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

27892 405

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  ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc.), we’ll register your songs directly with dozens of 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.]

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Brettly

    Thanks this was really helpful!

  • 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

  • karen

    My problem is this, I signed a publishing contract and would like to know if I can use my original recording on my own album? Will I be obligated to pay publishing royalties even though this is not the version they published.

  • 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

  • John Wholetrain

    How would we split our royalties? We are a self-published group with 1
    Producer making all the music, and 2 Emcees with varying input depending
    on songs (ex. on a song, Rapper A does 24 bars and Rapper B does 12
    bars…) Does the Producer take 50% regardless and the remaining 50% is
    split between whoever raps on a song? How does it work? Is it 33% for
    producer because its a three-man group? Thx

  • 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?

  • Larry Olubanjo

    I just started a record label in the UK. Can I own a record label and have my artists record some of my songs as well. Someone told me I can’t own a record label and have the artists record my songs – is it true? Would I be violating any publishing laws described as “double dipping” ? Thanks

  • 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

  • Jake Statham

    @bookbaby:disqus Im a bedroom producer, producing drum and bass at an alarming rate 🙂 How much money would the average producer earn a week through CDBaby if i had lets say 10-15 tracks on there?

    Also would to clear this up, would the aforementioned tracks still to be registered for copyright for me via PRS, CopyRightHouse, etc….?

    Thanks in advance………… Kameleonic

  • 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

  • Smartmusician

    is it ok for a producer to want to have some rights of the songs when he has already been paid for producing the album?
    thanks for your guidance.

  • 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

  • yt

    i co wrote a hit song that went gold but i only got 2% of the whole ordeal, how would i calculate my earnings? i no its somthing about 0.9 a song sold. thanks

  • 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

    • areed

      hi chris may i have your email address i would really like to get your opinion on a recent topic…im in process of signing a distribution deal and its under circumstances that i use specific producers and im concerned that using this or these specific producers will they have publishing rights to my material…i am required to pay for producing fees upfront and im aware that a certain percentage of royalties will be given to him but i want to know if he will or should have publishing rights to my material or masters

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

  • Bill

    If I am an independent artist, and join ASCAP as a writer, and do not list any publisher, what happens to the 50% of the income that would typically go to a publisher? If the song is listed as not having a publisher, does the writer then get 100%? Thank you.

  • 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

  • Richard Savage

    This may seem like a foolish question but you dont have to just be a songwriter to get a publishing deal right? Im an independent artist and I write and perform everything I write. Im not interested in giving my songs to other artists (at least not right now). So I guess Im asking would it be good for me to get a deal with a music publishing company?

  • 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

  • Ryan Remy McClendon

    Hey Chris, I’m a music producer/engineer and mixer in Milwaukee, WI. I’ve been independent for 3 years and have a couple of questions regarding publishing, etc? Could I have your email addy please so I may direct my inquiries to you?

  • Sure. I'll send it your way.

    @ Chris Robley

  • 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.

    • 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

      • Thanks for clarifying that. So you guys take 15% only, or are you taking 50/50 on the publishing? You would take 15% as publishing admin, but 50% if you were the publisher?

  • 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

  • Chris, I have a question about this topic, I don’t want to post it here, can you give me an email? Thanks

  • 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!

    • 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

  • Will send you my contact info.

    @ Chris Robley

  • I submitted work registration to BMI which I listed CD Baby as publisher at 100%, but this was a mistake. I intended to put myself as publisher. I contacted BMI and notified them of the error. BMI contacted CD Baby for approval to change the publisher. CD Baby contacted me via email and said that if I did not have my own publishing company affiliated with BMI than CD Baby would have to remain as my publisher in order to collect any publishing royalties.
    I know this is not true because I can collect royalties from BMI and not have a publisher. What can I do to get this issue solved?

  • 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

  • oshea

    Hey Chris I signed a publishing agreement with tunecore and I canceled it. It said it won’t be completely canceled until June 13. My question is can I sign a agreement with you guys since I’m releasing a new album in may. One of the songs on the album is a studio version of the original version that I put on tunecore. I was just wondering if it mattered about the agreement since it’s a different version song and the rest of the album is brand new songs that aren’t on tunecore thanks

  • 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

  • Bobby

    Hey, If I am the songwriter and producer for an artist, do I retain all publishing? I personally have not signed a deal with a publishing company, but if the artist does, does that affect my publishing if I wrote both music and lyrics? How does that work?

    Thanks

  • 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

  • GangstaBeatz101 .

    Cool

  • 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

  • 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

  • Major Tyrone Young

    SO A FRIEND AND MYSELF PRODUCED SOME MUSIC THAT WAS USED BY A MAJOR ARTIST ……… THEY SENT US SOME T-SHIRTS AND CD SINGLES ………..IF WE SIGN WITH YOU GUYS CAN YOU HELP US COLLECT WHAT IS COMING TO US

  • 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

  • Navi Montero

    I bought a song from a writer. As far as royalties, i was talking to the writer about registering the song in ASCAP, then they mentioned to list them as publishers as well as writers. I was under the impression that if I bought the song, they keep writing credit, but I then get publishing rights.. Do I own publishing part and writer owns “writer” part?

  • 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

  • Subra

    I wrote a full song (i am based in kent, uk)
    and I found a music director to record it with. He is charging a fixed amount to
    give music to the song. However, his invoice states – ” The music producer keeps
    the publishing rights to the song. Royalties from the songs created
    in this
    project and other sales can go directly to me (Subra)”. What does it mean?

  • 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

    • Subra

      To clarify – I wrote only the lyrics on a piece of paper and I know how it needs to be sung. I am going to sing it and he is giving the music (melody) to it in his studio with all his instruments and ideas.

      what does it mean when he says ‘he keeps the publishing right’. Does it mean if i want to release the song in a third country with a third party PR company, I ll need his permission? And why is he saying “royalities and other sales can go to me, he doesnt mind”. Does this statement not include ‘publishing royalities’ ? there is no contract as such, its just 2 pager invoice with those 2 statements.

  • 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

    • Subra

      could you elaborate on what ‘publishing rights’ mean or could include (specific to uk laws)?

  • 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

  • J_DaPrynce

    Hi Chris,

    First off, Great Read! Thank you for such an informative blog. Here is my question. Let’s say, I wrote all the lyrics, melody, and arrangement to a track either given/or sold to me by a producer. Is this producer entitled to any publishing credit in that I wrote the song to music he completely composed? Thank you for your time and consideration, and again, GREAT READ!

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • J_DaPrynce

      Hi Christopher,

      Thank you for such a timely response. Let me see if I can be a little more clear. Indeed, the producer provided me with a track to which I then took home and wrote lyrics, and arranged the melody I heard in my head to the track. With any given track, as you well know, writers can hear different melodies/come up with different melodic ideas depending on where their song writing experience/creativity takes them. I have no issue with giving the producer credit. I am simply trying to get an educated grasp on the proper way to go about issuing publishing credit! Thank you again for your time, consideration and expertise!

  • 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

    • lakeisha

      what is considered music the …i think this answered my question from earlier… i wrote the lyrics and came up with the melody then went to a producer and had him create the music around my melody…. on the advice you gave lyrics 50$ and 50% music- 25 him 25 me….is the melody considered music?

  • 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?

    • 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

  • Ilana Tarutina

    Great read thank you! Here’s my situation: I got offered a non-exclusive publishing deal where I get to keep 100% writers share and the publisher gets 100% of the publishing on the back end and we split upfront money 50/50. Does that sound like a bad deal? since it’s non exclusive I feel that I shouldn’t have to give up 100% of my publishing rights ‘cuz if I do I won’t be able to go with another library or publisher; I’ve also heard that re-titling songs is frowned upon in the industry. I will take the contract to a lawyer for review before I sign anything but at this stage I guess I’d like to know if this deal is worthy of my time.

  • 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?

    • 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

  • Cyssero5

    @ChrisRobley

    Hey bro,

    I am trying to set up my own publishing company (online), however I am unsure how to purchase a music catalogue.

    Issues:

    1) Do I have to approach the artist/song writer/publishing company personally in order to purchase the publishing rights?

    2) Do I have to go through a lawyer to complete every basic transaction?

    3) How do I know if I really OWN the rights to the song? i.e. will I receive some type of receipt/legal certificate of ownership?

    4) Is it possible for me to approach companies offering my music to be used for adverts, background music for games, cartoons, movies, online videos etc? If so how?

    5) How does the process of payment for the use of my song work?

    Sorry about all the questions bro but I am very serious about this publishing company. Thanks again, from London.

    Kind regards

    Cyssero5

  • 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

  • Hi Christopher,

    Great article. If I sign with a production company to pitch my songs, is it typical for them to ask for 36 months? And, once they re-copyright into both our names, does this mean that after the 3 year deal, they retain ownership forever?

  • 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

  • lifebohemia

    Hi Mr. Robley,

    I recently recorded in a recording studio that received accolades from our City Paper. They also have had some big names come through. After recording, the studio A&R brought out a split sheet. He wanted me to sign where the two producers each would get 33%, which I didn’t sign. Also, they wanted me to sign an agreement where I had to ask the studio permission to use the music created in their studio for film or tv, and they would get a share. I was expecting going into the studio that this would be a for-hire project like Studio Pros, but I hadn’t discussed it because I was unaware of how everything works. Before recording, I copyrighted my song with the U.S. Copyright office, music and lyrics. The main producer did a great job and was the nicest guy. He did it differently than I would have, but it still sounds great. I would like to give these guys 33%, or what’s considered standard, only for this version of the song. I also feel I should retain 100% copyright so I can create any derivative version I want and they wouldn’t get the money for a new derivative version that I created, and I wouldn’t have to ask permission. But wouldn’t signing the split sheet give them 33% on the original copyright? I don’t think it was fair the A&R pulled out a split sheet after recording. He also knew this was my first time, and I would have probably gone elsewhere. I’m consulting a lawyer next week, but I wanted to ask your thoughts.

    Also, if I retain 100% copyright and wanted to give a percentage of my CDBaby earnings to the two producers but not have them as songwriters, can that be done?

  • 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

    • lifebohemia

      Thanks for the advice. I talked to a lawyer from Nashville and he said it should be considered a work for hire. He said I shouldn’t sign. I paid up front for everything.

      You were talking about royalty points. I read in a book the producer gets 15% max on points. But they want 33% for each producer, which makes 66%. I am really shocked about this since they had a major just come through. I have decided to swallow the expense and chalk it up to experience. I hate dealing with people like this.

      Thanks again for your advice.

    • lakeisha

      what does it mean to own the masters? i wrote a song arranged it and came up with melody then took it to a producer create the music to it and i sung the vocals… we split the copyright, is owning the masters something separate from what we did? does that mean where i record the song they own the masters? and what is the difference from me signing up with tune core and cd baby? thank you so much

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • Kevin

    Awesome discussion board. I have a question. I’m a former recording artist and I’ve been producing my son for the past four years. He’s now eleven and we’ve managed to secure his first recording contract from an educational music company out of Atlanta. Now I use to be totally up on all of this but over the years of not dealing directly with contracts etc have gotten a little rusty. The terms are really simple, 25% of any and all net revenue in perpetuity, non-exclusive, they will be assigned an undivided 25% interest in copyright for co-publishing which means to me we will retain 75% publishing. My only sticking point is the issue of masters.. They are wanting all rights to masters. My gut is telling me to push back on this… Thoughts?
    http://www.epresskitz.com/kayden

  • 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

      • 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..

  • Eidall Music

    Great article! However, I’m a little confused on the subject of multiple publishers, as I was told that a song can only have one publisher and that you shouldn’t assign the same song to multiple publishers because of confusion that may take place, if the same song is sent to a music supervisor by different sources. When I look up songs in Ascap and Bmi’s repertoire, I notice that one song can have a total of anywhere from 5-10 publishers, total, between both PRO’s. How does that work? Is it because each writer may have a vanity publishing company set up for themselves yet don’t actually license the song? Or did all of the listed publishing companies license the song? How would the royalties between all of the publishers be split? Any answers would be greatly appreciated!

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Jeffrey

    Thanks a lot for your advice on this blog. It’s informative and downright awesome. I have a question for you, or a few. . . I recorded a song with two individuals. We played together as a band, it was my song (I wrote lyrics and music). We registered the work on BMI when we released it. I own 60% and they both own 20%. The band had a falling out. I want to release the song on an album, there is no publisher btw. Do I need both of their permission to make a print of the cd and release it? Can I record a new version of the song and release it without paying them? Or is any version of the song released mean I have to pay them because we registered with BMI? I am a bit frustrated because I didn’t fully understand BMI when we set up the contract. What I want to do is print the album without their permission and tally the cost of their portion of that one song on the album and cut them a check everytime I print a batch of albums. Thanks

  • 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

    • Jeffrey

      Thank you so much for sharing this information. Just to clarify, I own the publishing rights? Can I go into BMI and claim 100% publishing? It says there is no publishers at the moment. More importantly, when I release the cd, can I copyright all the songs as mine? One of the band members who owns 20% did mix, and master the song, adding drum parts. He encouraged me to write a bridge, which I did write the melody and lyrics for. I had written this song 6 months before I met him, but he did encourage me to keep evolving it, which I did. Thanks Again.

  • 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

  • Cali Conscious

    Hey Christopher!

    I am about to license my album to a television show. This is my first time licensing my music. I have a publishing company and am a writer at Ascap. On 3 of the 12 songs there are other writers. Writer one wrote verse 2 lyrics on song A, writer two wrote bridge lyrics on song B, and writer 3 wrote the music to song C and writer one and I each wrote verse lyrics and chorus lyrics. I am wondering what the normal split between writers? If there are two writers on a song do you usually split 50/50 or if there are three writers do you split 33/33/33? What is the industry standard? Thanks! Check out our music http://www.soundcloud.com/caliconscious

  • 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% ?

    • 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

    • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    • Cali Conscious

      Thank you very much Chris! This is very helpful information! Much Gratitude!!

