Who Owns Your Music? Well, That Depends

You’ve written a song, signed a deal and now have a publisher. Maybe you’ve recorded that song, too. Now here’s the question: who owns that song? The answer is pretty, pretty tricky. From Hypebot.

Guest Post by Glen Sears of MediaNet

“I wish there had been a music business 101 course I could have taken.” -Kurt Cobain

If you write a song, you own that song. Maybe your record label owns a piece of your song in exchange for recording and distributing it. When your friend Andrew buys your song, the label gets a cut and you get a cut. The service it was bought from gets a cut, too. The more popular your music is, the more it gets used, the more everyone makes.

It’s a simple formula, and it’s how most of us think the music industry operates. In reality, this idea is quite inaccurate. Every song produced is a labyrinth of split ownership, licenses, and rights subject to decades-old laws spread across 100s of countries. They determine where a song can be played, how it can be used, and where the money goes afterward.

Calls for transparency and fair pay in the music industry have finally hit critical mass, capturing the attention of news outlets like NPR and building support for activism by stars like Taylor Swift. TIDAL was launched as an attempt to increase the amount of money artists are paid from streaming. Berklee College of Music released a 28-page report on its suggestions for repairing digital music. Everyone cares about music industry payments now.

It’s great news. But what about the next time you’re at a party and someone starts the “artists aren’t paid enough” conversation? How can anyone speak about music industry payments when they aren’t armed with all the information?

How does song ownership and payment really work, and can it be explained in a way non-industry experts understand?

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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