Should Musicians Give Their Producer Songwriting Credit?

very common question I get asked by my musician friends and clients is whether they should give their producer songwriting credit on songs they’ve produced.

This question brings up a key distinction to be drawn between the Songwriting Copyright and the Sound Recording Copyright.

Record Points vs. Songwriting Points

Rather than give their producer songwriting points, recording artists would traditionally give their producer 2 to 4 points on the record. In simplified terms, this means that 2 to 4% of revenues generated from the sale of these records would go to the producer. So for each $0.99 iTunes sale for example, two to four cents would go to the producer. Only the sound recording copyright is involved here.

However, I’ve noticed an interesting thing happening in the last few years: as record sales (and therefore producer royalties) continue to decline, many producers are suddenly calling themselves songwriters. In some cases, it’s justified: I know a lot of producers that are also talented writers, and who sit down with the artists they record and help them take the songwriting to the next level. They might help write lyrics, add entire parts to the song, suggest structural changes, or change the chords and melodies.

If the producer is indeed a co-writer, they would be entitled to portion of the songwriting copyright, for the length of the copyright. Once the producer is a songwriter, he or she will always be a songwriter of that song, likely for a hundred years or more. They will be entitled to revenue from radio play, use of the song on television, at sports games, and any other time the song is performed…for decades.

Giving up songwriting is a big deal, and a much deeper commitment than giving up points on the record. See my article on The Two Copyrights in a Song for a more in-depth comparison.

This leaves us with the million-dollar question: where is the line drawn between producing and writing?

Producer or Producer/Songwriter? 

You as artist are paying – and likely a significant amount – to obtain the various services that a producer provides, such as offering their opinion of the songs, making suggestions on improving them, and suggesting changes to the arrangements. But do any of these things constitute producer songwriting?

For example, if a producer changes a single chord in the chorus of your song, is your producer songwriting? If they write all the lyrics to that chorus, is your producer songwriting? In my opinion, the answer to the former is no and latter is yes. Unfortunately, most contributions fall somewhere in between the two extremes, which creates a real grey area.

producer songwriting

What does the law say? 

In Canada, the question of whether the producer is entitled to songwriting was settled in the Sarah McLachlan case (see Neudorf v. McLachlan et al, BC Supreme Court). The court ruled that there must be proof of mutual intent between artist and producer that producer songwriting with the artist will take place, as well as evidence that such producer songwriting occurred. What this means is that bands and producers need to sit down before recording begins and discuss this important issue, and agree if the producer will get points on the record and/or on the song, or neither. Unfortunately, 90% of the time this does not happen, and things hit the fan when a song becomes a hit and the producer claims half of the songwriting.

While the issue of intent might be clear in some cases (i.e. was it discussed or not), finding evidence that producer songwriting actually occurred might prove to be difficult. See my article on What Constitutes Songwriting for more clarity. In the meantime, just know that as an artist, you should not be giving away any of your songwriting unless real co-writing is happening with your producer. And it should all be discussed before the “record” button is pushed.

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119 Responses

  1. If the song structure, chord progressions, vocal melodies and lyrics have all stayed the same (all written by the artist) and the producer adds one additional instrumental part on top of that (trumpet line in the background,) is the producer entitled to songwriting credit?

      1. I offered to help produce a song my friend wrote. It was a piano melody and I eventually helped with some of the lyrics which she adopted. I worked with the arrangement, wrote the drums, bass line, strings/ambience and everything else. She offered me a 50/50 split. Now we want to produce an agreement.. what should I be asking for in your opinion?

  2. Hi, great site by the way.
    Iv written songs for over 5 yrs with my friend producing/helping me arrange the songs in his studio at no cost.We have a band and made an album. My gut feeling is he should be 50/50 on the songwriting because he’s helped bring my songs up to scratch and helped me all the way. Do you feel I should do this or could I have problems in the future?

    1. That sounds fair Simon, assuming he truly did help with the songwriting. Whatever you decide, you need to get a Co-Writer Agreement in place, so you can administer the compositions going forward.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

    2. Hi, so In this instance I wrote the lyrics and melody for this particular song and the producer built a track around it, it’s not what I want and I’ve told him I will not be using his production. He [the producer] now wants songwriting credit and to upload it to a music catalog cause he thinks he co-wrote the song. I don’t think legally he’s entitled to it?

