Advice needed re: producing a song for someone and the business thereof

A singer has asked me to produce a song she has written (lyrics, melody, chord progression)

That being said, the song is already copyrighted by her and another songwriter and they both own 50% of the publishing thereof

My questions are:

  1. Is it true that if I am composing the music based upon the supplied melody and chord progression, then am I merely a producer, not a songwriter?

  2. What are my options to getting paid royalties? I assume I need to draft a producer/artist contract

  3. Do I need to get both songwriters/publishers to sign off on my producing and getting royalties?

Thank you and be well

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Hey Douglas, sounds like a complicated situation. I’d guess a couple of things; if you are writing the music, you are therefore one of the songwriters and should be entitled to 1/3 of the royalties with the other two. You’d need to become a member of a PRO, if you’re not already and/or they’d need to add you to the songwriting credits on their PROs as well. Not 100% sure how that works since I’m a lone artist. I’d recommend looking at ASCP as a PRO. I think they should have a good explanation of what to do in this situation.


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I told the artist that I only wanted to work on original songs that we co-write as I do not want to get involved in the rigmarole of dealing with all of the nonsense

I did register myself on ASCAP as both a writer and publisher

Get it all down in writing. ASCAP has some nice contract examples for you to use. However, to me this appears to be a “work for hire” gig, in which they keep all the copyrights. They pay you to arrange and produce a finished copy of the music for a set fee. I don’t think you could expect royalties in this situation. You’re more like the orchestrator, the orchestra, and the mix engineer. If she has already submitted her work to a PRO like ASCAP, and not listed you as a co-contributor, I don’t think royalties are an option. That being said, I would recommend that you get paid half up front and the rest upon completion.

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I too am in need of advice in this area but my situation is this: I recently created an unsolicited additional layer of musical score (which I sweated over for three months in early 2021) for a recent SciFi movie for whom the emotional depth of the original score wasn’t doing the movie full justice, although very good nonetheless. All I’ll say is that the original score was by Zimmer and Wallfisch. Having approached Alcon Entertainment with an opportunity to re-release the movie with a fuller score (and a 17 minute showreel available) which would surely bring in more sales such is the aficionado base, their response was swift - their legal department effectively told me to desist!
So - what the heck have I done wrong? Hoping you can advise Mike.

I guess I would ask up front if they would be willing to let you do a re-score on spec. Most will not, because the cue sheet has already been created and submitted to a PRO so everyone can get paid. Plus, is the original soundtrack out for sale? A producer will recoup some of money they spent on their music budget for the film in this way. The point is, there is a lot working parts involved; and by asking up front, you will get some idea about their willingness to make a change. Remember the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)? Alex North wrote an entire score for the film, but Kubrick opted instead for prerecorded classical works.