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Pringles
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5th July 2011
Old 5th July 2011
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Question Songwriter - Singer agreement

Hi, I'm about to work with a singer on a project and I would like to write a legal agreement so everything is clear between us. But I don't know how to write this kind of documents. I don't even know where to look to find relevant examples in google that can apply to my case.

I'll be producing, composing, recording, mixing, arranging the tracks and he will write the lyrics, sing and compose half of the vocal melodies (I'll compose the vocals with him, this will be a 50/50 work). We will both take our fees from the sales of the tracks so what do you think should be a fair repartition between us? 50/50? 60/40? 70/30?

And besides the role and fees of each party, I don't know what other clauses should be added to this agreement, so any input would be appreciated. Maybe you have agreement examples you can show me?

Thanks!
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5th July 2011
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I don't have any but 50/50 is fair, anything else is hair-splitting.
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6th July 2011
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50/50 applied to everything would be easy to administer. If you start saying things like "50/50 on the songwriting but 70/30 on sales of these particular recording..." and so on, would be more work and be more likely to cause bad feelings. Your greatest success will come from both of you feeling a part of the whole process. Both of you contributing your most and feeling valued by your partner.
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6th July 2011
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50/50 even though I'm doing more work on each track?
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6th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
Hi, I'm about to work with a singer on a project and <snip> show me?

Thanks!
First, the chances that you will sell quantities which are anything more than beer money are remote.

Second, instead of thinking about how you are going to divide up nothing (i.e the value of what you will sell), put some consideration into the division of labour. If you're doing the production work and providing the equipment, then your partner should be doing the artwork, promotion to press/radio, website, booking the tour, and matching your effort minute for minute. That way you might sell some. And, the promotion part of it has to be locked in with a solid plan which runs at least 4 months from the date of record completion.

Third, for the sake of simplicity and engagement in the process, I'd just let the partner do all the lyrics and treat the songwriting as 50/50

Fourth, if you provide the gear and the skills to make the record, you own the recording. But if your partner is fulfilling the promotion role actively, then is just like the two halves of a label so 50/50 on sales is fine.

Fifth, no comment on the legal stuff :-)

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6th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
50/50 even though I'm doing more work on each track?
Well, what is it that you're really looking for? Are you really that interested in the additional percentage points of the expected money, or are you just trying to make a statement to your partner that you feel you're contributing more than he is? It's none of my business but it's worthwhile asking yourself. Equal partnerships are hard enough to make succeed, unequal partnerships rarely succeed.
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Hey hey hey. If the OP is in fact doing more than half of the work, it's only fair that he gets more than half of the profit. You're kind of making it sound like he would be a jerk for asking for what is his.

You don't see artists (and certainly not record labels) taking less money than what they earned just to avoid the possibility of hurting feelings. Yes, you want to have a good relationship with your collaborator, and no, you don't want to get greedy chasing after every last penny. But if you let your artist take more than he/she deserves, you're creating a bad relationship anyway, and you're not getting paid. Let's stand up for ourselves, producers!

Also, I agree a good way to resolve this situation would be to give the artist additional responsibilities so that the artist really is doing half of the work, and then split it 50/50.

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Well, you open up the question of defining and valuating "work" and "worth". If you spend 4 hours writing a fabulously catchy song, and I spend 4 hours recording it does that mean we should each claim 50% of the credit and profits? If I've spent 20 years developing my writing skills and you've spent 20 years developing your recording skills does that necessarily mean that each skill set is identical in value?

If the OP were talking about doing business with a big (or even not so big) commercial operation (such as a label or pro studio) then I would offer a different opinion on how to do "business". In my experience, when you set out on a partnership that is based primarily in creativity you're more likely to have satisfying success if you don't *start* the partnership by niggling over shared profits. If one or both of the prospective partners already feels the need to set him/herself above the other due to self-perceived superiority (i.e. contribution) then there are issues to be resolved before the creativity can take place.

I'm sure that there are people who manage to have satisfying business *and* creative partnerships with someone but more often than not it's either the business or the creative partnership which defines the relationship (i.e. the partnership is *primarily* either creative or business). I find it best to decide upfront if a partnership is based on business (monetary profit) or creativity. If I go for "creative" then things work best with everyone sharing (credit and responsibility).

YMMV

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6th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
50/50 even though I'm doing more work on each track?
For all you know, the simple hook or short phrase your partner came up with in 5 minutes is the very "thing" that puts your song over the top! In art, the intangibles are everything and by definition, intangibles can not be quantified. Who is to say which piece of the work is the most 'valuable' to the final project?

If you actually think you are going to make money, you could stipulate that your current hourly rate for your studio and engineering time could come off the top. Or after a certain point is reached.

Making the split for producing/composing/writing 50-50 has emotional benefits that go beyond the simplicity of dividing by two.
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6th July 2011
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To each his own sir. I agree that neither party should be trying to squeeze out as much as they can. I just think starting a relationship based on equal credit for unequal work is more likely to cause sour grapes than distributing credit roughly according to value contributed. I know if I were in a partnership where I was contributing only 30% of the value, I would be uncomfortable accepting 50% of the profits.

And you're right, who is contributing value can vary a lot depending on the situation. One person could be doing 10% of the work but still contributing 90% of the value, and they would deserve 90% of the profits. There's no hard and fast rule, and the op and his partner are probably most qualified to gauge who is contributing what proportion of the value.

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Thanks guys for the replies. I think I'll conceide 50% of the composing rights, put a value on the other services I'll provide and take this amount before the 50/50 split. I find it to be the best way to go.

Do you know where I could find examples of such legal agreements between a songwriter & a singer?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
Thanks guys for the replies. I think I'll conceide 50% of the composing rights, put a value on the other services I'll provide and take this amount before the 50/50 split. I find it to be the best way to go.
You would be much better entering a partnership where the other partner matches your production time and effort doing stuff that helps sell the music = promotion. Otherwise, the whole thing is pointless - you simply won't sell enough to even pay for a day worth of your equipment and labour.

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6th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yosemitesam View Post
Hey hey hey. If the OP is in fact doing more than half of the work, it's only fair that he gets more than half of the profit.
Who do you think does more work on a record? The artist or the production crew. It's never about who does more work - it's about what value you put into a work.
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6th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
Thanks guys for the replies. I think I'll conceide 50% of the composing rights, put a value on the other services I'll provide and take this amount before the 50/50 split. I find it to be the best way to go.

Do you know where I could find examples of such legal agreements between a songwriter & a singer?
Just do heads of agreement. Write it in plain english and both sign it. I've worked on projects in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars with no more contract than a HOA. In fact I'm working on a project right now with a 70 million dollar budget and I haven't even GOT a contract. Also there is a product on the shelves right now with dozens of licenses in it and no contracts have yet been exchanged.... it's all HOA. Long forms are a pain and cost you money. If you want to get a lawyer involved - then that's up to you - but a heads WILL suffice (just as an email does). A contract is only proof of an agreement in an unambiguous way as possible BUT it is not the agreement itself. That is the relationship between you and the other party and anyway of proving that relationship is your "contract". Simple one page agreement of major points is all you need at this stage.
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