      1. This is why you need a Producer Agreement in place. If it’s your song originally, he cannot release it without your consent. But it sounds like you need to negotiate something with the producer. If you don’t like the music he added to your song, that’s a different discussion.

        Kurt Dahl
        Entertainment Lawyer

  3. Hello, I am getting ready to have a record released with a production partner. Originally the material wasn’t created to be a collaboration album, but has now become one. Its an instrumental hip hop record. The majority of the songs were started by me with many hours of editing and arrangement at the early stages and were well developed by the time he gave any input into the tracks. The drums/beat, tonic key, chord progressions, and general arrangement were all in place. My production partner later added a few parts to the songs that certainly do fit nicely , but do not substantially change the feel of the material I had previously recorded, the parts do not constitute a hook or chorus. I started the songs alone, although on a couple songs he had a few suggestions for source material early on, but wasn’t present when i created the bulk of the composition and arrangements. The parts he added was an arpegiated flute that fit with the chord progression in place and a piano motif that lasted about 15 seconds towards the end of the song. The drums, bass, chord progressions were in place already, with minor changes to the sequencing/ arrangement, is he entitled to song writer credits based on this information or would an “additional instrumentation” credit be a more accurate credit? Thanks!

    1. Hi Dahv,

      Because it’s an instrumental album, and he contributed some important parts to the instrumental, it sound like he’s entitled to some writing. But I would have to hear the before and after. You might want to give a small % of writing as a good gesture, so he promotes etc and is more excited about the project. But that’s a business decision not a legal one. The real question: did his contributions fundamentally change the songs?


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  4. Hi, my producer changed a song of mine so that the chords of the chorus are also used in the verse, rather than the chords I’d written. But he didn’t write new chords. On another he cut the last line of the chorus but again didn’t add any new words. Do you think he deserves to listed as a songwriter?


    1. Hi Zoe

      Tough one. It really depends how these two suggestions changed the song. The second change isn’t songwriting, the first might be. I would try to push for no songwriting to the producer, especially if you’re paying a healthy producer fee. But if he hasn’t asked for songwriting, don’t offer it.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  5. I have written songs and hummed the music tune out to a producer I work with who used my tune ,as well as, created music around it. He says he is also the writer, but did not write any lyrics to my song. Can he claim writing rights?

    1. Hi Brenda

      I would have to hear the original humming vs the final song, but it sounds like he created the music from your humming, so he deserves something in terms of songwriting.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  6. I am collaborating on a beat/underlying music with a friend at a studio he works at and has been given access to the studio for his personal use. We will both collaborate on the music (midi instruments), then I write the lyrics, vocal melody, and sing on the recording. My friend will record my vocals and mix the song. I am a solo artist/songwriter. Is it fair to split the songwriting 50/50? and would it be reasonable for me to own the master sound recording as the featured artist or would you split that 50/50 as well? What agreements do I need? And should I consider getting the studio owner to sign an agreement stating he has no rights to the master recording? Thank you.

    1. Hi Diana

      You definitely want an agreement b/w the two of you, that clarifies who owns the Master (you) and what the songwriting splits are. 50/50 would be high I would think, unless your friend brought all of the music and you did lyrics only. If you did half the music and all the lyrics, something like 75/25 would be more ideal.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  7. I am working with a long-time friend to bring material I wrote (chords, melody, lyrics) up to snuff production-wise (he is a brilliant producer). He is also doing new arrangements for the music, but under my direction. Considering that it is a symbiotic collaboration in that way, and wanting to be fair and rewarding to him for his production and arrangement talents, what are some common ways to be generous in this regard?

    1. Hi Rob,

      You could give him more backend on the sales of masters, via producer points. They typically are in the 2 to 5 range, i.e. 2 to 5% of record sale revenues. So you could increase this number. You could also give him special credit in the liner notes and online. Or pay him a higher producer fee.

      I hope this helps

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  8. Hi Kurt,
    I recently collaborated with a singer on a jazz album. In addition to playing piano on the album, I wrote all of the chord changes for the originals. He would sing the melodies and I would come up with the chord changes then write the charts out to give to the band. I also helped develop intros, outros and arrangements. I worked with him many months leading up to the recording and am currently assisting on post-production. Should I receive partial songwriting credit? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nicholas,

      It sounds like you might. I would have to hear the before and after for the songs, but it sounds like you helped write. Ultimately, you need to have this discussion with your collaborator.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  9. Wonderful article. I’m pretty sure you’ve answered my question but for the sake of clarity. As an artist, I’ve written the song and melody on my guitar. The entire song was produced by me. I sent her my guitar and asked to build strings and a simple drum pattern around the song. Are they entitled to any publishing?? songwriting or production?

