% of the publishing royalties.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    You say you wrote a “full song,” which makes me wonder why you need a producer to contribute music. Did you write the words AND melody? If so, you own the full publishing rights already. If the producer is simply adding instruments, arrangement ideas, and such, then he is acting as… a producer, and isn’t owed any publishing (though you could cut him in on writing credit and publishing royalties if you feel like his contributions altered the nature of the underlying composition). But, if the producer is truly co-writing (for example, he’s writing the melody to your lyrics, or something like that), then yes, he would co-own the publishing rights. You’d split publishing royalties 50/50. I would suggest you investigate a little further before signing anything.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, again, when you say you know how it needs to be sung, does that mean you’ve already come up with the melody in your head? Or is he writing the melody, and you just kinda know the attitude or rhythm you want to the words to have? If he’s truly co-writing with you and coming up with the music for the song, then you should SPLIT the publishing. If you’ve already got the lyric and melody, he shouldn’t get any publishing — just a payment for his production services and potentially points (additional royalties) based on sales. If you wrote the words I wouldn’t enter into any agreement where he gets all the publishing rights.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I’m not an IP/entertainment attorney, so I’m not sure how it differs between the UK and the US. But, generally, publishing rights are the right to exploit a musical composition. The songwriter/s control these rights, including 1) right to record and distribute the first commercial version of the song, 2) right to be paid a royalty for the public performance/transmission of that song, and for any cover versions being distributed, 3) right to license that work, etc.

    @ Chris Robley

  • Gain Green

    I have plenty off songs on cd that I wrote and recorded. Do I have t o pay a copyright fee for each song one by one or can I send the intire cd in and get all of them copyright for one fee

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      If you’re talking about registering your copyright with the Library of Congress, there is a way to submit them all together as a collection, thus avoiding the individual fee per composition. Check out http://copyright.gov/ for details.

      @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hi J,

    I think I’m a little confused by the details of your writing/recording situation. If the song began with a track that the producer created, then sent to you, and you added the lyrics and melody, I’d say he’s entitled to songwriting credit — even though the law defines the song solely as lyrics and melody. In this case, you kind of collaborated to arrive at the finished piece. However, if he created/produced the track, how is it that you wrote the arrangement? I generally think of the arrangement as the actual instruments/sounds on the recording… which seems like it might’ve been the part the producer created. Anyway, give me some more details and I can provide some further thoughts.

    @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Sure thing. OK. Well, this isn’t legal advice, so you could always consult a lawyer to be sure, but just judging by how I’d feel as the producer who came up with the initial track that you then wrote lyrics and melody to — I’d feel like I deserved co-writing credit. You could split the writing credit (and thus the cut of publisher and songwriter shares of publishing royalties) 50/50. Or do the more standard split where lyrics are half and music is half. Lyrics: your 50%. Music: your 25% + his 25%. So he’d get 25% total of songwriter/publisher royalties. You’d get 75%.

    Hope that helps.

    @ Chris Robley

  • The 286

    Hi, I’ve released a number of recordings via indie labels but never signed anything. Does this mean that I still own the publishing rights to these songs?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Probably so. Indie labels sometimes do want a cut of publishing, especially if they’re helping find sync placements and such. But it sounds like you didn’t sign anything away.

      @ Chris Robley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    That’s pretty standard for publishing deals. You get your writers share. They get the publisher’s share. BUT… it’s only worth signing a deal like that if you think there’s legitimate opportunities for them to “exploit” your copyright (in the good sense of the word) — getting you paid. In other words, will they be able to get your music placed in such a way that it generates income? If so, it might be worth it. 50% of a lot, is still a lot. 50% of zero is zero. You raise a valid concern, though. You don’t want to sign over all your publishing, and then have them sit on their hands when other companies might be able to generate money for you as well. The retitling of songs is one way around that. They only get paid their 50% publishers share of THEIR placements of THAT titled version of the song. Anyway, you might already know all this. I’d recommend talking to a lawyer, checking further into the company’s track record for generating money for artists, and then trust your gut (and the lawyer).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Dj jRoc

    Hi there Chris,
    I just read your article thanks for this. I was wondering something. I have written music for a song and the artist and I have released the song on Itunes and we did it through CD Baby, Since we have done this do we still have to copyright the music through library of Congress like we have previously done with other songs we have not released?? Or does the song going through CD Baby automatically copyright our music since we are listed as the writers of the song?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      You always automatically own the copyright to any of your original songs as soon as they’re set in fixed format (recorded, written down in notation, etc.). However, it’s always smart to document that copyright with the LoC for maximum protection should anyone infringe upon that copyright. Distributing through CD Baby does not replace the registration process with LoC. I would recommend you still register the copyright to all your songs.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hi C,

