That controversial moment when two or more people collaborate on a song and that song becomes a hit, or as we say in local parlance “the song don blow”. Revenues start flowing in, and then the inevitable fall out over ‘who owns what’, ‘how would the revenue be shared’ and so forth.
We have seen ugly moments between creatives and fellow entertainers due to this. Basically, it is the lack of a “split sheet” between creative that generally leads to these controversial moments.
What do we call a split sheet?
“A split sheet is an agreement between two or more music creators that establishes the writer and publishing percentages each individual owns in the song”.
A split sheet is a simple document that lays out who owns what part(s) of a particular song.
What are the contents of a split sheet?
A split sheet should contain the following: song title, legal name of the artiste and producer, home address, mail address, designation of the parties, split percentages, the name of the publishing company, the name of performing rights organisation, date and signatures of all parties.
Ordinarily, a song can be divided into a writer’s share and a composer’s share (the writer’s share is for the artist and whoever writes the lyrics while the composer’s share belongs to the music producer).
The two shares represent ownership interests in the song and each share is worth 50%. So, there is a 50% writer’s (lyrics) share and a 50% producer’s (music/composition) share. The split sheet establishes how much of each percentage, if any, each party (or parties) will receive. The percentages are negotiated between the parties or their representatives (management or legal).
The split sheet establishes how much of each percentage, if any, each party (or parties) will receive. The percentages are negotiated between the parties or their representatives (management or legal).
For example, if there are two writers, the splits are 50/50. If Mr A composed the music (i.e the producer/sound composer) & Mr B wrote the lyrics. Mr A would receive 50% and Mr B would receive 50%.
What if the lyrics was written by Mr B and Mr C, then Mr B and Mr C would share the lyric share of 50% equally (i.e 25% respectively)
The total of all the split percentages when added should equal 100%. The 100% represents the total song.
However, the split percentages have to be agreed upon by the contributors of the song. Different percentages could be agreed to.
It is important that all the parties agree to the percentages once the song is complete and crucially before submission of the sound recording to the artiste’s label.
Why is a split sheet important?
It is important that creatives attest to a split sheet and the information on the split sheet is correct and the percentages total 100%! It allows respective publishers and collecting societies determine how much money to collect for its members.
It also informs the record label on who gets what percentage of the mechanical royalty.
While the split sheet establishes the appropriate percentages that each songwriter or producer owns of a specific song, it does not explicitly determine the copyright ownership of the song (a separate, but important distinction).
According to the Copyright Act, copyright in a song initially vests in the author or authors of the work. However, two or more individuals who work on a song with the intent to combine their contributions into a song (a body of work) are considered joint authors and the song is a joint work. This means that joint authors have an equal right to copyright the work as well as to sue to enforce the copyright.
This means that joint authors have an equal right to copyright the work as well as to sue to enforce the copyright.
Unless the joint authors make a written agreement to the contrary, one of the joint authors has the right to license the song on behalf of the other authors to a third-party.
With this, all authors and contributors to a song are legally entitled to a share of proceeds from the revenue generated from the song either via licensing or royalty as based on the percentages in the split sheet, or an equal share of proceeds in the absence of one thereof.
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Ideally, every creative (artiste, sound composer, writer) should have a split sheet filled out for every song co-created with any person before leaving the recording studio!
But on most occasions, the conversation about percentages on who owns what usually doesn’t take place until after a song “blows” and there is big money involved from a licensing deal. That’s when everyone who was in the studio the moment the particular song was created starts talking about what went down and subsequently their input.
A split sheet allows the parties to adjust the percentages based on contribution to the song, or other factors BEFORE the record or song is a hit and starts earning money.
The basic advice is to avoid the drama and get the split sheets together.
About the writer
Ife’ Idowu is an intuitive young lawyer with specific interests in corporate and entertainment law.
You can check out his website here