    • Cali Conscious

      I have one more question. The drummer who is now an integral part of the band wants to know about getting his share on the next album. He thinks we should split the money between members of the band. He didn’t write any of the music or the lyrics, he is just performing the drums. What do you think is fair or what is the norm for this? 0% or split evenly? -Thanks

      • Tough question, and it’s a very personal decision for the songwriters in your band. Technically, the songwriters are owed 100% of the publishing royalties (or more accurately, the songwriters get 50% and their publishers get 50% — but I’m betting the songwriters ARE the publishers if you’re an indie band). If the songwriters keep the publishing royalties (performance royalties for radio play, mechanical royalties for streams and 9.1 per cent per song downloaded or manufactured on a CD) the drummer can still earn income from CD sales if you split the earnings after subtracting for mechanical royalties and any other fees. BUT… the songwriters (if they are also artists in the band) WILL make more money. If you’re successful, it can be a LOT more money. That is the blessing and curse of being the songwriter in a band with non-writing members.

        One way to still acknowledge the non-writing members contributions is to cut them in on a share of publishing. Like, say the songwriter keeps 75% and the non-writing members can split the other 25%, or something like that. OR… you could split everything evenly. I think that is what some successful bands like REM and U2 do, even though certain songs are inevitably more fully written by certain members over others.

        BUT, I would offer this word of warning. If you wrote 100% of a song, and you split the publishing evenly with non-writing band members, what happens when one of those members leaves the band, or you break up, or you decide you want to re-record those songs down the road as a solo performance? Suddenly you owe those people money any time you earn publishing royalties from YOUR song.

        I know from experience that this whole situation can cause resentment on both sides. The drummer might resent the fact that they’re not an equal share-holder in the publishing, and if you cut the drummer in on some publishing percentage, you might resent giving up that ownership (now or later). It’s a really tough situation. Best I can advise is to talk through everything with each member of the band. Be honest, and sensitive to everyone’s feelings as much as possible. Don’t make rash decisions. Get the conversation going, and then set a date 3-4 weeks down the road to revisit the discussion and come up with a solution.

        Another thing that might ease tensions, if there are any, is that you could say “hey, for this record, we’re going to proceed as the law dictates, with publishing royalties (and rights) going to the songwriters… but we’re open to the idea of working more collaboratively moving forward. Let’s try more co-writing in the future, or building songs from the ground up that begin with jams, or grooves, or whatever elements the drummer can contribute to start the song.” I’m suggesting this not knowing anything about your creative process, but if that seems like a method you would consider for even a handful of songs on your NEXT NEXT record, the drummer might feel included enough to not take the current publishing situation personally.

        @ChrisRobley

        • Cali Conscious

          Thank you for your response bro! Much appreciated! And yes it is a very touchy subject and I hope we can figure out a solution. I’m thinking about keeping the royalties for this one and we will try to collaborate on the next one! Cheers!

      • Oh, and another way to address this could be to meet with a lawyer or music biz consultant who has dealt with this stuff before and can explain publishing rights to the drummer (if they’re resistant to how and why the law works the way it does.).

        @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?

    • 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?

    • 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

    • 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

  • Nico

    Hello Chris! I have a little question, and if you can help me would be awesome.
    A tv network wants to screen a music video for my song. I have to fill up a form, and there’s a subject Song Publisher(s).
    I never signed a publishing deal, but I have my music in Cd baby…
    what should I write on the form? my real name, my band’s name or CD Baby?

    Thank very much for your advice!

  • 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

    • SL

      If we are CD Baby Pro clients, should we list Progeny Publishing on our CD liner notes when we note the songwriter’s and publisher’s copyright and ASCAP affiliations? (Such as ” (c) Mr Songwriter, 2014 (p) Progeny Publishing, 2014″) If we only list the songwriter portion, will publisher’s royalties not be collected?

  • Katy Gunn

    I have a question. 🙂 I have co-written a song with a Danish songwriter that recently got radio time in Denmark. We are splitting all royalties/earnings from the song (from anywhere – including the radio time it recently received) 50/50. But I really don’t understand how to register the song with ASCAP because of how the publishing/writer allocation part is set up. I have my own publishing company, which I was advised to set up to collect more for my songs should they get placed (without an established publisher), but I don’t really understand something. When royalties are paid to an artist, does there HAVE to be a publishing company involved? If I don’t list a publisher, where does the other 50% go? When I register with ASCAP, I can only register myself and co-writer at 25%, and then the other 50% of earnings goes to – where? We are co-writers 50/50 but I can’t register that way! Can you advise on how I might set it up so that I get 50% of earnings? I guessed it might be with 25% as a writer, My Danish cowriter as 25% (writer), then 25% publishing??? My Danish co-writer uses KODA (Danish performing rights Org), which allows songwriters registered as WRITERS alone without a publisher, and can apparently claim 50% ownership of royalties/writing without involving a publisher, so she simply registered the song so that 50% of all earnings go to her as the writer, and 50% goes to me. She doesn’t have a publishing company! She says it’s not split up like ASCAP and the publishing. I don’t want to register wrong, but nobody from ASCAP seems to be able to answer my question. I’m sure I look like an idiot because I set up my own publishing company but don’t know how to split everything and frankly, do not understand how this works! Help! 🙂

  • 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

    • Katy Gunn

      Thanks for the reply, Chris. The issue is that my co-writer is signed up with KODA (Denmark) – they don’t split publishing/writer shares the way we do (according to her). She is only a writer with them and apparently they can split paid money 50/50 if you are just signed up as a writer (according to her). Not sure if I should just put 50% on my end for publishing so that I collect all my fair share on this side (since the game is different on both sides of the pond), or just 25% to be fair as we are splitting everything 50/50. But thanks for the advice and info. Maybe I’m not fully understanding how it works overseas…

  • The C Corner

    Hello Jeffery,

    Thank you so much for creating this article, it was very helpful!!! I have a YouTube channel where I have created a lot of successful parodies and recently have started to make my own original music. This business part of the music industry is extremely new to me. I have a guy that I payed $500 to create a beat for my song. I sang him the melody and explained the feel and vibe I wanted this track to have. I am co-writing the song with another individual who is not charging me upfront and I have a separate person laying down my vocals and mixing the song that I am paying $300 to.

    I am trying now to figure out how everything plays out logistically on the back end since I am acting as my own label and I am the artist on the song. I am the only one paying for this whole project, doing the marketing, ect. Here are my questions below:

    1. I and the person who created the melody are affiliated with ASCAP. Being that I am my own label and the artist do we split our portion 50/50? And being that it is only 50% of royalties that we are receiving do I write on the split sheet 25/25 or 50/50? Or do I get a higher percentage as the Label and Artist on the Song? Like 70/30. Does the fact that I paid him an upfront fee come into play as well?

    3. The person I am co-writing the song with belongs to a publishing company also. So my question in number 1 applies for this as well. I don’t know if the songwriter and beat producer get the same percentage when it comes to royalties. Being that I am my own label and artist do we split our portion 50/50? Being that it is only 50% that we are receiving do I write on the split sheet 25/25 or 50/50? Or do I get a higher percentage as the Label and Artist on the Song? Like 70/30.

    2. I am putting the song on YouTube and downloading it to I-tunes. I am trying to figure out the fair percentage to split with the producer of the beat and the songwriter. Is it fair that I receive 70% as the label and artist and then they would split 30% or something like 50% and they split the other 50%? I will be the one promoting the album, paying for the all video cost on the front and back end, ect.

    3. For the person who is laying down the vocals and mixing I am doing a work for hire. I will just be paying him the $300 and he will not be receiving anything on the backend. I was told this is fair.

    Can you please assist me in this question. I am in the beginning of the project and I do not want to be taken advantage of. I understand that some people use the point system, however the breakdown is highly confusing to me, so I prefer to just go by percentages. Please let me know if using percentages is fine as well. Thank you so much for your time and sorry if I asked to many questions…Lol

    • True Chris!
      You as the label has nothing to do with the publishing/songwriting aspect. The label usually serves as an investor. The investor may recoup the investment or just take a lost but the label usually owns the MASTERS and not the original/underlying work.

      In urban/electronic music….you paid the “beat maker” X amount of dollars BUT what’s the contract saying? Ownership or lease? Royalties and/or a flat fee up front? Anything is negotiable as long as it is morally/ethically right.

      I am not a lawyer, so I can only give you examples of what I have done for me or my artists. If they are not there PRODUCING the performance of my artists, then they are only considered a beat maker/composer. I might give them a small percentage of a producer’s share and the rest to the producer. Or I will not give them anything but upfront money…

      Its best to split everything 50/50 as in ASCAP’s case on an 100% scale 25/25 for the writers and the publishers have to mirror the same as their writer unless stated otherwise.

      Split sheets are not necessary but is used to keep conflict to a minimum. To answer your question, you can do 25/25 or 50/50 but it must equal to (50 ASCAP) or (100 BMI/SESAC/etc…) don’t worry, no one will come after you and say that 75, 13, 2% is owed to them as long as it is equaled to the PRO standards.

      @MusicsFuture
      http://www.facebook.com/L8.Nite

    • Nakya

      Should you follow me back and you seem like you could be a good person for anybody

  • 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

  • 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

  • adisa

    Hi, I have a few questions if you can please answer 🙂 if I make a song with someone who composes a raw version of a song- Instrumental, and if I add lyrics with performing my own melody as a vocalist and after that the instrumental builds further basing on my singed melody with my melody’s verses and refrains does that make me just a Lyricist or I am “CA” composer author???and another question..If I wasn’t registered in some royalties collecting society on a world basis, and my songs with my lyrics with my name under it were registered in those authorship agencies,where do my royalties go?? I am now a member of Tono.no but for 3 years wasn’t a member of any of the agencies and I am sure I had some royalties from my songs registered with me as an unregistered author..How do I purchase my money??? 🙁 regards

  • Melissa

    Hi, I have a question. I am the producer and sole writer of a copy writed song, that a band wants to take and redo over. What type of fee should I ask for, and also is this not like them recreating my work and changing it, which will now give them a portion of my song?

  • 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

  • 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

    • adisa

      thanks for answers.. about the first answer: the thing is I recorded many songs with producents but all I get from royalties is Lyrics fee, and the fact is that the part I sing the way I sing it together with refrains makes the song’s melody..what bothers me is that the performer no matter how much he/she influences the listenership, and make the song be a song not just some abstract simple rhythm and few keys, is still regarded just as a lyrics writer and not a co-composer of the song..thats is it 🙂 thanks for your time..regards!

  • Your position as label head doesn’t give you cause to collect a higher cut of publishing royalties. However, you can determine that publishing split according to whatever seems fair, AS LONG AS all parties agree. So, you can consider the beat maker part of the essential songwriting process and give them a cut, or you could also say that in that role as beatmaker they were more an arranger or producer, and not a songwriter. But the thing is, you all want to agree on this stuff upfront. If there were 3 people contributing to the writing (beats, melody, lyrics), then you could split the songwriting credit 3 ways, and thus the publishing and songwriting halves of the publishing pie would be split in 1/3rds as well.

    The performer you paid is not owed any publishing royalties, though they may have grounds to collect digital performance royalties through SoundExchange.

    Hope that helps.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, if you wrote the lyrics, you ARE a co-composer of the song. For sure. The copyright for a composition is granted for the melody AND lyrics.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Hey Christopher, huge thanks for this article. Can you answer the following question for me?

    I have signed a standard publishing agreement for a bunch of songs. Myself, as the record label and self-releasing artist, am now pressing some CDs of said songs. On the back of the CD, should I write © 2014 James Frost with an additional line to say Published by Publishing Company. Or should I now write © 2014 Publishing Company?

    It’s ℗ 2014 James Frost … but what about the ©?

    In signing a publishing agreement, which is the following is true
    – I still own the copyright but I have ‘assigned’ it to the publishing company
    – The publishing company own the copyright and I no longer own it

    • To pick up where Chris left off…..depending on what the contract says. You say standard, so I assume that you gave up your publishing but still own your writer’s portion. The PC is administering your paperwork and royalties…..If you didn’t give up your rights, then you still own it. Also, remember that YOUR MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED ONCE IN FIXED FORM. Sending it in is to only register/keep files of existence.

      @MusicsFuture
      http://www.facebook.com/L8.Nite

  • Adela Sevilla

    If you sell all your publishing rights to your songs, can they be negatively exploited by the publishing company, ie Sony Atv music?

    • What do you mean by “negatively exploited?” Like, licensed to a commercial or movie that you don’t agree with? If so, the answer is yes.

      @ChrisRobley

    • What do you mean by “negatively exploited?” Like, licensed to a commercial or movie that you don’t agree with? If so, the answer is yes.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Alicia Lackey

    Christopher Robley i have a few questions..first is where can i register my band name so that i own it and no one else does…second i have a manager he does things for me as far as twitter and things like that but we have no contract so im wondering even though hes doing these things for me.im not paying him to be a manager because i consider him as a friend and he is cool with that.but here is were the problem comes in hes telling me that i would have to give him 50% of everything i make even though there is no contract.and what i read on the net is that managers normally get 15 to 20% if im wrong can you let me know…third if there are meetings that need to be payed for like him/my manager going to record labels to have meetings about my band.and we dont really know anything about this meeting other then he told us that there is one.and to pay for him to go see what the meeting is about.it just seems sketchy to me.thats why im asking questions i really need to know what im getting my self in to.isn’t the manager suppose to tell us every detail of everything that is going on? because if we dont know whats going on.anyone could be giving there money out to people for nothing.im just asking if you think that i should have prof of what i need to pay for?and i also know there is a lot of sneaky crap that happens in the music industry.i just dont want to fall in a hole before i even get a chance to make a hole if you no what i mean.please get back to me Email is…meyajayla00@gmail.com

  • patrick

    quick question, I have wrote a couple of songs to a instrumental that i found on the internet and i hired a producer to redo the beat and make it sound similar but not quite the same , Im i allowed to sell them ?

