Music royalties and copyright are the music industry’s currency. Although the concept of copyright and music royalties might appear straightforward, in fact the development and adjustments of music copyright, and licensing systems has changed significantly over the years. And although much of the traditional legal framework is still in place the music industry has and is undergoing significant changes.
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To understand how it all works the following is a typical scenario for music publishing lawyers.
Meenie, Miney and Mo are songwriters professionally known as the Head-bangers (HB). Beakless Woodpecker UK Limited (BWL) is a music publisher based in Notting Hill Gate London W11. BWL wants HB to supply them exclusively with a number of previously unreleased songs.
In return for HB fulfilling their obligations under the publishing agreement, including assigning their rights in the songs to BWL, HB & BWL will earn the following royalties and fees.
The first thing to clarify is that there is a difference between the sound recording, which is the mastered track, and the musical composition. The mastered track incorporates the musical composition. However the properties that make up the finished mastered track are treated separately for copyright purposes i.e. the songwriter and the singer each have their own rights. The singer owns the copyright in the sound recording, and the songwriter owns the copyright in the musical composition. Some artists are the authors of both the musical composition and the sound recording, and so are entitled to the rights that are attached to both properties. Every time a mastered track is copied both rights holders are entitled to royalties. The licence for copying of the mastered sound recording is called a mechanical licence.
Traditionally, artists’ managers had a more intimate relationship with artists, taking care of the business side of things, whilst the artists concentrated on making music. The manager would usually take a back seat, preferring to be behind the scenes dealing with the day-to-day running of artists’ business affairs.