I hope all is well! I’m finally taking you up on the offer to ask questions. I’m in the process of releasing some music with a friend. I have a ton of confusion around publishing, distribution and ensuring that things are copyrighted and royalties are going to the right place. Any advice on how to do this?
Congrats on releasing music! That’s awesome.
Copyright stuff can feel scary, but it’s actually easier than ever now to take care of.
First some questions:
- Where are you at in the process? Are the songs finished being written and recorded?
- Have you already chosen a distributor (e.g., Tunecore, CD Baby, Distrokid)?
- Is this under a band name or your name or your friend’s name?
- Did you write the songs or did you both write the songs?
- Who recorded the songs?
- Anything else you can tell me?
Let’s start there, and then I think I can be of more help getting into the actual how-tos.
Thanks for the reply and help! I really appreciate it!
AE: 1. Where are you at in the process? Are the songs finished being written and recorded?
DARIN: The songs are written and recorded, mixed and mostly mastered. There is one late addition song that still needs to be mastered to fit with the others.
2. Have you already chosen a distributor (e.g., Tunecore, CD Baby, Distrokid)?
We haven’t chosen a distributor yet.
3. Is this under a band name or your name or your friend’s name?
We are calling the project both of our last names… [My Last Name and His Last Name]. Not sure if that qualifies as band or not.
4. Did you write the songs or did you both write the songs?
I wrote the lyrics and melodies, but we both wrote the musical parts…So we agreed to just do a simple 50/50 split.
5. Who recorded the songs?
We both produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered the songs.
6. Anything else you can tell me?
The entire project was done by the two of us except for one section of a song where we have a guest do a spoken word piece. We agreed with her to just pay her a set amount rather than a % of royalty for that one song. We like the idea of publishing it under a name versus just being a “CD Baby artist”. Don’t want to over complicate anything, just want to do it right. We’d like to be able to have money received send to two accounts in a 50/50 split.
Thanks so much for your time and advice! I am grateful for it!
All right, I’ve been thinking about this, and let me break it down into a couple different parts for you and your friend.
Part I: A “Quick-start” Answer:
STEP 1: Go straight to Distrokid. Why Distrokid, rather than Tunecore or CD Baby? It’s only $20 a year and they take 0% of your earnings. They make it ultra easy for you and anyone involved to split up the revenue (the other person will also have to set up an account, though.) Both you and your friend can use my affiliate link for a discount. Begin a user account and follow the prompts.
STEP 2: When they ask you to enter a publishing name, make one up. You’ll need one for each of songwriter. (See below for more detail thoughts on publishing.)
STEP 3: When it comes to a record label, you can also make up a name. (See below for more detailed thoughts on record labels.) You’ll only need one name for that. A note about picking names. Try be as unique as possible, because you’re doing “cart before horse” here. What I mean is, after all this you’re going to do the paperwork for legitimizing each “company” — your respective publishing names and band name. So all of this is kind of like picking a domain name before knowing whether it’s taken. Most everything’s taken, so make your publishing names unique. Hint: your name is unique or your name + music, etc.
Part II: A Long Answer
I’ll use “Your Song” as an example.
I’m going to pretend that your publishing name is called “Your Name Music” and your friend’s is “Your Friend’s Music” and that your record label is called “Awesome Records.” I’m also going to pretend that your performing rights organization is ASCAP and your friend’s is BMI.
A song (until it’s recorded) is just intellectual property. That’s what the publishing deals with. That’s what ASCAP/BMI take care of — the writers of the song; not the recorders of the song. Once a song is recorded it now has two sides: the publishing side (intellectual property) and the recording side (what they in the biz call the “master”).
In a song like “Your Song,” Your Music (ASCAP) and Your Friend’s Music (BMI) own and control the publishing side. And guess who owns and controls the master side? Yep, Awesome Records.
So, let’s say in 6 months, a TV network wants to use the recorded version of “Your Song.” They need Your Music (ASCAP), Your Friend’s Music (BMI), and Awesome Records to sign off on it. For the sake of numbers, let’s say they want to use it for $10,000 all in. “All in” is an industry term to say both the publishing and the master.
$2500k would go to Your Music (ASCAP) and $2500 to Your Friends Music (BMI). $5k would go to Awesome Records.
The $10k is just for the up front fee for using “Your Song.” There’s also backend residuals that generate from a song being used on TV and other forms of media. ASCAP and BMI track that for the publishing side. A company called SoundExchange handles the residuals for Awesome Records. They also handle residuals for the artist, in this case Your Band Name (but that’s a whole other issue).
Ok, all that’s a lot to digest, and probably overwhelming. So just let me know what further questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Until your band has a song that’s making money, all of this isn’t hugely necessary and can be done after the fact. The important part is to just get moving. Upload the music and start sharing it.
I hope all this has been helpful. Let me know what more I can do. This is an exciting time, congrats again!
Have a question? Ask me anything here.