Publishing, Copyright, Licences, Contracts

the fun parts of music making.

I have some specific questions about music rights management, if any of you have any knowledge on this.

what is the best legal construction to achieve me having the full, sole, exclusive and unlimited license to a piece of instrumental music to be able to record several vocalists over, creating several songs on this instrumental music, while at the same time giving the creator/performer of the instrumental music an equal share in the profits of all income derived from these recordings?

a work for hire / flat fee contract with the creator of the instrumental, which also stipulates a revenue share percentage?

or a percentage split of the master ownership, say 50% for the vocalist on every individual recording, 25% for myself and 25% for the creator of the instrumental, with the express agreement that I solely own the exclusive license to the resulting songs and the initial instrumental?

question being, does me giving up so called master percentage higher than my own, ‘front end earnings’, proclude me from owning the exclusive license at the same time? is there an implied or explicit relationship between percentage ownership of the master recording and the ‘deciding power’ on how and where to exploit the music in the marketplace? is it enough to specify this exclusive license in the same contract, or is there a contradiction there, that could cause problems in the future?


1 Like

Preface: I negotiate research-related contracts for an IHE for a living, but I don’t work in tech transfer (typically the office which handles IP portfolios and licensing). Just wanted to put this out there since I’m probably not really qualified to respond, but may have just enough experience (unrelated to music licensing) to poke my nose where it may not belong :slight_smile:

From your perspective, this is probably the best mechanism - it’s also probably the worst from the ‘creator’s.’ In work-for-hire, they would be assigning all copyright to you. I’ve never seen revenue sharing under such an arrangement. They are typically used when the ‘provider’ has minimal-to-no intellectual contribution to the project, such as if you were paying someone to play something you wrote.

I think it sounds like you would want a royalty-free exclusive license for commercial use and maybe have the right to sublicense given that you will be developing derivative works?

Sorry if all of this was too obvious or vague to be of any help.

1 Like

Yes I feel it would be too much to the detriment of the creator to do it this way, that’s why I prefer the shared rights option with the exclusive license being with me.

Yes well, I’m less concerned with paying a royalty to the creator on the derivative works, I would be ok with 50% of the rights of any derivative work going to the respective vocalist, 25% to myself and 25% to the creator of the instrumental.

Given that, it is purely about not contradicting any rights / standard practices. I want to be able to be the sole ‘decider’ so to speak, what projects the instrumental will be used in. But if I take a split like above which is my preferred one, I would be concerned that this lower split for me does not contradict me still being the one who decides on the derivative projects as producer and license holder.

But as far as I understand it is possible to keep the mentioned split while me retaining the exclusive license and right to sublicense. As long as this is clearly stipulated in the contracts. Do you agree?

thanks for the reply.

1 Like

I’m not certain how this works with copyright and sublicensing, but in the patent realm, this is totally doable. The contract would include language designating the party responsible for patent prosecution (and the rights of the parties in the event of abandonment), regardless of the share of ownership. It’s possible that the party with the lower revenue share could control.

So I think you’re very likely correct provided it is spelled out. It’s also likely implied by the exclusive nature of the license w/ right to sublicense since the other party would be prevented from further licensing, but in the interest of transparency, it’s probably best to be explicit so that the person providing the instrumental properly understands what they giving up.

1 Like

This time a million.

@Samekid both of those deals seem fine – typically, money is split 50/50 between the songwriter and the publisher (you). You can give up a big share of the songwriting royalties and still get 50% as the publisher (at least that’s how it works here in the US right now). Most record labels take exclusive publishing rights and royalties for songs, and distribute the songwriting royalties among the artists involved. Whatever you can negotiate with the artists should be fine as long as they agree to it.
I generally request credit, a reasonable flat rate, and a small percentage of royalties (points). I also negotiate to use the final product in my portfolio/reel (if I like it).
Whatever you all agree on, just make sure it’s all as clear as possible and in writing. This ensures that all parties involved are clear about what’s what.

1 Like