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Songwriting credits - who gets what???


JpScoey

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Over the last several months I've been working on some new (original) material.

 

I now have approx 1 & 1/2 hours + worth of music - but it's still in it's 'basic' format....

 

ie: the chords sequences/melody/arrangement etc are all in place.

 

BUT - to get everything into the 'finished product', I'm relying on the other guys involved...

 

So that means the singer + guitarist(s) mainly.

 

- the bass lines are already done, & as we all know, a drummer does whatever he feels like depending on his mood!

 

 

In conclusion, I feel as though these are 'my' songs... but without the contribution of the other guys,

 

it won't end up sounding exactly how I want it to.

 

(I am nowhere near as good at singing, or guitar/bass/drums as the other guys involved).

 

 

The question is - before there any issues about copyright & so-on (which has happened to me before),

 

are these songs credited solely to me, or 'split' between the contributing musicians -

 

and if so, by what sort of percentage?

 

 

I would add that I don't expect it to be a multi-million selling album (although that'd be nice!)

 

I just would like to know where I stand.

 

 

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

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There are two categories: publishing and recording. They are separate entities. In general, these guys might get a piece of the action for recording royalties but not publishing. Publishing includes a 9.5 cent payment per song, they wouldn't be eligible for that. A "band" typically has an agreement for division of money that is different from being a writer of a song.
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Thanks for the quick (& helpful) reply.

 

 

Just to clarify - this is not a 'band' situation.....

 

There may (& probably will) be several different guitarists/ singers/ drummers etc etc.

 

Obviously all adding their own contributions to whatever song they're playing on.

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

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Just to clarify - this is not a 'band' situation.....

 

Most session players don't get credit as songwriters, so apply that to your situation. A few famous examples of "non-songwriters" getting credit (Whiter Shade of Pale) come up, but in general playing on a song doesn't entitle one to authorship unless it's an unusual situation.

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If you wrote the melody, words, and chord progression you're the songwriter as far as I'm concerned. If you and the others want to come to some other credit-sharing arrangement (think e.g. Lennon and McCartney) you are free to do so.

 

But I strongly urge you to discuss this with the others first if you think there is any chance at all of a dispute or hard feelings. You don't want to get into a situation where, after the song's out, the organ player thinks he ought to get some songwriter credit for the signature organ fill he thought up.

 

Larry.

 

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But I strongly urge you to discuss this with the others first if you think there is any chance at all of a dispute or hard feelings. You don't want to get into a situation where, after the song's out, the organ player thinks he ought to get some songwriter credit for the signature organ fill he thought up.

 

Larry.

 

I would go one step further and make sure you are all on the same page before hand regardless of whether you think there may be a problem down the road. In most business situations, everyone is friendly and happy happy in the beginning, so they forego the legal stuff. Then when the sh&t hits the fan....it's not so happy happy anymore and there's no written agreement, which means lots of arguing, finger pointing, lawyers, bad blood, money, etc. Get in writing if possible. That is best.

 

If the work qualifies as a joint work, then all the contributors may own the copyright. Why take the risk in whether it is a joint work and who are contributors? Spell it out up front.

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This is also genre contextual to a large degree.

 

I find in pop/rock, most people consider the chords to define the song. Coming from a jazz and classical background, I have never agreed with this point of view, as we constantly revoice things and tend to think of other aspects of the composition as more central to its defining character.

 

I have been in bands where I never got credit and yet wrote most or all of the melody. The argument was that I didn't supply the chords. Nevermind that in many cases, the chords were generic progressions that are shared by a good number of songs, and the song didn't begin to differentiate itself until the other song elements began getting developed.

 

The point is that you shouldn't make assumptions about what people consider to be "songwriting", and clear the air up front. Most likely, you will not all have the same idea about what constitutes contributorship to a song's composition. As long as you are comfortable with the repercussions, you can let it slide, but it's better to air it out before the money comes.

 

I have never been happy about signing away writer's rights, but I understand that pop/rock folks consider the chords to be king of the song, so have not fought it beyond the initial argument, and thus have had peace with the evolving situation since I know going into it that I'm not going to get credit.

 

I am, however, quite liberal, both in my day job and with music and other artistic endeavours, in assigning credit to anyone who even had the tiniest suggestion that led to the final result. To me, this is the fair way to do it, but I do not expect this of others as it isn't the norm.

 

As brought up earlier, Lennon/McCartney was another good example of this approach, and of course is where I modeled my own approach to assigning credit. I don't understand why more people don't take this approach, given that it is rare that the monetary difference will be that great (unless a HUGE star), and it seems to help with maintaining mutual respect and interest.

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Lennon/McCartney was another good example of this approach, and of course is where I modeled my own approach to assigning credit. I don't understand why more people don't take this approach,

Well, Sir Paul has been trying to wiggle out of it for 40+ years. :laugh:

 

I don't have much experience in this dual-writing thang. The little I have tells me to watch out. :laugh: Several years ago I made an ill-fated CD and wrote everything. A friend played on it. He was telling people "Yeah, me and Dave wrote a bunch of stuff together". :confused: It was downright bizarre, he had nothing to do with it in any way.

