Composer split sheet

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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musicman2019
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Composer split sheet

Post by musicman2019 » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:57 pm

Hi, I'd be grateful for any help with split sheets. A singer/songwriter came to me with lyrics and a vocal lead melody and I produced the entire instrumental (chords/counter melodies etc) without payment. A few years later they are looking for a publishing deal and asked me to update the production with more current sounds (which also involves rewriting parts of the melody). We agreed a 50% split each of royalties each, however, the split sheet says:

Lyrics: 'singers' name' 25%
Melody: 'Singers name' 25%
Harmony: 'My name' 50%

Does it matter what contribution is stated as we both agree 50% or should I insist on being credited as creating the 'beat' or 'melody'? I'm not sure that 'harmony' describes my contribution. Thanks for any help with this!

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AndyJ
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Re: Composer split sheet

Post by AndyJ » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:39 am

Hi musicman2019,

Anything to do with royalties and the music business is complicated. And I have to start by saying I don't know all the ins and outs of the music business; for specific advice you may need to go to a lawyer who specialises in the music business. However if you do a search on Youtube there are dozens of videos (eg here) which explain how the split sheet works. Note that many of them look at the subject from the US point of view where some aspects of the law of copyright are different.

However, the way split sheets work means that so long as the end result is as intended (ie you get 50% of the royalties as agreed) then the actual breakdown is not too critical. The only aspect where that general approach might break down is over the divide between lyrics and music. Say for instance someone wants to use part of the music (eg the beat or hook) as a sample in one of their songs. This doesn't involve the lyrics and so the royalty they would pay to use your music will be set against the harmony/melody part of your song, so you would get 75% of this additional income. Provided that your collaborator is happy about this, that would be fair since you contributed more of the part which is being sampled. However if we take a different example where a singer wants to use the lyrics from your song and set them to a tune they wrote, the royalties would be attributed to the lyrics part of the split sheet and you would not get any of this amount since you didn't write any of the lyrics. Taking that as background, and bearing in mind that the actual amounts which come from such third party usage will only be significant if those other records sell in large quantities (by 'sell', I include downloads and streaming etc), this will probably not be a big issue.

So in order to keep things simple, I believe the current split looks sensible and will achieve the outcome that you receive your 50%. Don't forget that you now need to register with PRS/MCPS in order to get paid when the song is performed.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

musicman2019
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Re: Composer split sheet

Post by musicman2019 » Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:54 pm

Thanks for explaining AndyJ, that's really helpful

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