  • Sounds like a question for a music attorney. Did you use any part of the instrumental in your final recording? Did you use any of the same melodies? If so, you need permission. If you just used that song as “inspiration” and then wrote your own song, you’re PROBABLY OK — but copyright infringement can be a gray area, so just be cautious.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Nils

    Hi Chris, I’ll include an existing song in my new CD, but I’d like to change the title completely. How do the rights work?

    • I’m not sure I understand. You want to take someone else’s song and change the title? Or one of your own songs? If the first situation, they probably won’t let you do that — but either way, you have to ask permission. If the second, go for it!

      @ChrisRobley

  • Stevenson

    Hey, I noticed you answered Jeffs question and your added advice is exactly what Im looking for.

    ( “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.”)

    My question is this:

    I had recordings on my cell phone with either me beat boxing or me singing and playing my guitar. Ive hired a producer to help me produce those songs seeing as I don’t know how to use these programs. For the most part I directed them on what Im looking for. He’s added a few nuances and little It sounds great. Ive paid him for both songs, does he own a portion of the song since Ive paid him for it?

    • Well, these things are always a tiny bit subjective, but I’d say no. If he didn’t add any melodies, words, or significant hooks, you own the copyright — especially since you paid him for the production help. That being said, lots of people in hip hop and electronic genres DO share co-writing credit with producers who end up significantly shaping the track. Again, it’s all a bit subjective.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Hey James,

    Sorry for the late response on this. The comment kinda got lost in my “pending moderation” folder. So… I’d say something like this should work:

    “Words and music by James Frost, Publishing Company, 2014.” (And then you can include your P.R.O. affiliation too if you like).

    @ChrisRobley

  • You’ll want to trademark your name with the USPTO to make sure it’s yours and yours alone. And 50% is WAY to much to pay a manager. Most managers make 10-20%. And yes, you should know everything that is happening on your behalf. No secrets! He works for YOU, not the other way around. All that being said, you also shouldn’t pay him anything out of pocket for time/services. (maybe just expenses). A manager makes that percentage on artist income. So 10-20% of what you’re making from your music. If you don’t get paid, he doesn’t get paid.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Crala Areille

      @Christopher Robley I need help I have a guy make me a beat and thats all but he is charging me 50 percent and roality fees 50% is that right

  • Kerry

    What is your take on deals that state “NON-EXCLUSIVE, 50/50 split. You’ll get 50% of the sync fee and 100% of the Writer’s share. They’ll get 50% of the sync fee and 100% of the Publisher’s share.”

  • It really depends on the details of the agreement. With some deals, the publisher takes 50% of publisher’s share and leaves 100% of writers’ share alone. Others might want 100% of publisher’s share. Just tread cautiously and consult with an attorney.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Thanks for sharing. Great to hear real-world advice when it comes to publishing, which can seem very abstract.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Tony

    Hello Chris, I have a question for you. I have a song that I wrote, and a music company is very interested in taking my song and assigning it to one of there singers on there roster. My question to you is. What is the average royalties I should be getting on that song, and if it is pickup by a publisher what should I expect to get from either the record company, or the publisher if the song sells a little more then a million copies?

    Thanks,
    Tony D.

  • You’d be owed: 1) mechanical royalties for any units (both digital and physical) that are sold/streamed. You’d also earn performance royalties any time that song is “played” in public (radio, TV, live concerts, etc.). Then if it’s synced to film/commercial/tv, you get the sync license fee too. You should always retain 100% of the songwriter’s half of publishing royalties. Until you sign with a publishing company, you also own 100% of the publisher’s share of the publishing royalties. BUT… a publisher may want to take the song and help get it played, placed, etc. For that, they’ll want a cut, which can be any portion of the publisher’s half of the royalties. If you give up 100% of that half, though, just be sure it’s a reputable company that is actually going to help you exploit that song for $$. And NEVER give up any of your songwriter’s share.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Jason

    I am in independent recording artist in negotiations with the producer for a certain beat. Here are his terms below please tell me if this is a fair deal. if its not please tell me a fair counter offer that I can give him that will benefit us fairly. Thank you

    $100.00 producer fee (up front)
    Unlimited commercial/profitable use.
    Unlimited distribution.
    Tracked out wav instrumental(Optional)
    Producer & artist must split royalties & publishing rights. 50/50(negotiable)
    Artist keeps full ownership of beat.
    Credit must be given on production.

  • Mikey C

    Hey Chris, I will
    be collaborating with a producer who will be recording the master and
    generating the music tracks; I fundamentally wrote all the songs creating the
    lyrics and melodies
    for all of my work. I will be releasing the songs as the artist, also I’ll set
    up a publishing company to retain the publishing rights. What is a fair split
    with the producer who is recording the music and providing the chords and such?
    What part of the copyright should he ask for. He is a fantastic producer and is
    willing to charge a minimal upfront cost for the recording but wants a split of
    royalties. We have been waiting for months because I really don’t know what he
    should get and what I should give. Your advice will be helpful and very much
    appreciated.

  • KooKKy

    We are a band, and two members wrote/own our songs, but going nowhere. I have a publisher with good contacts who is re-recording them and trying to get them out there. What would a realistic split be?

  • So if I only produced the song,what royalty am i entitled to,someone one said that the only way a producer get paid is his mechanical right through harry fox agency,is this true?

  • Well, it depends. As producer, did you shape the underlying composition? If so, you should talk to the songwriter/s and ask if you can split the songwriting credit (and subsequent publishing). Otherwise, you’re only entitled to whatever fees/points you worked out before the session.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Split with the publisher? It depends. They may want to take 100% of the publishing share, which isn’t unheard of… and MIGHT be worth it if they have a proven track record of making their writers money. But I’d advise you to get any contract checked out by a lawyer first.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Hmm. It’s tough for me to say without hearing what you’re starting with, and how it compares to the final product. But, if the producer creates all the music tracks, the beats, the chord changes, and such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to want to be cut in on 50% of the music portion. So you’d get 50% for the lyrics, and another 25% for creating half the music (the melody). He’d get 25% for creating half of the music (the production, chords, beats, etc.). OR… you could just split everything 50/50. Up to you, of course, and I don’t suggest doing anything you’re uncomfortable with, but sometimes creative progress is worth giving up some of your copyright.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Mikey C

      Hi Chris,

      I consulted with a lawyer and he said that chords, production, beats…actually accounts for arrangement and does not have a place in the song writer category. I created the melodies and lyrics. He suggested that I could offer 25% with some points of royalties. But every relationship and project is unique and each situation has to be carefully analysed.

      Thanks for getting back to me on that.

  • Well, what are the details behind each of these points? By “unlimited distribution,” does that mean that YOU control the sound recording and distribution, but that he requires you to distribute the song worldwide? Or does he want to control distribution?

    Here’s what I think:
    $100 fee upfront. Fine, we all want to get paid for our work.
    Commercial/profitable use. What does this mean? Does he want to be able to use the track on his website to show his production skills? Reasonable enough. If it’s something more,… what?
    Wav instrumental. Does this just mean that he’ll provide you with no-vocal mixes for licensing/karaoke and such? If so, great.
    Royalty split is negotiable, so I’d negotiate. If he creates the tracks (beats, chords, etc.) then he should get songwriting credit and publishing royalties. But if you wrote melody, then you’re contributing to the music too. So you could do something like 75/25 or 66/33. Where you get ALL the lyrics portion (50%) and half of music (25%) and he gets half of music (25%). Or, you split things 3 ways with you getting 66.66% and him getting 33.33%.
    You keep the beat. Great!
    Credit for production. Of course. He should get credit for production.

    So, I guess I’d need more info on a few of those points. But at quick glance it doesn’t sound unreasonable.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Marian Brandenburg

    I hope you can help me. I need help determining royalty splits. I came
    up with concept for song, wrote all the lyrics and my friend provided a
    melody. I then produced the song all by myself, did the singing, hired
    musicians, paid for studio, artists for CD art, and pressed some initial
    CD’s of the song. And I’ve signed on with CDBaby!! All costs have been
    paid by me. What should the percentage be that I need to pay the one who
    wrote the melody? Thanks for your wisdom!!!

  • magnus

    what if i hired a second writer do they get paid their rate plus royalties?

  • Depends on the deal you work out. If they’re doing a write-for-hire kinda situation, you pay them upfront so that you’re basically buying them out of ownership and publishing royalties. But… if you don’t work out that kind of arrangement then they’re considered a co-writer and co-own the song with you (and are owed their share of royalties).

    @ChrisRobley

  • alex

    Hey Christopher. Thanks for the article (and for answering everyone’s questions!). I want to include 1 song on my album that I co-wrote with another songwriter. This will be the first time the song has ever been recorded. From what I’ve read and understand, I DON’T need his permission to record and publish the song, as long as I make sure he gets his fair share of the money. 2 Questions: 1) Is that true? No permission needed? 2) What is his fair share of the money, is it just the mechanical license? Is it the mechanical license split? What should he be paid? Thanks in advance!

  • Yes, you can record the song without “permission,” but it’s always a nice thing to give the co-writer a heads up. Also, they’d be owed a share (depending on your royalty split) of all mechanical royalties for CDs/vinyl manufactured, downloads purchased, and songs streamed. They’d also be owed performance royalties (via a PRO like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC). Plus a share of any sync licensing fees if you sell the song for TV, film, ads, etc.

    As for WHAT the split is, if you didn’t have an agreement before the co-writing began, it’s usually a 50/50 split of all publishing royalties. But if you have a good relationship, and his contribution was significantly less than yours, then you could always ask him after-the-fact if he’s cool with a lower cut. Say you write the lyrics, and then you both collaborate on music — you could do a 75/25 split (or pretty much any variation, depending on your contributions to the song — which, of course, are subjectively valued).

    @ChrisRobley

    • alex

      Thank you Chris! Yes, we have a 50/50 split even though he only changed a few notes. He’s a big name hollywood producer and yesterday I asked him if I could cut the song and he said he’d think about it, and also said that I HAVE to have permission from all writers (ie: him) before I do anything with the song. I said, that doesn’t seem right based on what I’ve read online, but he said that’s the way the business works. I don’t know if he was bluffing or not, but from what I’ve read, as long as he gets paid, I can do anything I want with the song. I just don’t want to get sued later because he’s a big name and has major lawyers on his side. Thoughts? I’m hoping he’ll just agree to let me cut it. We’ll be talking about it again in a week.

  • Well, one question is: what does HE want to do with it if you don’t record it? Will he record it? Will he shop it around and get someone else to record it? If so, maybe it’s worth waiting to see what he can do with it (especially if some artists are more likely to record the track if they’re the first official version of the song). But… if he’s not actively trying to get the song out there, I’d say you should check with a lawyer to be sure of your rights and then go ahead and record it yourself.

    @ChrisRobley

    • alex

      No, he’s kind of trying to get out of the industry and find a new direction for his life/career, so he doesn’t really want to do anything with the song (at least in the next 5 years while he figures out what he’s doing). Thank you for all your advice!

  • bamaboysent

    My brother and another guy produced a beat for an artist under the Universal umbrella. My brother has registered with BMI, but has not signed with a publishing company or created his own publishing company. They are now finishing up the split sheets and using the 200% model used by BMI. How much of the publishing is my brother entitled to?

  • Wow. That’s a long time to sit on a song. I’d say… record it! And try to convince him ahead of time that it’s for the best. (You really should be able to control that song, since he only contributed a few notes).

    @ChrisRobley

    • alex

      I agree! Thank you Chris! Super appreciate it!

  • Benjamin

    My father wrote some songs with his guitarist and he had the publishing rights to all of them His guitarist died accidentally not all that long after they recorded the LP. My question is how do I find out if my dad and his guitarist still owns the rights to the songs or if they are I guess public domain. My dad played backup for Ray Smith (famous for Rockabilly with Sun Records label) and after Ray killed himself my dad stopped playing and writing. My dad said that I can have the rights as he doesn’t care any longer so my plan is to copy and publish them under my name and we believe that the rights are no longer valid after all these years since early 1970’s. Can you give me advice about how to go about all this. I have no clue at all. Thanks.

  • Benjamin

    Hey where did my comment go? I came back to look and see if you answered and it’s no longer here. If you deleted it can you give a reason why? thanks

  • Hi Benjamin,

    I would consult with an attorney to be sure of your rights, but what I think is the case is that your dad (unless he ever sold his rights) still holds 50% of the copyright/publishing rights for those songs. The other 50% would be passed on to the spouse/heirs of his co-writer (the guitarist). The copyright should not have passed into the public domain yet. If that’s the case, your dad can grant you the right to record, license, publish, or shop the songs around.

    @ChrisRobley

  • No. I didn’t delete it. It was being held for moderation. I just approved and replied to it (which you may’ve seen already).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Benjamin

    Well I owe you an apology for being a jerk to you. I better learn more about how some things work online before I react. Sorry man and thanks for the reply. I will have my dad give me his share of the rights as you mentioned. I will have to look into where and who in the guitarists family owns the other 50%

  • Kyle

    Hi Chris. Great article! I have one question I would really like to have an answer to. I made a little pop tune that I want to sell to my friend for $50. I want to give him 100% ownership of the song to reproduce and distribute any way he wants. What is the mechanics behind that? Is it as simple as one contract?

    Thank you so much for your help,

    -Kyle

    • Like, you want to sell your ownership entirely? Publishing rights? All of it? I believe you can do that with a contract, yes. Though to be sure I’d recommend consulting with an attorney. However, why not keep your ownership and just let him use it in specific ways where you grant him permission to record, sell, or license the song?

      @ChrisRobley

      • Kyle

        Thank you for your reply Chris.

        What are the benefits for granting permission as opposed to ownership? He wants to make sure I cannot come back and collect royalties in the future from sales.

        Although we do want to agree to release the track with ‘my name (feat. His name)’ so that although I don’t get revenue from sales, I still get recognized for my hard work. Does that just complicate things further?

