How do we decide who gets credited for the song?
For example Yesterday -words and music by Paul McCartney
Say I write the words and the guitar part. The drummer writes the drum part.
Would it be
Words and music by *my name *drummer?
Whoever writes the lyrics obviously gets credit for those. Music can be tricky. Most people go with whoever actually wrote the song and the melody. If that song was already completed by you (song structure, rhythms, melodies, etc.) before you brought it to the drummer and all he did was add drums to an already existing piece of music, I wouldn't credit him with writing the music.

Now, if you brought him the song, and he expanded upon the existing music just by simply humming you a different melody line to play and you end up using his suggestions, he would get music writing credits.

EDIT: Oh, and alot of bands just skip that stuff and put "All words and music written by -insert band name here-* even though only two people might have done the majority of the writing
Last edited by neversleeps84 at Aug 7, 2011,
There is an established industry "rule" dating back to the days when songs were written on piano with vocal... if it was the same guy, he took full credit, if it was a duo, they split...
Now, move on to bands... typically if the vocalist writes his lyrics all of a sudden he gets 50% of the songwriting credit, even if that means the four musicians who may have spent weeks refining the musical arrangement have far more invested into the song. It's not fair, but it is the typical split... derived from "Words and Music".

Many bands split everything equally, which is noble, but often creates resentment because most of the time there are one or two principle songwriters that do a majority of the work.

In my opinion, the guy who brings the idea to the band is the primary songwriter... the others add their parts based on the fundamental idea of the guy directing the arrangement. If a drummer (or any other bandmember) suggests an entire section of a song, including suggesting chords/melody, he gets writing credit based on the percentage of that content in relation to the song... if he simply plays his instrument to accompany the original concept, that isn't songwriting, that's his job as a member.
If the guitarist brings the idea, chord structure, arrangement, and the vocalist adds lyrics and a melody (which, let's face it, must correspond with or exceed the concept in the guitarists head in the first place, or he's gonna nix the idea), the singer deserves a credit percentage based on his contribution to the overall song... still, unless the vocalist suggests some musical changes that improve the song to fit his vocal, I don't think it's worth 50%. In many cases the primary songwriter is going to come back and make suggestions that improve the melody/phrasing/lyrics of the vocalist anyway.

Now, unless you write a hit song, in all reality, the money a songwriter receives from 100% credit won't buy him a case of guitar strings. There are times when this whole issue can be problematic... like when a bandmember who isn't particularly talented in songwriting demands input. The bandmembers MUST realize that the songs you complete and record are those that put the band's best foot forward no matter who wrote them. If you get a bandmember who throws a tantrum because nobody likes his song ideas, calmly remind him that only the best ideas can be considered.

If you jam and pull something out of it together, share credit. In most cases when someone brings an idea to the band, they have a concept of the verse and chorus ahead of time. Once the band has the basic framework, open the floor to take the best ideas on a clever intro, bridge, and ending.

A song isn't done when it's OK, it's done when every part is there for a reason, and it can't get better. Also, no song needs more than 4 parts... if you have a song with 8 parts, either 4 of them are unnecessary dick-dancing or you should have let them develop and written two or even three songs from those parts instead.

Take a hint from all the great classical compositions... even if they're 12 minutes long, they are comprised of themes with subtle variation.
Have a great idea? Make it into it's own theme...
Last edited by Terry Gorle at Aug 8, 2011,
To keep it simple (since I, like 99.9% of people writing songs am not going to be making money on royalties anyway) I always agree on collaborations to split each part evenly among the people that actually contributed no matter what the exact level of input was. Of course, the standard remains where lyrics=half and music=half.

On the last EP I cranked out, for example, I wrote all the lyrics and the most I got from other people is some advice on what wasn't working and some synonym suggestions, so 100% went to me. I wrote all the chord progressions, bass lines, and vocal melodies, but my producer came up with all the other instrumentation--instead of trying to figure out a ratio of ownership, we just said "music by x and y." and the credit and rights are split right down the middle. The finished product= lyrics by me, lyrics by me and him. If somehow, the songs magically bring in some royalties, I get 75% and he gets 25%.

I say what constitutes "actually contributing" is up to discretion. I probably won't give the guy that added a cool triangle part a share in the song, if he doesn't like it, we'll just remove that part. But if someone is really adding even a small chunk of what makes the song just what it is, I always give equal footing in the "music" section.

