In my last blog, I discussed the various ways to get your songs placed in film, television and multimedia projects. If you missed it, you can read it here.
In this week’s post, I’m going to break it down a little bit more and answer questions about the types of deals offered by publishers and music libraries, as well as explain some of the terms you might come across in your dealings.
What is an exclusive versus non-exclusive deal?
An exclusive deal is a type of deal offered by some publishers or music libraries whereby you give them the publishing rights to represent your song on an exclusive basis. That is, you can’t sign a deal with another publisher for the same song.
A non-exclusive deal is a type of deal offered by publishers and music libraries whereby you give the publisher the non-exclusive right to represent your song. This means you can have other publishers and music libraries representing your song as well.
What is re-titing?
Re-titling generally happens when you sign a non-exclusive licensing agreement with a music library or publisher. Because you are allowing multiple publishers to represent your song, there has to be a way to differentiate one from the other when it comes to collecting the publishing royalties. Re-titling accomplishes this.
Quite simply, re-titling means re-naming a song and registering the ‘new’ song with your PRO. In other words, if you’ve written a song with the title “I’m Gonna Love You Forever,” then a publisher might re-title that song and call it “Forever.” Everything about your song remains the same except for the title.
Now, if the publisher were to place your song in a television show, then the royalties for it would flow through under the title “Forever,” and not “I’m Gonna Love You Forever,” and the correct publisher gets paid. In essence, it creates a money stream which is separate from the original song.
Re-titling is both a common and fairly controversial subject. Some publishers are only exclusive deals while other publishers offer only non-exclusives. And a few offer both.
So which type of deal is best for me as a songwriter: exclusive or non-exclusive?
This is a question often asked by songwriters and the answer is, “it depends.” There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Exclusive deals are often the only type of deal a publisher will offer, so if you’re not open to signing a song exclusively, you will be limiting your options. One possible advantage is that some people perceive exclusively represented music to be of better quality or more special due to the fact that only one entity is offering it.
Alternately, as a songwriter, you may feel that a non-exclusive deal gives you the opportunity to have more “tentacles” out in the marketplace. Having more than one publisher or library represent your song means more opportunities pursued to have your song placed. A non-exclusive deal also means you can pitch your song directly, if you so choose.
As a songwriter, you can also combine the two approaches. You can have some songs placed or published exclusively while other songs are placed or published non-exclusively.
While I personally combine the two approaches, I tend to still treat my non-exclusive agreements as exclusive.
What is a PRO?
A PRO (“performing rights organization”) collects performing rights royalties on behalf of its members who are songwriters, lyricists, composers and music publishers of all types. Then they distribute these royalties to their members.
PROs license the rights to use the public performance of their members’ intellectual property for:
1. network and cable television
2. cable movie channels
5. live public performances
In order to receive the royalties you are due, you must be signed up as a member of a PRO. If you’re a resident of the U.S. you have a choice of three: ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. You can only be a member of one.
However, it’s not enough just to sign up as a songwriter. You also have to register each of your songs with your chosen PRO in order for them to know who to pay and how much.
So how do you register your songs with a PRO?
You can register your song with your PRO on the organization’s website. Just follow the instructions on how to register a song. You’ll have to answer questions as to the writers, co-writers, publisher names, percentage of ownership, types of rights, etc. So it behooves you to take some time to learn what all the points are. Explanations of all of these details are included on the website.
What is “backend money”?
“Backend money” refers to performance royalties collected by your PRO. It’s called “backend” because it happens AFTER the actual performance. So it goes in this order:
1. performance of your song
2. collection of monies owed to you on your song by your PRO
3. distribution of money on song to you by your PRO
Backend money may also be referred to as “mailbox money.”
What is a buy-out?
“Buy-out” deals are most often offered by production companies.
In the buyout scenario, you as the songwriter get upfront monies but in exchange, you agree to sign over your publishing copyrights with the publisher. You still retain your writer’s share, which you collect from your PRO. They “buy out” your rights to the music and you retain a portion of the performance monies on the back end. Buyout fees range from $100 up to $1200 per track.
What is a Schedule A?
A “Schedule A” is an attachment which is included with publishing agreements. The Schedule A lists each song included in the agreement as well as the song’s writers and publishers, and PRO affiliations. Each writer must sign off on this form, as it is referenced for the purpose of filling out and submitting cue sheets.
What is a non-reversion clause?
A non-reversion clause is a deal point in a publishing agreement wherein you agree to let them have your publishing forever. The rights will never revert back to you, even if nothing ever happens to the song.
Stay tuned for more from this series, THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MUSIC LICENSING
You can also subscribe to the blog and get it delivered right to your inbox.
Want more tips on songwriting for film and t.v.? Purchase my e-book, How To Explode Your Income By Licensing Your Songs here.