        Thanks again,

        -Kyle

      • Kyle

        So if I register my song with SOCAN, and then sell my song to my friend and he chooses CDBaby to distribute his version, does CDBaby know that I am the copyright owner? How will SOCAN know that I allowed my friend to record and distribute the song? Will he have to provide documentation to CDBaby that says I am the owner?

        • I’m with SOCAN & CDBaby, both excellent entities that do great work on tracking your songs & making payments. The only problem I had so far was with YouTube, as they flagged videos for my songs as copyright infringements against CDBaby. In my appeal to YouTube, I cut & pasted my SOCAN info & CDBaby page links into the message. So far so good & I’m really impressed YouTube was so On The Job re: ©!

        • Marta Woodhull

          you cannot by law sell your ownership of the writers portion of royalties. you will always be 100% writer. A writer has the right to sell 50% of their royalties to a publisher, and they become copyright owner but you get your writers royalties. you do not want to nor are you allowed to by law, sell your authorship rights. you can sell your “control” to another. Frankly, if you are not a recording artist and never want to perform or worry about the song, its not a big deal to sell the copyright although $50 is a bad deal. you can also keep the entire copyright ownership as writer /publisher and give the other guy the right to earn the royalty. but the big problem is really with licenses that follow. its a pain for a recording artist to have to track down other people for every single license they need to promote or exploit a title. in short, you are undervaluing your intellectual property. you need to read up on copyright law to know what you will always retain, and to know how much you can sell. Its ok get your feet wet and sell the publishing. you will however need to be registered with ASCAP or BMI as a writer to get your performance royalties.

          • Delphia DeGiovanni

            Have you actually read the copyright laws or ever registered a song with the copyright office? The form for registration asks if the copyright holder registering the work is the author or is the sole copyright holder, and if not the author, if written documentation exists that the transfer of copyright has been made by the author. Transfer of rights IS copyright ownership. You are always the author, unless you were an employee of the original copyright holder, but being an author and being a copyright holder are TWO SEPARATE THINGS. Author means bragging rights. Copyright holder means money in the bank. Which would you prefer to have? BTW: publishing rights ARE NOT copyrights per se. If the publishing right is exclusive, you have transferred your copyright 100%, and depending on the agreement, usually are given a 50/50 split for royalties, but that is NOT written in law. If your publishing is non-exclusive, then you have transferred 0% of copyrights. You the original copyright holder are still the 100% copyright holder. These are big concepts to grasp, because they are not tangible assets, but rather rights to control how a tangible asset is used to make money. Every contract is unique, and can set out whatever terms they wish.

            $50 for ten minutes work ain’t bad. He may spend hours, days, weeks, and months of time, money, and talent trying to pursue the “professional” route only to end up in the red at the end of the day. Most artists like ourselves are in that hole. At this rate, he’s profited from his art; he’s in the black. How many of us can truthfully say that? Maybe he’s a better businessman than we give him credit for… Just saying, careful what value you place on things. Many charlatans out there make a living telling struggling artists they are worth millions, “I’ll show you how in my new e-book about breaking in to the industry, and making millions. Only $29.99”

      • Avril Finlayson

        My husband and I uploaded a cover song on our youtube channel and we got flagged saying your company and 6 others own 41 seconds copyright of our song can you explain (

        SPA_CS

        SGAE_CS

        Sony ATV Publishing

        COMPASS_CS

        CD Baby Sync Publishing

        PRS CS

        UMPI) this is a list of the companies (Copyrighted content was found in your video.

        The claimant is allowing their content to be used in your YouTube video. You might also be able to monetize your video by sharing revenue with the claimant. )and this is what it says now we struggle getting views and subscribers as it is can you help me understand what is going on , This is the song we put up

      • Katty.millz

        Hey, if I purchase a instrumental from a producer. Do I own the beat or does the producer still gets publishing credit when the split sheet is signed?

    • jenny

      Hi I sent lyrics to majestic records they had two vocalist a female and a male to record it on CD I payed for the production the production only cost me 395 everything included can someone tells me what comes next

  • Thanks, Benjamin. Apology accepted. And my own apologies for lagging behind on approving comments.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, you having paid for the recording, manufacturing, and distribution doesn’t alter your co-writer’s ownership share of the song. It basically means you’ve acted as the label.

    If you wrote the words and your friend wrote the melody, then you each own 50% of the song. What that means is that you would split all publishing royalties (performance royalties, mechanical royalties, sync licensing fees, etc.), but you would keep any non-publishing royalties related to the master recording, as well as the artist royalties from SoundExchange, and the sales revenues paid to you via CD Baby. For mechanical royalties, you’d pay your co-writer their share out of the revenue from each CD sold, and from each download (in the United States). Then that person should register with ASCAP or BMI (which could be handled through CD Baby Pro) in order to collect their performance royalties. If you ever license the song for use on TV or film, you’d split the licensing money related to the underlying composition (which is a publishing royalty), and you would keep the licensing money related to the sound recording. Does that all make sense? It can get complicated. I’d recommend checking out Donald Passman’s “All You Need to Know About the Music Industry” for more details.

    @ChrisRobley

  • So, does the song only have two writers? Your brother and the other guy? If so, I’d say they each get 100%. Like, 50% of writer’s share to your brother. 50% of writer’s share to the other guy. 50% of publisher’s share to your brother. 50% of publisher’s share to the other guy (or his publishing co.)

    @ChrisRobley

  • shamoozey

    Hello Christopher I’m a songwriter and Ive been offered a publishing deal and was wondering if you could take a quick look at this short contract and offer me some advice. I am a little confused as regards signing over my master copy rights versus a buy-out. Can i send to you privately? Thanks!

  • I’m not an attorney, so I’d really suggest you have a lawyer check it out to be sure it’s a good deal. That being said, if it’s a publishing deal, why are they concerned with the master recording rights? That’s more of a label issue. Anyway, have a lawyer look it over to be sure. Also, congrats on getting an offer for a publishing deal. Hope it all works out well.

    @ChrisRobley

    • shamoozey

      Thanks Christopher!

  • Well, you can make any arrangement you want, but I guess I’m curious why he wants to make sure you can’t come back later for royalties? Why not just move forward in partnership and both collect whatever royalties you’re both owed throughout the life of the song?

    @ChrisRobley

    • Kyle

      Thats a fair question. We don’t want to workout a partnership because he has re-sale in mind. He is thinking about hedging his bets. If he buys my song and then cannot reproduce the sound he had in mind he wants to sell it to others. It may seem like I get the short end of the stick but I get my purchase price and I move on. Giving full ownership gives him an incentive to pay a higher initial price.

      This all may sound silly, but all I really wanted to know was whether or not a simple self-made contract was enough to determine and direct ownership from the seller to the buyer that would suffice in the court of law if the seller claimed copyright in the future.

      Thanks Chris

      • Sure. Well, I THINK that is sufficient, but again, probably best to ask a lawyer if it’d hold up.

        @ChrisRobley

      • Get an entertainment lawyer for sure. Wish I was one. Forever is a long time. So many artists have signed away their rights (Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne” for example) and regretted it. I thought it would be easy, but, I’ve found it’s very difficult to get a fair & balanced co-songwriting / “let’s exploit that tune!” deal signed after the fact. (I’m currently in yr. 2 of negotiations over a co-write from 2006.) Email me if you wanna’ chat.

  • Adrian Lasing

    Hello . My son’s have a track they got from a producer. We recorded the song and copyrighted thier lyrics only.should we have added him as work for hire?The producer of the track only wants producer credit and BMI royalties. Being that they are all under bmi how should they go about make this agreement up. The song is ready to be marketed and promoted. However he didn’t mention anything about reciving money from record sales. Do we have to worry about him wanting money later?

  • Nikko Tesla

    Hello Chris, I’m on the verge of Signing a distribution deal with Sony Orchard, I’m trying to make sure I can collect mechanical royalties as well as foreign. Which I believe neither ASCAP nor BMI collect. Would I be able to use CDbaby PRO as a Admin Publisher Deal to make sure ALL royalties are collected, and would that interfere with Sony Orchard getting songs licensed?

  • Sincere Thatruth White

    My question is my son and his group had a beat produced by a friend For a song they did, they came to a agreed price for him producing the beat so do he still have ownership?

  • CD Baby Pro includes our distribution service too, so it’s set up to go hand-in-hand with that. We DO have a way where you can just do the royalty collection, but it’s a more intensive process to get things set up. If you have questions, write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • CD Baby Pro includes our distribution service too, so it’s set up to go hand-in-hand with that. We DO have a way where you can just do the royalty collection, but it’s a more intensive process to get things set up. If you have questions, write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • If he wants BMI royalties then he is asking for publishing rights (which seems reasonable if he supplied the music), but you’ll want to work out those splits upfront because:

    1) it will determine the amount of performance royalties your son can collect (via ASCAP or BMI)
    2) if the producer is getting publishing royalties, he’s also owed mechanical royalties for every CD that is manufactured, every download purchased, and streaming activity too.

    @ChrisRobley

  • If he wants BMI royalties then he is asking for publishing rights (which seems reasonable if he supplied the music), but you’ll want to work out those splits upfront because:

    1) it will determine the amount of performance royalties your son can collect (via ASCAP or BMI)
    2) if the producer is getting publishing royalties, he’s also owed mechanical royalties for every CD that is manufactured, every download purchased, and streaming activity too.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, again, it depends on if you’re actually selling your song (meaning the copyright and all) to your friend, or if you’re just allowing them to record/distribute the song. If that person pays you the mechanical license to record and distribute the song, then YOU are still the writer/publisher, and you are the only person who will collect publishing royalties (including performance royalties from SOCAN). In this event, if CD Baby is distributing the song, your friend should list you as the writer and publisher, and list your SOCAN affiliation.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, again, it depends on if you’re actually selling your song (meaning the copyright and all) to your friend, or if you’re just allowing them to record/distribute the song. If that person pays you the mechanical license to record and distribute the song, then YOU are still the writer/publisher, and you are the only person who will collect publishing royalties (including performance royalties from SOCAN). In this event, if CD Baby is distributing the song, your friend should list you as the writer and publisher, and list your SOCAN affiliation.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Did you write the lyrics and melody? If so, you have ground to claim 100% of the writing credit and publishing royalties. That being said, if it’s a producer who contributed the music and some of the production hooks, there might be a case for giving him some credit/publishing, but 50% sounds pretty high if it was literally just a beat.

    @ChrisRobley

  • I think I answered you in another thread, but just in case you didn’t see that… if the producer was ok with the work-for-hire arrangement and was paid for his beat/production, then your son (and his group?) should retain the copyright (and get the publishing royalties).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Stewart Marshall

    Hi, I am based in the UK and registered with PRS and PPL
    so what would CD Baby Pro still be able to get for me in regards to royalties etc?
    As i want to make sure I get every single penny in order to make any kind of living

  • Jaxson

    Hi Chris, I am wondering what is the difference between registering directly with BMI or another PRO vs owning my own publishing company?

  • Well, CD Baby Pro isn’t available in the UK yet (we’re working on it). But, when it is, we’d be able to collect your mechanical royalties for you from downloads and global streaming activity.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, CD Baby Pro isn’t available in the UK yet (we’re working on it). But, when it is, we’d be able to collect your mechanical royalties for you from downloads and global streaming activity.

    @ChrisRobley

  • PROs like ASCAP and BMI are not publishing companies. They help publishers and songwriters collect performance royalties. So, even if you were acting formally as your own publishing company, you’d most likely still want to register with one of them.

    @ChrisRobley

    • jaxson

      Ok thanks. So what advantages and disadvantages are there to owning a publishing company?

  • Well, are you talking about a real publishing company that is going to acquire a catalog of songs and work diligently to exploit that catalog? Or just a vanity publishing company that assigns a publishing name to your own catalog of songs? Either way is fine, but the first is WAY more difficult and probably not the kind of workload you want to take on if you’re also trying to make music. The second is also fine, but you’d want to enlist a publishing rights administrator (such as CD Baby Pro) to help you collect all your royalties, and work with some sync licensing agencies to get placements. Also, if you don’t want to be bothered with setting up a publishing company, CD Baby Pro will help you get the publisher’s half of your publishing royalties anyway, so no need to create your own company if you don’t want to.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, I’d recommend you start by checking out some songwriter groups in your area. (Music stores and record shops might have details). Or go online to some songwriter forums. You might be able to find some good co-writers to help with the music.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Glad to help.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Glad to help.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Cassondra Cass

    Hi Chris,
    I wrote the lyrics and melody of a song with my last band and we registered the song as written together on SOCAN. We have since broken up and they have a new singer. They are now using the song on their EP (which is for sale). How do I go about collecting my royalties for this? The song hasn’t been released to radio but since they are selling their EP, including my song, is there anything that I am entitled to?

    Appreciate your help!

    Cass

  • Yes. First, SOCAN should pay you for any public performances (radio plays and such) that do happen down the right. As far as your old band goes, though, they owe you mechanical royalties for the manufacturing of the EP and for any download/streaming sales. The mechanical royalty rate per song is 9.1 cents. So, depending on how many writers there were on that song, you get a percentage of 9.1 cents per CD they pressed. 1000 discs? You get 1000 x 9.1 cents — divided by the number of songwriters (or however you decided to split the writer credit). As for collecting mechanicals for downloads and streams, that is something you’re entitled to, but will have to work out with the band the best way to collect it.

    @ChrisRobley

  • I’ll add that if the band is using CD Baby Pro, they could add you as a CD Baby Pro songwriter (for $10), and we’ll collect your mechanical royalties for international downloads and global streaming.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Antoinette Houston

    Quick question Chris…
    I am an artist and I have completed an EP. I recently signed with ASCAP as a writer/singwriter. I am self-publishing, so I figured I would sign up with them as a Publisher as well…however I have a question.

    My producer and I have agreed to split down the middle 50/50 given I own my lyrics, but he owns the music. So my question is, as far as publishing goes, do I still join ASCAP as a publisher (and he and I simply split the publishing down the middle?), or am I technically not a publisher given he owns the tracks?

