Royalties and songwriting credit

Let say I’m in a band that has a singer, guitarist, bass guitarist and a drummer. The singer writes the song lyrics and the notes that he’ll sing, the guitarist writes the guitar part, the bassist the bass part and the drummer writes the drum part for a song. We go on and perform our parts and put it on an album. Then we break up. I go solo and play this song live, with other musicians playing the same drums guitar and bass, and I sing the same lyrics in the same way that I did on the recording. Do the rest of my ex-bandmates get royalties?

On a related note, when you see a song writing credit like “Michelle” (Lennon/McArtney) does that mean they collaborated on just the lyrics, or all aspects of the song?

I’ll only answer the last question. All of John and Paul’s songs during the Apple years have the Lennon/McCartney credits, meaning that either John, Paul, or John and Paul worked on them. Most of the songs, especially in the latter years of the Beatles, were written solely by John or Paul, but they agreed to keep using the dual credit.

This has caused considerable friction between Paul and Yoko since she won’t budge on the credits and Paul wants to at least put his name first on the songs of which he was the sole writer.

Thanks telemark, but I’m still unclear. If you call Paul, or any person for that matter, the “writer” or a song, does that mean that they wrote just the lyrics, or that they also wrote all the music (the guitar parts, and drum parts etc) also?

I believe (but this is clearly not my area of expertise) that there is a lyrics and music credit. Music doesn’t mean every last note of orchestration, it means writing the music for the song, ie the melody. Regardless of how much you add strings and kazoo to your version of “Michelle”, Lennon/McCartney will get their share of the royalties.

But as I said, this ain’t my area, so I’ll now bow out and let people who know what they’re talking about dive in.

Writing credits are decided by the people who put the song together when they publish the song. Once the credits are on the song - as with Lennon/McCartney - and the split of royalties is decided upon by contract, nothing else matters. (Unless part of the song was plagiarized or sampled without credit.)

But the bottom line is that the songwriters decide whose name goes on the song and what share each one of them gets when the song is written. And put it in writing.

Writing royalties go to whoever is credited as songwriter. Lennon’s estate makes money on “Yesterday,” even though he had nothing to do with it, since it’s officially credited to “Lennon/McCartney.”

If you want the entire group to share in the royalties, put all their names as songwriters, or do as the Doors did – all their songs were originally credited to “The Doors,” so everyone could share (they were later changed to “Morrison/Doors” or “Krieger/Doors” to make the authorship clear but still keep the royalties going to all).

As RealityChuck notes, songwriting credits historically have had little to do with who wrote the song, and everything to do with business arrangements. (Hence Elvis Presley’s appearance in the credits for songs like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” which he was not truly involved in writing.)

It sounds like your hypothetical band has no song publishing arrangements, which could make things very messy in the off-chance that the hypothetical song became a hit. How to set up your own music publishing company is discusssed here:

http://www.musicindustrylaw.com/createyourpublishing.html

Very often songwriting teams had a lyricist & melody writer. Goffin-King, Leiber-Stoller, Pomus-Shuman,David-Bacharach , Greenfield- Sedaka. In these examples the 1st name was the lyricist. Re: the OP-ALL songs perfomed commercially must pay a fee, usually to BMI if rock, (of course it has to be registered) & the publisher gets some $. The problem of course is tracking all clubs, bars etc. Probably only larger venues are checked closely,ie Vegas. Your local rock bar pays a flat annual fee-can’t be more than a few hundred-then it’s dividied up. I had a couple songs w/BMI-they send a letter saying they do “surveys” of radio,TV clubs etc, otherwise all royalties would be spent trying to collect them.

Yoor ex-bandmates get royalties in one of two ways, either they were agreed upon before publishing, or they sue for it. Copyright laws are numerous and complicated. There is a difference between writing credits, performance credits and recording credits, even though the song may or may not have changed any. BMI and ASCAP are the best ways to ensure payment for royalty related issues regarding usage, but “who gets paid” is usually either agreed upon or litigated. Then there’s the point system, the distribution of revenue generated by a publishing…another can of worms.

If said material has already been written, cross the payment bridge when you come to it. If you want to hold onto your monetary benefits for anything you write, get a lawyer, write up contracts, sign all around.

Side note: when I left my former band I was “bought out”. I recieved monetary compensation, derived from many factors, in exchange for my release of my rights to the parts I had written. These statements are also highly dependent on the situation. Hope this helps some.

Actually, Lennon’s estate does not make any songwriting royalties from “Yesterday”, as Lennon and McCartney sold their interest in Northern Songs, their publisher, many decades ago.

The money that the Beatles still make from the “Yesterday” is from sales of their recording of the song.

Sure they get songwriting royalties. Northern Songs were only half the publishing royalties; Lennon/McCartney split the other half. See http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a951027.html (next to last paragraph).