Guide to Publishing Royalties and Split Sheets for Businesses

Whether you're a label, manager, publisher, or distributor, industry leaders should always encourage their artists to have honest and open conversations about split sheets. After all, not having them in place means not being able to confirm a creator's ownership percentage or collect any related publishing royalties.

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  • Split sheets are crucial in the music industry for documenting song ownership and publishing rights, helping artists and industry professionals manage royalties effectively. Entertainment lawyer Kendall Minter highlights their importance, comparing them to property deeds. They're especially vital in situations like band collaborations, using samples, and writing sessions. Without split sheets, issues like conflicts over prior agreements, publisher switches, unlicensed samples, and disputes over ownership shares can arise. To avoid these problems, clear communication and proper documentation are essential. Resources like free templates and educational materials are available to help understand and implement split sheets effectively.

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"A split sheet is a basic tool," entertainment lawyer Kendall Minter explained at a recent conference in Jamaica. "If you buy your house, will you leave your closing without a deed and title? Hell no! Copyright split sheets are your deeds and titles to your intellectual property and publishing."

While that may be true, split sheets aren't the easiest to explain when an artist seeks guidance around their long-term goals. Here are some common questions about split sheets for publishers, labels, managers, and distributors.

What Are Some Common Business Scenarios Where Your Artist Would Need a Split Sheet?

There are a few scenarios where your artists might need to use a split sheet, beginning with a band's division of labor. While some groups split their songwriting duties and ownership shares equally, others may let one member lead the way and collect a more significant percentage of publishing royalties.

Another familiar scenario managers face is when their clients write music with a wide range of other creators. Using split sheets helps protect these creators from ownership disputes with outside parties further down the road.

Setting up writing sessions on behalf of your artists is a similar situation that would benefit from a broad split sheet breakdown and plainly stated publishing shares. Using samples in a song is slightly more complicated since you need to get them approved first. Samples are typically cleared in exchange for an upfront fee or a percentage of the publishing rights, whether a one-second loop or an entire chorus. Documenting the latter on a split sheet can help avoid miscommunication or copyright conflicts.

What Are Some Common Errors Managers and Labels Might Encounter if Their Artists Don't Use a Split Sheet?

Failing to use a split sheet and clearly state everyone's share could lead to several conflicts. One common problem is when a creator has a prior agreement with specific terms about ownership. A split sheet upholds that contract or provides all the relevant details for a new agreement.

Switching publishers can also be a source of conflict since it requires a Letter of Relinquishment (LOR) to administer rights and royalties on an artist's behalf. Other potential issues are unlicensed samples (when you use a sample without getting it cleared first), complex fractional splits (when a song involves many co-writers), and last-minute split changes never formally discussed or confirmed.

Communication is vital no matter your artist's situation; keep an open dialogue going and put every decision on paper as much as possible. For more information on split sheets and a quicker path toward earning and retaining publishing royalties on behalf of your clients, please check out our free split sheet template and a crash course on why splits are so crucial in the music industry.

As a label, manager, publisher, or distributor in the music industry, it is crucial to encourage your artists to have honest and open conversations about split sheets. Without a split sheet, there is no way to confirm an artist's ownership percentage or collect related publishing royalties. A split sheet is an essential tool that serves as a legal document outlining the percentage of ownership of a song's intellectual property and publishing rights.

 

Entertainment lawyer Kendall Minter emphasizes the importance of split sheets to protect an artist's intellectual property and publishing rights. He compares the split sheet to a deed and title for a house purchase, pointing out that no one would walk away from closing without them. Similarly, a split sheet is a legal document that details a song's ownership and publishing rights.

 

However, explaining split sheets to artists can be challenging, especially when they are seeking guidance about their long-term goals. We have answered some common questions about split sheets to assist publishers, managers, labels, and distributors.

 

One common scenario where artists might need a split sheet is when a band divides the songwriting duties and ownership shares. Some groups split their songwriting duties and ownership shares equally, while others let one member lead the way and collect a more significant percentage of publishing royalties.

 

Another scenario where split sheets are necessary is when your clients write music with many other creators. Using split sheets helps protect these creators from ownership disputes with outside parties.

 

Setting up writing sessions on behalf of your artists is another situation that would benefit from a broad split sheet breakdown and plainly stated publishing shares. Using samples in a song is slightly more complicated since you need to get them approved first. Documenting the percentage of the publishing rights on a split sheet can help avoid miscommunication or copyright conflicts.

 

Not using a split sheet and stating everyone's share could lead to several conflicts. One common problem is when a creator has a prior agreement with specific terms about ownership. A split sheet upholds that contract or provides all the relevant details for a new agreement. Switching publishers can also be a source of conflict since it requires a Letter of Relinquishment (LOR) to administer rights and royalties on an artist's behalf. Other potential issues are unlicensed samples, complex fractional splits when a song involves many co-writers, and last-minute split changes never formally discussed or confirmed.

 

To avoid such conflicts, it is vital to communicate openly with your artist and put every decision on paper as much as possible. We provide a free split sheet template and a crash course on why splits are so crucial in the music industry to help you move toward earning and retaining publishing royalties for your clients quickly.

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