  • You still own publishing rights. Half of ’em, to be exact. You can either create a vanity publishing company, have CD Baby Pro collect your publishing royalties, or have ASCAP pay you your publisher’s share of your publishing royalties (“flowing through” to the songwriter).

    But here’s the breakdown. A song’s publishing rights get split 50/50 between the songwriter and publisher. Since you haven’t signed a publishing deal, you (and your co-writer) still control the publisher’s 50% as well. So, you get half of the songwriter share (25% of overall publishing royalties), your co-writer gets half the songwriter share (25% of overall publishing roaylties), and then you each get half of the publisher’s share (another 25% each of overall publishing royalties). Make sense?

    You don’t have to be listed under the same publishing company. If you create your own, they can be separate. Or, simpler, if you sign up with CD Baby Pro, we’ll collect your publisher’s share as part of the service, and then if you want us to collect his share too, it’s just a one-time fee of $10 to add him as a songwriter.

    If you have questions about how this all works, give us a ring or write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Steve

    Hello,
    I feel that a 50/50 split is pretty unfair to the songwriter. Without the songwriter, the publisher is useless. Without the publisher, the songwriter can still market (albeit an arduous task) their music. Therefore, the songwriter is more valuable in this equation. Is CD Baby’s 50/50 split negotiable?

  • Oh, we don’t take your publishing share. We just take a small percentage of overall publishing royalties collected, so (as long as you haven’t signed a publishing deal) you collect both your songwriter share (50% of overall publishing royalties) and the publisher’s share (the other 50%).

    Does that make sense?

    @ChrisRobley

  • excellent article & thread. Rather than vote up your every comment you’ve made, I’ll just say: Chris Robley is the man! Thank you. So nice to find sanity & reason on the net!

  • Alex

    Hi Chris. Thank you for your detailed and concise article. I had a question..Say for example a song has already been made and had some degree of success in a particular country lets say in Poland and there the artist already has a a publishing / record deal. However an English tv company who are making a documentary series in the UK and want to use that particular song and that Polish artist want promotion and to receive popularity in the UK. Could one arrange a publishing deal for the entire length of the TV series (for broadcast) between the artist(publisher) and the UK TV Producer (AND PUBLISHER) for example 50% / 50% for entirety of the series…as a way of paying for promotion abroad via performance royalties. I hope this makes sense and I would love an answer….

  • Abby Cornell

    hello i have a question. i am selling some cetic fiddle tracks to a woman who is creating a movie. She told me that once i had sold her the tracks I could not sell them to any other production. is this true?

  • Depends. Is she licensing your music from you? Or are you composing this music for her under a work-for-hire agreement? If she’s licensing YOUR compositions, then you can license them to others too, as often as you like. If the latter situation, then she owns the songs — and hopefully she pays you well, thus giving some justification for you relinquishing your rights to the songs.

    @ChrisRobley

  • I’m not an expert in international licensing and publishing, but at first glance it sounds like an unusual situation. The producers of the TV series wouldn’t need to split publishing royalties with you. Instead, you and your existing publisher can administer the rights and simply license the track/music to the TV show. You and your publisher make money. The TV show gets to use your music. Win/win. As for getting additional promotion in the UK to coincide with the show’s airing, that sounds like a job for a publicist and radio promoter (and maybe you can pay for their work out of your earnings from licensing the tack to the show).

    Does that answer your question? I’m not sure I understood the situation fully, but you might also want to consult with an attorney to get all the international details worked out and discuss options.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Ha. Thanks much. “Sane and reasonable” isn’t very punk rock, but I’ll take it!

    @ChrisRobley

  • Hi there, just wanted to weigh in on this one — in case you hadn’t already heard from us. Did those flags say “third party content match” or something along those lines? If so, it’s because those tracks were identified by YouTube’s content ID system as part of CD Baby’s YouTube monetization program. If you have questions, feel free to call us or write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • YUMI

    Hello chris, as a producer making only beats, am i also entitled to publishers share even though i do not have a personal publishing company or signed to one. I am registered under BMI as a writer; would they collect publishers share on my behalf. What if the artist who uses my beat has a publishing deal? would i get to share the publishers royalty with them?

  • Well, it all goes back to your agreement with your co-writers. Do they acknowledge that you contribute the song in a meaningful way? A strict interpretation of the law stipulates that only melody and lyrics can be copyrighted, so production elements and beats could sometimes NOT be considered part of the composition. However, sometimes songs rely so heavily on their beats/production that you couldn’t separate the sound from the song. If your co-writers agree, then you are all songwriters, and thus all owed publishing royalties. You could elect to have the publisher’s share of your publishing royalties “flow through” to your songwriter account with BMI… OR you could have CD Baby Pro collect them for you. But either way, as long as you and your co-writers agree that you’ve all contributed to the composition of the song (and can also agree on your “splits” = what share of ownership you each have), then you are definitely owed publishing royalties, even if you haven’t set up a publishing company of your own.

    @ChrisRobley

    • YUMI

      MY SECOND QUESTION
      I just recently signed-up with Cd-Baby sync licensing online, because i want to sell my singles digitally.

      Am i suppose register my singles for mechanical royalties? AND if an artist i am currently producing does the same, how can i be sure i would be collecting my share of sales or mechanical royalties, even after we make an agreement that i am a co-writer.

  • Well, you can sell your singles through CD Baby (and through our distribution partnerships) even without signing up for sync licensing. That being said, our sync program is great and will give you the opportunity to license your music and earn ad revenue from the usage of your music on YouTube.

    If/when you register for CD Baby Pro, we WOULD absolutely collect all your mechanical royalties for you (worldwide). During the signup process, you designate the “splits” for all your compositions, so we would only be collecting YOUR share of the royalties. If you want us to collect publishing royalties for your co-writer on the same songs, we can. There’s just a $10 fee to add additional songwriters.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Gina

    Hi Chris,
    I was convinced by a friend to join his record label- i gave him two tracks i had recorded myself and he recorded one for me. The EP has been put up on itunes and spotify. I am not very happy because i feel out of control. I have to chase to find out how many iv sold and so far i have not received any money.
    Do you think it is worth sticking with the label because they are paying to put my tracks on spotify and itunes (they dont offer anything else)…or do you think i should ask to leave them?-can i ask for them to take the EP down? I never signed any documents….im confused about my rights?
    Any advice would be very much appreciated!! Thanks,
    Gina

  • Hi Gina,

    Is the label doing any promotion/marketing? Are they helping you out with any aspects of that, or with touring? If not, I’m not sure what the benefit of working with them is. You could have just as easily distributed the songs yourself (via a service like CD Baby), and you’d have direct access to all your sales info and accounting.

    Maybe have a conversation with the label and see what it is exactly that they’re doing for you. If the answer is “we put your music up on iTunes” then I think you should totally just do that yourself.

    As for your rights about getting them to release the music to you, I’m not sure exactly, but it might be worth talking to an attorney if it comes to that.

    Hope it all goes well.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Gina

      Hi Chris,

      Thankyou very much for taking the time to reply to my question. They really arent doing anything other than stick the tracks up on itunes and spotify, post it on their twitter page (they dont have a website or facebook page) and take my money from sales. im really not happy but i dont really know what angle to take to get them to take them down….is there not like an organisation i could report them to? i feel i need to be a bit threatening or they wont listen (bad as that sounds) or is it like you say, the case of getting an attoney involved? thanks again,

      Gina

  • Randy

    Hi Chris, I wrote a song and registered the copyright a couple years ago. A musician friend recorded it without my permission and added a bridge and some new lyrics. Another friend of mine who is a publisher is encouraging me to copyright the new version with my musician friend giving him 30 percent ownership. She is also wanting me to sign a publishing deal with her giving her 50 percent of royalties from the new version. My question … since my friend is set to release the song and waiting on my permission, can’t I just give him permission to perform and distribute the song and retain full copyrights and receive 9.1 cents for each copy distributed?

  • Myra Clark Goins

    Do you have a number where I can discuss somethings with you?

  • Hi Gina,

    Maybe start off demanding that you take back control of your music, and if they don’t comply, then tell them you’ll be consulting with an attorney. Hopefully that’d scare them enough.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Feel free to give CD Baby a call any time at 1-800-Buy-My-CD.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Cam

    Hey Chris, thank you for the amazing article!

    Recently I’ve been working with a producer, they’re actually a couple, which might be good and maybe a curse, for publishing/royalty reasons. Anyways, I’ve paid them for studio time, and I’m sure you get this question a lot of time. But I came up with the melody and wrote all the lyrics. They’ve helped with production work and some tweaking of words/melodies. We haven’t talked about royalties or anything yet. But if that question comes up, should it be split up 50/50? Who has more rights controlling the pie chart? Since I’ve paid for his services, shouldn’t I own everything? And since I’ve paid him, it’s kind of like he gets paid from me and from royalties? Is that fair or is that just how it is?

    Thanks and sorry for so many questions!

  • If you control the melody and most of the words, you control most/all of the composition. You could cut the producer in on publishing royalties and ownership of the song if their musical contributions really shaped and defined the track. But again, that is more your decision than theirs, especially since you already paid for their production services.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, I’m no lawyer, so don’t quote me on this — but I think your options are: 1) claim that they infringed upon your copyright by creating a derivative work that you don’t approve of, and thus block them from releasing the song, or 2) negotiate a deal as if they’ve created a derivative work (and you figure out your splits from there), or 3) determine that your friend’s version is a new song with shared ownership. I do NOT think you can just call it a cover song (if they’ve added new lyrics and a bridge) and collect mechanicals. Even though they created a derivative work based on your original, I don’t think that allows you to just claim ownership of their new contributions (the new lyrics and music to the bridge). If you went with option 3 and said it was a new song that you co-own, how much of the new version did your friend contribute? Is it really 50%? If so, great. split the royalties and move forward. If not, maybe you can grant permission IF they agree to a 66/33 split, or something like that. Just my two cents. Let me know how it works out.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Chase

    Hey Chris, quick question! If one person writes the lyrics to a song and then gives them to another, and that other person changes the majority of the lyrics, whos song is it then? Thank you for any help that can be given! -Chase

  • Both of theirs. Is the lyricist happy with the lyrical revisions, though?

    @ChrisRobley

  • DjFlav

    Hi Chris. I am a Beat maker(Producer) So that means I own the publishing rights. With that being said, do I have to submit split sheets for myself under ASCAP as the composer and writer? AND do I need to even register for both under ASCAP so that I can get the full 100% for my works?
    Thanks

  • By composer and writer, do you mean composer of the music vs. lyric writer? It’s been a couple years since I registered anything new with ASCAP, but I’m pretty sure they have a simple way for you to designate that you wrote 100% of the song (both words and music) without needing to do a split sheet. If you’re registering for CD Baby Pro, we have a checkbox that asks you to mark whether you wrote the music, the lyrics, or both.

    @ChrisRobley

  • kreator the kreative

    what if you paid an artist up front and they demand royalty?

  • Can you be more specific about the situation?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Jims log

    Hey Chris, our band is very keen on CDbaby pro for its EP release, we wonder how the logistics of sharing the 50% publication rights works with songs we have been collaborated on. Does it all go into the same account, or do the individual writers set up their own separate accounts and divide it accordingly? Also each song may vary in terms of who is helping me write it? So a bit puzzled as to how it all works. Cheers Jim

  • All the money goes into the same account — but you’re given a detailed accounting so you’ll know how to distribute the funds accordingly. As for different splits on different songs, that’s totally fine. When you sign up for Pro, you’ll be ask for the different writers names on each song and the percentage of their contribution/ownership in song. If you want us to collect royalties for additional songwriters (besides you) there’s a $10 fee per writer.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Nas

    Hi! I have a question. I joined catapult distribution, now my single is on iTunes. I am the artist as well as one of the writers.. Do I manually pay the producer from what catapult gives me? If so how much?

    Or does ascap/BMI pay them there share?

  • ASCAP/BMI pay for performance royalties, not download/CD sales. So… the answer depends on what the producer contributed. Do you regard them as a co-writer? If so, you’d pay them their share of mechanical royalties (which can sometimes come from the retailer — such as iTunes, paid through to your distributor — and can sometimes come through a mechanical royalty collection agency (such as Harry Fox), which you’d be paid via your publishing administrator (such as CD Baby Pro).

    @ChrisRobley

    • Nas

      Thank you Christipher for your response! Let me give you an example:
      (These figures are just examples)

      Catapult distributed $200 into my account from iTune sales.

      I’m the artist singing, I also own 25% pub for being a co writer. The other writer owns 25% pub and producer 50%..

      How do I know how much to give the other writer and producer. Am I suppose to pay them out of the $200 catapult distribution gave me?

      Aren’t I suppose to get more for being the artist as well? Should I tell everyone to get Harry Fox so I won’t be responsible for distributing what they’re owed?

      I really appreciate your help!

  • Tony Z

    A friend of mine and I wrote and recorded a 2 sided 45 back in 1968, which was registered by the recording studio with BMI. We recently found one of the songs (our original recording) was placed on a “songs of the 60’s” album from a record company in Massachusetts without notifying us or asking permission. Are we due royalties?
    Thank you!
    Tony Z

  • I would think so, especially if you didn’t sign away all your publishing. You should get some mechanicals at the very least.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Tony Z

      Thanks..I will work on this!

  • It’s a complicated issue. In the US, mechanical royalties are paid out by the retailer. So you would owe mechanicals FROM the $200 iTunes paid you via Catapult. So for those sales, you’d calculate 9.1 cents per song being set aside as publishing royalties, and split that 9.1 cents per song accordingly (25% to you, 25% to co-writer, and 50% to producer). Internationally, you’d all want to sign up with a publishing rights administrator to get your mechanicals. Also, you should all affiliate with a performing rights organization like ASCAP or BMI to get performance royalties.

    That being said, what did the producer contribute to the writing of the song? Should they really own a 50% share of the song? Who wrote the lyrics? Lyrics alone are 50%. Music is the other 50%.

