Working With Co-Writers In The Music Licensing Business

I question I get asked frequently in one on one coaching sessions I do with clients is how working with co-writers works in the context of licensing and collecting performance royalties.  I don't think I've ever properly addressed this issue in my newsletter.  If I have, it was a long time ago and I've completely forgotten about it! In any event, today's topic is going to be how to work with co-writers in the context of the music licensing business.
 
There are a few different scenarios when it comes to working with co-writers as it relates to registering titles and collecting performance royalties.  The first question that often arises with writers is how they should split any money earned with co-writers. You can essentially split money earned any way you and your co-writer agree to.  However it's common practice in most co-writing situations to simply split any money earned 50/50.  
 
It's hard to quantify exactly who contributed what percentage of a song vs another when it comes to working with co-writers.  For this reason, most co-writers simply agree to split things evenly.  This especially makes sense if your working with someone over a long period of time.  Things tend to balance themselves out.  Maybe you contribue a little more on one song but on another your co-writer contributes more.  The bottom line, you can split things up however you both agree to, but it's much simpler to divide things down the middle.  
 
When it comes to registering titles and collecting money with co-writers, there are three scenarios.  They are:
 
1) You both belong to the same PRO -  This is the simplest scenario.  If you both belong the same PRO, ASCAP, for example, you simply both register the title and list the other as the co-writer.  When you get paid for the songs' usage, you would both get paid an equal amount, or whatever amount you both agree to.
 
2) You belong to a PRO but your writer doesn't - In this scenario you have two choices.  One is you could simply register the title yourself as the sole songwriter and when you get paid you would simply pay your co-writer the agreed upon amount.  The alternative, and I think better option, would be to list the co-writer and then have the co-writer join the same PRO.  This way things are taken care of on the front end and there's no questions about money later.
 
3) You belong to one PRO and your co-writer belongs to another - In this scenario you would register the song with your PRO, listing your co-writer and their percentage and your co-writer would do the exact same thing with their PRO.  In this scenario you would both receive separate checks, from your separate PRO's for the songs usage.  Usually, the checks are very close in dollar amount.
 
So.. there you have it.  Don't let working with co-writers intimidate you.  There are a few more steps involved in terms of getting paid, but if you value working with co-writers it's really not that big of a deal and it's a very common situation in the world of songwriting and licensing!
 
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Happy Songwriting!

Aaron Davison