Of course this comes from someone who isn't making a career out of writing music. The most my collaborators tend to get from having joint ownership in a song is the right to play them whenever they want and even re-record and sell them or whatever they like (as long as they list original credit). Frankly, that's not a huge benefit, since I'd let anyone do that as long as they mentioned the fact that I wrote said song.
*Generally* speaking, it is decided on who wrote the words and the melody, as was stated above.

Sometimes that leads to strife within the band when the songwriter shows up to rehearsals in his Ferrari and the other guys are still driving in in their 12-year-old Hyundais.

As a solution, sometimes bands will choose to attribute writing to all members equally. Of course, strife can occur when the person (or people) don't feel that they are given enough credit for their efforts, or that someone else is being given too much.

That all said, songwriting, like anything else, can be negotiated.

At its best, it looks like two people having a friendly chat and easily coming to an agreement that person A wrote 70% and that person B wrote 30%. (those numbers, for the sake of publishing, DO need to be determined... if they are not determined, the assumption is 50/50.)

At its worst, it looks like this (real example of a song that was a significant hit - heavy MuchMusic/MTV rotation, lead-off single that spurred very successful multi-platinum album)

A band is working on their second major-label album for release next spring. The first one went gold, but the record company is hoping for more this time around. The A+R rep comes up with a chorus to a song he received from a writer who has collaborated with other big-name artists, and with whom the label has a relationship.

The A+R rep brings the chorus to the band, and the band likes it, except for the fact that it is just a chorus. The song is far from finished. However, being cooperative types that they are, the singer writes some verses for the song, and the band arranges it, etc., coming up with a really solid track.

Now, most people would say that the band (particularly the singer) should get about, maybe 70% of the writing credit, with the co-writer getting about 30%. At the very least, it should be band = 50%, co-writer = 50%. That's far from what happened.

What happened was this: The co-writer *insisted* he get full credit for the song. The label backed him up. The band said, "well, we wrote most of the song. If we don't get any credit for it, then we don't want to do it." The label came back with, "You're our b!tches now. If you want the album released at all, it WILL have this song on it. It WILL be credited to Mr. Outside as the writer."

"Negotiating" is a misleadingly friendly word here, but it illustrates the point that songwriting credit can be assigned however you want it to be assigned.

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
"Negotiating" is a misleadingly friendly word here, but it illustrates the point that songwriting credit can be assigned however you want it to be assigned.

Although a court can usually re-assign credits depending on the circumstances, or another person may assert a strong enough claim that they need to be altered as part of a settlement (for example, Great Gig in the Sky is now credited to Rick Wright *and* Clare Torry, the session musician who did the vocal improvisation).

This is where there's an advantage to assigning credit equally across a band (at least where there's a lot of collaboration and shared ideas on a record) - it will be a great deal harder for someone who agreed to taking an equal share with the other band members at the time, and did so across a range of songs, to later insist that they made a larger contribution to one or two songs and thus deserve more credit, than it is for someone who wasn't credited at first to claim a percentage.
I know this is an older thread but I am new here and not sure where to pose this question. I am a singer/songwriter and was asked to provide vocals on a rappers song. I ended up also writing a verse that is now on the final produced song. The rapper has hired an attorney who is trying to established how songwriting credits will be given, etc. When I came into this, the rapper had originally done the song with another female vocalist who I am now discovering wrote the hook that I ended up singing (there was no mention of this girl writing anything -- the first draft of the contract I got didn't even mention her) then they came back and said, oh by the way, there is this girl who wrote the hook you sing and she wants songwriting credit too. There is also a producer who provided the beat and I am told the producer will get 50% of the credit and the remaining 3 of us split the second 50%. Is there any formula or "fair" way to determine what percent credit I should receive? Other than the 50% of the credit going to the producer, there has been no mention of any agreed upon credit going to the girl who wrote the hook so this seems to be all up in the air. Also, the rapper is trying to enter this agreement with just me -- shouldn't all songwriters be signing this agreement? Since I came in last, am I just splitting what was left for the rapper? -- assuming that he and the other girl split the remaining 50% evenly (25% each), and if I am only negotiating with the rapper, am I only entitled to a portion of his 25%? I have an attorney but I am trying to figure some of this out first so I don't rack up huge fees with the possibility of very little pay out. What if I do nothing? If there is no agreement is the assumption that everything is split evenly? Sorry so many questions but appreciate any advice!
Yeah, this is weird.