    1. I would have to hear the before and after on the song, but at first blush, it sounds like the other party is producing and/or arranging, not songwriting.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  10. This has most likely been covered but my questions is this. If I had written all the music, lyrics plus demoed the melody and the singer changed a line or two and in some cases a word, does that constitute song writing credit? If so would it be more of a percentage based off how many words or lines changed. Thank you.

    1. Changing the lyrics is most often considering songwriting, yes. If it’s one word, well maybe not. But you need to look at the overall change in the song from your singer’s contributions. And then you need to have an open discussion with he or she about how these songs should be divided up.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  11. Hello!
    Myself and a guitar play wrote some original songs and were offered free recording by a music studio student for their final year course project.
    The songs are unheard and never recorded.
    We decided to upload the original songs on soundcloud as a means of documentation.
    We expect to have no changes to the songs moving forward into studio recording, and plan to upload the studio recordings to my soundcloud after recording as well.
    Does this sound like a safe course of action? Should there be some kind of contract saying the recorder cannot distribute the music?
    Brett Nelson Coelho

    1. It really depends how much you trust the producer. It should be fine but I’ve seen producers hold masters ransom unless a fee is paid. You should be safe as you likely have emails that document the arrangement.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  12. Skool Aid is my Company. One of the programs we offer is a Songwriting class. If our Teaching Artist is paid to work with students to write a song, who is the Songwriter? The student should, in my opinion get most of the credit, but who gets the rest? The Teaching Artist that works with us? The school that pays us? Skool Aid? A lot of gray area here so I would likely default to the student, but interested in hearing your opinion.

    1. It depends whether it is addressed in your Employment Agreement with the TA. It might be a work for hire, so writing goes to Skool Aid. But the student would have a claim as well, unless they waived that somehow. Hope this helps!

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  13. Hi I receive music stems and am told to come up with other concepts before the song releases for really big name artists and sometimes they don’t make the final cut but essentially I am working on the song for a label and submitting ideas and stems I’m curious if I work on a song and have the data and records to prove it am I entitled to some form of credit? For example I receive said song file work on it and create other concepts not remixes even if what I make doesn’t make it to the final master aren’t I supposed to be credited as a writer or something because I feel that I am being jipped please let me know am I

    1. It depends on your arrangement with your employer, and also depends if your contributions constitute songwriting, which is a question of fact in each instance

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  14. Hello! I write the lyrics to my songs, create the vocal harmonies and song pattern/arrangement, and even come up with the basic format of the instrumentation in piano. My producer just takes the basic format of the instrumentation I’ve already created and adds some chords and some more instruments and that’s it. So I ac tually make his job easier than most artists because all of my songs are mostly already put together by the time I get with him so he only adds to the instrumentation really. Does he still get writer credits since he didn’t actually write anything? Especially pertaining to BMI.

    1. At first blush, it sounds like he is producing and not co-writing. But I’d have to obtain further info to give a full opinion! Thanks

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  15. Hello I was sent a song to sing by a songwriter friend and then I paid to have it produced by them but it was not finished. I have a different producer I want to finish the song and he is enhancing the music also. Who owned the rights to the song?

  16. Hello! I wrote all the lyrics, melodies, harmonies for my music. I’m collaborating with a producer to make the beats using instruments and/or various audio production software. I will sing my lyrics, melodies and harmonies over the producer’s beats. Do I own 100% of the master? Does the producer get any Songwriting credits? Who should be on the SR copyright, and who should be on the PA copyright, and how much % for each? What is a fair arrangement for royalties on each sale? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Lala. It really depends on what you and the producer agree. Many producers would ask for 50% of the songwriting in the situation you describe. But sometimes, if you are paying them more for a producer fee, they lower this ask. So in short: it depends on many factors. Email me to chat further. Thanks

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  17. Hello! A music producer asked me for help in completing some songs that he had started in terms of lyric writing. He already had melody, a story idea and a few lyrics, but almost the whole lyrics of the song came from me. He uploaded the songs on various platforms, YouTube, a website, facebook, but the captions only say “Music by: (his name)”, not mentioning at all that I co-wrote the lyrics with him (in fact most of them). He didn’t even inform me via direct message that he had uploaded them already. You think it’s just right for me to demand a credit and also how about a payment for being his lyricist? Really hoping for your reply. Thank you for your help!