    As for being the artist, you don’t get any additional PUBLISHING royalty, but it sounds like you’re also the label, so you keep the rest of the $$ after paying out the mechanical.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Nas

      Thank you so much Chris! You explained it extremely well and that helped. Thanks so much!!

    • Phil Rynhart

      Hi Chris, my co-writer is signed to a Major publisher, as a exclusive but the major does not want to sign my share, they have accepted the songs into thier catalogue what are the implications of that for me? Is it a good or bad thing ? Thanks Phil

      • So, are you saying that the publisher has accepted your song into their catalog, and they’re perfectly willing to work that song, but they only want to represent your co-writer? If so, you’re still entitled to your share of all the royalties they help the song generate. If you have questions about how to collect everything you’re owed in this situation, write us at publishing@cdbaby.com.

        @ChrisRobley

      • So, are you saying that the publisher has accepted your song into their catalog, and they’re perfectly willing to work that song, but they only want to represent your co-writer? If so, you’re still entitled to your share of all the royalties they help the song generate. If you have questions about how to collect everything you’re owed in this situation, write us at publishing@cdbaby.com.

        @ChrisRobley

  • Teresa Douthit

    So my husband signed nothing with the recording studio ever and they put his recorded music out and have listed them as the publisher? Do we have any recourse where this is concerned? If so who do we turn to for help?

    • If the studio is not releasing control of your music to you, I would talk to a lawyer asap.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Teresa Douthit

        Thank you Chris, We did not know if there was any legal recourse.

        • If you paid them for their services with the understanding that you would own the master recording (if you didn’t sign away anything), then I think you should pursue it. Also, if you wrote the songs there are publishing rights involved too.

          @ChrisRobley

          • Teresa Douthit

            We signed absolutely nothing with the studio. The record label is only a name and I have discovered they put the non existent label out as the publisher of the EP.

  • Teresa Douthit

    Also as far as I can tell the record label is just a name, no paperwork to go with it anywhere, ie..registration, licensing, etc. The recording studio is neither a music licensing or publishing company in any form or fashion.

  • Yeah, definitely talk to a lawyer (f you can’t just get them give control of your music over to you).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Eric Benard

    Who owns the music of the artist hasn’t paid for the session and I did it for free. At first he said. It was 50 50 and now he’s Sayin it’s all his. I’m talking

    Apogee symphony
    Avalons 737
    Distressor
    Modified u87 with retro kit

    So it’s not like he’s recording on Jaime cheap shit

  • Well, the publishing belongs to the composer. As for the ownership of the sound recording, that sounds like something you’d need to resolve between the two of you (and your lawyers, though hopefully not).

    @ChrisRobley

  • StevenCravisMusic

    I would love to see a CD Baby sync placement option, independent of CDBaby PRO, that lets me manage my YouTube monetization separately on my own.

    • Hi Steven,

      Our Sync/YouTube program is separate from our publishing admin service. However, it still doesn’t really let you monetize your music across YouTube on your own. You can directly monetize the videos in your own channel, of course. But you’d need a service to help you out when it comes to Content ID.

      @ChrisRobley

      • StevenCravisMusic

        Thanks, Christopher. I’m seeking something kind of like PumpAudio/GettyImages where we could specifically enter our songs for consideration in film, tv placement, but via CDbaby.

  • Tracey Mustaca

    What if they rename your song and take the royalties from that 50% for publishing..then don’t you lose out on your mechanical rights for the song once renamed?

  • Renaming is a practice that’s usually done by sync licensing agencies (or some publishers) for the purpose of earning/tracking performance royalties from THEIR specific placement of a song. The renamed “version” of a song usually isn’t distributed to retail, download, and streaming outlets, so it doesn’t usually generate mechanicals.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Michael Monteiro

    I wrote lyrics and vocal melodies for a song that is now on my friends album I was the one who sang on the demo but he ended up using a different singer . He is signed to s label in Europe and is using that song to promote the album on YouTube , Facebook etc. He says I am credited on the album for it. What am I entitled to? If I’m entitled to anything how do I collect or even know if he’s making any sales?

  • Marie

    I have an issue with a song that I wrote, and featured my cousin on the track. I wrote and performed the choruses,verses, and bridge and he wrote an additional verse on the remixed version of the song. I am listed on the copyright, and he asked me if he could put the remix on his next album. I said yes, thinking that I would get a share of the profits. However, my name was spelled incorrectly, the title of the song was spelled incorrectly, and although I am on the copyright registration (spelled incorrectly), he refuses to give me my desired share of the profits from his CD. I asked him to remove my voice from his album (technically I wrote and performed on 2 songs, only one song originally was my idea, my brother came up with the idea for the other song), and he refused. He paid my brother for the idea and the instrumental of the song, but my voice and lyrics are on the choruses to the 2nd song in reference. He also said he wouldn’t pay me any share of the profits after his manufacturing costs were recouped. Is there a remedy for me? If so, what are some steps I can take to get my voice removed from this album? He does have the album selling on CD Baby along with physical copies, and told me I should have royalties after setting up my account with CD Baby. I set up my account. So, how do I start collecting royalties with CD Baby on the songs I’m performing and writing? I have had the song published with BMI for over a year now, and the album was released during the summer of 2015. Please help me understand what I can do to protect myself. We never signed any contracts, just so you know.

  • Albert S. “alkada” Westbrook J

    My question how is splits made with composer,writer & publisher with ASCAP

  • If you wrote the lyrics and the melody, you wrote the entire song (according to a strict legal interpretation of songwriting credits). Though clearly arrangement and production choices can sometimes have such a big impact on the song that those contributors warrant co-writing credit. But anyway… you should be getting all the publishing revenue that this particular song generates, including performance royalties for radio play, streaming, performances in venues, plays on TV; mechanical royalties for the sale, download, and streaming of the track; sync revenue if the song is licensed; etc.

    You should communicate with him and his label to make sure all the details are worked out and everyone is filing paperwork correctly, but basically, you’ll want to register with a PRO such as ASCAP or BMI to get your performance royalties. For mechanical royalty collection you’ll need to get $$ from his label, and also look into getting a publishing rights administrator who can help you collect the rest.

    @ChrisRobley

  • All performance royalties get split into two categories: 50% for the writer/s, and 50% for the publisher/s. In some cases, the writer is both the writer AND publisher, in which case you’d get 100% of the revenue. To confuse things, sometimes these splits are referred to as 100% (of writers’ share) and 100% (of publisher’s share), which makes it sound like people are talking about 200%.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Albert S. “alkada” Westbrook J

      Hey Chris what if the producer & the writer are both signed to the same publishing company then how would you do the splits because I was told if ASCAP do 100% split then the producer would get 25% the writer would get 25% & the publisher would get 50% is that true

  • Yes. If the producer is credited as a co-writer (with a 50/50 split), then they’d get half the writer’s share (25% of total revenue), the other writer would get the same (25% of total), and both of those writers’ publishers would each get 25% of the total revenue too. If it’s the same publisher, then they combine those cuts for a total of 50%.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Joyce

    As a songwriter, when I sign up with BMI am I automatically considered the publisher or will I also have to register as a publisher? Another question; if I create an instrumental for a song I want to cover, can I register that instrumental with BMI? Thanks so much for any info!

  • If you’re creating an instrumental version of someone else’s song, no; you cannot claim to have any publishing or writing credit (unless you’ve altered the composition and the writer/publisher agrees that you’re now to be included as a writer on a new composition). As for BMI’s registration, I believe you can sign up as a writer and have the publisher’s share of revenues flow through to you as a writer (without having to register as a publisher as well). But I would double check their site to be sure. If you’re a CD Baby Pro client, you don’t have to worry about registering as a publisher with BMI. We’ll handle that side of things for you. But lastly, if you DO want to sign up as a publisher, I think it’s pretty easy to do so.

    @ChrisRobley

  • I would advise you to consult with a lawyer if you think your copyright has been infringed and your cousin is not doing anything to remedy the situation. BUT… I can say, if you wrote the bulk of that song you’re referring to, you should have ownership (at least 50%, though you could make the argument for more since he only contributed one verse) in that song’s publishing. As such, you would be owed performance royalties (collected through ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc.) and mechanical royalties (from him, if he’s acting as the label) for every CD printed (even if they haven’t sold), and every US download. You would need a publishing rights administrator (like CD Baby Pro) to help you collect mechanical royalties for downloads outside the US and international streaming.

    As for your vocals, that’s a little tougher. Without a contract, it’s hard to say… was it a work-for-hire session thing? Are you the featured artist? I would consult a lawyer about that one.

    At the very least, hopefully your cousin will understand that your rights as a songwriter are not really up for interpretation. You can debate how much ownership you have in the song, but beyond that, you’re owed $$ and it’s his job as the label to pay it to you. Good luck with this all.

    @ChrisRobley

  • memphislulu .

    Chris my question is a lil different… I’m concerned about how songwriter rights work when working with musicians and registering my song w/BMI. There are two opinions online: most say ‘absolutely not… give the musician the agreed upon hourly/flat rate in the work-for-hire agreement’; and only a few say give 50% since they put the music on it, and/or offered suggestions. So by the time I work with a musician, I’ve (1) already copyrighted my song with the melody included… next (2) have them sign off on a work for hire agreement for an hourly wage, (3) I send them the melody of the song I’ve written w/me singing, the notation, w/some chords, etc., (4) I spend quite a bit of time perfecting my songs prior to getting together plus I make the major changes along the way and will usually spend a significant amount of hrs afterwards to improve the song; & (5) pay for any extra fees, studio rehearsal time, demo fees, etc. Once I finally get the song to where I like it and am done recording — when I send that to BMI — do I have to list any of the musicians I worked with?

  • Matt

    Hi Chris, Great article, cleared up a few things for me! Just a quick question;
    Say if i wrote a song with my writing partner, down the track recorded with a producer, because we can’t afford full fee, his contract states he will own 50% of masters.. If the song gets used in a commercial or movie, would he get a cut from the payment? say if we are offered $10k, myself and writing partner owns copyright and publishing rights, what % would the producer receive?
    Thanks for your help!
    MJ..

  • Nope. I mean, you should obviously credit them on the liner notes, and such. But if you’re the songwriter/publisher, BMI doesn’t need to know who the session players were.

    @ChrisRobley

    • memphislulu .

      Great… thank you Chris!

  • Yeah, I’ve been in that situation many times. Good luck!

    @ChrisRobley

  • The master rights are different from publishing rights. It sounds like he’s waving his studio/production fees or points in favor of being a co-owner of your recording. So yes. If you licensed that recording, he would get 50% of the master sync fee, but NONE of the sync fee paid to publishers. If a cover version of your song was synced, he would receive no royalty. Does that make sense?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Yuna (秋田ゆな)

    Hi Chris!

    Do you think it’s fair if a band of 3 assigned all of their rights of a song (made independently but did not sell well) to a successful publishing label even if they have disbanded? And I’m talking, a non-exclusive license used forever on a global scale.

  • Yuna (秋田ゆな)

    Hi Chris!

    Do you think it’s fair if a band of 3 assigned all of their rights of a song (made independently but did not sell well) to a successful publishing label even if they have disbanded? And I’m talking, a non-exclusive license used forever on a global scale.

  • Yuna (秋田ゆな)

    Hi Chris!

    Do you think it’s fair if a band of 3 assigned all of their rights of a song (made independently but did not sell well) to a successful publishing label even if they have disbanded? And I’m talking, a non-exclusive license used forever on a global scale.

    • The band has disbanded? And the publisher has the rights to collect 100% of their publisher’s share? But y’all still collect 100% of your songwriters’ share? That’s fair, as long as the publishing company is actively trying to get your song synced, played, etc.

      But… are they only collecting their share for placements THEY generate? (Like, renaming the track for their purposes). If not, it’d kinda suck if they were collecting 50% of the publishing revenue for stuff you or another company was helping generate (since you said the deal was non-exclusive).

      @ChrisRobley

    • The band has disbanded? And the publisher has the rights to collect 100% of their publisher’s share? But y’all still collect 100% of your songwriters’ share? That’s fair, as long as the publishing company is actively trying to get your song synced, played, etc.

      But… are they only collecting their share for placements THEY generate? (Like, renaming the track for their purposes). If not, it’d kinda suck if they were collecting 50% of the publishing revenue for stuff you or another company was helping generate (since you said the deal was non-exclusive).

      @ChrisRobley

  • John Brown

    @ChrisRobley:disqus Hi Chris – I am in the process of trying to figure out soundexchange Featured artist splits among the band. Should these be split equally even though I write all of the music? Thank you!

  • If you’re all featured artists (or all primary members of your band), then yes. Split it equally. SoundExchange does not collect publishing royalties (which is what you’d be earning as the songwriter). They collect a digital performance royalty that’s tied to the master recording of the song.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Nickey Anntionette

    Hi I have a question. I’m working on an EP right now. I’m the only songwriter on the project however there is someone I work with who arranges the vocals. What is the persons title technically and what type of royalties or rights do they have to my music?

    • Well, when you say they “arrange” the vocals, do they create the melody? If so, they’re a co-writer and are owed a share of publishing royalties. If they’re more of a vocal producer and just helping couch the best performance out of the singer, or help out arranging harmonies and such, then they could be paid as a producer, but probably don’t get a co-writer credit. Tough to say without really knowing the details.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Nickey Anntionette

        She arranges the harmonies and vocal melody. But she doesn’t write any lyrics and she doesn’t create any instrumentals.

  • Brians

    That’s actually a common misconception.
    Although it is true that traditionally writers retain the right to collect 50% of the PRO royalties, there is no law that requires it.

    ASCAP/BMI/SESAC will only pay out to the human composer (50%) and publisher (50%), but that’s because it’s their policy, not due to the law.

    It is very possible to ‘sell ownership’ of music you write, including the ‘writer’s share’.

    Everything else in your post is spot on, though!

