Kenny’s Tip of the Day - If You Don’t Split the Songwriting Publishing, You’re NOT a Band!!!
This is one of those highly controversial subjects. Each side has their points or arguments but having been around bands, record deals and bands splitting up for most of my life, I feel I can argue safely and strongly on the idea that bands SHOULD share their songwriting publishing equally if they want to be a “band”. Otherwise, it’s the songwriter and a bunch of hired guns.
To explain this a bit: Songwriters are paid very differently than artists. They can be paid more. Even much more depending on how or where the song is used or monetized.
For example, years ago I wrote a song for Mandy Moore. That song is still played on radio but Mandy doesn’t receive a single penny of that radio money. Radio airplay is considered a “public performance”.
Public performances generate performance royalties for songwriters, which are collected by Performing Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC). In the US, terrestrial broadcasters (AM or FM stations) do not pay performers or sound recording copyright owners; they ONLY pay the songwriters.
So in this example, I get paid and Mandy does not. Of course, she makes money in many other ways that I don’t. So it mostly balances out in the end. But she’s also a pop artist, not a band.
Let’s say a band gets a record deal. A fairly large one. There are 4 members of this group and they just landed a 300K deal from a major record label. How much does each member get?
Without using exact numbers, I’ll tell you that it’s very little. This is an advance (has to be paid back) but it has to cover many other things. Making the record being a very big one.
Using these numbers, the band would be lucky to take 50k of that. Split four ways, that’s $12.5k. Nobody is getting rich here. And you are mostly expected to quit your day job to fulfill this record deal and it’s commitments.
What about the songwriter? Let’s say the singer writes all of the songs 100%. Sure, the drummer wrote his drum parts, but if you break down what a song is, it’s very difficult to argue that a drummer CAN write a song. Using the definition of “lyrics and melody”, it’s not going to add up.
Let’s say that the singer is offered a publishing deal. That deal could easily be worth another 300k with an advance of 150k at the moment of signing. Where does that money go? Right into the pocket of our singer. If we’re going to do the math, our singer has $162.5k in his bank account while the other three members each have $12.5k? Is that fair?
Well… that depends. How did you get here? Have you been a band for a few months and the lead singer used all of his connection to get the labels interested and therefore secured the record deal? If so, probably. You’re really a bunch of hired guns anyway. Right?
But. If you’ve been touring the country for the last three, four or eight years working for gas money and doing everything possible for exposure for your band, that arrangement seems a bit unfair. You were all in this together.
Your singer can now buy a house with a pool and you can’t even buy a car. And this resentment is going to be the topic of every major disagreement going forward. As the three of you drive to LA in your van to be on some late night talk show while your singer arrives in a private plane.
These are the kinds of things that break up a band very quickly or even over time. Sometimes years. Because even after massive success, the singer will always be living a different lifestyle than the rest of the band. And this will be a major wedge issue going forward.
The best way to solve this (in my humble opinion) is to share the writing of all of the songs 100% with your bandmates. This may seem unfair at first but when you consider that they too have been eating cheese sandwiches for a year and a half while on tour, you’ll realize that you were all in this venture together. You all made equal sacrifices and should all share the reward.
Every time your song is played in a movie, in a commercial or even on the radio, you will all succeed together. This is exactly how bands like U2, REM and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have managed to stay together for so many years.
Every battle or decision going forward works out differently when every member knows that they’re in an everybody wins equally scenario. And no one will be eating steak and lobster while another is eating ramen noodles before hitting the stage that you all share equally.
You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia