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

May 10, 2013{ 173 Comments }

Publishing SplitsYour 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.]

  • Brettly

    Thanks this was really helpful!

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

      Glad to hear it. Thanks.

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • Juven

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

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    Hey K,

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • Rocky Peter

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

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

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

      Hope that helps.

      @ChrisRobley

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

    Hey A, I sent you an email.
    @ChrisRobley

  • Romeo Gabbana

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

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

      Just sent you an email.

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

    Sure. I'll send it your way.

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

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

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

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

      @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

  • Christie

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

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

      Hi Christie,

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

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

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

      @ Chris Robley

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

    Will send you my contact info.

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

  • GangstaBeatz101 .

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

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ Chris Robley

  • Gain Green

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

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

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

      @ Chris Robley

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

    Hi J,

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

    @ Chris Robley

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

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

    Hope that helps.

    @ Chris Robley

  • The 286

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

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

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

      @ Chris Robley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • Dj jRoc

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

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

    Hi C,

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

    • Kevin

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

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

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

        @ChrisRobley

        • Kevin

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    Hi Jeff,

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • Cesar Sanchez

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

  • Cesar Sanchez

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

  • Cesar Sanchez

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

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

    Hi there,

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    Hi there,

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

    @ChrisRobley

    • 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

      • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

        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

      • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

        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?

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

  • Williss Lopez

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

  • Al

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

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

      @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

  • 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?

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

      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

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

      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

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

    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?

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

      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?

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

      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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

    • KooKKy

      Thank you for your reply!

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

        Sure thing. Let me know how it’s all going.

        @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

  • 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

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

      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

    • 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

      • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

        What comes next in terms of… ? Distribution? Sign it up with CD Baby! ; )

        @ChrisRobley

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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!

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

    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

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

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

        @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    Glad to help.

    @ChrisRobley

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

    Glad to help.

    @ChrisRobley

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

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

    @ChrisRobley

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

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    Can you be more specific about the situation?

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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!

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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

    • 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

      • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

        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

      • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

        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?

    • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

      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.

        • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

          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

    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.

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

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

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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.

    • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

      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

  • http://blog.chrisrobley.com Christopher Robley

    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