“Teamwork makes the dream work”
“Collaboration is key”
“Your network is your net worth”
As cliché as these sayings are, they all boil down to one simple truth: music is a team sport. In fact, back in 2018, Russ was reportedly the first and only rapper to go platinum with no features while also handling all of the production himself. Given that this is clearly the exception to the rule, it goes to show that collaboration can really pay off.
And for many of us creatives, collaborating on the musical end is the easy part. But what about after you write a dope song with someone? What can you do to make sure both of y’all are getting paid?
The Business of Co-writing
As creatives, it’s really easy to focus on making the music. I mean, that’s why we do this, right? However, if you don’t handle the business end of a collaboration, it could lead to major consequences later on down the road.
Unfortunately, however, this happens all the time. It has led to billions of dollars of unclaimed royalties left in what has been called the “black box.”
Some of that unclaimed money might be yours if your business hasn’t been handled properly.
So what exactly do I mean when I say, “handle the business end of a collaboration”?
Firstly, it’s about understanding the roles in songwriting. Secondly, filling out split sheets. Thirdly, getting the proper info from your co-writers. Finally, registering everything properly with all the appropriate collection societies. If you do all that, you and your co-writers make sure you’re getting all of your money.
This article is the first in a multi-part series called “Working with Co-writers”. In the series we will be tackling all of these topics. Today, however, we will be discussing roles, and more specifically, splits and split sheets.
Lyricists vs. Composers vs. Songwriters
I’m sure some of you have heard the terms “composer,” “lyricist” or “songwriter,” but what do these all mean exactly? And what’s the difference? And, most importantly, how does each role impact the money you receive? Let’s break it down:
- Also referred to as an “author,” lyricists are the people responsible for the lyrical content of a piece of music. Often, lyricists will also be responsible for vocal melody and cadence. Certain collection societies may label lyricists as “composer/author” in registration forms. There are plenty of instances, however, where lyricists strictly contribute the words.
- Composers, on the other hand, are the people responsible for the musical and/or melodic content of a piece of music. People often use the term “composer” to refer to writers of classical or jazz pieces, but it can also refer to any creator of original musical works.
- The term “songwriter” is typically a more broad and overarching term. It will often refer to the people responsible for both the lyrical and musical content of a song. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. There are many instances where the term “songwriter” can refer to just the lyricist or just the composer.
So why is this important? Because in order to collect all of your royalties you and your co-writers must be credited properly.
Writers will often list all the co-writers as “composers” and “lyricists” (or “composer/authors”). This can ensure that none of their royalties are missed by any collection societies.
This is also important information to have when you discuss your “Splits” and fill out something called a “Split Sheet”. What are splits? And what is a split sheet you may ask? Let’s break it down:
Splits & Split Sheets
As we went over in Music Publishing Money Explained pt. 1, the songwriters, lyricists, and composers of a musical composition all have ownership of the Composition Copyright. However, copyright law dictates that all contributing parties are given equal share and ownership by default… unless there is a written agreement in place stating otherwise.
We call this written statement a “Split Sheet”.
This means that your homie who changed one word in the second verse would have just as much ownership and monetary rights as those of you who wrote the rest of the song. Unless, of course, you and your co-writers fill out a Split Sheet.
And, if the song does well financially, not having a split sheet leaves a greater chance for disputes or even lawsuits. That could put your royalties on hold until the dispute is settled.
That’s why it’s important to agree upon splits. Always fill out a split sheet after the song is completed to avoid these types of problems.
Split Sheet Example
So what exactly does a split sheet look like? Below is an example of one:
This picture above is simply an example. All split sheets don’t necessarily have to have all of this information. However, they should all include a few pieces of key information: songwriter and publisher names, PRO affiliation and IPI numbers. We will be getting into this more in part 2 of this series.
Paper or Digital Split Sheets?
Filling out a paper split sheet is perfectly valid, but it can also prove to be inconvenient. Who will keep the original? Will you have to make copies? What if you are collaborating remotely via the internet?
For all these reasons we recommend a really dope app called Jammber Splits. Collaborators can use Jammber Splits to create and store digital split sheets for future reference. You can even save all your PRO and Publishing info, such as IPI numbers, which are automatically added to the sheet. Click here do download the mobile app.
So, do you want to make sure you and your collaborators get ALL of your royalties? Then make sure that your splits are worked out and that you and your collaborators fill out a split sheet.
Once you have your split sheets filled out, you may want to check out our publishing administration services. With Gvngaroo Publishing all you have to do is register your works ONE time, on one convenient form. We then make sure they are registered with all collection societies in the U.S. and more around the globe. That way you (and your collaborators, if they choose to sign up) aren’t missing any of your royalties.
Working with Co-writers pt. 2 is coming next week, so be on the lookout!