  • If she writes the vocal melody, she would be credited as a co-writer.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Sounds like YouTube’s Content ID is working (properly) to identify this as 3rd party content (meaning you do not own the rights to the composition). Since it’s a cover song, you’d normally need to secure a sync license from the publisher/songwriter of the song in order to post a video on YouTube. But… realistically, most people are not doing that. So Content ID is a way for those rights holders to come in and claim their share of ad revenue from your video.

    If you have more questions about how this works, please feel free to call us or write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Alexis

    Hi Chris,
    I’m a lyricist and just completed writing my song and would like to go to a recording studio to add instruments, drums etc., is there a way I can keep rights to the completed project /recording once everything is completed? I know I have copyrights to the song written, but I’m not a musician so the recording studio will add the instruments, how do I establish a contract to have full ownership once the instruments are added and the recording is completed?

    • Well, anything can be negotiated. Normally, when you pay for musicians to come record on your song, you can have them sign away any claim to their arrangement/performances/etc. BUT… two things: 1) they should be paid accordingly, and 2) will they be actually WRITING the music? If you’re only writing the lyrics and other people are responsible for the melody, chords, and arrangement, that gets trickier — because you’re getting into the purchase of publishing rights. If that’s the case, why not just split the publishing with them. 50% for you (lyrics) and 50% for the composer/s of the music.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Alexis

        Hi Chris,

        I think the instrumentals, drums , etc… will be added by the engineer…I’m not thinking of hiring a band or musicians. I created the lyrics and the melody, I just don’t play musical instruments. So, I was thinking of maybe purchasing some royalty free beats,instrumentals, etc. I need to understand how to word my ” work for hire” contract to ensure that I keep not only the copyright, but the full rights to the finished project/single/or album. Can you help me to understand this process if I elect to go this route?

        Thanks,
        Alexis

  • Amber Beezy Buttas Taylor

    Hi Chris, I know this is an old thread but hopefully I will still be able to receive a response….

    I have my own management company and currently have 3 active artists on my roster. I’m getting conflicting responses about what payments should be to managers for publishing. I have some publishing companies that are interested in a specific client of mine, with 50/50 split. If I am shopping and promoting my clients music to different publishing companies for consideration, what commission percentage should I be receiving (range?). Should I be register ing as a publisher with ASCAP or BMI in order to shop my artists music and receive a commission for my services? Or should this just be included in my management contract with that specific artist?

  • That all depends on your agreement.

    @ChrisRobley

  • That all depends on your agreement.

    @ChrisRobley

  • I ran this by our director of publishing, and he responded:

    “Few things in management relationships are a given and in the case of sharing publishing revenue, it does happen, but is not a rule. Some artists need this service from a manager (negotiating and helping them with accounting of pub revenue), while others don’t. It makes sense to me that if she is helping get the writer a deal that she’d get a commission of what the songwriter receives from it, likely at the same rate as other services.”

    @ChrisRobley

  • I’m not an expert in copyright, so I’d advise you to speak with an attorney who can help you through the contracts and potential publishing challenges.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Kevin Williams

    I am under contract with a record label and was recently fired from the band. Am I still entitled to any sales revenue?

    • That all depends on the terms of your contract. I’d go back and read through that agreement. If you wrote or co-wrote any of the songs, pay close attention to the publishing portions of the contract too.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Mary191

    Hi Chris,

    A quick question, if your an independent artist composing a song for a short film score, should you create your own a music “licence” and supply to the buyer? And is it just basically a contract?

    If so, how will you be able to collect royalties if your licence states that you’ll be in charge of collecting them?

    • Yes, you could draw up your own contract for the usage of your music in the film, and director/producer/whoever can sign the agreement. As for collecting royalties, you’d have to arrange that also with the filmmakers, assuming there are publishing royalties to collect beyond the initial sync license.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Pablo Zavalla

    Hi Chris
    If a song was placed in a commercial or movie, could the music publisher sell it for a different commercial afterwards?
    I’m assuming that it has to do with the agreement signed during the first synch. Thou, is it common to have an exclusivity for an unknown song, or can that song be placed multiple times?
    Thanks a lot for your answer
    Sincerely
    Pablo

    • Yes. You can place a song multiple times — unless, as you mentioned, there’s some exclusivity in the terms of the original sync placement.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Andre Hairston

    Im Just trying to figure out how to setup myself as a songwriter to collect royalties

  • nitish

    what i do for releasing song

  • Hey @ChrisRobley:disqus okay so I’m a music artist, I also do acting, directing, and I dance. I been really trying to learn and make sure I’m going the right way about things. I had a few questions. I am signed up with ASCAP as a Writer, and debating should I register as a publisher so that I can collect both parts? I’m just not too sure on how being a publisher works. Do I have to get my own publishing company? How would I track down the royalties that are owed to me for the music I create? Is it easier to just go through someone such as CD Baby? Also I have a production company I want to make official and an entertainment company I want to use to push my projects, would that be considered my publishing company as well since it will be the face of my brand as an artist. Like Drake has OVO or Kendrick TDE. Just looking for some guidance because my mixtape which is for promotional use only has been kept under wraps til I get all this stuff together. I want to be as professional and organized as possible. If you can email me information on this I would truly appreciate it.

    • With CD Baby Pro, we’ll act as your publishing rights administrator, collecting all your publishing royalties, so you don’t need to register as a publisher yourself with ASCAP.

      If you have more questions about the service, feel free to give us a call or email cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Okay so that I understand I can still collect publishing royalties too?

        • With CD Baby Pro, we’d collect them for you, and pay them to you.

          @ChrisRobley

          • Well alright then, that sounds good to me. I’ll just register for it on ascap and sign up for cd baby when I get everything together. Still working on my website, which will have the short films and dance videos I produce on there as well.

          • Thanks for the information I definitely appreciate it. I just ordered a few books about the music business trying to play my cards right and be ahead. Any books you recommend?

  • As a publisher what all does it require me to do to make sure I collect royalties and how to get my music on different outlets, and print? I read that I have to have a company and register for a DBA and get the form contents printed in local newspaper. Besides that I seen that I have to make sure it the company name is copyrighted and that I open a bank account in the name of the company and put me as the person to have ownership so that I can withdraw from the account or something. I would like to get my music in films or tv and video games. Where do I goto do that?

    • You don’t need to jump through all those hoops. If you’re signed up with CD Baby Pro, we’ll do your distribution, sync licensing, and publishing royalty collection for you. We’ll send you payments via ACH deposit (to a personal or business checking account), PayPal, or check. The checks would be made out to your name as the account holder for the CD Baby account, and then — if anyone else (bandmates, co-writers, etc.) is owed royalties — you’d be responsible for paying those royalties from there, as you were acting as your own label. If you have any questions, send us an email: cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Okay, so would I still register on Ascap as publisher, cause those we’re my intentions I just wanted to know what extra did I have to do.

        • You don’t need to register as a publisher with ASCAP, since that is one of the things CD Baby Pro takes care of for you. But if you want to register directly, go for it — and CD Baby Pro would still be helpful in terms of collecting mechanical royalties.

          @ChrisRobley

          • Braun Haus Media

            With CD Baby Pro there’s a per song fee and a per album fee. Is that the only fee you take or do you also take a percentage of the collected royalties?

          • We don’t have a per song fee if you’re signing up an entire album for Pro. In other words, if you pay the signup fee for an album, all the songs are included. Our fee for a single is for artists who just want to sign up a “single,” who might not have a full album. But to answer your question, we do take a percentage of the publishing royalties collected. We keep a 15% commission. CD Baby Pro pays songwriters 85% of any publishing royalties collected on their behalf.

            @ChrisRobley

  • Paula Beltrani Celino

    if someone plays your song, which they have purchaced as a disc or tape at a party or get together or rally , does this mean they must pay royalties

    • Well it depends on if it’s considered a “public performance,” but probably in most cases, if it’s being played in a venue for a rally or big party, the venue should’ve paid their yearly fee to the PROs for that usage.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Jim

    Hi chris, I’ve written words to several songs. How do I get them put to music. Also does it cost alot and do I still have owership royalty wise?

    • You mean you’re looking for a co-writer who’ll compose the music? If they’re interested in co-writing, you don’t need to pay them. They’ll just co-own the song with you 50/50. As for finding co-writers, that’s the tougher part. You could try local songwriting associations, online forums for creative collaboration, or just ask your favorite local musician if they can help you out.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Jim

        Thanks for your reply Chris. Is that something cd baby would handle?
        Also,if i find a co-writer on my own how would i get the songs publoshed.?
        TY..Jim

        • We don’t facilitate any kind of artistic collaboration, but there are a lot of online forums and services where you can get paired with other writers/producers/musicians.

          Once your song is written, though, you (and your co-writer) automatically own the publishing rights to the music. You ARE the publisher. If you need help putting those publishing rights to good use, you could sign up with a publishing administrator such as CD Baby Pro (http://members.cdbaby.com/pro.aspx), and we’ll make sure you’re getting paid all the publishing royalties you’re owed. That being said, even though you own the copyright to your music the moment it’s set down in a fixed format (recorded, written down, etc.) I’d still recommend registering your copyright ownership with the Library of Congress: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/musician-tips/how-to-copyright-your-music/

          @ChrisRobley

        • Lee

          For co-writing and having your songs recorded and produced, check out http://www.procollabs.com. A lot of artists then post their music on CD Baby for distribution.

  • Dailaan

    Question: Probably Answered Already. With ASCAP I get 50 for writing and 50 for producing. If I go the CD Baby PRo route are they getting 50% of both or 50% of either writer or producer? Thanks.

    • Are you talking exclusively about the songwriter’s share – for which you’re splitting it between the writer and producer (even though you’re both)? Or do you mean 50% as the writer and 50% as the publisher? If so, you can either keep that arrangement, or work with CD Baby Pro, who would collect your publishing royalties for you (including performance royalties currently paid to you by ASCAP, and mechanical royalties, which performing rights organizations like ASCAP do not collect) – and then we keep a 15% cut. Hope that makes sense. If not, feel free to call us: 1-800-Buy-My-CD.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Well, I’m not a lawyer, so I’d suggest you consult with one if you feel like you’re going to get into a real legal dispute over this. That being said, from the details you’ve given, he sounds like he’s in the wrong if he’s trying to exclusively control the song or change it so dramatically that it becomes a new song. But unless you had anything in writing, I think he would be entitled to sharing ownership of the song up to the percentage of his contribution in the overall composition.

    @ChrisRobley

  • The “composers” are considered the person/s who write the lyrics and melody. But with a lot of music, the person who arranged the music can also be considered a composer if they come up with other instrumental hooks, change the harmonic structure, etc. So, it’s tough to say without knowing the history of your music and how it developed, but I’d say it could be reasonable to grant him 50% of the publishing.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Shelby

    Hi Chris, I have a question! I’m an artist and have been talking to a specific song writer about what I want her to write the songs about. If she then gives me the song, and I record it, does she have 100% ownership? Do I get nothing if the song were to be successful? Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much!

    • Well, I’m no lawyer, but I think it really depends on your arrangement. Did you contribute any phrases to the lyrics? If so, you could be credited as a co-writer of the lyrics. How extensive were your instructions in terms of the structure of a narrative or content of the lyrics? That might be grounds for having some ownership too, but it really depends on the situation.

      @ChrisRobley

  • What’s the context for that phrase?

    @ChrisRobley

  • If you wrote the melody and lyrics, YOU are the sole songwriter. That being said, if the producers helped create instrumental hooks and grooves that become an integral part of the composition, there is an argument for them getting writing credit too. It’s a gray area, and the answer changes upon the circumstance. If you feel uncomfortable, you might want to ask an attorney.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Correct. With CD Baby Pro, we make sure you collect all your publishing royalties (minus our admin fee), including mechanical royalties, the songwriter half of your performance royalties, the publisher half of the performance royalties, etc.

    • Alexis Ortiz Sofield

      Great. Another question. Do I need to register with a PRO as the both publisher and Songwriter or does CD Baby PRO do that for you? Thank you sir. Much appreciated.

      • We take care of all that for you.

        • Alexis Ortiz Sofield

          Awesome. Thanks for fast reply.

  • somewhereihavenevertravelled

    Thanks Chris for the article.. Could you suggest how something a little more complicated works?
    Say for instance that I wrote a musical. I own the entire thing – music, songs, story etc. Then I get an investor in to back the musical who buys 50% of the production from me so we’re equal shareholders. Now, every time the music is played on the stage, it’s my work as I retain ownership of the copyright in the music. But the production is owned half by someone else, so I wouldn’t expect to be getting royalty cheques – everything earned belongs to the production.

    Would it normally be the case that I would have had to grant a royalty-free license to the production so that it, rather than me, gained the benefit?

    Now, say, Taylor Swift decided to do a cover of one of the songs from the production. Would I now expect to get the royalty payments personally – or would the production get the royalty payments, in which case I’d still be sharing them with the investor?
    Thanks
    Rob

    • That’s a great question, and one you should ask an attorney, or someone who’s an expert in theater rights. I’m not sure how that typically works.

  • Your Performing Rights Organization registration has not been submitted. Please try again…. NOT SURE WHY?

    • Is this a warning you’re seeing while trying to sign up via CD Baby Pro Publishing? If so, give us a call or send an email. We can help you out.

  • Well, I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that they cannot prevent you from recording, distributing, and promoting your own work (even when it’s co-owned/co-written). One question: if you’re still planning to split the song rights 50/50, that doesn’t leave any share for the producer. It sounds like the producer may’ve had a part in co-writing the final version. Is the producer okay with NOT having a writer’s share in the song? That might complicate things a bit, and I’m not sure what the best way to resolve that would be, but just a question to consider.

  • That does sound weird. If you wrote the lyrics and melody, she should not be entitled to any share of publishing. Maybe people usually hire her to add vocal melodies to lyrics they’ve written? If that’s the case, it would make sense that she would expect some publishing for coming up with the vocal hooks. But in your case I’d just make sure you iron out all the details with her first, and make sure she knows you’re not giving her any publishing; you don’t need her to write anything, just perform it. And then pay her a fee for her session work.