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I find in pop/rock, most people consider the chords to define the song. Coming from a jazz and classical background, I have never agreed with this point of view, as we constantly revoice things and tend to think of other aspects of the composition as more central to its defining character.

 

I have been in bands where I never got credit and yet wrote most or all of the melody. The argument was that I didn't supply the chords. Nevermind that in many cases, the chords were generic progressions that are shared by a good number of songs, and the song didn't begin to differentiate itself until the other song elements began getting developed.

 

Just because people think that way doesn't make them right. No one can copyright a chord progresssion. In most cases, the melody is the song.

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It's all written by you. The only dispute that might arise would be if a singer contributes something significant in terms of rewriting the tune. If that is the case, you might feel like you should give her some of the songwriting credit.

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I find in pop/rock, most people consider the chords to define the song. Coming from a jazz and classical background, I have never agreed with this point of view, as we constantly revoice things and tend to think of other aspects of the composition as more central to its defining character.

 

I have been in bands where I never got credit and yet wrote most or all of the melody. The argument was that I didn't supply the chords. Nevermind that in many cases, the chords were generic progressions that are shared by a good number of songs, and the song didn't begin to differentiate itself until the other song elements began getting developed.

 

Just because people think that way doesn't make them right. No one can copyright a chord progresssion. In most cases, the melody is the song.

 

Personally I find them inseparable.

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You did not mention lyrics in your post.

Songs are chords, melody and (in some cases) words. If you wrote all of them, you are the songwriter. If a singer suggests changing a word here or there before recording it is generally considered helpful ( if you like the changes) but does not rise to the status of "co-writer" unless it is a significant portion of the words, or substantially alters the meaning or intent. The same goes for guitar "parts". Unless the guitar player contributes substantial alteration to the structure or melody, or creates a defining "signature" their part is just part of the normal arranging that takes place on the studio floor.

On the other hand, if you have not written the words, or even if you have written most of the words, but the singer finishes the remainder of the lyrics, then you have yourself a co-writer, entitled to half of the writer royalties and mechanicals (unless you both agree to a different split in advance on paper).

Only a slim few writers count words, or calculate "who wrote what" percentages, and nobody likes them.

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You did not mention lyrics in your post.

Songs are chords, melody and (in some cases) words. If you wrote all of them, you are the songwriter.

 

^^^^^ THIS ^^^^

 

Steve, I also like the explanation of the "gray areas" in your post ... The only other thing I can think to add to this discussion is that things like instrumental solos, keyboard orchestrations, even riffs, are usually considered parts of the arrangement ... not copyrighted parts of a song, as I understand copyright law (disclaiming the obvious: I'm not a lawyer).

 

In past collaborations I've seen this "added content" to already-written songs treated two ways: 1. The muso adding the part is being paid for their studio time only, and they have no rights to claim authorship of the song they play on (ie, the wage constitutes payment in full); 2. if more of a band situation, credit for playing on the recording and contributing to the sound can be given not by adding name to copyright of the song, but by agreeing to share a portion of publishing ... but this has only happened to me in a tight collaboration and still favored the author(s) heavily. Of course both scenarios are agreed to in writing.

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In my band, I get the sole credit since I bring them the whole song. The guitarist alters riffs, the drummer suggests different structure, the singer might alter some lyrics. But none of that this is considered co-writing.

My guitarts brings in songs too, and I never ask for credit even though I write my parts, solos, etc.

We have separate credits for lyrics and music. Anyway, as a band we agreed to divide the profits 6-way, since everybody invested equal share of money into the production (we had no recording deal, so paid ourselves).

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In past collaborations I've seen this "added content" to already-written songs treated two ways: 1. The muso adding the part is being paid for their studio time only, and they have no rights to claim authorship of the song they play on (ie, the wage constitutes payment in full);

 

With the record industry tanking, this is the bright side of being a sideman/arranger/session player: getting paid up front. :laugh: I had some local band ask me to write arrangements recently, my first question naturally being "what does it pay". The guy said that they would give me "a cut of the profits", so it was a really short conversation. :laugh:

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Cygnus, yeah, I believe "for hire" is the way to go ... for bands with labels I've seen upfront pay scale and sometimes points on royalties, but expecting to be paid "on the back end" as a sideman doesn't seem to make much sense in most scenarios.

 

I get that not only in music but also because I am an editor who edits, among other things, books for independent authors. Occasionally I'll get one of these referrals who wants me to work for free and then "share in the profits on the back end." Apparently these folks have NO inkling what the publishing industry is like ... you think it's bad for music, try self-publishing a book and making anything, LOL. That kind of conversation always ends with a quick "no thanks, I don't work for free."

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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Sorry not to have got back to this thread sooner - my computer crashed yesterday,

 

& I've only just got it back :facepalm:.