  18. I am currently working with a producer who has produced 2 songs for me. We are meeting tomorrow to get everything in writing. I had the lyrics and melody completely done when I gave him the demo. He produced the track for the song. I want to be fair with him, because he produced both tracks for free. Would he get writer’s credit on either of these songs for producing the track? He did help a little more with the arrangement on the second track. (I wanted to start with the chorus and he suggested to start with the verse and that’s what we did.) Also, because there was no exchange of money, would the producer own the masters? We never discussed that either. I’m not at a place where i have a huge following so unless I sold it for placement, I don’t know if I’d make a lot of money off of either of the songs. Please advise.

    1. Hi Laura. Whatever you do, please get something in writing with the producer. You definitely need to own the masters. I would have to hear the songs before and after before giving an opinion on songwriting splits. Email to chat further and let me know what your producer suggested is fair.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  19. Hey Kurt – Thanks for this, super helpful. I represent a band that’s working with a producer who’s asking for 15% writer’s credit + 15% publishing interest on a single track. We agree his contribution to the previous 3 tracks we recorded with him merited some credit, but nothing was put into writing. Based on your experience, does this sound like a standard agreement? Would be curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks again.

  20. Hi Kurt,

    I sung my melody/lyrics and gave it to my producer who charges me a fixed amount to create chords around my melody and produce my song. He’s added a structural change to my chorus and created chord changes throughout my song. He’s helped with the melody for the bridge. Before we began, he verbally told me that he won’t take songwriting credit for it even though he’s helping me with writing the chords and slight structural changes. But as we’ve developed the song to it’s almost finished state, he realizes it could be a big hit if given to the right artist and he’s asking for credit now. Since I’m paying him to write the chords and produce the song, does he waive any right to songwriting credit? I feel I have a moral obligation to give him some credit because he’s made my song better than it was coming in. But I also paid him and we agreed for me to pay him to help build my song. And the fact that he verbally told me he’s not going to take credit. I should add that my producer wrote a huge #3 Billboard Hot 100 hit in the 90’s so knows the music business pretty well. I think I agree with him and that I feel we have a golden hit song on our hands. What is the best course of action? Thank you.

  21. Hello, I have a question about toplining that is not specifically about a producer, but my Google search led me to your (great and informative) article so I was hoping you might be able to answer my question anyway, please. Years ago (circa 2015-2016), I came across a finished public electronic (instrumental-only) track on SoundCloud as the guy who had made and posted it was a beatmaker who had advertised that he was looking for a singer with whom to collaborate. I am a singer/pianist/violinist who happened to have an existing song written completely on my own (lyrics, melody, and my own chords, which were similar to the chords he had used) that I thought might fit well over his track if I adapted my chords somewhat. So, I approached him via email and he sent me an mp3 of his track, and then I recorded demo vocals from my home (again, singing my own lyrics and melody) over his existing track just as it was. The collaboration ended up not working out (due to a mutual lack of time, and so we parted ways on good terms) and nothing further happened with that project. Now, in 2018, I have completely redone this song totally on my own (i.e., I arranged, programmed, performed and recorded all my own electronic and live instrumental parts and vocals, and used no samples from his work), and in so doing, I also changed a few of the chords here and there, but many of the original chords are the same. But again, many of the chords of my initial, original, preexisting song before I ever heard his track were actually the same, which is why hearing his instrumental track online had actually appealed to me to begin with. His work never inspired any of my melody nor lyrics since they were all preexisting for years before I ever heard his track. Thus, we never wrote any part of the song together, since he had a track that he had done entirely by himself, and then I had a vocal melody/chords/lyrics I had done entirely by myself, and then I simply mashed them together on one occasion to see how it would sound. So as far as I understand it, he has contributed zero to what I have done currently since I created all the instrumental tracks by myself BUT some of the chords are the same; however, I also understand that you cannot copyright a chord progression. So, I just wanted to make sure I am correct in assuming that I do not need to contact him again or offer him any songwriting credit when I release my new song! Thank you in advance for any insight you can offer!!!!

  22. I am a new artist, I found a producer on youtube and wrote a song to his beat, he is selling the beat. I’m buying the beat for exclusive rights but I got a email stating it would be 50/50 publishing. How does a producer get publishing rights if I am only buying a beat nothing more and does the exclusive mean I own the masters?

