#1
I'm nutting out songwriting splits with a fellow band member and would love some guidance from experienced people about how (or if) to factor in various contributions in a fair and workable way. In particular, are vocal melodies and guitar riffs/licks & solos worthy of inclusion in crediting and on what scale? We've figured out our percentages for royalties however at what point does someone's fractional contribution to a song become worthy of recognition on a published work, eg: album sleeve or written score? Think Lennon/McCartney. I have a couple of examples to help explain.

For clarity, by "Instrumental" I'm referring to full accompaniment, riffs, progressions, rhythms, song structure but not necessarily including melodies or solos.

Example song A
Composition
Instrumental: Dave 100%
Vocal melody: Dave 50% / 50% Steve
Lyrics
Dave 90% / Steve 10%

Is it reasonable for this to get written up as music & lyrics Dave/Steve or does Steve get left out even though he added a very hooky vocal line to the end of the chorus?

Example Song B
Composition
Instrumental: Steve 100%
16 bar guitar solo: Dave 100%
Lyrics
Steve 100%

Again, does Dave's blazing solo score him a mention on the CD sleeve?

We're all open to negotiate on this as long as the deal remains consistent. For example, If Dave has to give composition credit to Steve for his melody lines in Song A, he should expect to be likewise included for his lead guitar creation in Song B right?
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Last edited by Danustar at Nov 23, 2014,
#2
I don't know how other bands handle it, and my band isn't at the point where that's even a thing to worry about yet, but I'm pretty sure that if/when we get there we'll just split everything evenly. I personally think that's the only fair way to do it. Every band member is just as important.
#3
To be clear, all revenue from unit sales, merch & shows is split evenly.

I'm talking about songwriting. Maybe I'm in the wrong subforum ..
Charvel DX-1 FR / DS-1 ST / DC-1 FR / Custom Strat / La Patrie Hybrid CW / Vypyr 30 / VK100 / 1960A
#4
Quote by Danustar
I'm nutting out songwriting splits with a fellow band member and would love some guidance from experienced people about how (or if) to factor in various contributions in a fair and workable way. In particular, are vocal melodies and guitar riffs/licks & solos worthy of inclusion in crediting and on what scale? We've figured out our percentages for royalties however at what point does someone's fractional contribution to a song become worthy of recognition on a published work, eg: album sleeve or written score? Think Lennon/McCartney. I have a couple of examples to help explain.

For clarity, by "Instrumental" I'm referring to full accompaniment, riffs, progressions, rhythms, song structure but not necessarily including melodies or solos.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed early on that they would credit all the songs either of them wrote individually or together for the Beatles as (Lennon/McCartney). It is well known that there are a few songs that were written 100% by just one of them. Yet they still both get equal songwriting credit because that was their agreement and they stuck with it.

Quote by Danustar
Example song A
Composition
Instrumental: Dave 100%
Vocal melody: Dave 50% / 50% Steve
Lyrics
Dave 90% / Steve 10%

Is it reasonable for this to get written up as music & lyrics Dave/Steve or does Steve get left out even though he added a very hooky vocal line to the end of the chorus?
You can't leave Steve out simply because the part of the lyrics and melody he contributed was less than that of Dave. You could give him less though. You could make an agreement that he gets less (say 10%). But even though Dave wrote more that doesn't mean that what Steve wrote is less significant and in fact it could be Steve's hook that makes the whole song successful. Dave/Steve is the minimum songwriting credit in that example the exact percentages of royalties could be negotiated but you don't really want to be bickering who owns how much of every song do you??

Quote by Danustar
Example Song B
Composition
Instrumental: Steve 100%
16 bar guitar solo: Dave 100%
Lyrics
Steve 100%

Again, does Dave's blazing solo score him a mention on the CD sleeve?
I assume that the lyrics includes the vocal melody. so Steve wrote the lyrics and music and Dave played a solo.

It would depend but I think the minimum here is Steve gets full credit. In this instance it is probably not reasonable for Dave to insist on songwriting credit.

For example when Hendrix takes All Along the Watchtower and adds a new solo and arrangement, or Clapton or G'n'R does Knocking on Heaven's Door then the song is still credited as a Dylan song. They don't put their names along side his because they put the song to a new arrangement complete with a new guitar solo. They will claim the arrangement.
Similarly if George Harrison writes a song and Eric Clapton comes in with a memorable "blazing guitar solo" then the song is still a George Harrison song and Clapton doesn't get songwriting credit.
If someone writes a song and a session musician improvises a bad ass solo on the recording - they don't get songwriting credit.