There are a few ways of approaching this.

1. Anything is negotiable. If the person who wiped your windows after getting gas on the way to the session wants to negotiate a writing credit in return for the $2 you were short for your gas, then he can.... if the negotiating parties are willing to (or can be persuaded to) agree.

Let's look at a couple of possible scenarios:
a) You, as a de facto writing contributor to the piece demand a 90% writing credit, as you believe that your part is the most important part of the song, and will be the part of the song responsible for it becoming a hit. They can either agree and give you your 90%, disagree and negotiate another percentage that is agreeable to all of you (assuming you are willing to negotiate), or if you're not willing to negotiate, say "no way." Your leverage here is that you can take your toys and go home if they refuse. Writing one verse is not usually leverage enough to demand a 90% writing credit.
b) The beat maker demands a 90% writing credit based on the same rationale. If there is no beat, there is no song. The rest of you can suck it up, give him his 90%, or allow him to say "screw you guys then... you can't use my beat." (or, of course, negotiate some other contribution assignment that is favourable to all). Again, it might be in his best interest to negotiate, as you can always find another beat.

So what it comes down to here is "Based on each person's contribution, how much negotiating power does each person have?"

2. As I understand it, it is not unusual for the producer/beat-maker to split the writing credit with the lyricist 50/50. As I said, though... anything is negotiable. Either of you may demand more, if the other party is willing to rescind and agree.

Now, we have a case where there is a beat-maker/producer and a team of co-lyricists. It *could* go like this:

- producer 50%
- writer 1 (let's say writes two verses) - 16.66% (wrote twice as many verses as you)
- writer 2 (you... wrote one verse) - 8.34 % (wrote half as much as writer 1)
- writer 3 (wrote hook/chorus) - 25% (the chorus/hook is the most "sellable" part of the song)

... but that can be negotiable... See the pattern here?

I might be inclined to go for something like this as a starting point and see how it goes from there:
producer = 40%
chorus writer = 30%
verse 1+2 writer = 20%
verse 3 writer = 10%

3. Here is the weird part....

Your sense that the new agreement should involve all stakeholders is spot-on. Let's say that the original agreement was:

- producer 50%
- original lyric writer 25%
- hook writer 25%

The original lyric writer only has the jurisdiction to negotiate within his 25%. If anyone else's share is to be redistributed, then the other affected parties must be part of that agreement.

You need to find out what that agreement was (even if it was only a verbal agreement, it is still a legally binding contract in the absence of anything written down.... the trick is proving what that agreement was...).

All stakeholders, then, must be a part of that new agreement.

In the absence of a written agreement, and in the event of any dispute between the parties as to whose portion was what, there are two possibilities:
1. A judge determines the proportion for you (most likely)
2. It is assumed (either by a judge, or as a default compromise in an effort to avoid going to a judge) that you were all equal partners.

Obviously, it is in the best interest of the producer and writer #1 to ensure that a written agreement is in place, as they have the greatest investment, both in practice and in tradition.

Hope that helps a little...

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
If you want to take credit for a song that you primarily wrote, the other members of the band would be hard pressed to justify denying it to you. Generally one person will come in with a chord structure (usually on a piano or acoustic guitar) and lyrics. Then a full band rehearsal comes together and each member puts their own instrument to it. The one who wrote the song will usually have some suggestions.

Some people consider this as one person writing the song, but the entire band arranging it. That is how I would think of it. I would probably give the writing credit all to the original guy who came in with the chords/lyrics. Give an "all songs performed and arranged by [band members W, X, Y, and Z]" that should be sufficient.

Although some people consider this a totally collaborative effort and will encourage giving all band members a writing credit. As long as each person contributed their instrument in their own way without instruction from the writer, they deserve a "writing credit". That is perfectly fine.

There is really no set rule on who gets a writing credit.
my thoughts are from my heart soul ,,,,in our band our origs came from me the music most part was mine ,,the words were mine and the band add other things to make it sound fuller sort of speak ,lead licks came from our lead player ,but most part it is from the band everyone adds to it .......the copy rights ,well now that is another story lol,,chuck d