  23. A singer songwriter friend of mine wrote the lyrics, melody, arrangements, and produced his song in Japanese, but asked me to translate the lyrics to English. Just to clarify, this would be songwriting and at 50/50 since I wrote all of the lyrics to the English version of his song?

  24. Hi! I wrote a full song: bass line/ lyrics/ melody = on guitar and was gigging it acoustically before I took it into the studio to record with the mixing engineer and bassist that I work with. We all co -produce the “sound”. I do not pay the bassist for his time. I pay a set agreed amount to the mixing engineer for studio time per track. He mixes and adds input to what it should sound like. But everything runs by me for final approval…if I don’t like something…we change it and the track isn’t complete until I am happy.
    If it was a full song that I wrote before taking it into the studio to record…but in the studio…mixing engineer creates a drum pattern and loop…the bassist adds his skill but sometimes I tell him a bass line to play…on this track…I instructed a bass line idea…we throw ideas at it…I write synth parts and say how I want the guitar to sound…and give reference tracks….they each want 20%….leaving me with 60% of songwriting. I don’t think this is fair at all.

    We discuss percentages after each track…we completed my first 4 track EP… the first two songs we recorded…were again…ones I had written and was gigging before I met them….but because we were creating my “sound” for the first time…I gave them each 20% song writing….but the next two…they took 12.5/15 and 20% each. I let them have bigger cuts than I felt was fair to me to keep creative harmony for the EP…But this next track is 5th track and this split of “songwriting” no longer feels fair on me. I feel I should get all of song writing credit or most of it. What is your take? PLease help!:-)

    1. I would have to hear the song before and after the other’s involvement. And would have to spend more time to give a professional opinion.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  25. I have an artist that wrote the lyrics to a song that was produced by another producer. He asked a new producer to do a remix to his lyrics. The songwriter agreed to do a 50/50 split in BMI with the producer. I am the manager. Is this correct?

  26. Hi,

    I am producing songs for a friend of mine who is a talented song writer. She presents me very basic demos, often just piano and vocals. I generally add the rest to make it into the final song. For example one song which was such piano and vocals, I wrote and added a string quartet part, along with all the other synths/percussion etc that build the final mix. Am I entitled to a second billed songwriting credit for the parts ive written/added? I havn’t changed chord progression/vocal melody/lyrics though.

    1. Hi Ed,

      I would have to hear the songs before/after but it sounds like you’re producing and arranging rather than songwriting. But again, I would need more info. If you’re adding to existing chords/progressions/lyrics, that’s not technically songwriting.


      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  27. Hi there

    I am a singer-songwriter and have been working with a friend who has been producing my tracks. I go to him with basic demos – chords, structure, melody, lyrics and he adds instrumentation to bulk out the sound of the track. Some songs he added better basslines (he changed the ones I had but used the same chords). He also added in some background riffs, which although help to decorate the song, they don’t contain melodic hooks as such. He also added drum tracks to shape the sound of the music better. I am not disputing he has had some contribution to the tracks but I created all of the vocal hooks and melodies for the song. He is now claiming that he is entitled to a 50/50 split of the songwriting credit. Is this correct?

    1. Hi Amy

      On first blush, it doesn’t sound like he’s entitled to 50% of songwriting. It doesn’t sound like he wrote anything actually. It sounds like he produced. These situations require a more in-depth analysis, but that’s my initial reaction.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  28. Hello Kurt,

    I am working with a Producer that laid down or rearranged the instrumental/music for a track. I wrote all the lyrics and he provided the music. We recorded the music in his studio which I paid for the time for recording. Additionally, he is doing all the mastering and edits. I want to be fair and understand what this relationship should be labeled and what percent of ownership should we both get. Additionally, what rights do we both have and how can it be used in the future and what compensation. By the way if I am interested in your services how do I contact you directly

    1. Hi Reginald,

      Email me and we can discuss further. Generally, if the producer creates all the music and you provide lyrics, that seems like a 50/50 split on songwriting. But there are other factors to consider and discuss.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  29. Hello,

    I’m working with a producer on two songs at the moment. The mix has already begun on them and we haven’t signed our songwriting contract yet unfortunately.

    On song 1 I wrote the lyrics and main piano melody line, from there we brought in band to record with. He only helped with the arrangement of that song. Also someone else wrote the bridge (percentage for the bridge?)

