Friday, June 27, 2014

Music Business/Law Tips - "Songwriting Splits"

If 2 or more songwriters collaborate and complete a song, it’s important to sign off on a “split sheet” so that everyone knows each writers' share and resulting income so there are no disputes later. These days - especially in producer-led genres of music such as hip hop and dance - the roles of who a writer are can be difficult to determine so its key to clarify in writing if there is any participant who could make a claim. Be aware that a well-known artist may insist on a larger split or a split even if they did not contribute, since their involvement or “name attached” increases the chances of the song being successful. Under the Copyright Law, a song is deemed to be jointly-authored where there are 2 or more writers, and the splits will be equal for each writer – so if that is not the case (i.e., if each writer did not contribute the same which is often the case) - its imperative to get the actual splits agreed to in writing. If the goal is to have 1 person administer the song for all writers make sure that is clear in the paper (otherwise each writer administers their own share). Try to get the split sheet signed as soon as the song is complete and recorded as it’s hard to chase down people later or when their memories fade/change,, and not having this info handy could delay or block a release. Ben McLane Esq

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Music Business/Law Tips - "Sample Clearance"

If an artist is going to use some existing music as part of the new song, that is a “sample” and permission is needed. Unfortunately, there is no "standard" sample situation. Its case by case depending on who the artist and songwriter is being sampled, who the sampler is, how long the sample is/how much its used and if it’s the hook or not, who the sampler’s label is vs. self-release, etc. The only way to know if one can get permission and what the splits will be is to contact the label that owns the master being sampled and the publisher that controls the song being sampled (there are 2 clearances needed for most samples). Once they hear and it and evaluate what they want/is fair, they propose a split and the sampler will either go with it or negotiate it. It can actually be a pain and expensive to sample as some samples require to pay an advance up front and often its takes forever to get the approval which can screw up a release schedule. Note, there are some clearance houses that can clear samples and make the process easier (but they charge a fee). Ben McLane Esq

Friday, June 6, 2014

Music Business/Law Tips - "Producer v. Production Agreements"

The 2 main producer related agreements are: (1) Producer Agreement and (2) Production Agreement. What is the difference? 1. A Producer Agreement is where a producer is hired by an artist or label to produce master(s) for the artist/label. The producer is a “work for hire” which means the producer will not own/control the masters (the artist/label will), but will get paid a fee for his/her work and back-end royalties on sales and licensing of the masters to film/TV/ads. 2. A Production Agreement is where the producer acts like a label and discovers/develops the artist, and signs the artist exclusively to his/her production company for a term/number of albums. The producer normally gets 50% of the profits here (a lot more than under a Producer Agreement situation). The producer will normally cut a few demos and then pitch/showcase the artist to a record company who can partner with the producer to distribute and market the artist. If the producer cannot find a distributor within a certain amount of time the artist can usually terminate. Of course there are other key issues that affect the above like recoupment of costs and songwriting/publishing, so if you are an artist or a producer make sure you have good legal counsel before doing either type of deal. Ben McLane Esq