March 23, 2023

Songwriter Agreement

This Article has been written by Ms. Sejal Dhakad, 1st year BBA LLB Student at Indian Institute of Management Rohtak.


The song is the first original work in the world of music. The music industry is concerned with what happens to that song next. Dealings with a music publisher are frequently a songwriter’s first exposure to this business side of music. This partnership may be one of the most significant ones a songwriter ever enters into because the music publisher’s job is to capitalize on the song (i.e., get artists to record it, place it in movies, TV shows, videogames, commercials, ringtones and ring backs, dolls and toys, musical greeting cards, etc.); to negotiate to license agreements with all parties interested in using the song (producers of movies and TV shows, advertising agencies, videogame companies, etc.). to safeguard the song (copyright it, file lawsuits against infringers, register it with ASCAP, Harry Fox Agency, foreign country collection societies, etc.); to gather all monies earned by the song from all sources (aside from the writer’s share of performance monies); and to pay the songwriter his or her share in accordance with the songwriter/music publisher contract. 

Types of Songwriter Agreements

Songwriters can enter one of six different sorts of agreements with a music publisher. The Individual Song Agreement, Exclusive Songwriter’s Agreement, Co-Publishing Agreement, Participation Agreement, Administration Agreement, and International Sub-Publishing Agreement are all examples of such agreements. The Songwriter/Performer Development Agreement, as well as the Joint Venture and Co-Venture Agreements, are further arrangements.

Individual Song Agreements – In accordance with the individual song agreement, a writer gives a publisher the copyright to one composition or a specific set of recognized songs in exchange for a percentage of the revenue generated by the uses of that composition or those compositions. The writer can approach several publishers with other songs and only provide each of them the songs that it is truly interested in promoting because the individual song contract only pertains to the song or songs specifically listed in the agreement. 

Exclusive Songwriter Agreements – With the promise of a share of the revenue generated and typically a provision for weekly or monthly payments, the songwriter undertakes to assign all compositions created within a given term (for example, two years starting on January 1 or 1 year with four alternatives). Every weekly or monthly payment paid to the author is regarded as an advance that can be recovered from their future revenues. For instance, if a writer receives $600 a week in advances, $31,200 will have been paid out in advances throughout the first year of the contract. The amount of these payments will be subtracted from any royalties that are later payable from the sale of records, downloads, sheet music, commercials, home video, television, and motion picture synchronization fees, as well as from any other revenue sources under the publisher’s control. 

One benefit of having a close working partnership with a publisher is that the author is ensured a regular income, comparable to a wage, to cover standard living costs and other expenses while pursuing a profession. The weekly or monthly advance payments sometimes referred to as a “writer’s draw,” can also provide a great deal of financial and emotional security while the writer waits for royalties to be collected and processed because it can take up to two years for money from record sales and performances to reach the writer.

Co-Publishing and Participation Agreements – With their music publishers, many authors are able to negotiate co-publishing or participation arrangements. The songwriter co-owns the copyright to his or her compositions under the terms of the co-publishing agreement (often through a totally owned corporation) and earns a percentage of the publisher’s profits (typically 50%) in addition to the songwriter’s share. With the participation agreement, the author does not partake in the copyright ownership but instead receives a portion of the publisher’s income, much like in co-publishing. 

The following sorts of agreements grant publishers access to compositional rights as well. All of these just convey the authority to manage and control the compositions for the duration of the agreement; they do not truly transfer copyright ownership.

Administration Agreements – In an administration agreement, the publisher is granted the authority to manage a composition or group of compositions for a predetermined amount of time, including licencing the use of songs in recordings, tapes, CDs, television shows, movies, DVDs, commercials, and video productions and collecting royalties from all music users (e.g., three years, five years, etc.). The publisher often receives an “administration fee” of between 15% and 25% of all revenue made throughout the duration of the agreement as compensation for its services. 

International Sub-Publishing Agreements – An administration agreement resembles the International sub-publishing agreement. The sole distinction is that the publisher has made a deal with a different publisher in a different nation to represent its collection there. The agreement is known as a sub-publishing agreement, for instance, if a U.S. publisher wants a publisher in England to represent its catalogue in the United Kingdom or if a publisher in France wants a publisher in the United States to represent its catalogue there. Similar to the administration agreement, representation is only valid for a predetermined amount of time (often not less than three years), and the International sub-publishers cost for its services is negotiable within defined parameters.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that all of these agreements are contracts that obligate the parties to adhere to whatever terms they have agreed upon. While negotiating contracts, expert legal counsel is usually necessary. 

Importance of Songwriter Agreement 

  1. The fact that an artist might be regarded as an employee demonstrates the existence of an employee in the contract. There is almost always a contract in place in business transactions. A contract is always given to an artist, and it’s crucial to establish the conditions of the arrangement. The agreement is essential in demonstrating how significant the agreement is.
  2. Making a solid contract that they can rely on is crucial for an artist in this situation. A solid contract is the foundation of an artist’s career; thus, making a strong agreement is crucial. Contracts are not always reliable; therefore, you might not always be protected. Nonetheless, a solid contract will always protect both parties in a dispute.
  3. This raises the question of why a contract is signed with an artist. And the answer is that an artist’s work requires a lot of creativity. Given the circumstances surrounding IPR, it ought to be safeguarded. The likelihood that the artist’s work will be plagiarized or copied increases with the amount of acknowledgement.
  4. A number of conditions are always predicated on an artist’s contract. There are several instances throughout plays where the artist hesitates to act or abstains, but these instances cannot be taken into account unless they are specified in a contract. This safeguards the artist from having to perform a performance that they do not want to. This demonstrates how a contract is crucial to safeguarding an artist’s rights and interests. This would prevent any conflicts while the original work is being created, and the artist may use the contract as protection for their rights. 


This article aims to provide songwriters’ agreement with a concise overview of the fundamental rights, responsibilities, structures, obligations, and duties of the six most typical agreements that form the relationship between a songwriter and his or her music publisher and the importance of Songwriter agreement you will be required to deal with at least one, and most likely more than one, of these agreements if a music publisher is interested in one, several, or all of your tunes. 


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