    On song two he scraped the original track and created a completely new track around my vocals and melody.

    I was wondering what percentage on both songs seems fair?

    Thank you so much,


    1. Hi Mike,

      To give a proper opinion on songwriting splits requires a more in-depth analysis. I’d have to hear the songs before/after the other’s contributions, and get more info on who contributed what. Ultimately, you and the other writers know the situation better than anyone, and a conversation in this regard may be best.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  30. Hi, thanks for all the helpful info. I am in a situation where I have written a song and a producer who I do not know but have met through my facebook network wants to try his hand at producing my song. He has produced a demo for me and I like the direction and style he is taking it in. We are both aware that we need to discuss splits etc before hand. He is willing to pay for me to record my vocals and to pay for mixing and mastering however obviously then is looking for some kind of credit and I want to ensure I am being fair with that while not sacrificing/compromising my own rights. Essentially I have written all music and lyrics- he is bringing arrangement and production to the table. It seems weird to give songwriting credit to someone who has had no input in the actual music/lyrics. I see you talking about giving credits on the backend- how do I actually do this? Where would I be inputting that info- just in a split sheet? Or in the song registration? And what would you suggest as a fair deal for us in this scenario?

  31. Hi Kurt,

    I’m a Songwriter working with an artist.
    I wrote a few songs for the artist(demos). Lyrics and melodies. If she changes a word or two does that entitle her songwriting credits? Also, do I have to register my demos? Or wait for the final product and then register the song?

    1. It really depends on the extent of their changes. One word can change the entire meaning of a lyric. Or not. So – I would need more info on this to give a real opinion

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  32. Hi, I recently recorded a song with a Producer friend and a song writer. I am the singer/artist and brand. The two of them are proposing an 80/20 share of all profits from the song. This seems high to me. What is the normal % revenue share in this situation? What % is fair?

    Thanks for help!

  33. Hi Kurt,

    I am a singer songwriter. I am working with a producer on a song which I had fully written on a guitar (melody, lyrics, arrangement, chords) before going into the studio with him. The song is now in its final stages of production and the producer has added some instrumentation to the song such as violin samples, various sound effects, drum tracks, and little riffs on the MIDI here and there which really help to decorate the song and make it sound better. However these contributions do not contain melodic hooks as such. No contribution was made to lyrics, melody, chords or structure. Is he entitled to songwriting credits ? I want to be as fair as possible especially considering he has helped me quite a lot with my career and I do not pay him anything upfront. What is the fair thing to do in this scenario ?

    1. I would have to hear the song before and after the producer’s help, but you are right, it doesn’t sound like songwriting on first blush.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  34. Hello Kurt,

    I wrote a song with a producer friend of mine casually and now I want to release the song with me as the artist, as I came up with all the melody and lyrics and am now rather attached to the song. I’m independent and don’t have publishing. We co-produced and since there wasn’t payment involved, I want to give him the 25% of revenue generated on both the publishing side and the recording side but keep full control to the rest, including 100% ownership to the master. I want to retain full rights and control with the song and make decisions without having to go by him once the track is finished, so I have the freedom to decide with administration rights, releases, licensing, promotion, etc. How do I do that with the publishing split?

    Do I give him 25% writer’s share/ownership and then ask for full administration rights? (Would that in total give me his 25% publisher’s share as well or is that his to keep?)
    Or do I give him 25% royalty of the writer’s share revenue only and thereby retain 100% copyright and administration rights to the song?

    Also, is it possible and reasonable on both publishing and master to ask for ownership and give revenue to a co-producer as I intended?

    Lastly, by asking for administration rights only while a co-writer still has ownership, am I still at risk of him being able to use the song for his own purposes?

    Please let me know if there is also another way that can be done to keep control but also be able to share the revenue with him. Thank you!

  35. Hi Kurt,

    If I pay a producer $ a flat fee for helping me co-write and produce an album, and then producer is asking 50% in writing/publishing rights for their PRO, does that mean they make half of the $ on every stream, download, cd sale on top of the service I paid for or is this completely different than the sales of the masters I obtain?

  36. Hello Kurt,

    I am a producer in a small studio that has been Developing/Producing an unknown band for three years. 80% of the recording time has been funded by me. They have written the songs but I handled all aspects of the production and recording(direction,small arrangement enhancements,recording style,quality,mix). They want to split the recording of 4 songs equally between us. Should we all be co-authors on an SR Copyright? Or should they own the copyrights and I own the Master Recording? There is also a drummer that they used for just the 4 recorded songs that they would like to pay outright. Is there a specific agreement for a studio hired drummer? Please Please advise. Thank you for your time.

