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Royalies and kinda how they're split up

written by Matt Dorman on April, 06, 2010, 09:26 AM. Comments: 4

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a great day. Spring is upon us!
I was thinking today of a transaction I recently was part of, regarding royalties.
I had an offer from a publisher for 2 of my songs. The publisher wanted all of the publishers share, and I keep my writer's share, with a one-year reversion. Turns out, one of the songs had been cut, but not really commercially released, but registered with my PRO, (which is BMI), nonetheless. So, I offered the new publisher this deal, after talking with the current publisher: I'll give him 1/2 of my writer's share, and the current publisher will give the new one 1/2 of his share. The new publisher said okay, and used my email as a letter of intent.
Did I lose you? Well let's go back a few steps, okay?
First, as a a songwriter, you should know things like:
The period of time a publisher has to get the song commercially recorded (and commercially is a gray area, too) before the song reverts back to the songwriter. Some publishers will be sneaky, and say you have to write to them to ask for the song back within a period of time that the reversion happens, or they will keep the song forever. Yes, you get your share if it's cut, but it might get shelved, and never cut. The period of time is from the signed date of contract to the end of the clause. I've signed one, two and 3 year reversions, but never more than 3 years.
Performing Rights Organization. You are either a member, or will be made a member of a PRO upon either signing or the commercial release of your song, depending on the PRO's guidelines. I'm a BMI writer, which stands for Broadcast Music Inc. When I got my first commercial recording and publishing contract in 1994, I joined them. Why did I choose BMI? Because the publisher asked me to join them. He also had an ASCAP branch,(American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and a SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers) branch. In Europe, SESAC is the most popular PRO.
What do PRO's do? When you register your songs, they sample "reporting" radio stations across the globe, and by sampling, calculate how many times your song is getting played, then pay you the royalties. Your publisher reports to your PRO, and tells them how many cd's are sold, not printed, and you get 9.1 cents per song per cd sold. You get royalties from your PRO.
Here's a great link to see how royalties are calculated:
Royalties are the icing on the cake of songwriting. There are many aspects to this, and as a songwriter, it's your duty to know them. Buy books, look online, and do alot of research. Don't take everything your publisher says as factual. They are in the business to make money. Some are the most honest people in the world. Some aren't.
another term is:
I've touched on this before, I think. If not, here's my understanding of it. You write a song, without a co-writer, and get a publisher that wants to cut it. Most honest ones will offer you to keep 100% of your writer's share, (or 50% of the song) and they keep the publishing, (the other 50%). Unless the song is going on a cd project right away, they should offer you a reversion. If they don't, don't sign the song. Period. Let me elaborate; I wouldn't. Do what your conscience will allow.
If you have a co-writer, it can be in various percentages. Let's say you have a song almost finished, except the bridge isn't done. A writer helps you with the bridge and before they do you offer them (with a songwriting contract) 25% of the writer's share and none of the publishing. How much they help you can determine the split, i.e., 3 writers working on a new song, can split the writer's share in thirds.,
Staff Writing-
In this case, you work for a publisher, and do what's called "Work For Hire". Kinda like working for a toothpaste company, and while being paid your salary, you invent a new toothpaste. You get your salary, plus and pre-determined royalties from sales of the toothpaste, and they keep the rest. They might give you an "advance" on your potential toothpaste royalties. They can make you sign a "Non-compete clause" which means you can't go out and make toothpaste on your own, using the skills and knowledge they gave you. In other words, you can't go and finish a song you started while working for your publisher, and expect royalties from it. You will most probably get sued.
Alot of people don't copyright their songs after they've published them on their myspace, facebook, or other sites, because they're public record then. Publishers don't want to spend money on lawyers to defend a copyright infringement suit. They want a clear song.
Which brings me back to why my new publisher would take a chance on a song that's already published. Because I sent an email, which has a date, and electronic signature, which is valid in court. We're both covered.
I'll cross my fingers on the song, and hope it gets cut. Yeah, I've given up half my writer's share, but nothing from nothing is, well, you know...
Besides, maybe if the song gets cut, someone will google my name and want to know what other material I have in my catalog.
If it's an artist, without a publisher, I can call up one of mine and say "will you administer this song that (insert artist's name) is going to cut?
What would you say if you were them?
You'd write me a contract, with a reversion, and we'd register it with my PRO, and we'd assume liability for the song together, and wait for the royalties. We'd talk about shares and everything it takes to manage a song to its fullest.
Know the business, my friend. Know it well. I'm still learning, and have a few songs I'll never see again. Live and learn, some just live.


ray j. cox wrote on May, 13, 2010, 05:14 PM

ive talked to you before matt.
ive got 2 with a publisher, now but
after 2 years, still not recorded. ive
got over 1,000 wrote, but cant get
them out to anyone!!
later pal, ray j.

Matt Dorman wrote on July, 29, 2010, 04:26 AM

Hi Ray!
It's not easy to get a song published. I have over 400 songs in my catalog, with over 60 published to date. Some publishers sit on your songs, some pitch them actively. You can ask them for their pitch sheet. Make sure you get a reversion clause, so you can get the song back. If they're actively pitching it and can prove it, you might want to re-sign the songs to that publisher. I just did that with 2 songs this year. They love the songs and believe in them, but still haven't placed them.

It's a one in a million game, Ray. Be patient, and never give up!



Toby wrote on August, 01, 2012, 12:21 PM

How do I 'get the song back?'
Is there a form to send to the original
publisher, or certain phrases or
way of requesting to meet legal
requirements? Including the
Master Rights?

Faisal wrote on August, 21, 2012, 03:05 AM

In highschool Queen's I'm going silghtly mad was my theme song' *laugh* in University it was Love & Rockets So Alive now I've got a bunch depending on my mood and the moment but Show Must Go On will always have very strong connections and imagery for me.


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