So I had a conversation with one of my friends the other day, he is a songwriter/recording artist and he was asking me about getting his music on iTunes, one thing led to another and we ended up discussing musical copyrights. The more we spoke the more I realize he did not realize that every song has 2 distinctive and separate copyrights. Every song has a “Musical Composition” and “Sound Recording” copyright.
I then started shuffling through some old albums I had and gave him the booklet. I told him to read the credits and tell me if he sees the 2 symbols that represent the respective copyrights of each song. He easily identified the “© Copyright Symbol”, this symbol represents “Musical Compositions”. After a good 20 mins I pointed to the “Ⓟ Copyright Symbol”, this symbol represents “Sound Recordings”.
Now Musical Compositions are the the music and lyrics of the song. Where as Sound Recordings are the actual fixed recordings of the song. You can have many Copyrighted versions of a Sound Recording, but there can only ever be one Musical Composition Copyright.
Royalties are paid based on who owns what Copyright. The typical owners are record labels, publishers, songwriters and recording artists. Traditionally, songwriters and their publishers own the © Musical Composition Copyright and the record labels and recording artists own the Ⓟ Sound Recording Copyright. This makes sense based on 2 things:
- The process in which the song was created
- The percentage of money split between copyright owners
When a song is created, it is done by songwriters and composers, now there can be multiple songwriters and composers so for the sake of simplicity let’s assume the songwriter is the composer in this case. After he/she writes the song, they will need help shopping demos and previews in hopes of someone wanting to use it, that’s where the publisher comes in. The publisher then shops the music and gets it placed with a record label. At this point the © Copyright is complete, the songwriter/composer created the song and the publisher got it placed (record label, TV, Movies etc).
Below is one of my songs touching on the subject of Copyrights and Royalties when your coming from a small island, Click the link to listen:
The songwriter/composer receives 50% of the income generated by the Musical Composition and so does the publisher. Now after the record label or production company works out a deal with the publisher, the record label then assigns the song to one of it’s recording artists. The record label secures the rights to the song and the recording artist records it in the studio and performs it live in concert. The record label receives 50% of the income generated by the Sound Recording and so does the recording artist.
These numbers are not at all set in stone, they are just the standard, but it is not uncommon for labels to own 100% of the copyright or publishers owning 100% of income generated. In another post we will discuss Co-Publishing deals in lengthier detail which are simply songwriters creating their own publishing companies and signing the publishing rights to their own company, then enter into a publishing agreement with a more established publisher.
Remember that the songwriter is entitled to 50% and the publisher is entitled to 50% also, but if their are 2 publishers and they split 50% then both publishers receive 25% each. So if the songwriter still has their 50% songwriter share and the 2 publishing companies split their ownership percentage equally then the songwriter’s company gets 25%, which means that in the end the songwriter owns 75% of the © Musical Composition Copyright and the other publisher owns 25%.The subject of Copyrights can become very complex but knowing the business side of your music is crucial to your success. Next week we will continue this topic and dive in a little more deeper into royalties, and how Copyrights and Royalties are viewed in the Caribbean.