In this module we are going to cover the topic of royalty splits. Everyone has a different way of splitting songs up in terms of percentages so we will cover the pros and cons of each.
Firstly, there is no right or wrong way to have the royalties discussion with other writers. The main thing is to make sure that all parties involved are being clear. As Brene Brown says ‘clear is kind’
I’ve been in some sessions where the discussion was unclear and the environment became strained. This instantly impacts negatively on creativity.
What are some of the percentage breakdowns of a song?
In the past, splits have been separated into 50% music and 50% lyrics.
Therefore if one member did all the lyrics and one did all the music, they would each get 50%.
However, sometimes, the most difficult thing to write is a catchy melody. Therefore, you will see splits have changed in current times to include melody. A lot of modern writers and producers prefer to do splits this way, including myself.
There are two main scenarios for writing sessions.
These scenarios have different workflows with regard to the best way to split the royalties.
A friend of yours calls you up and says “Hey, I have this song that I can’t finish. Can you help me finish it?” In this case, your friend has brought a song to you. It’s expected that they will hold a large portion of the royalties because they came up with the initial idea.
The royalty conversation needs to include how much new content you have brought to the song and what you feel is a correct representation of the split. Understand again that royalties are split into those three main categories.
You and a few friends decide to write a song from scratch. There is no prepared material, you just want to write a song. In this case, the easiest and simplest way I have found to do splits, is to evenly split with everyone in the room. If you are in the room when a song is started, you get an equal split, regardless of how much of the song you write! If there are four people in a writing session, then they each get 25%.
In both of these scenarios you need to decide on whether or not you want to have the conversation upfront, or at the end of the session.
The advantage of upfront conversation is that it can relieve pressure from the writing session. People can get nervous about how much of the song they are or are not writing: lyrics, chords etc. Upfront conversation clears the air because all participants know that they will get their share of the royalties.
The advantage of talking about royalty-split after writing, is that it alleviates the awkwardness of the conversation, particularly when you don’t know each other very well or have only just met. Having the conversation at the end is easier once you have spent some time together.
However, whether before or after writing, it is always best to have this conversation as early as possible. Never leave it for weeks or months, because people will have too easily forgotten who wrote which part and this will bring angst, uncertainty and possibly conflict into the process.