More and more artists are collaborating than ever, so agreeing on songwriting splits with your co-writer beforehand is incredibly important. But how do you agree to split songwriting credits?
From discussing and working out the songwriting split straight away, to having the publisher split sheet completed and understanding how the songwriting royalties work, there’s lots figure our in order to have a songwriting split agreement.
If you’ve decide to collaborate with other musicians to compose your own original songs, then agreeing on how to split the songwriting credits between you has to be considered carefully and negotiated. In this guide we will explain what constitutes a songwriting credit, how songwriting splits work, and how they should be agreed so you get the credit you deserve.
How to split songwriting credits
It’s important that you figure out how you’re going to split the songwriting credits early, before you have a hit song that’s then dampened by legal issues.
If you’ve been organised and discussed arrangements prior to the writing process getting started, then splitting songwriting credits doesn’t have to be difficult.
Once you’ve agreed to who is going to be getting a writing credit on a song, then you need to agree to the percentage you each receive. This can be based on how much you have each contributed to the song, but the are other things to consider such as if one of you has a higher profile or is the headliner.
If you’ve ever heard the expression, “change a word, get a third”, then you’ll understand that some more famous singers get songwriting credits even though they contribute very little.
Dividing songwriting credits
Once the songwriting contribution has been clearly outlined, the way in which the songwriting credits will be split can be set in stone.
Reflecting on each individual’s contribution to the song will make dividing up the songwriting credits simpler, and avoid any disputes later down the line.
There is no typical guideline for the usual percentage a songwriter might get from songwriting splits when there has been a musical collaboration. It’s unique to each song.
If you look at successful singer and songwriter, Bebe Rexha, she has played a part in helping write songs for Eminem and Rihanna on their track, ‘The Monster’ 2013. From this, Rexha has received a percentage of the songwriting credits. This would have been carefully talked about and agreed upon by all writers involved.
Folk and pop singer Gabrielle Aplin has released many of the tracks that she has performed, recorded and co-written, such as her 2013 release of ‘Home’. Aplin would have received an agreed amount credit and any future financial reward, whilst co-writer, Nick Atkinson would have also received a share too.
Sia wrote the following songs for other singers before she found fame herself:
- “Diamonds” by Rihanna (credited together with producers Benny Blanco and StarGate)
- “Breathe” by Jessie J (credited togetehr with Tor Erik Hermansen, Jessie, and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen)
- “Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé (credited together with Beyoncé and Ammo)
- “Radioactive” by Rita Ora (credited with Greg Kurstin)
- “You Lost Me” by Christina Aguilera (credited together with Christina Aguilera and Samuel Dixon)
- “Perfume” by Britney Spears (credited with Britney Spears and Christopher Braide)
- “Double Rainbow” by Katy Perry (credited with Gregory Kurstin and Katy Perry)
Obviously, it’s also just as important to remember that if you are a solo singer and songwriter all the way, the songwriting splits don’t have to be considered as such. It was solely down to you and all your hard work will be rewarded.
What is a songwriter?
A songwriter is a professional within the music industry who composes music for songs, or writes lyrics.
Sometimes, a songwriter can be referred to as a composer. However, this usually is only applicable when an individual has made music under the classical genre.
Because lyrics are high in demand within the music industry, songwriting tends to be distributed to a group of songwriters.
The group of songwriters can vary in songwriting strengths. Where one co-writer is better at writing lyrics, the other songwriter will build on this by having a strong skill set with creating song melodies.
The role of a songwriter can range from being the vocalist of the song, a self-employed songwriter or staff writer.
What is songwriting?
What constitutes a songwriting credit?
Songwriting is defined as every time you use your creativity, imagination, musical knowledge and technique. The imagination needed for songwriting is also labelled as either musicianship or musicality.
When it comes to how songwriting splits should be agreed, this is where the songwriting is divided and allocated to each writer involved; the percentage will reflect the amount of contribution each individual has made.
How you should split songwriting credits
Within the music industry, negotiating the songwriting credits and agreeing on how they should be split is a topic that needs to be discussed and considered with care.
Firstly, if you are co-writing with another songwriter or a group of songwriters, there needs to be that first initial discussion on how the songwriting credits will be divided.
Sat down and ready to negotiate, there should be agreements made over who is responsible for what part of the song.
For example, if you have written every lyric from start to finish, all the songwriting credit should be under your name.
If the songwriter you have collaborated with composed the vocal melody for each verse and chorus, this is a percentage of the process that belongs to them.
And it’s the percentage that needs to be agreed upon.
How is music publishing split?
A music publisher ensures that singers and songwriters are paid what they deserve for all their hard work within the industry, particularly when the tracks are used for commercial purposes.
When a songwriter works with a publisher, an agreed publishing agreement is signed that places the songs copyright to that certain company.
The song can then be licensed by the publishing company and they become responsible for making sure the track is being used appropriately and that the singer and songwriters receive royalties, according to how the songwriting splits have been decided.
Songwriting split sheet
The majorly important action to take when it comes to the music publishing aspect of songwriting split agreements is the publishing split sheet. As outlined by Sonicbids Blog, this is the very first document that needs to be finalised.
The split sheet is where the percentages for who wrote what are neatly stated. It’s highly important that this is completed before taking a co-written song to a publisher.
What percentage does a songwriter get?
