The age of digitization and globalization has made the process of producing and distributing music accessible to anyone with a laptop. There has been an emergence of a multitude of courses and resources dedicated to educating the aspiring musician or producer – covering everything from creativity and skill to marketing and promotion.
Yet there is one domain that remains mostly unspoken about, one which I believe is absolutely crucial to understand thoroughly, especially today where there is a necessity for every artist to double as an entrepreneur. This is the ever-elusive and seemingly complex domain of copyrights.
There’s a reason it’s called intellectual property.
Your songs are your assets, not your products.
Every song has the potential to yield multiple sources of revenue over time.
Before we get into that, it’s important to take the first step of clarifying ownership of your assets. By default, each and every person who had anything to do with the recording of your song, right from the musicians to the engineers, is legally allowed to claim a stake in your song and its revenues. We know these are lovely people and won’t do so, but nevertheless – if you are a person who has invested your creativity, time, and money into a song and believe yourself to be its sole owner – put it on paper.
In this article, we highlight the two most common band/artist scenarios prevailing in our country; and share a “Master Agreement” template for each.
In both scenarios, the band is not legally registered as its own entity, i.e a company.
(Note: This will only cover the ownership and administration of rights in the Sound Recording of the song, and not the underlying composition and lyrics.)
You are part of a band where all members are considered equal stakeholders in the writing and recording process of the songs you put out.
Since the band itself is not legally registered as a company or partnership, it is advisable to entrust one member with the rights to the master; while ensuring revenues are distributed equally to everyone. This is purely for the sake of ease in administration.
When master royalties from streaming come in, or the song is licensed for any sync usage, the money goes to this member’s bank account. He/she is then obligated to pay the rest of the band.
You are the primary songwriter, and finance the recordings of the songs yourself.
In such a case, you may want to retain ownership entirely, but also want your fellow musicians to be remunerated for their contributions.
There are two options in this scenario:
- You pay the musicians a session fee to play and record their parts, and they agree to waive off any rights they may hold in your song.
- You pay the musicians an agreed percentage of revenues arising from the master.
Click here to download agreement templates for each of these scenarios.
Once your master agreement is in place, you are clear to distribute, license, and monetize your songs through all sources imaginable; while having a clear understanding of who owns what, and how much revenue is everyone entitled to if any.
This is the first necessary step to pursue professional and transparent collaborations.
Shoot us an email if you have any questions!