Working with Co-Writers: Should You Split the PRO Share or do Work-For-Hire?
Today we're talking about collaborating with co-writers for production music. Collaborating with others is a great way to get professional sounding recordings and top-notch performances. Some people have asked me:
"Is it better to share the rights to the track through a PRO or for co-writers to be paid up front (work for hire)?"
The answer to this may vary for some people, so let's break it down with a Pros and Cons list for each.
Sharing the Songwriting Credit Through PROs
- All parties share the wealth
- Each party gets a smaller share, if there are a lot of collaborators then the shares will drastically decrease
- Each party can use their collective contacts and connections to find good homes for the music
- Collaborators won't regret it if a track becomes highly successful
Using a Work-For-Hire Agreement
- Sole songwriter can do whatever they want with the music
- Collaborators probably won't be helping to find a home for the music
- The music will be pre-cleared
- Initial payment to other musicians might not ever be recouped if the track is not successful
- Documentation will already be in place
- Collaborators may regret their decision if the track becomes successful
- Sole songwriter will receive all of the songwriting royalties
Personally, I have worked with collaborators on many tracks in this business. I have always opted to share the royalties with the other parties. Some of my "artist" music has used work-for-hire collaborators, but that is mostly because of the need to rent out actual studio time and physically go there.
I find that other musicians who are involved in sync are thinking long term and want their royalties just like the rest of us. Some of my coolest albums and tracks have come from collaborating with others. This is because I would not have been capable of doing some of these styles on my own.
If you plan to collaborate with others for production music, always discuss the following things BEFORE getting started:
Which type of agreement will you have (work for hire, or split PRO)?
If you are splitting the songwriting share, how will it be split? 50/50? 75/25 in favor of Writer A? This is not a conversation you want to have after completing the project.
If doing a work-for-hire, how much will the collaborator be paid per hour or for the whole session?
When figuring out the PRO split, keep in mind
Who wrote the music?
Who wrote the lyrics (if applicable)?
Who recorded more instruments?
Who is mixing/mastering the music?
These considerations will hopefully help all of the collaborators arrive at a favorable decision. I typically opt for a 50/50 split with my co-writers, unless there is a lot more for one person to do. Everyone is different though, and it is up to the parties to discuss these things on their own and do what works best for them.
Special Thanks to Kris from In Sync: Music Licensing Forum for suggesting this topic!
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