    I probably won’t be much help because I’ve never set up a publishing company. CD Baby acts only as a publishing rights administrator; we don’t claim to own any of the material that we collect publishing royalties for. I assume you’d be ok approaching the artists and publishing companies with your offer for purchase of their catalog or specific songs. You could probably draw up your own contract, but I’d recommend getting a lawyer involved early on, just to make sure you’re setting everything up correctly (and ask them about confirmation/registration of ownership). Regarding sync placements, I’d say you should contact some licensing agencies and publishing companies and ask them for their advice, OR… strike up a partnership with an existing licensing agency with a good track record, and let them do the work for you.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    That’d all depend on your contract. I think a short period of exclusivity (3 years or so) is probably pretty common. But whether they continue to own the publishing share of your music after that point is all in the fine print. It may be that they’re only going to claim that share on placements/usages that they secure. Best to talk with them about the details.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I think talking to the lawyer is a great idea. It’s tough for me to give advice without knowing a lot of the details about the writing process. If they simply acted as traditional producers (handling arrangement, production effects, etc.) then I don’t think they’re owed ANY part of your publishing, but should/could be paid upfront for their services AND given points (a royalty) based on sales. However, if they contributed significantly to the songwriting, then I think a 3-way split is fair for publishing. On the master recording side of things, that’s tough, and again, depends on the deal you have with them. Are they a label footing the bill? If so, sure — they should have some ownership. Did you pay them for the service of recording in their studio, without any funding from them? If so, I don’t think they should own the master recording either. Whatever you work out, CD Baby will pay the roaylties and sales revenue to the account holder (you) and you can divvy up accordingly.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Sure thing. Sorry that you’re having to swallow some pride (and loss of money). But yeah, lesson learned! Contracts BEFORE music-making.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Are they funding the recording sessions? If so, that’s not at all unheard of. If you’re funding/producing the sessions, I think YOU should retain rights to your masters. I’d say push back and see what happens. Worst that can happen is they’ll say no, and then you’ll know where you stand before deciding if you want to sign the dotted line.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Kevin

      Thanks… I’m going to see what happens.. I think what has me on the fence is that I’m getting 75% publishing and I’m positive that I can’t exploit the project for monetary gain as they can… My thought is 75% publishing with them exploiting the project is far more than 100% publishing and my limited outlets.. Does that make sense? lol

      • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

        Yes. That makes sense. 100% of zero is zero. But wouldn’t it be worth arguing for 50/50 splits, just to see if they’d be willing to negotiate?

        @ChrisRobley

        • Kevin

          50/50 split on the master rights? If so, that’s what I’m hoping for.. I need to still have some control or ability to do things to these songs that I would like..

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    A song can definitely (and often does) have multiple publishers. Each co-writer might have signed publishing deals with different companies, or have their own publishing company, and they have to all coordinate to distribute royalties correctly.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, when it comes to the copyright to the composition (as opposed to the copyright to any particular sound recording of that song), you can’t copyright chord changes. So the song is the lyrics and melody. If you wrote the lyrics and melody, you own 100% of the song. BUT… I personally feel like chord changes, production hooks, and such can alter a song so much that it changes the nature of the song itself. If you feel like that’s the case, then you CAN grant your producer songwriting credit, if you feel like the contributions warrant that. It’s up to you at that point as far as how you divide up the songwriting credit.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, when it comes to the copyright to the composition (as opposed to the copyright to any particular sound recording of that song), you can’t copyright chord changes. So the song is the lyrics and melody. If you wrote the lyrics and melody, you own 100% of the song. BUT… I personally feel like chord changes, production hooks, and such can alter a song so much that it changes the nature of the song itself. If you feel like that’s the case, then you CAN grant your producer songwriting credit, if you feel like the contributions warrant that. It’s up to you at that point as far as how you divide up the songwriting credit.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    The master recording is a particular recorded version of a song, as opposed to the underlying composition. So, when you talk about songwriters owning their publishing rights, they own the song they wrote — but the artist or label who recorded that song owns the master recording. (Of course they have to pay mechanical royalties to the songwriters for the right to distribute that song). I’m not sure whether your copyright split was for the master recording, or the publishing rights. Maybe both. I’d recommend you double-check whatever contract you made between you.

