Are You Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. and was originally featured on Hypebot. Justin is an entertainment and media attorney in New York City. He also runs Label 55 and teaches music business at the Institute of Audio Research. We’re excited to have Justin weigh in for the benefit of independent artists in the future!]

For some unexplained reason, frequently when artists go into the recording studio to work on a track together, they typically sign a “split sheet” and think it suffices. In reality, the traditional songwriter “split sheet” could merely be used as a stop-gap measure that is meant to ensure all parties are on the same page and understand what was contributed to the song by each party. Ultimately, songwriters should enter into a more elaborate and complete agreement to ensure the song can be properly used.

A “songwriter split sheet,” or “split sheet” for short, is a form that is signed by all the parties involved and lists each producer and songwriter. Each party’s contributions and ownership percentage of a particular musical composition are detailed. A typical “split sheet” should also include additional information about the parties, including each person’s physical mailing address, performance rights organization information (in the U.S., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), publishing company information (if there is one), birthdate and Social Security and EIN number.

This document may seem to be comprehensive enough to cover the parties involved as it lists each party’s specific contribution (i.e. lyrics, beats, melody, etc.) and the corresponding percentage that each party owns of the final piece; however, it does not specifically address numerous important issues that could make or break a tune and severely inhibit its commercial value.

Generally under U.S. Copyright Law, if no agreement exists between the contributors to a particular copyrighted work, the assumption is that all of the contributors are considered joint-authors and own an undivided equal share of the song. This permits each owner to issue third-party licenses without the approval or consulting of any other owner as long as they account for any profits they made to the remaining owners. While this may be acceptable in situations where the actual work was equal among the contributors; it is not always the case, and could cause some serious issues if the composers do not understand this point. For example, if members of a band create compositions, sign a split sheet and then break up; each individual from the group can record and release the same material, merely subject to an accounting and payment. This is frequently thought of as a nightmare situation. Therefore, the right to issue or enter into third-party licenses for the finished material should be agreed upon in a more formal contract. This is an important point that a typical “split sheet” does not address at all.

Songwriter Split Agreement

Additionally, a standard “split sheet” does not speak about many ancillary and important elements to a song’s commercial value. This includes any right of publicity matters, such as utilizing a particular producer, artist or songwriters’ name in connection with the publicity and marketing of a finished work. Other important matters to address include the right to request a proper accounting from the other parties, the right to audit and inspect a particular co-owner’s business records and the right to recover (i.e., recoup) certain documented expenses (i.e. recording, engineering, mixing, mastering costs, etc.). The agreement should also address the right to proper attribution or credit on the finished work.

Furthermore, the traditional “split sheet” does not mention any warranties or indemnifications by any of the parties to each other. Without these warranties, each party could be liable for any potential unauthorized sampling, lack of appropriate rights clearance or any other unauthorized or infringing uses in the finished work by each party. A “split sheet” also does not discuss the party’s right to approve any finished work or the right to approve any marketing or promotional campaigns and budgets for the track. Finally, it does not address which state law to apply to a particular situation and does not specify where any disputes or claims would be adjudicated.

Clearly, the traditional sentiment and reliance on the outdated and minimal “split sheet” should be disregarded and all the contributors should enter into more formal and elaborate agreements. This is necessary to ensure all the important issues are addressed and that each party is properly protected and aware of their rights and interest in the finished work.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted when drafting any formal agreement.

© 2015 The Jacobson Firm, P.C. All Rights Reserved.

New Web Domain '.BAND': More Than Just the New Kid on the Block

[Editor’s Note: This was written by Jesse McCracken, Social Media Manager for Rightside, and it originally appeared on Rightside’s blog. Visit tunecoredomains.band to get “.band” or “.rocks” web addresses that capture your band’s and you brand’s personality and voice.]

Van Morrison is a music legend. As a singer-songwriter since the late 1950s, he has seen the industry go through a lot of changes. He’s quoted as saying, “You can’t stay the same. If you’re a musician and a singer, you have to change, that’s the way it works.” Well, get ready for a big change to how musicians can present themselves on the Internet, one that every artist needs to know about: new top level domains—alternatives to .COM—that are geared toward the music industry.

In my day job I manage social media for Rightside, but I am also a lifelong musician. When I learned that Rightside was adding the .BAND domain to a portfolio that also includes .ROCKS, I started thinking about all the ways my fellow artists can put a music-specific domain name to work.

Make it super easy for your audience to find you

To make a living in the music industry, you need an online presence that’s easy to find, be it a website, SoundCloud profile, or Facebook page. Don’t bother saying a long, ungainly URL from the stage; no one is going to remember it—they may not even remember your group’s name the first time they hear it. As entertainment journalist Hugh McIntyre noted in his recent article in Forbes, music acts can use .BAND to “make it immediately clear who they are and what they do with a short, snappy domain name.”

Jeff Pollack, CEO of Global Media & Entertainment for Pollack Music & Media Group, knows the importance of recognizable branding for bands and musicians. Pollack has been at the forefront of music trends for nearly 25 years, and his clients have included MTV and VH1. “Artists require not only talent, but also a strong, creative identity that will allow them to stand out in a highly competitive musical landscape,” he said. “New domain name options, like .BAND, give musicians exciting new opportunities to extend a unique identity online.”

Synth-soul group Keeper grabbed the URL keeper.band and redirected it to their existing site, keepermusic.com, which isn’t as easy to say or remember. That short, memorable web address will come in handy.

Match the brand to the .BAND

Your band name probably doesn’t include the words “dot com” or “dot net,” but if you’re like Dave Matthews Band, KC and the Sunshine Band, or the Steve Miller Band, your name has the word “band” in it, and if so, there might be a perfect match in the form of a URL ending in .BAND. Having your band name exactly match the words people type into search engines can positively impact your search-engine ranking.

Improved discoverability, artistic expression and having the perfect online name are potentially big advantages for today’s artist.


Visit tunecoredomains.band to get “.band” or “.rocks” web addresses that capture your band’s and you brand’s personality and voice.