  • Liquo

    Hi Chris, very informative and eloquently written article, thank you. Quick question, do record labels have to pay artists’ Royalties twice? From my understanding they pay points as royalties, a contractually agreed percentage of the PPD (unsure if paid directly to artist or through a publisher) and Mechanical royalties, these differ in amount as they’re paid either at the full statutory rate or a reduced rate to publishers for works reproduced and distributed. Please clarify!

    • Well, they’re different royalties: the amount that the artist is paid for sales (usually after the label recoups certain costs), and the amount the songwriter/publisher is paid. Mechanicals are paid to the publishers/songwriters.

      • Liquo

        Right thanks for clarifying. Just on top of that, how are sales royalties collected? For the purpose of this argument digital sales. My presumption is the publisher collects it, but in that circumstance it would be paid to the songwriters not the record label. How does the record label actually collect sales money or more relevant to me and unsigned artist if those royalties differ from Mechanicals?

        • That money is paid from the retailer (iTunes, Walmart, etc.) to the distributor. The distributor pays it to the label. The label pays it to the artist. Mechanicals are a separate royalty stream from sales revenue. The Don Passman book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” breaks all of this down in a really easily-digestible way. If you haven’t read that, I definitely recommend it.

  • If you wrote the lyrics and melody, YOU are the composer. In terms of the law, lyrics and melody IS the song. Beats, production, riffs, arrangement — that’s all icing on the cake (but it’s not considered songwriting unless those elements are so integral to the song that you really couldn’t imagine the song performed in another context without them).

  • There’s no right or standard way to split ownership. If your music is purchased in a manner where the creator has relinquished the rights, then it’s just a matter of you and your collaborator agreeing on terms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 50/50 if one person obviously contributed more to a particular song. One thing to note, though: if your beats are purchased from a producer who was licensing those same beats to other artists, even if you paid for the “exclusive,” it’s almost impossible to get everyone else who licensed the same music ahead of you on a limited term to remove their tracks from the Internet. That sets you up for some frustrating rights disputes on YouTube and beyond. BUT… if you’re sure the beats haven’t been used by other artists, or distributed to places like YouTube, great! You shouldn’t run into any issues.

  • Monica Blue

    wow!!!

  • What do you mean by “licensing to an artist?” Are they just covering your song? If so, your P.R.O. or publishing administrator should be collecting performance royalties as usual. An American P.R.O. will collect international performance royalties through reciprocal agreements with foreign P.R.O.s. A publishing administrator like CD Baby Pro will register your songs directly with the foreign royalty collection societies, so in most cases you’ll be paid faster than through ASCAP or BMI.

  • CD Baby will handle the song registration for any songs you’re signing up through CD Baby Pro. You don’t need to worry about it (besides providing us with correct songwriter info).

  • Well, if you co-wrote the song, your collaborators should have an ownership share in both the composition copyright, and any publishing royalties generated from the exploitation of that copyright.

  • I tend to view those sorts of things as contributions to the arrangement, not the composition. BUT, if he came up with some guitar riff or other hook that becomes so crucial to the song that you really couldn’t imagine it without that element afterwards, I WOULD credit him as a co-writer. It’s tough to advise without hearing the tune and knowing who created what. But you’re definitely wise to consider these things now, and get it all in writing, rather than disagree later when memories are fuzzy.

  • If the producer is indeed being given co-writing credit, then yes. They’re entitled to a share of all publishing royalties (mechanical royalties, performance royalties, sync licensing fees, etc.)

    • Nedy Valdivia

      Thanks so much!!

      Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® 6.
      ——– Original message ——–From: Disqus Date: 6/29/17 9:51 AM (GMT-08:00) To: nedygotmusic@gmail.com Subject: Re: Comment on Who Owns Your Music Publishing Rights and How Does the Money Get Split?
      “If the producer is indeed being given co-writing credit, then yes. They’re entitled to a share of all publishing royalties (mechanical royalties, performance royalties, sync licensing fees, etc.) ”

      Settings

      A new comment was posted on The DIY Musician Blog

      Christopher Robley

      If the producer is indeed being given co-writing credit, then yes. They’re entitled to a share of all publishing royalties (mechanical royalties, performance royalties, sync licensing fees, etc.)

      12:51 p.m., Thursday June 29

      |

      Other comments by Christopher Robley

      Reply

      to Christopher Robley

      Christopher Robley’s comment is in reply to

      Nedy Valdivia:

      Does the person who worked on my song, the producer, get a percentage of the income the song brings if they are a co-writer? I … Read more

      You’re receiving this message because you’re signed up to receive notifications about replies to nedyvaldivia.

      You can unsubscribe
      from emails about replies to nedyvaldivia
      by replying to this email with “unsubscribe”
      or reduce the rate with which these emails are sent by
      adjusting your notification settings.

  • We’ll handle your song registrations with BMI if you sign up for CD Baby Pro (our publishing administration service) when submitting your new album.

  • When you say the produced created the music, are you talking about the arrangement and recording, or the underlying composition? Like, did the producer write the melody? Chord changes? If so, then yes; they get 50% for the music and you get 50% for the lyrics. If you wrote the words and melody, and the producer just arranged and recorded the song you’d already written, then you are entitled to 100%. In that case, you CAN give the producer some ownership of the song, if their contribution changed the song so dramatically that you think it really altered the underlying song, then they probably deserve a cut. If not, they’re just… the producer (who can be compensated in other ways than publishing rights).

  • Jerry Bertschy

    Another musician and I equally cowrote a CD. But I paid for 100% of the recording costs. Do I own 100% of the publishing rights?

    • Nope. You own 100% of the sound recording. But you would split the publishing 50/50 (if you both wrote half).

  • There’s a difference between ownership of the song and ownership of the recording of the song. If the producer wrote 100% of the music (meaning not just the arrangement and instrumental parts, but the main vocal melody and chords) then I think you should split the publishing 50/50. That’s standard for a co-writing deal where one person writes the lyrics and the other does the music. However, if you fronted the money for the recording, mixing, mastering, manufacturing, promotion, etc. then I suggest you think of yourself as “the label” and keep 100% of the rights to the master recording. If the producer engineered and produced the music for free, you could factor that in as if it were a monetary contribution, and cut them in on a share of the master recording rights — but those rights are totally separate from publishing/songwriting rights.

  • That’s a sticky one. The law says that if you wrote the lyrics and the melody, you own 100% of the song. However, producers can add hooks and additional melodies beyond just the vocal melody that become so vital to the song that a listener really wouldn’t imagine the song without it. What’s “vital” to a composition is pretty difficult to pin down though, and differs from listener to listener. So… split sheet? I’m not sure. It’s tough to say without knowing more details. If your deal was to pay more upfront so that he’d be comfortable NOT having any ownership in the publishing, it does seem like he should honor that agreement. Or if circumstances changed during the recording, and he really did add a bunch of stuff that is worth being cut in a share of publishing, maybe he could refund you the difference in the original fee, and then you split the publishing in some way.

  • There’s no “right way” to do it, but if you’re retaining the publishing rights and your friend owns the master recording rights (since he’s funding the studio time), you both have a stake in the song when he uses it in his various efforts. If it’s small-peanuts, maybe you just let him use the song without paying you a licensing fee on the publishing side — as a favor to a friend. If he’s gonna be using it significantly in his branding/presentations/etc, maybe it’s worth having him pay you (more than the initial crowdfunding donation).

  • First, I’d register your arrangements and recordings with the Library of Congress. As far as collecting publishing royalties on your arrangement of a public domain work, I’m pretty sure ASCAP has a pay to register a PD arrangement. However, arrangements pay a fraction of what the actual song would generate if it still had a publisher (not PD), but I believe ASCAP does evaluate PD songs on a scale of no compensation to a % that tops out at 15%. You will need to do that direct with ASCAP’s Member Services.

  • SUCCUBOT

    Publishers suck.

  • The writer still owns the score, even if it’s Greek to them.

  • I don’t. But if you have detailed questions about any of our services or how your rights are involved with distribution/publishing admin/YouTube monetization/etc., give us a call: 1-800-Buy-My-CD.

  • It used to be standard practice for labels to want a share of the publishing, but I think these days you should hold onto your publishing. Let the label be the label. Let the publisher be the publisher. (Unless the label has a long history of securing amazing opportunities for your songs, in which case maybe it’s worth cutting them in on the publishing if it motivates them to find $$ placements).

  • Well, it’s tough to say without knowing all the details. But I think that if you said you’d split the song 50/50, then he’d get 50% of the writer’s share, and 50% of the publisher’s share.

  • Well, there’s a difference between owning the master recording and owning a share of the publishing/songwriting. Does your singer own 25% of the master recording? If so, MAYBE they can upload to Bandcamp. But one thing to beware of is duplicates. Why confuse things and have two separate destinations for the same song on Bandcamp. Better that you both point to the “official” Bandcamp location for the song. Same goes for ALL platforms. In fact, if duplicates arise on DSPs like Spotify or Apple Music, they’ll just hold up everything and remove both until one party emerges as the clear rights holder. If the singer doesn’t own the master recording, but just a part of the publishing, they should NOT be uploading that recording anywhere. Instead, they ARE authorized to make their own new recording of that song and upload that version — so long as they’re still paying mechanical royalties to the other writers/publishers. Make sense?

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • It’s tough to say without being there, or knowing who exactly contributes what, but my GUESS would be that if you’re just humming some melodic ideas, but the producer gives shape to those ideas, and provides additional hooks, beats, and such — it wouldn’t be unreasonable to cut them in on the publishing/song-ownership. If you’ve got your song pretty much fleshed out in your head, and the producer is simply realizing the arrangement you already imagined, then they’d just get paid as a producer and not own a share of the song.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • I’m not sure I understand your question. Do you have the music written, but not the lyrics?

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • It all depends on what your agreement was. If the producer truly just provided a beat (no melodies, no hooks, etc.) then I’d say they should be compensated as a producer/beatmaker, but NOT have any cut of the publishing. If they did contribute instrumental hooks, vocal melodies, and so forth, there might be a case for them owning a share of the song.

    If they do own a share of the publishing, they would earn the same kinds of royalties as you: performance, mechanical, sync, etc. — divided in whatever percentages you agreed upon.

    Normally the engineer does not get a publishing share. Again, unless they contributed some crucial element to the composition. But if they’re simply engineering the session, you pay them whatever their engineering fee is.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • Tough to say without knowing more details, but I would assume it means your boyfriend can’t claim any publishing on that beat itself, but if it’s used in a new song that he’s created, he should own the publishing on that song. Again, I’m not certain of that. Might want to consult with an attorney to be sure.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • You technically own the copyright to your song the moment it’s set down in a fixed format (recording, notation, etc.). Once you’ve done that, the next step is to register that copyright at https://copyright.gov/.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • I’m not a publishing expert, but to me they’re one and the same. The producer is either a contributor to the songwriting or not. If yes, they’re owed mechanicals AND own a share of the publishing. If not, then no.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • These situations are tricky, because I have no idea who’s contributing what to the final composition. Some people say “beat” and it’s literally just a prefab drum loop (which I generally don’t consider to be part of the song), but other people say “beat” and it’s like a fully arranged production (synths, bass lines, drums, etc.). In that case, I tend to think of the producer’s contribution as more essential to the final song, in which case I think they’re owed some cut of publishing. Again, tough for me to say, but you might want to consult with an attorney or publishing expert. One thing I’d say is that, sure, they can fully own their CONTRIBUTION to your song, but once you’ve licensed the beat to use with your lyrics and melody, you both have created a NEW song, for which YOU should definitely own a part of the publishing for your creation of the words and melody. So while they can own 100% of their beat, they can’t own 100% of your new song.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • If the goal is to have your music licensed, there aren’t restrictions because CD Baby Pro is separate from our sync licensing program, and the sync program you opt into separately is non-exclusive (meaning you can be licensing that music through other means as well).

    You could cancel CD Baby Pro for that song if the publishing deal you’re considering provides real value, but you should only do that if the plugger/publisher will legitimately be collecting ALL your publishing money globally. If not you will lose out on normal royalties.

    You can certainly pitch songs to publishers. And if they get an artist to cut your song, that is a huge reason to have Pro in place so your get all your royalties from the beginning of that song’s life. If a Publisher wants to sign you and take on all the responsibilities of worldwide royalty collection, you can cancel per the rules of our terms.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • mower1776

    so what if I’ve signed a “non-exclusive” publishing deal? can I still act as the publisher and push my music and sign a publishing deal without involving all of my non exclusive labels?

    • Tough to say without knowing the terms of all the various agreements. What does the first publishing deal involve? Royalty collection? Sync pitching? If it involves royalty collection, you should be careful about signing publishing deals elsewhere that might also involve royalty collection. That could get confusing fast. If it’s just non-exclusive sync stuff, I see no problem with working with multiple agencies.

      Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • Firstly, I’m not a lawyer, so I’d recommend consulting with one. That being said, has this track been licensed to anyone else in the past? If so, you might want to proceed with caution. Even if you’re getting the exclusive NOW, it’s almost impossible to wipe every other song from the Internet that has used that beat/hook. In which case YOUR version will get confused with other versions (particularly on YouTube), and create some copyright and royalty flow issues.

    All that being said, if a producer created the music and then you added lyrics, I see no problem with splitting credit and publishing royalties. However, are you going to be adding any melody lines? If so, a straight 50/50 doesn’t make sense to me upon first glance. If you write the lyrics (which is 50% right there), plus some or all of the vocal melody, I think you’d be owed more than 50% of publishing. However, it’s a fair argument to say that you’d have NO music if it didn’t all start with the existing instrumental track. So maybe a 50/50 makes sense in that context. Anyway, lots to think about. As for collecting royalties on behalf of that producer, yes; you can add them as a collecting songwriter (for an additional $10) when you sign up with CD Baby Pro. We’ll pay you, and you distribute the royalties to the producer.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.