Songwriter Contract

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Songwriter Contract

A Brief Introduction About Songwriter Contract

In a songwriter contract, a songwriter transfers towards a publisher all rights, title, and interest in and to a song in response to royalty payments. It would be subjected to any existing agreements made between parties and ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers).

Under an exclusive songwriter agreement, the songwriter usually assigns the complete publisher’s share of any songs written during the term of the agreement towards a publishing firm.

Who Takes the Songwriter Contract – People Involved

A Songwriter Agreement is entered into between a publisher and a songwriter in order to acquire the rights to a songwriter’s musical composition for publishing.

Under this agreement, the songwriter mostly assigns 50% (or in few cases, 100%) of the publishing rights of a song towards the publisher for a certain time, mostly between 12 and 24 months. In case the publisher obtains a placement with an artist at this period, then the publisher turns to be a permanent copyright owner of the song. The agreement can also specify whether the securing of a film or TV usage for the song (rather than a record placement) is adequate for the publisher in order to retain a permanent copyright interest.

Purpose of the Songwriter Contract

In an exclusive songwriter agreement, the publisher furnishes the songwriter with an advance payment paid out on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis like a salary, and should be recouped in a similar way as in a co-publishing or administration deal. The publisher shall also perform administrative and creative responsibilities for the writer’s catalog within the agreement.

Contents of the Songwriter Contract

The terms to be included in a songwriter contract may differ. The contents which are usually contained in the agreement consist of that the publisher might agree not to grant any party a license to make use of the composition without the permission of the songwriter. There could also be a reversion clause in the contract furnishing to terminate the contract in case the music publisher fails to secure a release of a commercial recording of the song in a specific period. When a reversion happens, all the rights shall be returned to the songwriter.

How to Draft the Songwriter Contract?

The points to consider while drafting a songwriter contract includes;

Term: The duration of the contract is important, as the writer shall not be able to sell songs to any entity during this time. The length of the contract would be discussed before the contract is written.

Publisher Rights: In a songwriting contract, the actual language of this part shall vary widely, relying on what the two parties agreed to beforehand. Generally, these would specify who obtains and owns the copyrights to work, and extra rights the publisher ensures with the compositions. The contract would also specify that the publisher has a power of attorney over the songs in the name of the writer.

Compensation: The compensation shall change with each situation, but this section would specify what the writer would get paid for presenting compositions towards the publisher. It is expressed in percentages; the sum owed to the writer would be broken down into different classes, like money received from the wholesale selling price, net amounts, and printed sheet music. Moreover, the contract shall also stipulate when the publisher would pay the writer.

Collaboration: As many writers co-write with different songwriters, songwriter contracts would contain notes of what shall happen when there is a co-writer on a song. This part shall state that separate agreements should be agreed to at the time a co-written song is submitted.

The agreement shall also specify any responsibilities the writer is under, that the writer is an independent contractor and that confidentiality agreements are prepared.

Negotiation Strategy

Songs writers often sign exclusive agreements with publishers, offering songs directly to and only to a particular publisher, who then sells the songs to any other artists.

Benefits & Drawbacks of the Songwriter Contract


Many artists write songs just for their enjoyment, or they write songs for other artists to perform. But the question is, how do the writers have their songs recorded through others? This is where a publisher comes in to take a songwriter’s songs and give them to artists to perform and turn into the next hit song. Publishing houses earn a lot of money by doing this, and writers recognize that they could, in turn, also make money through partnering with a published. When songs are written, both parties have the prospect to gain impressively from songwriter contracts, so these contracts must be reasonable in the beginning.


This contract could be a limiting experience, but if your publisher does a great job for you and your songs, then it is worth it. As these contracts can be very complex and burdensome, it is vital that there be a mutual agreement amid the two parties before the contract is written, and that, with the assistance of a music lawyer, the language to the contract is understood

What Happens in Case of Violation?

If there is a breach of a term, the publisher might take action as it may think necessary, either in Writer’s name or in its name, against any individual to protect all rights and interests acquired through Publisher. Writer shall, at Publisher’s request, must cooperate fully with Publisher in any concern that may arise or litigation(1), which might be brought concerning Publisher’s rights and interests.

The Single Song Agreement is the most basic publishing agreement a songwriter enters into. When a songwriter writes a song, and a publisher thinks it could be placed on an artist’s album or maybe in a film or TV program, the two parties could sign this agreement.