Copyright Q&A for May 2013
Here is a question we received for our monthly Copyright Q&A feature. Answers are provided by Christian Copyright Solutions. Feel free to submit your questions to us. We answer as many as we can here on our site once a month.
A friend of mine told me that I need to setup my own publishing company if I want to collect royalties when people cover my songs on their album. Is this true? If so, how do I go about setting that up?
This is true only in the case of performance royalties, which are paid by ASCAP, BMI or SESAC (the U.S. performance rights organizations [PROs]). In order to receive both writer and publisher royalties (50/50), you have to apply and be affiliated with a PRO as a writer and publisher (watch Video on PROs). If someone wants to cover your song on their recording, then they would pay 100% of the mechanical royalties directly to you or your administrator.
While setting up your own publishing company is not necessary, it does help ensure that you receive royalty payments for the performance of your work and establish the proper communication channels for people to send you (or your administrator) requests in order to license your works.
Let’s look at the basics of song ownership upon creation of a musical work. When a songwriter creates an original music composition (music only or music with lyrics), the writer owns 100% of the song, until such time as he or she decides to assign or convey the song to another party, such as a music publisher. As the creator of the song, you are both the songwriter and the publisher, until you sign a songwriter agreement with a music publisher and give up the role of the publisher to that company.
In most cases, that means that you assign 100% of the song to the music publisher with the agreement that you will always receive at least 50% of all revenue received by the publisher, and they will retain 50%. In this business relationship you are the writer, and the music company is the publisher. Revenue share splits may vary, depending on the agreement.
If you have co-written a song, be sure that you and the co-writers sign a letter of agreement stating what percentage of the song each writer owns, as well as who wrote the lyrics and who wrote music. Then each writer is responsible for management of their percentage of the song.
If you want to start a publishing business, where do you begin? As you develop and organize your publishing company, you may require professional help from an attorney, accountant or administrator, but you can request a Fact Sheet on “Basic Steps to Publishing” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Understanding how to properly license your songs in a timely fashion can be complicated and confusing, and that’s why many writers use an administrator to handle the details of promoting, protecting and collecting and disbursing royalties. Most administrators charge a fee based on a percentage (10-15%) of royalty receipts, or a flat fee.
CCS’s INDIEadmin service offers a unique administration model with several tiers of plans for independent artists that pays them 100% of royalty receipts. The service is designed with independent artists, self-published writers, churches and ministries in mind. Obtain more details by emailing email@example.com.
The Christian Copyright Solutions answers provided are information, not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com. Use promo code “ABOUTWORSHIP” to receive 10% off the PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast Licenses and the PERMISSIONSplus Service.
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