Co-writing music | Songwriters share copyrights

Co-Writing and Collaborating

If you are the sole creator of your musical piece, then you are likely claiming 100% ownership of your songs. However, if you are involving one or more people in the songwriting process, you are co-writing and collaborating to create your musical piece. In any collaboration, it is important to get clarity on each person’s roles and contributions.

Who is a Co-Writer or Collaborator?

So how do we determine who is a co-writer or collaborator? A very common songwriting partnership is where one writes the music and the other the lyrics. The clearly defined tasks of this example facilitate an easy 50/50 split. While some roles in music collaboration may be clear, other contributions can be overlooked. Perhaps one of your band members typically composes the majority of your original music. But what about your sax player who decides where the instrumental break occurs? Or even your drummer’s cousin who half jokingly suggests a tongue-in-cheek line that ends up becoming the hook? These folks are co-writing and collaborating on your musical piece. Yes, even ideas that are casually thrown around and contribute to your song are included in the intellectual copyrights.

It’s a good idea to have an open discussion with your co-writers or collaborators before diving into the songwriting process. I know, it can feel really counterintuitive to the creative process itself. A lot of co-writing and collaborating happens organically as people gravitate to each other and mesh their ideas. The rapport feels amazing and you are on a roll so the last thing you want to do is get all business-y and boring. 😉

Protect Your Creative Space

But here is the argument for switching gears momentarily. Getting the logistics and agreements compiled and out of the way actually frees up your creative space. Without clear copyright agreements, any contributor can make assumptions and form expectations. One or more parties can feel that their contributions are not receiving equitable ownership or fair profit portions. Disagreements are then likely to be far more fueled and harder to solve.

Once respect has been eroded, it is going to be very challenging to have a calm, rational conversation about credit sharing. If this has already happened to your band or co-writing partnership, all is not lost. If songwriters are motivated, it is worth saving a collaboration with talent and potential. Pick up some tips on the Art of Conflict Management.

Creating written agreements such as songwriters split sheets will serve to strengthen your professional relationships and co-writing efforts. It is also much easier to assign percentages of ownership to each composer or author when registering your musical works. Indeed, respect and appreciation for everyone’s talent and time put into the project will help creativity and collaborative efforts flourish.

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