So, after the near-meltdown my band had recently (see the other thread I've started here), we've set about drawing up some agreements to govern the way the group works so that everybody's on the same page going forward. But one thing we've gotten a little held up on is "ownership" of the songs, and what that means in terms of financial rights and if/when someone is either fired or decides to leave the band. I'm curious to hear how other folks handle this type of thing.

The way we generally work is that I (guitarist/singer) write the skeleton of the songs - chord progression, melody, and lyrics - and then bring it in to the group. At this point, each member - keys, drums, bass - fills it out and writes their own parts, although I will often have input in terms of feel and may even sometimes dictate snippets here and there if I have a very clear idea of the type of thing I'm looking for. Our keyboardist also writes most of the vocal harmonies, which can get pretty involved.

Now, I've traditionally heard that, in situations like this, the person who originates the song would hold the composition copyright, and the group would hold the performance copyright. But I don't quite understand what that would mean in concrete terms. Also, our keyboardist made the point, and I don't think it's a bad one, that the keys parts and harmonies she writes are not an insignificant part of the song's character.

All that's pretty conceptual, but it boils down to some hard-and-fast questions. Like, in a situation in which there's income from either album/song sales or licensing, who's entitled to what percentage? And if a band member departs the band (either voluntarily or involuntarily), whether it's me or some other person, what kind of rights and privileges does that person maintain with regard to the material? Can they dictate what can and can't be done with it? Are they entitled to royalties? And how much?

I realize there are probably no universal answers to any of this but, again, I'm just curious how other bands tend to handle it.

Thanks, y'all.
^^^ How did the other thread turn out?

Also we have a copyright sticky that may be of help to you.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert and this is only my understanding which may well be flawed.

Words and Melody are pretty much the song. The rest - including the character of the keys - is part of the arrangement.

You can manage this a number of different ways. In the situation you described the most common solution is that you would be listed as the songwriter.

Other solutions might follow the example of the Doors. The songs were written by Jim Morrison (lyrics and melody) but he said right from the start that the credits should read "the Doors". This is the case on most of their songs.

Lennon and McCartney decided that all songs they wrote would have the credits Lennon McCartney. Even if Paul wrote the entire song in his sleep woke up went to the studio recorded the song by himself without the other beatles the credit still went to Lennon/McCartney. However if George Harrison wrote a song, it was credited to him alone.

Anyway it depends but if you write the lyrics and the melody then it is you that has written the song. How you want to credit that is up to you.
I was watching the news the other day and it had the bassist that played on Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed. He had invented the bass line, but still got a flat fee for recording it, the rights to the song were still Lou Reed's.

I don't know if this helps you in your situation, but it's seems if you write lyrics and melody, you own the song. If you write the Lyrics and a band member does the melody it's 50/50.
Whoever contributes to the main core of the song should get a writing credit.
If you write the words and the chords and melody, you get a writing credit.
The others should be given a writing credit depending on whether or not their contribution really changed the song in any way. For example, if the guitarist wrote a countermelody that becomes a singable and definable part of the song, he should also get a writing credit. However, if he just plays the chords and doesn't really add anything he should not.

A bassist generally wouldn't get a writing credit unless his bass riff formed the foundation of the song or part of it, and he wrote it. The same for a drummer. For example, the drummer on Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover might deserve a writing credit, but the drummer on a song like Call Me Maybe certainly should not.

Everyone performing on the song should get a performing credit, though.
The way we manage it in my band is that the band owns the songs, i fa member leaves, the riffs, and whatever they contributed to the music stays with the music. It's only sensible to do it this way, especially when you're a recording artist. If the band dissolves we will split future payments between whoever contributed to which songs. I am the main recording engineer, and writer, our lead vocalist writes the primary vocals, and lots of the melodies. Therefore if only the 2 of us work on a song we will split it 50/50. If our drummer comes in and actually helps write a song we'll split it 33/33/33. It's pretty cut and dry for the most part. No need to complicate things.

Since I have so far engineered all of the songs in the recording process I'll get 5% off the top of anything when and if the time ever comes that the band actually makes some money.