Quote by Danustar
We're all open to negotiate on this as long as the deal remains consistent. For example, If Dave has to give composition credit to Steve for his melody lines in Song A, he should expect to be likewise included for his lead guitar creation in Song B right?
No. He can certainly discuss it with the band but why can't the drummer say hey man I threw in a latin beat there that really made that song work I want songwriting credit too.

It's something that needs to be worked out within your band and agreed upon. There are aspects of the song that are of significant importance. Maybe the guitar solo is...but if you were a solo artist and had a session musician playing on your recording that put in a badass solo would you think it reasonable that you give them a songwriting credit?

Jim Morrison used to come up with the majority of the words and vocal melodies for their songs. John Densmore says Morrison had every right to claim sole songwriting credit but insisted the credit be given to "the doors" which made them all equal partners. He also insisted that each band member had full veto rights which meant any band decisions had to be unanimous.

Steve wrote a small part (but still a part) of the first song's lyrics and was equally involved in the music. I would imagine he would have a very strong case in court for equal songwriting credits.

Steve wrote the song in the second one and Dave wants credit for his guitar solo. He gets credit for the guitar solo as "lead guitarist" or whatever, but he wouldn't have a leg to stand on in court if he were fighting for a claim of the songwriting credit.

But I am not an expert, this is just my understanding of how it works by picking things up along the way.

The most important thing is discussing it with your band and coming to an agreement. Put it in writing if you can, and this then becomes your default position with any exemptions agreed along the way.
Si
#5
Thanks for your considered response friend. Much appreciated.
Steve wrote a small part (but still a part) of the first song's lyrics and was equally involved in the music
By "equally involved in the music" you mean 50% of the vocal melody? Are you sure you got that right? Cos Dave composed the whole song, instruments, and half the final vocal line..

For context, this the full (real) story. Dave brought a completed song to the band and by the time it was recorded the pre-chorus lyrics (approx 15% of the song) had changed along with several alterations to the original vocal melody. does that change your "equal involved in the music" perspective at all? No problem either way, just trying to make sure our expectations aren't skewed.

Everything's agreeable with the band, we're just trying to make sure we're weighting contributions properly. So this kinda cuts to the core of the question. Is the vocal melody really as important, or even moreso, than everything else put together? (If so, I'm off to write some deathcore vocals )

Re instrumental lines:
if you were a solo artist and had a session musician playing on your recording that put in a badass solo would you think it reasonable that you give them a songwriting credit?
My first instinct is no .. but I can't reason why. Izzy Stradlin and Axl wrote the bulk of Sweet Child o Mine, but without Slash's iconic guitar intro and solo the song wouldn't be worth puss. By your assessment he should barely rate a mention. Can one possibly know at the time of writing that their part will be particularly significant - and therefore worth more recognition/coin?
Charvel DX-1 FR / DS-1 ST / DC-1 FR / Custom Strat / La Patrie Hybrid CW / Vypyr 30 / VK100 / 1960A
#6
When in doubt, share more credit.

If you have success, there will be plenty to go around. If you don't, it won't matter.

But don't be the guy who is trying to lawyer people who made legitimate, important contributions out of credit.
#7
^ Yeah.

But I wouldn't really give credit for guitar solos. I mean, then every Metallica song should have Kirk as a songwriter. Guitar solos have little to do with actual songwriting. They are more like the icing on the cake - the last thing you add to the song. Most lead guitarists write/play their own solos. And they don't get any writing credits. Most of the time they also change that solo. They don't play it similarly every time. Melody is something you don't change that much. But if it was a guitar melody instead of a guitar solo, it would be a different thing. For example "For the Love of God" has both, a guitar melody (the main theme) and a guitar solo (the more improvised part where Vai goes crazy).

So in case A both would get songwriting credits. And in case B only Steve would get songwriting credits.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 24, 2014,
#8
Legally, a country's copyright law applies, and its definition of joint works (i.e. when several people produce somethng between them to create the song). The default situation may be each contributor owns equal share (depending on country) regardless of individual input/effort and therefore each gets equal remuneration; hence changes to this are achieved by proper (contractual) agreement for protection of rights. Be aware that bass, drums, chord progressions are rarely considered copyrightable, whereas melodic material (vocal, solos ...) are, as are lyrics.

Gets even messier if one of the items written for this gets reused in another song with other people. Then you're into derivative works, which still legally give the original joint-work creators a right to remuneration from the derivative.

In other words, if you think you're going to make serious money, protect yourself contractually, including reuse.

This is one reason why session musicians are asked to assign (transfer ownership of) their copyright to the material they've recorded for an artist back to the artist or management or record company, depending on setup.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 24, 2014,
#9
Magarra check your PMs. I am trying to contact you.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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