    As for CD Baby vs. Tunecore, here’s our official breakdown: http://members.cdbaby.com/cdbaby-vs-tunecore.aspx

    We have no yearly fees, no removal fees, no delivery fees, etc. We only make money when you do (and a small 9% at that), so you don’t need to worry about us taking your music down from iTunes and Amazon and Spotify and such if you don’t pay the annual fee. Plus, with CD Baby, you get sync licensing, YouTube monetization, and more — at no extra charge.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hi Jeff,

    You’ve got the right idea. You do NOT need their permission to use the song, since you’re a co-writer and, essentially, co-publisher. You DO need to pay them their percentage of the mechanical royalty owed for printed discs (and downloaded music sales), which is 9.1 cents per song per unit sold. So, if they only co-own one song on a new album you’re releasing, you’d pay them each 20% of 9.1 cents for every disc pressed. Press a 1000 CDs, that’s 1000 x 9.1cents x 20%. That’s what you’d owe each of them. However, you do NOT need to worry about performance royalties, since I assume they’re already registered with BMI. Any time that song generates money from public performance, BMI should be paying them (and you). One thing you might consider in the future, though, is that a “song” is made up of lyrics and melody (as far as publishing rights are concerned). So if you brought a complete song to your band and they helped you arrange it (added drum beats or bass parts or whatever), they’re not legally entitled to any ownership of your song. Whether you share publishing or not is another matter (band unity, and all!) — but they’re not entitled to it. Hope that helps.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If there is no other publishing entity controlling your song, then yes: YOU are the publisher. Well, unless other people are listed as co-writers. Then they’d also be publishers of the song.

    As for the other band member — I don’t think mixing, mastering, and arranging a drum part constitutes composition. If you’ve agreed to cut members in on a share of the writing/publishing, that’s fine, but again, not necessary unless they’ve actually contributed to the song (defined as the lyric and melody), not only the arrangement and performance.

    Sounds like his encouragement was good for the song, but if you still did the writing, you’re the sole writer. He was just kind enough to be the … encourager. I know this is a touchy subject with many bands, and as a songwriter, I tend to fall pretty squarely in the “writer controls the copyright” camp. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Cesar Sanchez

    A gentleman wants me to publish my songs with him but he says he needs 100% of publishing rights. Why in heavens name would he ask for 100% ?

  • Cesar Sanchez

    A gentleman wants me to publish my songs with him but he says he needs 100% of publishing rights. Why in heavens name would he ask for 100% ?

  • Cesar Sanchez

    A gentleman wants me to publish my songs with him but he says he needs 100% of publishing rights. Why in heavens name would he ask for 100% ?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Hmmm. Maybe he’s asking for 100% of the publisher’s share of your publishing royalties. The publisher’s share is 50% of total, and the songwriter’s share is 50% of total. So,… it COULD be that he wants the 50% of total (100% of publisher’s share) in order to act as your publisher. But before you sign anything like that, what’s his track record? Can he turn your song into a money-making machine? If not, walk away. And if he wants 100% of total, walk away no matter what.

      @ChrisRobley

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Hmmm. Maybe he’s asking for 100% of the publisher’s share of your publishing royalties. The publisher’s share is 50% of total, and the songwriter’s share is 50% of total. So,… it COULD be that he wants the 50% of total (100% of publisher’s share) in order to act as your publisher. But before you sign anything like that, what’s his track record? Can he turn your song into a money-making machine? If not, walk away. And if he wants 100% of total, walk away no matter what.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hi there,

    Well, there’s a few ways of going about this. It really comes down to what you’re comfortable with. One option is to give everywhere who contributed to the song an equal share. So if you wrote the music and the lyrics to one song, and two other people helped with the lyrics, you each get 33.3%. The other, more traditional way would be to divide the song into its two parts: music and lyrics, each representing 50% of the copyright. For the same situation above (where you wrote music and then collaborated with 2 other people on the lyrics), you’d get 50% for the music, plus 16.6% for the lyrics; then the two other lyrics writers would each receive 16.6% for their contribution. A third way to divvy it up is to agree upon the percentage value of each person’s contribution. This is a little stickier, and everyone would need to agree on it, but here’s one example: You compose the music and almost all the lyrics; then you have a friend help you out with a couple lines on the chorus. Instead of you getting 75% (50% for music + 25% for lyrics) and your friend getting 25% for lyrics, you’d say… “Hey, you helped me with 10% of the lyrics, so I’ll give you 10% of the lyrics portion of the copyright.” Or you could say “Hey, you didn’t write that much of the overall lyrics, but the words you contributed are so hooky, and they’re so key to the success of this song, that I’ll give you (whatever you decide that contribution is worth).” I say this method is stickier because no two people are always going to agree on the value of someone’s contribution. Does that all make sense? Lemme know if you have any other questions.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hi there,

