Music Business

“Why Are Split Sheets Important?”

by Marty Dodson
Sep 16, 2021

Hit Songwriter Marty Dodson talks about split sheets and why they are so important.

Chapters

Chapter 1: What is on a songwriter split sheet?

Chapter 2: How are the percentages split?

Chapter 3: Why are split sheets important?

Chapter 4: Is publishing important to list?

Chapter 5: What if I have a pseudonym name?

Chapter 6: When should I collect this information?

Chapter 1: What is on a songwriter split sheet?

At my company we print up pads of split sheets. They have our company name on them. They have a place for the song title. Then they have songwriter 1, 2, 3, and 4, and even sometimes 5. They have a place to print your name and signature, a place for the percentage for each writer, a place for the date and each writer’s publishing information. Each writer’s PRO information, which is a BMI or ASCAP or SESAC, a Phone number and an email.

Our split sheet says, this is not a contract or a publishing agreement, but an understanding between songwriters. Songwriter’s signatures below verify that the percentages listed, and the date stated are true and correct to the parties involved. Each party is responsible for the agreed upon writer’s share is listed as well as their share of demo costs. And I would probably add, if agreed upon to demo the song.

Anyway, it’s not a contract, but it is a record of on the day we wrote the song, who was in the room, what the agreed upon percentages are.

Chapter 2: How are the percentages split?

Most of the time the percentages are going to be equal. There are really not many occasions in which it’s not going to be equal, but they do come up every now and then. Sometimes a band is willing to take one share to be in the room. So maybe there’s four band members and two writers. The band members may agree to take just a third of the song between them. So, they would have a lesser percentage than the other two writers.

So, it’s important to have all that information and my recommendation would be to make a little file for each song. Put a lyric, a split sheet in there and then periodically go through and make sure that you have work tapes for each of the songs.

Chapter 3: Why are split sheets important?

The split sheets are important because people change publishing companies for one. Also, if something great happens with your song, the worst possible thing that can happen is that you can’t get in touch with one or more of your co-writers.

Especially in the sync world, sometimes you need to be able to get in touch with a co-writer immediately to see if you can license the song. So having two forms of ways to communicate with each co-writer with phone number and an email is very important. If all else fails, you can usually contact a co-writer through BMI, SESAC or ASCAP.

Whatever PRO they’re affiliated with can usually help you get in touch with a co-writer if say 10 years go by and something happens with your song and the phone number and the email are no longer good. You can usually go to the PRO and they’ll have current contact information on your co-writer and you can track them down.

Chapter 4: Is publishing important to list?

It’s important to have publishing listed there. If the writer is not published, you could just put “self” in that spot. If the writer does have a publisher, it’s important to put that in there and the complete publishing information. I have had over the course of my career, probably 10 different publishing companies. So, it’s always important to be able to know which publishing company I was with when I wrote a given song. The date can help track that down, but it also helps if I put the publishing company name.

Chapter 5: What if I have a pseudonym name?

The writers need to be sure that they use the name that they are signed up with under BMI, ASCAP, SESAC those kinds of things, because the whole point of the split sheet is for you to be able to track down your co-writers when something good happens with a song. So don’t neglect this piece of information.

Chapter 6: When should I collect this information?

It’s always easier if you can get all the information in the room on the day that you co-write. If you can get it in the room right then, it’s just easy to have everybody fill it out. People can take a picture of it if they all want a copy of it. And that’s why split sheets are important. And that’s why we recommend doing them all the time.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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