Labels & Publishers

Publishers, Labels and Song Ownership

When an original musical composition is created and recorded, there are two sets of copyrights that immerge : (1) the copyright attached to the musical composition itself-the words and music of the song and (2) the copyright attached to the particular recorded rendition of the musical composition, called the master. It is important to recognize this distinction because the owner of the master recording will often be different from the owner of the composition itself. A music publisher administers , and will often own part of , the copyright attached to the musical composition, while a record label will often own the copyright attached to the master.

A song may have a single author or multiple authors, -for example, a song may have a composer of its music and a separate lyricist who wrote its words,. All those who had a hand in the song’s creation are entitled to receive authorial credit when the song is performed and are entitled to financial compensation for its use by others. To avoid discrepancy over how much of the song’s composition each contributor owns, songwriters, musicians, composers and/or band members alike should write a contract stating explicitly how much of the composition each contributor will own (each writer/contributor’s part is called a “split”.). They will then need to register these splits with the performing rights agency, SOCAN, and CMRRA for mechanical licensing purposes.

Record Labels : Ownership of masters

When a record label records a song, they will often contract with both the performer of the song and its creators (which may be the same person) to pay a particular sum of money in exchange for ownership over the end product of the recording, the master. Within a recording agreement, there will often be a commitment of the record label to pay the performer (and the song’s writers) a percentage of the money made off sales of the recording. But it must be noted that these payments do not arise out of an ownership interest that the artist or the song’s writers have in the specific recording , but rather out of a term written into the contract.. An exception to this is in the case of a third party songwriter who does not perform in the recording. Such third party song writers without a recording agreement with the label will be entitled to the full copyright attached to their contribution to the song (in terms of publishing royalties , etc.)

Publishers: Administration and Ownership of compositions

In contrast, music publishers handle the administration of the copyright attached to musical composition. A publisher’s role is to promote the use of the song(s), grant licenses to others for its use, and collect money from those who use it , to be distributed in part back to the song’s creators (these payments are called “publishing royalties”). More and more songwriters are choosing to handle the publishing of their songs themselves. Nevertheless, a music publisher may be useful to avoid the headache of managing the use of one’s song entirely on one’s own.

Depending on the contract entered into by the creator(s) of a musical composition and a publisher, the creators may assign 50% of their copyright in the song over to the publisher in exchange their services, or none whatsoever.