 

I'd like to thank you all for your valuable thoughts & suggestions...

 

certainly some very interesting things to think about.

 

 

If this proves to be any more help, I've written 100% of the music & 50% of the lyrics...

 

There are other things to take into consideration too - for example, if a guitarist plays (his own) solo.

 

None of us are full-time professional musicians - we all do it 'just for the enjoyment',

 

but -you never know- if it 'takes off' & generates some money,

 

I'd like it all to be clear to everyone who's entitled to what.

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

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....There are other things to take into consideration too - for example, if a guitarist plays (his own) solo......

 

To my knowledge a solo, no matter how great or memorable, cannot be considered as a basis for songwriting credit, unless YOU as the writer want to give him something to keep him happy. Otherwise Brent Mason would own Nashville by now.

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Yes, and the Funk Brothers would have owned Detroit in the Motown era!

 

PS If you get a chance to see "Standing In The Shadows Of Motown", do so! Studio musicians who played such a key role in that music finally getting due credit - it's great!

 

But I don't think they got SONGWRITER credit in most cases, even if the whole world copied some of the licks - say the guitar intro to "My Girl", or some of James Jamerson's bass lines.

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When someone does an arrangement, a 'cover' of the tune, solos get frequently left out. So, if a part will be left out and it's still recognizable - the part doesn't deserve a co-writing credit. Signature licks do qualify in my book, but these should be really signature - like the Smoke on the Water guitar riff, or Depesche Mode bass lines.

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Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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Pick up the book by Donald Passman entitled "All You Need to Know About The Music Business"

 

"http://www.donpassman.com/allabout.html

 

I think he's on the seventh edition these days, but it covers publishing and songwriting stuff in there and is the BEST $20 (or whatever it costs) you'll ever spend. Every musician should have a copy at his or hers disposal.

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....There are other things to take into consideration too - for example, if a guitarist plays (his own) solo......

 

To my knowledge a solo, no matter how great or memorable, cannot be considered as a basis for songwriting credit, unless YOU as the writer want to give him something to keep him happy. Otherwise Brent Mason would own Nashville by now.

In practice, you're correct. Legally, you're wrong: you own the rights to your creations unless you sign them away in writing: like real estate, copyrights cannot be transferred by oral contracts. Your solo doesn't entitle you to credit for the song, but you do still own the rights to your solo.

 

So, the guitarist on "Easy Like Sunday Morning" could make a claim. I don't think he needs to, but you get the point: whenever anyone plays this song, that guitar lick gets used. Ditto the organ part in Whiter Shade of Pale, where he *did* make the claim, and won.

 

If they listened to their lawyers, the performing arts copyright owner would have a waiver on file for every session musician. But I guess life moves too fast in that fast lane, and a sideman who plays the lawsuit card might not get much repeat business, so evidently they don't worry about it too much.

 

And maybe, like pre-nups, asking the musicians to sign paperwork before the session might kill some of the spark. ;)

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I find in pop/rock, most people consider the chords to define the song. Coming from a jazz and classical background, I have never agreed with this point of view, as we constantly revoice things and tend to think of other aspects of the composition as more central to its defining character.

 

I have been in bands where I never got credit and yet wrote most or all of the melody. The argument was that I didn't supply the chords. Nevermind that in many cases, the chords were generic progressions that are shared by a good number of songs, and the song didn't begin to differentiate itself until the other song elements began getting developed.

 

Just because people think that way doesn't make them right. No one can copyright a chord progresssion. In most cases, the melody is the song.

 

Personally I find them inseparable.

I agree. However, the courts consider melody, harmony, and rythm -- pretty much in that order, and they also include considerations about the genre and its idioms. A melody reharmonized is still subject to copyright, as it should be. Another song that uses the same chords could infringe, if the chord structure is sufficiently unique AND if it can be shown that they COPIED.

 

One of the more amusing decisions was the one for John Cage's 4'33", which is pure silence. Some band recorded silence on their album, and cited JC in the liner notes as a big influence. In his decision (in favor of Cage), he said that if they hadn't mentioned JC in their notes, there's have been no way to prove copying and they would have won.

 

A copyright does not protect you from someone coming up with the same thing themselves. They're infringing only if they actually got the idea from your work. Common sense applies, of course. If I claimed I'd written an original that just happens to be a duplicate of Stairway to Heaven, nobody would believe me.

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I have been in a similar situation, and i was advised to pay the musicians who recorded with me. It was a token amount, and I apologized for the small sum, but it was clear that I owned the recording and the material.
Well, it doesn't actually do that. It just proves that you paid them to do the recording. As I mentioned above, copyrights can be transferred only by written contracts. It might corroborate your claim, but it doesn't prove it and isn't legally binding.

 

The best defence is to pay them for signing copyright waivers.

 

The next best defense is to submit the copyright registration promptly. If you're the registered copyright holder, the other party has the burden of proof, so you win by default unless they can raise a very good argument and substantiate it.

 

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