    Well, there’s a few ways of going about this. It really comes down to what you’re comfortable with. One option is to give everywhere who contributed to the song an equal share. So if you wrote the music and the lyrics to one song, and two other people helped with the lyrics, you each get 33.3%. The other, more traditional way would be to divide the song into its two parts: music and lyrics, each representing 50% of the copyright. For the same situation above (where you wrote music and then collaborated with 2 other people on the lyrics), you’d get 50% for the music, plus 16.6% for the lyrics; then the two other lyrics writers would each receive 16.6% for their contribution. A third way to divvy it up is to agree upon the percentage value of each person’s contribution. This is a little stickier, and everyone would need to agree on it, but here’s one example: You compose the music and almost all the lyrics; then you have a friend help you out with a couple lines on the chorus. Instead of you getting 75% (50% for music + 25% for lyrics) and your friend getting 25% for lyrics, you’d say… “Hey, you helped me with 10% of the lyrics, so I’ll give you 10% of the lyrics portion of the copyright.” Or you could say “Hey, you didn’t write that much of the overall lyrics, but the words you contributed are so hooky, and they’re so key to the success of this song, that I’ll give you (whatever you decide that contribution is worth).” I say this method is stickier because no two people are always going to agree on the value of someone’s contribution. Does that all make sense? Lemme know if you have any other questions.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Williss Lopez

    Thank you for shedding more light on this subject. Quick question, I am a music producer.When i wrote a couple of songs i asked a female singer if she could sing it for me in the studio. Im planning to sell it when the song completed, how much money should i pay her per each time the song sold? At first i thought 50% but when i think about it i did the most work and shes merely doing the voice. And where can i learn about the pricing? And should i make a proper contract with her first?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Did you write the whole song? The melody? The lyrics? If so, she is not entitled to any publishing royalties. She is a performer, and how you pay her is kinda between the two of you. It could just be a work for hire situation where you pay her a fee upfront and that’s that, or maybe you consider her like a band member and she gets some royalties from sales or whatever, but you don’t owe her publishing royalties if she didn’t write the song.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Williss Lopez

    Thank you for shedding more light on this subject. Quick question, I am a music producer.When i wrote a couple of songs i asked a female singer if she could sing it for me in the studio. Im planning to sell it when the song completed, how much money should i pay her per each time the song sold? At first i thought 50% but when i think about it i did the most work and shes merely doing the voice. And where can i learn about the pricing? And should i make a proper contract with her first?

  • Al

    Hey I was just wondering about the publishing rights with ASCAP. I am a writer and I don’t have a publishing company. My question is if I sign with ASCAP who gets the publishing share of the royalties without a publisher? Do I get 100% royalties or do I still only get 50% and if that is the case where does that Publisher royalties go?

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      You can register a vanity publishing company with them as well, so you’d collect both halves of the performance royalties pie. Or just have CD Baby Pro take care of it all for you.

      @ChrisRobley

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      You can register a vanity publishing company with them as well, so you’d collect both halves of the performance royalties pie. Or just have CD Baby Pro take care of it all for you.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If you’re already affiliated on your own with a P.R.O. (and NOT a CD Baby Pro client), and if you don’t have a vanity publishing company of your own, you would just put your own name and the publishing income will flow through to your writer account.

    If you are a CD Baby Pro client, you would put ‘Progeny Publishing’ and then the money will come to you through CD Baby.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I haven’t registered any new songs with ASCAP for a few years, so I’m not sure if they’ve changed anything, but basically, there should be a way to designate that YOU (the writer) are also the publisher so that the publishing portion of your performance royalties “flow through” to you. OR… you could register your vanity publishing company with ASCAP. Then you’d be affiliated with ASCAP as a songwriter (collecting half of the writer’s share — 25%), and you’d also be affiliated as a publisher (collecting half of the publisher’s share—- 25%). That’d be your 50% total of performance royalties, and then your co-writer would be responsible for collecting their 50% (either by affiliating as both writer and publisher, or just signing up as a writer where the publishing half of the performance royalties “flows through” to the writer). Hope that makes sense. ASCAP should have something in their registration process (or at least in their FAQ) about this too.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    No, you don’t have to list it in your liner notes; publishing royalties will still be distributed to you. But if you want to put Progeny Publishing on there, as well as your PRO (ASCAP) affiliation, go for it! The more info the better.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Hmm. That does complicate things. I would recommend asking an attorney who understands international publishing. Sorry I don’t have more specific advice on that.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, if they’re just going to make/sell a recording of your song, the fee is pre-determined: it’s 9.1 cents per song per unit sold. So, if they make 1000 CDs, they owe you $91. If they sell 100 downloads, they owe you $9.10. And so forth. If they want to make a video, then you can negotiate sync rights (and you can ask for what you think is fair), but if they’re just distributing a cover version of your song, the above figure is the standard.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    If you have the permission of the instrumental piece’s composer to add a melody and lyrics, then you should be credited with lyrics and musical contributions. If you didn’t have the permission of the original composer, then you’d need to get their permission for creating what is known as a “derivative work.”

    As for royalties, if your song was generating money before you were represented by a collection society, it’s possible that money will not be able to be located/collected for you. Sometimes that stuff just kinda… disappears into thin air. However, there are cases where unclaimed royalties are held until the collection society comes along to pay it out properly.

    @ChrisRobley