The percentage a songwriter gets when deciding the songwriting splits depends on a few different factors.
These range from whether the song was written as a solo project, to whether it was co-written with others, and which writer was responsible for which part.
As explained by Tune Core, the split nods to how much copyright the individual deserves from that particular song.
For example, if there are four songwriters working together and it’s divided that everyone has an equal percentage, the songwriting split will work out at 25% each.
Alternatively, if the songwriting has been all down to one songwriter’s talented lyricism, then 100% will be the agreed amount.
How do royalties splits work?
Song royalties are the payments due to the songs artist, songwriter, composer and publishing company for every time it’s used.
There are different sorts of royalties ranging from public performance, mechanical, synchronization and print music.
The payment from these royalties are what fund music roles considerably within the industry so calculating them correctly is vital.
The royalties are split in alignment with how the songwriting splits have been agreed.
Songwriting copyright laws
There are steps taken to ensure that songwriting copyright isn’t breached within the industry.
It’s great to be aware so that when it comes to the exciting moment of figuring out who will earn what, you’ll be able to have an accurate understanding.
The most significant law is known as the ‘Copyright, Designs and Patents Act’, established in 1998.
This act ensures that creators of music, art, drama and literature have the control over deciding which way their material can be used.
In order to make sure your songwriting is protected by the act, it’s vital to make sure that the lyrics and song are either written in music notation or recorded on tape.
This is also making sure that the songwriter/s are either a British citizen or resident and the work was first created in the UK.
- What is music publishing?
The world of music publishing is a vast one but it’s always great to be aware of its impact on songwriting splits for future circumstances.
Music publishing is about valuing and protecting music.
To put it more simply, the music publishing companies take the admin side of things such as receiving royalty payment and making sure the use of an artist’s music is being used appropriately. This relieve the artist of the workload so they can continue their creativity.
Amongst many duties music publishers have such as singing up their artists to PRS for Music, producing demo recordings and licensing music. They are also able to take action against any individual misusing the song.
So, when it comes to receiving your songwriting earnings, a music publisher will ensure you receive the correct amount, in the right way and on time.
- What are the music and lyric credits?
Credits for music and lyrics are what songwriters, singers and musicians make a living from.
To break this down, the credits are given to those who contributed towards the lyrics, structure and chord progression.
The credits pin any future recognition or earnings to the musician, singer or co-writer that played a part in the creation of the track.
The credits can either all be given to one individual or they can be split into agreed percentages if the song has been written in collaboration.
- How do you write song credits?
Song credits are given if you’ve played a creative part in the process of creating a song.
The song credits will always be noted in each circumstance that requires the background information of the track to be shown.
Major online platforms such as YouTube have an informative section underneath each music video that will often outline the songwriting credits by naming each co-writer.
Wikipedia is another avenue where it’s possible to find out who helped create and write the track.
Essentially, the song credits have to be visible most of the time so each musician receives the accolade they deserve.
- What are songwriting shares?
Songwriting shares are more commonly known as songwriting splits. It’s often the case that songwriting splits are divided equally between all co-writers involved.
However, to avoid any tense conversations, it’s important to agree on this collectively before the writing, recording and publishing process begins.
It may be that, for example, one songwriter has a split of 40% and the other 60% will belong to the other co-writer.
This division of songwriting shares is unique and individual to each song, meaning it needs to be carefully considered and agreed upon.
- What is the songwriting credits order?
This is a common question that is asked within the industry. There is so specific rule to follow when ordering the songwriting credits.
It’s important to remember that every individual named may not have had much to do with the actual songwriting. On some occasions, the songwriting credits will be divided in such a way in order for individuals to receive a certain percentage of royalty payments.
This is regardless of whether they contributed to writing the song or not. It’s more reliant on what splits were agreed.
- How do song royalties work?
Song royalties work as payments that go to songwriters, artists, composers, publishers and any other named copyright holders of the song.
Not only this, but song royalties are also given for various types of licensing and usage.
To summarise, the different sectors of song royalties are known on the PRS website as; PRS performance and MCPS mechanical royalties. These two categories are broken down even further by PRS depending on who has used your song.
- How are song royalties calculated?
Song royalties are calculated by firstly, taking into account whether the royalties are performance or mechanical.
The royalties are calculated by working out where, when and how many times the song was played. Whilst taking into consideration the agreed split of songwriting contribution.
Organisations such as PRS for Music can calculate song royalties for the singer, songwriter or band. Following this, the singer receives their earnings from the royalties.
For some in the music industry, this process is a way to make a living.
- Do drummers get songwriting credit?
If you are drummer and want to get songwriting credit then you need to write the songs, either completely or on a divided basis. Drummers won’t get songwriting credit for drum parts, only when they contribute chords, lyrics, and melodies.
What signs should you look out for that your split hasn’t been divided correctly?
Here are some red alerts to keep an eye out for:
- There has been avoidance on discussing how the songwriting splits will be divided prior to writing the song, or during the early stages.
- When it comes to discussing songwriting splits, someone is pushing for a percentage that doesn’t feel right. It’s important to vocalise concerns with a calm and professional approach.
- If a co-writer is pushing for an individual to be included within the songwriting splits that didn’t contribute to the songwriting.
Let us know if you’ve got any additional advice or comments about songwriting splits in the comments below.