The Business of Songwriting – Getting It Right

Don’t trust hearsay when it comes to copyright, songwriting credits, or sharing revenue.

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Songwriting copyright and royaltiesWouldn’t it be great if all you had to do as a songwriter is write tunes, and then leave everything else up to someone else? But that’s not generally the way it works these days. Now, more than ever before, it’s part of a songwriter’s job not just to write tunes, but to produce them, record them and promote them as well.

And if writing the tune and getting it properly recorded were the only tasks you had, that’s still a huge responsibility. Singer-songwriters who self-produce and do it well are rare. Getting something properly recorded isn’t as easy as simply pressing a button, as those of you who do it will know.

But then beyond that, there’s an entirely separate category of knowledge needed: the legal side: determining who to include as co-writers, how to split revenue, how copyright works, and much more. These are tremendously important issues that need to be sorted if your music is now getting (or hopefully about to get) distribution.

Lawyer and author Rich Stim has written an excellent article that lays out the most important information you need, in easy-to-understand language. It pertains to the business side of music in North America, but offers excellent advice for any and all songwriters trying to break into the business, no matter where in the world you live.

You can read his article here. The 10 topics his article covers are:

  1. Figure Out Songwriting Credits, Now!
  2. How to Decide Who Gets Songwriting Credits.
  3. Publicize Songwriters’ Names.
  4. Consider Cowriting With a Dead Songwriter.
  5. Register With BMI and ASCAP.
  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Give Up the Copyright for a Deal.
  7. Market Your Songs to Nontraditional Media.
  8. Consider Taking a Lower Percentage of Revenue for an Established Publisher.
  9. Copyright is Automatic.
  10. Tax Breaks for Home Office Use .

The copyright date at the bottom of his post is 2014, so I am assuming the information is relatively up-to-date. Rich also has his own blog, “Dear Rich: An Intellectual Property Blog“, which contains great information.

There’s a lot of mythology out there regarding the world of copyright and music, so Stim’s article should be able to answer any questions you’ve had regarding the business end of songwriting.

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Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

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3 Comments

  1. Being a professional songwriter means 90% business related work and 10% actually creative music work. I was told that in my very early years by one of Europe’s top producers while being an intern in his studio. Of course I didn’t believe him. Well, 10 years later in 2015, me being fairly established in the music business I have to admit that he was right!

    • Thanks for the comment, and you’re right on. I wouldn’t fault songwriters for believing it’s all about the creative side. After all, no business smarts are going to work for you if you don’t have songs to peddle. But more songwriters fail at the business side than at the creative side.

      Thanks again,
      -Gary

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