Co-publishing deals

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  RoboKirk 4 months ago.

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  • #31870 Reply

    RoboKirk
    Participant

    I hear a lot of composers saying that you should never give up the copyright. Retaining the copyright, and therefor, the ownership of the song, is where the real power lies.

    But I’m also reading that co-publishing deals are the norm in today’s production music world, especially with EX libraries. In this case the publisher and writer co-own the copyright, sometimes in perpetuity. So in the “for perpetuity” case they forever own half the copyright? Then in some cases, I understand it can revert back to the writer.

    So is this part of the battle when being a composer of production music, trying to protect your own copyrights while still trying to sign deals with decent libraries? Especially as more libraries become EX.

    If I could ask, over how much of your own catalogue do you still retain full control?

    #31871 Reply

    Art Munson
    Keymaster

    If I could ask, over how much of your own catalogue do you still retain full control?

    All of it.

    #31872 Reply

    Music1234
    Participant

    Many of us do own 100% of our catalog (me included) but the reality is trying to roll it all back to only our own servers and hard drives is probably a massive effort.

    My music resides on music library servers all over the world via non-exclusive publishing deals, but those non-exclusive publishers then take the music and “sub publish” to libraries in territories and countries around the world. An attempt to unwind that distribution to 15 more countries and territories is nearly impossible.

    Simply stated: I don’t even know where a lot of my music is at this point in time, but I do know it sits on servers in Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England, The Netherlands, Sweeden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Mexico, Japan, Poland, and so on….This is not a bad thing either. Some nice royalty surprises happen due to worldwide distribution.

    #31877 Reply

    RoboKirk
    Participant

    Art, so this may be an obvious question, but does that mean you’ve never entered into any exclusive and “in perpetuity” arrangements?

    Then does that mean that you’re strictly non-exclusive? Or exclusive with reversion clauses? I know you’ve got a big presence in at least one non-ex library.

    I’m just trying to make sure I understand the business part of this. I’m currently in two libraries and have an album I want to shop around for a good third option. Appreciate all the useful information I’m getting here.

    #31878 Reply

    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    but does that mean you’ve never entered into any exclusive and “in perpetuity” arrangements?

    Providing content to an exclusive library doesn’t always mean you’re giving up your copyright, and you are, as copyright owner and author, entitled to collect writer royalties. In an exclusive Work for Hire agreement however you are giving away your copyright which means you no longer own the music; the company paying you is considered its author and copyright owner in law and is entitled to collect writers royalties. (Is that about right MichaelL?)

    I’ve just published an article for beginners. I’m not sure how new you are to this but maybe it will be helpful:

    #31879 Reply

    RoboKirk
    Participant

    Thanks, Michael. I read the article, I liked it, good beginner material, good review. But what I’m trying to understand better is about copyright and royalties and I’m not quite finding anywhere where it comes out and is clearly stated.

    The way I currently understand it is that if I sign with an EX library. I’m effectively granting them the copyright for the length of the contract. Right? I can’t do anything with that track until the terms of the contract are up. And while I’m in that deal they collect publisher royalties (50%) and I collect writer royalties (50%). In a co-publishing deal, they would maintain half the copyright and then be granted only half the publisher royalties, or 25% of the whole. And I, the writer, would collect 75%.

    I read somewhere, that royalties are paid to the copyright holder and to the writer. But I haven’t read that anywhere else but that makes sense. If that’s the case, then the copyright holder and the publisher are effectively the same thing?

    #31880 Reply

    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    Okay, I’ll take a stab at it. I’m no trained expert, so others may correct me!

    The way I currently understand it is that if I sign with an EX library. I’m effectively granting them the copyright for the length of the contract. Right?

    What you are granting are “rights”, not “copyrights”. For the length of the contract you’ve given them the exclusive “rights” to represent your music. The copyright remains yours. Of course this depends on each individual contract. Look for wording like:

    “nothing contained herein shall be deemed to convey to library any interest, including copyright, in or to the tracks, and the tracks shall be the sole property of Licensor.”

    In a co-publishing deal, they would maintain half the copyright and then be granted only half the publisher royalties, or 25% of the whole. And I, the writer, would collect 75%.

    In a deal where you will split the publishing you, as the owner of the copyright, will grant them the right to collect a portion of the publishing royalty. Transferring 1/2 of the copyright is not necessary.

