Collaboration spurs creativity, but it can also stir up trouble if not properly managed. Co-creators often cringe at the thought of sitting down to discuss ownership and royalty splits, however navigating this type of conversation is a necessary practice to ensure you are getting paid correctly for your work. More importantly, turning that conversation into a written document, like a split sheet, proactively protects your rights and can save you from a potential legal battle in the future. Here’s how:
What is a Split Sheet?
A split sheet is a written agreement between two or more music creators that identifies each contributor and establishes specific ownership percentages amongst them. These percentages are important because they determine how much each contributor will be paid when income is generated by their music. In general, every song published can be broken down into a writer’s share (lyrics) and a producer’s share (music), with each share being worth 50% of the song. The shares can be broken down even further if there are additional contributors, however, the same creator can contribute to both shares. The final percentages are negotiated and must be agreed upon by all parties involved.
Why Split Sheets Are Necessary
Split sheets are an essential safeguard for creators to ensure that they are being properly compensated for the work they contribute to. Under U.S. Copyright Law, any co-written content without a written agreement, like a split sheet, will be equally divided depending on the number of people involved. This can put contributing producers and songwriters at risk to receive less ownership or revenue for the content they created, which can lead to serious legal battles down the road. Split sheets can save creators from a potential legal headache because it requires them to come to an agreement and establish their ownership in writing, which can be referred back to or supplied to third parties if necessary.
Tips to Get Started
Split sheets are necessary for every song your write and should be completed immediately after a song is written, before any income or royalties start flowing in. Creators can find basic templates online, or they can design their own. Each split sheet should include:
- Name of the song
- Legal name of the contributing writers involved
- Their role in the song creation (i.e. songwriter, producer)
- Share of songwriter percentage of song and/or share of producer percentage of song
- Performing rights organization affiliation (PRO) and publishing company (if available)
- Mailing address and contact information
- Signature of each writer/producer
To avoid future disputes, creators should fill out their split sheets together, making sure that everything is clearly stated, dated, signed and timestamped. If creators are having trouble coming up with a fair agreement, get a lawyer involved.
As a creator, understanding the value of your work, especially before it is published, is vital to your overall success. Be proactive and take control of the conversation by using split sheets to secure your fair share of revenue. Don’t forget to check back with our weekly blogs to find new ways to protect your content.