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Help! Need advice on producer / songwriter agreements..!

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by innerbooty, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. innerbooty

    innerbooty Guest

    I run a small project studio in NYC, where I also do a fair amount of production stuff for some clients, since I am a musician/singer-songwriter as well as an engineer. Two new clients want to write up contracts, and I'm not sure how to go about it, what kind of agreements make sense for each case. They are both very straight up and willing to do whatever is fair and reasonable. Any advice or resources would be appreciated!

    Here are the two scenarios:

    CLIENT ONE - A singer. Shows up with lyrics and basic melody for a song. I write the chords underneath the melody, make some changes to the melody, and write an additional bridge and outro section. Minor changes to lyrics. I am also producing, arranging and playing all the instruments on the track (except live drums)

    CLIENT TWO - A singer / dancer. Shows up with lyrics only. I am writing the melody and chords for the whole song, making revisions to the lyrics, and producing, arranging and reccording the track.

    Thanks for your advice! - Steve
  2. innerbooty

    innerbooty Guest

    Hello...? Anyone out there....???
  3. maintiger

    maintiger Distinguished Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Home Page:
    Both cases are co-write- you have to let your client know that. Unless you do the work for a fee, in that case is a work for hire job and the entire copyright belongs to your client. If you agree is a joint songwriting version, both of you complete and
    send the copyright pa form to DC and register the song in both your names.
  4. Roey

    Roey Guest

    Just to make it clearer, publishing royalties are for lyrics and composition. Chord structure, arrangement, recording, producing, playing an instrument are not credited with publishing royalties (which is where the big money lies if you made a hit); these will be credited with record (sales) royalties, paid per hour/job, or paid as part of any other agreement that the parties will come up with.

    As far as I know, even a small change to lyrics or composition makes you a co-writer, and unless otherwise agreed you should get 50% of each (50% of lyrics, and 50% of composition if you changed both). So in the case of Client 2, for example, you definitely deserve 50% (which in the States, if I'm not wrong, means your share is 25% of the lyrics and 25% of the composition - even though you only composed the song).

    If you would record these songs without an agreement, your share from Client 1 would be 50%, and from Client 2 - 75%.

    Now, how much you should really get for small changes is up to negotiation: how drastic are the changes? How much both parties think they will contribute to the success of the song? Could your client go to someone else who would contribute to the song just like you did? This is stuff you will have to sort based on common sense.

    And as for the production, arrangement etc. - even though you might think that you make most of the song, it doesn't work that way. There are thousands of people who can arrange and produce songs for Kylie, but only few who can write/compose her next No.1
  5. innerbooty

    innerbooty Guest

    Thanks a lot for these tips. This is really helpful. I'm still confused about the concept of writing / composing the music for a song. To my mind the music that comprises a song is based on a.) the melody line b.) the chord changes. Or am I wrong? If you the melody from Yesterday and put entirely different chords under it, is it still the same song....?

    Thanks a lot! - Steve
  6. Helicon1

    Helicon1 Guest

    The "music" part of a co-write only includes the MELODY of the song.
    If you write the melody to someone else's lyrics, you have met your obligation as a co-writer. Anything you do above and beyond writing the melody is extra. And as has already been stated, the arrangement, recording, and things such as that should usually be a work for hire.
  7. AstoriaJams

    AstoriaJams Guest

    innerbooty - I'm in a very similar situation with a new client. As producer, I'm simply taking the singers raw vocal track, and adding everything else - chords, rhythm, instrumentation, dynamics... I agree with you. I feel I should get half of the writers share.

    I'm somewhat new to the production game. Is the standard agreement (generally speaking) in the industry one where if you write everything except for the lyrics, you are NOT entitled to a portion of the potential royalties?

    if thats the case, then I better kick up my fee a couple notches...

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