As an independent artist, you’ve already got plenty of things to worry about: building your fanbase, expanding your brand, promoting your music (after you create it of course) and then hitting the road to go tour.
One of the most effective ways to get your name out there is to work with other artists. A bit of collaboration can go a long way in the music world, so if you are looking for an easy way to managing your appeal and your reputation working with someone else is a good idea.
However, when you co-write a song with someone, you need to make sure that both parties are getting paid fairly. Given you don’t have someone to manage all of this for you as you are on your own, it would make a lot of sense for you to invest in understanding the publication and management of split sheets.
Now, in American parlance, any co-written content without an express written agreement will ensure there is an equal share depending on the number of people involved. To help you ensure this does not happen, you want to build what is known as a split sheet.
This is a written piece of paper that is going to put down in writing the actual ownership rate of the song. This is sheet that literally determines in black and white how much of the song someone owns. Without a split sheet, you cannot really moan about the price that you get for a song.
You can instead find good templates online, or hire a freelancer to build one for you. Every song that you co-write with someone needs a split sheet, so getting a template made up is quite nice.
You probably won’t need to get a legal mind to look over it for you either, which is nice. Instead, you can make sure that you are on pace to get the best representation without having to spend boatloads on legal advice or contracts.
What are publishing split sheets?
So, what is a publishing split sheet and why do you need it?
Publishing split sheets are document that clearly state who wrote what percentage of the songs recorded by an artist or band. A split sheet should be created for each and every song you write, as a first thing before any commercial steps are taken.
We recommend that you should make one more or less as soon as the song is co-written. When all involved are happy with the track, made a split sheet that everyone can agree to.
Make sure it is as clear as day on the paper who owns what percentage of the song, so that when it makes a success of you all any disputes can always be referred back to this agreed upon document.
Not only will it be easier to help make sure that money on the table isn’t corrupting mind-sets and egos, but it helps to ensure you get a much more accurate reflection of who done what.
Months down the line it can be hard to remember who done what, so a split sheet written up as soon as possible is absolutely vital.
If you have co-written music already that don’t have a split sheet, get in touch with your collaborators and get it done. Without doing so, you are leaving yourself short should any success be forthcoming either now or in the future.
Determining the split is usually the hard part, so you should try and split it evenly among everyone.
So if you had two writers, go 50/50. If you had four writers, go 25/25/25/25. Of course, you might want to be a bit more business-minded and put in place a percentage program instead. If someone just done a small bit of sampling then they most likely aren’t entitled to the same as the lead singer, for example.
It does depend, though, because one could argue that without all the elements together the song might never have been a success. It might be that small bit of work only worth 10% to you that made the song a massive hit.
It’s hard to work out and means that, as an independent artist, you should all be working together to find a fair solution.
It’s hard to work out the value and the overall contribution and this is where most of the arguments stem from. To help you avoid that problem, you need only get in touch with the rest of the team and arrange a discussion that won’t evolve into an argument.
Allow everyone to say their peace and make a salient point. It’s not worth falling out over or heading to the courts over, is it?
How to create a publishing split sheet
Now you also need to know how to actually do the writing itself.
So long as you have an Microsoft Word table with categories such as Song Name, Contributions, Publishing Companies for each member and their overall role in the creation of the song, as well as contact details, you are well on the right path to having a sheet set up that can be used.
Make a copy and use it for each new song that is put together. It’s so much easier to build a long-term solution that is almost certainly going to help your business grow and improve in the right way.
Although it might take a lot of time and effort to get it right in terms of what goes into the slots, writing the split sheet is not the hard part.
The challenge is sitting down amicably with everyone to make the sheet. Fill it out together, never alone, and make sure it’s clearly dated, signed and timestamped so that nobody can claim otherwise.
It takes a lot of work to get this right but you should never allow the music or its values to be denounced or weakened in any way, shape or form.
Take the time that you need to build up a platform that is going to help people see a fair and adequate pricing structure for the hard work that they put in and you are going to be so much closer to keeping all parties happy.
Sure, it might not work out exactly as you hoped, but at least now you have an accurate representation of where any co-written content should be handled.