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"Song Contracts and Signing With Your Publisher"

George McClure Rules of Thumb

1. If you are offered an exclusive, see a trusted entertainment attorney before signing. Many people have the tendency to go to a trusted attorney - don't! See a music attorney. Have your family lawyer refer you to someone she or he knows.
2. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Sign a few songs here, a few there, and see what develops.
3. If someone offers cash money for your song, follow 1. above.
4. The usual split is 50/50 writer/publisher. Your Performing Rights Organization (PRO) pays your performance and airplay royalties directly to you.

Single Song Contracts

This is where the publisher signs one (or a few) of your songs, typically for the duration of the copyright. Single song contracts are common, especially with new and emerging writers.

Signing a few songs to a publisher is often a good way to get to know the publisher, how they do business, and to see if they are right for you.

Reversion Clauses (Revision Clause)

Publishing rights revert back to the writer after a predefined period.

After you get a few songs signed, and build a track record with cuts or releases, you will have more bargaining power. Publishers often resist reversion clauses for the simple reason, they invest significant time and resources in getting your song cut. They have no way to judge how long this may take, and they don't want to do all the work and have someone else profit after the reversion clause has taken effect.

Reversion clauses are much more common in staff writer contracts, where the writer is producing hits and has guaranteed earnings.

Staff Writer Contracts (Exclusive Writer Contract)

The writer is signed for a period of time, during which he receives a stipend or draw against royalties. Everything the writer creates during the period covered by the contract belongs to the publisher.

Reversion clause is common in this situation, as the writer's songs are being placed and 'exploited' over a discrete period of time.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE Nashville Songwriting [1995; Cupit Music] by Jerry Cupit. "Nashville Songwriting" » » »
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