While a producer may get points on your sound recording, is he or she entitled to a share of the composition (songwriting) royalties? It depends on how they’ve contributed.
Welcome to the third installment in my series about producer points. In “What are music producer points?,” I talked about what producer points are, how they work, and when a producer might be entitled to said points.
Today I want to talk about whether — and when — a producer might be entitled to a publishing split of your composition.
Let’s start with a quick refresher on copyrights. By now you should know that every song has two copyrights:
1. Sound recording (aka masters) for the artist/label
2. Composition (aka songs) for the songwriter/publisher
If you want to learn more about copyrights and royalties, click here to get the entire series of blog posts and videos we recently produced on the subject.
If a producer gets points, he or she gets a share of the net royalty revenue on the sound recording. But what about the composition?
Songwriting royalties and producer points
As you undoubtedly know, songwriting royalty splits are common if multiple people collaborate on a composition. The common understanding is that whoever helped write the song gets a piece of the publishing. If the producer didn’t have a hand in writing the song, but just helped create the recording of the song, the producer may be entitled to points on the sound recording, but they should not get any share of the songwriting or publishing.
However, if the artist and producer work on creating the song together, or even if the producer takes your existing song and contributes to it — whether a partial lyric or a piece of melody — then, yes, the producer is entitled to co-writing credit and ownership.
What makes a song?
Now, for clarity, a song is words and melody. It’s not the beat, the genre, the instrumentation, or the arrangement. If your producer rearranges your song so it flows better but leaves words and melody intact, they are NOT entitled to a publishing split. If they make contributions to a lyric or melody part, then they are.
How much do they need to contribute to deserve credit? Well, more and more it seems the industry is moving toward the famous Nashville saying, “One word, one third,” which means when there are three people in the room, no matter what you contribute (even if just a single word) you’re entitled to equal songwriting/publishing credit. The thought is, you helped inspire the process and the energy shifted by you being in the room. Therefore, you get a piece of the songwriting credit.
When it comes to publishing splits, keep it simple
Different songwriters and different genres operate differently. In hip hop, the producer, who makes the beat (which includes the melody that the artist will rap over), may demand 50 percent and then the other top-liners have to split the remaining 50 percent.
Some songwriters split the composition copyrights between lyrics and music, with the person writing the lyrics getting 50 percent of the publishing royalty and everyone who worked on the music composition sharing the remaining 50 percent.
My advice to you: don’t overcomplicate it. Stick to the common rule (and courtesy and team spirit) that when people write a song together, the song is owned equally by everyone who contributed to it: music and lyrics. Rather than counting words and notes to try and figure out a percentage, split the ownership equally. If one of those contributors is your producer, then he or she deserves a piece along with every other songwriter.
What are music producer points?
What’s the difference between an engineer and a music producer?
Music publishing for 2nd graders
Understanding music rights and royalties
Your copyright and royalty questions answered