Sign a goddamn contract!
It doesn’t mean everything else will fall into place just yet. But starting with a contract gives you an important and more secure fall back option for future options on the project. Issues about intellectual property and beneficiary rights in case of your unfortunate passing on would be easy to address if you signed the contract in the first place. In the industry, they call it a Split Sheet.
A Split Sheet is simply a record of who contributed what portion of a song before it is published. While copyright might determine the ownership of a song, the split sheet actually determines how much of the revenue is shared among the collaborators. And so if you feature two artistes on your record, first you have to decide whether those other persons are doing a ‘work for hire’ contract. This means though they may be mentioned as writers on the project, once they are paid at the beginning or at some point, they have no other claims to make on future earnings. Otherwise, each collaborator, including sound mixer/or producer is entitled to some portion of future revenues based on what percentage of effort they brought to the party.
Normally, the split is 50-50 between songwriter and producer/mixer. In case of other artistes being featured, this reduces the shares further based on an agreed system.
What inspired this post is a thread by @iamBeatMenace on twitter. After conversations with other producers in the country, he came out to give a not-so-official account of what we all have known is the reason for a non-existent music industry. It all starts with a contract.
While it is easy to blame GHAMRO and MUSIGA for neglecting their core functions, the beat maker made it clear the artiste or the producer must first take responsibility of what they create. Insist on a the Split Sheet before ever publishing your work. It is based on this that you can make any claim whatsoever on financial dividends on your own work.
Of course, the very fact that many artists and producers don’t care to look at this as a business is one of the key shortfalls of our own music industry. People who are not registered with the government and so do not pay taxes care very little about these things. They also do not bother about paying up their pension plans and so it becomes impossible for government to know whether or not there is an industry in this country. This is why you need government to give you money to do research on what you call an industry in the first place.
We have all seen or heard of one veteran entertainer falling on lean times many times in this part of the world. Popular musicians who rocked the world in their hey days are succumbing to preventable deaths because they or their managers (where they even exist) have not done the right thing before pushing the publish button. It is the same for creators and athletes as well; but where musicians and producers have a significant edge is in the area of licensing their works.
Saying that, a Split Sheet means that every pesewa that comes from an artiste’s show performance must be shared based on the agreement. The same goes for radio time and song credits on a feature film or video.
Which is where joining a well established Performance Rights Organisations (PRO) is important…like GHAMRO.
Note that all license revenues will always be shared between the writer and the publisher. In the absence of a publisher, it is important to register yourself as the publisher so you receive everything. That lump sum will then be shared with other collaborators based on the Split Sheet.
In our times when social media has made it possible to earn from almost anything, it would be really unforgivable not to put everything in ink. The desire to have a breakthrough by doing free stuff should never be stronger than the chance for your descendants to enjoy your efforts once you are gone. Really, even marriage couples sign prenup agreements.
@iamBeatMenace served lots of truth bombs. Read up the thread here!