Music Publishing Contract

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Music Publishing Contract

A Brief Introduction on Music Publishing Contract

Music publishing contracts are signed between publishing companies and singer/songwriters to discuss the rights to songs and music. Publishing companies use music publishing deals, co-publishing and songwriter music publishing agreements to obtain the rights to distributing songs for commercial purposes.

These music industry contracts can be daunting to musicians who have no experience of the music law and don’t make an effort to learn them. This ignorance for IP can put them at a disadvantage. Most music publisher contracts contain similar paragraphs that link royalty payments, terms of engagement, and advances.

Who Takes the Music Publishing Contract?

There are several types of music contracts but all of them contain three major elements — the property for assignment, the songwriter who would assign the property and the publishing company to whom the property would be assigned.There would be a third-party to whom the property would be sub-assigned, called a collection agency. This agency gives non-exclusive rights to the music for performance and collects the proceeds from that.

Purpose of the Music Publishing Contract

A music publishing contract assigns the ownership rights to a publishing company for exclusive use for a certain period. This creates revenue for the copyright owner through royalties and collections for the publishers. In signing this deal, the songwriter hands over certain songs mentioned in the agreement to the publisher. This list of songs may include a fixed number or the number of songs created during a period with a stipulation for a minimum number.

However, the contract also establishes the ownership of the music for the period of the contract. A music publishing administrator agreement ensures that the writer is paid for any use of the music by any party. The main purpose of this agreement is to generate revenue through assignment of music.

Contents of the Music Publishing Contract

A standard music publishing contract template contains the following terms among others

  • The details of the parties to the contract and their personal identification numbers
  • A description of the work that would be assigned
  • A definition of the terms that would be used throughout the contract
  • The duration of the agreement for which it would be valid
  • The jurisdictional limits of the contract
  • Any amendments made to the statutory provisions of the contract that would be applicable only for the contract
  • Granting sole and exclusive rights to manage the music, including resell, reproduce, or authorize others to do so
  • Rights of each party to collect payments. This includes the right to royalties form reproduction of music, whether the musician is entitled to rights from transmission or reselling of music as granted rights dictate
  • Details of royalties and fee-split from the revenue proceeds including any advance payments in anticipation of sales, amount withheld as reserve fee for any indemnification or attorney fees to be paid at a later date
  • Assignment of the work and licensing to third parties.
  • General and specific obligations of the music publisher
  • Details of the approved material that would be considered for publishing
  • Duty of providing information and reports of performance
  • Any sub-assignment made to third parties for which the author would receive royalties
  • Details of any copies that are exempt from payment
  • Representations and warranties of both parties including positive and negative covenants
  • Expiry, termination and force majeure clauses in the contract
  • Dispute resolution clauses and other miscellaneous provisions

How to Draft the Music Publishing Contract?

When drafting a music publishing contract, some things that need to be kept in mind are:

  • The duration for which the contract would be valid and the extent of revenue that could be generated through producing music through that
  • The ownership of copyright and the extent of authority for licensing
  • The exclusivity of services that would be provided in the contract
  • Minimum delivery commitments if the contract validity is for songs produced during a certain period.
  • Exercise of options, and payment of royalties – sharing ratio for the royalties
  • The accounting method that would be used and the nature of reports that need to be sent
  • Retention of rights and reversal of unexploited compositions

Negotiation Strategy

Negotiation strategies would primarily be regarding the royalties. Payment of royalties should be commensurate to the efforts the songwriter has put in. This payment of royalties also includes any non-exclusive rights granted to collection agencies or revenue from foreign remittances of services. The second would be about the terms of service and the number of songs that should be published during the same period. In addition to this, some contractees could negotiate the jurisdictional limits of the applicability of the contract.

Benefits and Drawbacks of the Publishing Contract

Some benefits of a music publishing agreement are:

  • Provides the songwriter with a steady source of income during the period. This is especially useful for writers that are just starting out in the industry
  • Acts as a marketing for the songwriter so that he can avoid the expensive costs publishing a song
  • Networks and connections could be developed because the marketing teams are tasked with pitching the songs to the markets outside
  • It provides recognition to the songwriters and helps in assessing their market value over time
  • It eliminates the need for publicizing the songwriter’s work and helps the songwriter focus on creating music

Some drawbacks of the agreement are:

  • Royalties in the initial days can be low which would undermine the efforts you’ve put into the contract
  • Your creativity isn’t necessarily encouraged. Publishers focus on what will sell the best
  • Revenue stream would mostly depend on the number of sales that would be made. In the initial days, so many sales might not be made

What Happens in Case of Violation?

In case of a breach of contract(1), the injured property may file for a specific injunction against the other party. Since the contract deals with intangible and intellectual property, specific performance might be required and any breach of contractual terms could result in termination and awarding compensatory damages for profits lost.

Music publishing agreements are useful for songwriters to put themselves out in the world and market themselves. It creates an audience for the work and helps in realising their worth and charge the relevant amount for their services.