Co-writing a hit song with one of your bandmates feels great at the time and is all well and good, until down the road it suddenly turns out the two of you have differing opinions on who contributed what, at which point the royalties argument is bound to turn nasty. Luckily, carefully documenting song splits from the outset can nip this kind of issue in the bud.
Guest post by Todd Wright of SongSplits
It sounds pretty straightforward: you and your fellow musician and songwriter friends head into the studio to co-write and record a song. You all leave the studio psyched about what you’ve done and with a verbal agreement about how much each of you should be credited for the creative output. A year later, you get a phone call and learn that a major shoe brand would like to use your song for a commercial. This would be great news and very rewarding financially, except suddenly your co-writer’s memory of the songwriting process differs from yours. They recall being responsible for much more of the song than you had thought was agreed. Being unable to come to a mutually acceptable agreement, the chance at having the song in the commercial is lost.
Verifying and Documenting is the Answer
For years, songwriters sought to eliminate this kind of confusion by jotting down credit information on paper split sheets. However, it’s easy to change the info on paper split sheets, and they often get lost or never get properly filed where they can be easily found and referenced later. Missing credit information or questions about the veracity of existing information can result in delayed or lost royalties when an entity is interested in licensing a song and also makes it difficult for performing rights societies, administrators, publishers and distributors to pay out royalties that have already been earned.
I saw this kind of situation play out firsthand while running my business management firm, Wright Business Management. The song split is such an integral part of the music business, but the lack of a user-friendly, standardized process for verifying and documenting this information was resulting in songwriters missing out on getting paid.
Further, without accurate split data, writers cannot
- get a new publishing deal
- get out of a publishing deal by showing MDRC fulfillment
- license music to any third party (TV, Film, Video Game, etc)
- properly copyright their work
- repay the advance of a publishing deal, as publishers do not know how much of a songs earnings should be credited to the writer’s account
Taking Split Sheets Digital with SongSplits
SongSplits is an online platform that lets songwriters cross verify songwriting credits with all collaborators before storing the information in a universal online database. You can think of SongSplits as digital split sheets stored in the cloud – except each collaborator has to sign off on their part before the split sheet gets stored.
This makes it easy for publishers, administration and distribution companies, and performing rights societies to locate the accurate information in order to pay each participant their percentage in a timely fashion. It’s also a central location for the companies behind films, television shows, and advertising campaigns to find all the information they need to clear a song for licensing purposes.
The Platform Evolves and Grows…
Since it first launched, SongSplits has grown into a community of over 250,000 writers. Like all digital platforms, SongSplits has evolved based on user feedback and ideas from the team (which is all comprised of people with backgrounds in the music industry). Recently, it received an update that expanded the platform to allow for additional features.
One of the biggest changes is the fact that writers can now have their managers and attorneys sign in, view, create, and modify split agreements. In addition to this, managers and attorneys can have their own individual portals where they can log in to view all of their clients’ split agreements in their own database and store related files for approval rights, warranties, publicity rights and other very important matters.
Another fantastic feature in the latest upgrade allows writers to upload the song itself alongside their split sheet information. Users can organize and track their music by song title, collaborating partners, and the creation/modification date of the split sheet.
This kind of cross-verified, universal system helps eliminate the kinds of hurdles often created by verbal agreements and paper split sheets. No conflicts and no delays means that when the largest shoe company in the world seeks out your song as the soundtrack for its latest commercial, the process really will be conflict-free and straightforward.