SongTown Say Whaaaa??? This Business of Songwriting Can Be Crazy!


Today I got an email from a talented SongTownian who asked me if it was a good idea to sign a contract that allowed his co-writer to negotiate contracts on their song on his behalf. And gave the co-writer 100% of the publishing on any deal made.

Say WHaaaaaa??????

I had to read that twice!! Did I really just read that someone wanted a SongTownian to sign this?

I have been songwriting professionally for 25 years and have NEVER had a co-writer ever attempt to take control of my negotiating power! When a song is co-written, each person owns and controls their portion of the song separately!

First of all, your mechanical and performance royalties are set by US Congress and Rate Court. There is no negotiating for those. That leaves TV and Film and a variety of other sync fees that can be negotiated. What if the person negotiates a bad deal for you? Worse yet‰… gives up your rights for FREE and costs you potentially thousands of dollars down the road.

Secondly, what if the person places a song as music promoting a product you’re not comfortable with? Maybe you don’t want your song promoting the latest adult film or hemorrhoid cream?????

**Of course, I am no attorney and this is not meant to take the place of any needed legal advice. I just call it out like I see it and sometimes this business can get CRAZY!

Write On!  ~Clay

clay-mills-songtown

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. His songs have been recorded by such artist as Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Babyface, and Kimberly Locke. He has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Follow him here: www.songtown.comat www.claymills.com

9 thoughts on “SongTown Say Whaaaa??? This Business of Songwriting Can Be Crazy!

  1. I do of course see the point in signing over a certain percentage, if the co-writer has a publishing deal and there by means to get the song further out there (exact percentage depending on said deal). After all percentages, in my personal universe, is nothing else than potential money that I dont really assign any artistic relevance to. It’s still 50/50 no matter who happens to “have it” any given day.
    How ever, signing over NEGOTIATION rights in this respect is plain crazy.

  2. I’ve been in some cowrites that produced songs suitable for film and TV. I’ve heard that film and TV music buyers work on tight deadlines and they have two concerns: 1) getting a piece contactually committed quickly, and 2) have the piece 100% cleared, that is, all UMC holders and all SR holders have agreed to the contract. (UMC=underlying musical composition; SR=the sound recording (“master”). If I get a phone call from a buyer wanting to fax me a contract, I could be in the position of getting a signature from a cowriter (or more rights holders) in a short period of time. I’m not an attorney, but I’ve heard of an agreement between rights holders (UMC and SR) whereby one party may administratively “control” a piece of music. That is, administrative control would allow one person to commit the 100% of the piece quickly without changing any ownership percentages. The key here would be that the rights holders would have to agree in advance on the parameters of any commitment. Otherwise, Clay’s caution would come into play: you could end up in a deal you don’t want to be in. Transparency and advance communication would go a long way here. I’m still learning about this and would appreciate any correction or amplification about what I’ve written here.

    1. Yes Dave. Upfront communication is key. And in today’s world 95% of the time, I can get ahold of any co-writer in a matter of minutes with a text. The above deal was also not just for sync. It was for everything. For 100% of the publishing and admin control of the publishing. Not a fair deal for this writer. What if writer #2 that signed away everything, went out and got the major sync placement. Is writer #1 then willing to give everything to writer #2? That is not the case in this scenario so it’s not a fair deal.

    1. So I have alot of lyrics but no money I am a computer illiterate I know some stuff on the computer but not much I have no money but good lyrics where can we go from here

  3. While I understand and agree for the most part, unfortunately if you are in the Film/TV world of music, libraries and music supervisors want ONE go-to person as they don’t have the time nor want to headache of having to reach out to 2 or 3 or more co-writers. Yes this makes things a bit iffy when it comes to co-writes if your doing it for Film/TV you just have to really trust that the writer who is the liaison most definitely has your best interest at hand. If you are not comfortable in this type of arrangement than co-writing for Film/TV is probably not your thing. Yes when a song is co-written EACH writer can do want they want with the song but in Film/TV all have to be in agreement and often there is not time to go back and forth with several parties to get everyone’s stamp of approval so those who actually place the music want to know they can make one call to one person and get it done. Unfortunately many songwriters, even some of the best in Nashville do not understand the world of Film/TV although it is a very different game so I understand that.

    1. Chris, I have had many TV/Film/sync placements. Including national TV commercials. I started in advertising and it’s always been a part of my game. Even as I’ve had major artist record my songs. I totally get where you are coming from. The above contract I was referencing, did not involve only sync. It was for everything. But even if it was for sync, if a writer has a publisher already, they can’t give someone else admin control over their song. Their publisher has that control. Writers with different publishers get sync placements all the time. But you are correct. Easy clear is definitely important in sync. Not in the record business. The key is communication with your co-writers. And knowing what are fair business practices. One co-writer controlling all admin for a song is NOT fair. What if the writer #2 that signed signed away everything, went out and placed the song? Is writer #1, that took all the control, willing to give up 100% of publishing to writer #2? Fair is fair, right?

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