    >I read somewhere, that royalties are paid to the copyright holder and to the writer. But I haven’t read that anywhere else but that makes sense. If that’s the case, then the copyright holder and the publisher are effectively the same thing?<

    The writer (author) of the piece of music is the copyright holder, unless they’ve signed it away. Again, look for contract wording as in the example above. Exclusive contracts do not have to give away copyrights. Remember, if you sign away the copyright then the entity paying you for it is now considered by law its author.

    #31881 Reply

    RoboKirk
    Participant

    Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your time and all the information in your reply. I get what you’re saying. Here’s what one library has on their website:

    If mutually agreed upon, <the Library> will enter into a Co-publishing agreement with you on an EXCLUSIVE basis (Song basis only, but required to meet a minimum), where <the Library> will own 50% of the copyright and administer 100% of the Publisher Share based on Worldwide, in Perpetuity. This means that the music will only be available through <the Library> and all licensing will go through us. On Performing Rights, <the Library> will receive 50% of Publishing.

    So this is what made me go around searching co-pub deals to see if this is the norm. And from what I’ve read on the internet (and of course it’s all true!), it’s standard to split the copyright 50/50. And in this case in perpetuity!

    I guess I’m just trying to get me head around it and try to understand whether or not this is the accepted practice. If it is, I can’t imagine signing any EX, in perpetuity, contracts. You can kiss those tracks good bye. Unless there’s great up-front money, and/or the promise of great backend.

    #31896 Reply

    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    So in this case they are not offering an administration only agreement, but are asking for a portion of the copyright (ownership). The deal is in perpetuity so I don’t see much difference as you would never get the administration rights back anyway.

    #31897 Reply

    Music1234
    Participant

    I guess I’m just trying to get me head around it and try to understand whether or not this is the accepted practice. If it is, I can’t imagine signing any EX, in perpetuity, contracts. You can kiss those tracks good bye. Unless there’s great up-front money, and/or the promise of great backend.

    Remember that nothing in this business is “standard” and there is no such thing as “accepted practice”. everything is negotiable. Signing an exclusive deal in perpetuity where the music library/ publisher takes full control of the compositions and sound recordings (Masters) for $0 compensation up front is typically a terrible deal. The only way I’d ever consider it is if I were guaranteed in writing the the cues were going to get an enormous amount of high profile TV usage generating a substantial amount of back end performance royalties for many years not just hundreds per year, but really…thousands of dollars per year. They also would have to be willing to split every sync fee 50/50

    In my opinion, (this is only my opinion) Composers who want to write cues for TV shows should only consider deals that are non-exclusive or exclusive for 2 years, then ask for the right to:
    1. renew the deal for another 2 if you had success with solid tv placements and earned decent performance royalties.
    2. Just transition to NE (after the 2 year deal is up) which would allow you to keep the cue in the library “as is”, but you then have the right to place the cue in other NE libraries.

    I’ve said this a lot on this forum but It still holds true here in March 2019, You can not make a livable wage in this business unless your music is earning from multiple revenue sources.

    Over the years I have tried many stock licensing sites and many publishers/ music libraries. At this point, I am down to 4 libraries that feed cues to TV shows, and 4 stock music licensing sites.

    I have pulled my music out of about 5 or 6 companies that were not generating any revenue. I do not have the exact same music and all tracks with every company.

    All 8 sources of revenue are extremely important to creating a livable wage.

    All publishers know this, because guess what, publishers (the owners of these companies) are composers too. They know how hard it is, yet they still act as predators towards young writers or newbie folks and strip away control of the compositions and sound recordings so they can control the intellectual property in perpetuity.

    Now more than ever, everyone needs TV back end performance royalties, and direct licensing “sync fee” revenue from stock music licensing platforms.

    #31901 Reply

    RoboKirk
    Participant

    Signing an exclusive deal in perpetuity where the music library/ publisher takes full control of the compositions and sound recordings (Masters) for $0 compensation up front is typically a terrible deal.

    Perfect! Thanks that’s just what I needed to see. I’ve got an album of decent enough material (IMAO) that I’m trying to shop around, trying to get into my first EX library. I’m looking through stuff right now trying to find two to apply to. I will definitely keep your words in mind. Several of the libraries I’m looking at say that the contract is in perpetuity! I think I’ll avoid those.

    I like your setup, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you found a nice sweep spot. Which I’m sure came from many years of hard work. I’d like to get there someday, but I’m not holding my breath. Because of subscription services and streaming rights, everything seems to be in a total flux and it all feels up in the air. We’ll see where it all lands in the years to come.

    In the meantime I just like music, writing music, etc. I’ll see if I can make some money before all music everywhere is completely de-valued.

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