  37. Hi Kurt,

    I am a singer-songwriter. One of my producer friends produced an instrumental track for me to write to. I came up with the lyrics and melody. I recorded it in her home studio. I didn’t pay for studio time or anything else for that matter. Would this be considered a 50/50 split on the songwriting? And how do I ensure that I own the master?

    1. I’d have to hear the song before/after your collaboration with the producer, but a) what do you and the producer think is a fair split and b) put that in writing so you own the master and have admin rights to release/exploit the song without their approval being required in every instance.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

      1. Thank you for your response. Do you think a split sheet is an appropriate document to outline the details on?

  38. Hi Kurt! An artist approached me to produce a minimum 2 songs with him. Although the artist showed me songs he thought were completed, I find that there needs to be tweaking in the arrangement, melody and lyric departments. I said that I would require a 50/50 split in songwriting, producing and distribution as he cannot pay and that I will be essentially co-writing parts of his ‘completed’ songs as well as arranging all the instrumentation, recording etc. Just wondering if that is fair for me to say? I do not feel comfortable doing any less because there isn’t any fee initially involved .. but I may also be wrong? Cheers, I also love your site!

    1. Thanks MeMe!

      I see this scenario often, i.e. artist can’t pay so producer asks for “compensation” in another form, usually from backend revenue (either an increased % of master revenues or of songwriting). I think it’s fair if you actually helped write the songs, and from there it’s a matter of negotiation. Hope this helps, rock on

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  39. i lease my beats on a site called beatstars. I have leased more than 100 beats to people across the world. with every lease there is a contract which states that i hold 100% of the publishing share and 50% of the writers share.

    I’d like to understand this further and also know how i should collect the royalties that the beats that i made generate and which type of royalties i am entitled to.

    Thank You

  40. Hi Kurt,

    I alone create accapella melodies and have a song structure in my head. I later meet with someone who matches his chord ideas (since I don’t play an instrument) to my already established and defined melodies.

    Is he entitled to a co-writing credit?

    1. Hmm. Great question. I would think so, because not all melodies would generate the same chords…or put another way, if you took a song to two different people, you might get two different chord arrangements, so there’s some creative element there. That being said, I’m not sure on the splits.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  41. Hey Kurt

    Great info here. Amazed you respond to so many inquiries.

    So I started in with a producer on a song I wrote. We agreed beforehand that it was a “work for hire.” I have paid top dollar for this project. He’s doing great work so far, but there is a sense that i’m Not getting his full attention.

    So i’ve Been thinking about offering him 5% of the songwriting as a way to create more of an incentive. The only structural changes he made was removing parts to make the song shorter.

    My question is this: do you think 5% is enough???? I’ve been trying to think in terms of an equivalent to typical producer points.

    1. Hi Michael

      I’m not sure if giving up songwriting in order to get his attention is the right approach, especially if he didn’t co-write. Sounds like you should have a sit down discussion with him and let him know where you’re at. If you do decide to give songwriting, make sure to get something in writing so you have admin rights.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  42. Hello Kurt,

    Awesome article. I am in a electronic group and we found a singer to add vocals to a few tracks on our last album. She wrote the lyrics but we had a large role in what was layed down including tonal change, moving lyrics from the verse to the hook, rearranging where pieces where used, lyric changes and paying for studio time to record her. We had a verbal agreement to split equally on the tracks she had vocals on. She had no hand on the instrumentation but we did rearrange the track some once her vocals where layed down. We handed her a 6 page contract but she refused to sign it because she has been burned by producers in the past and decided to move forward with the verbal. I wanted to confirm this is a 33.33% split on both Lyrics and music and what other paperwork do I need outside of a split sheet. We are now being asked by other artists to remix the tracks and also want to make sure I don’t need anything else from her to move forward. I own the masters.

    1. Hi Vlad,

      I’d need more info and would need to hear the songs before and after her contribution in order to determine splits with any sort of expertise. What you need is a Co-Writer Agreement that covers splits but also confirms that you own the masters and her performances on them.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  43. Hi Kurt,

    My name is Jo-Ash Scott. I am a singer/songwriter. I’ve recently signed up to PRS in the UK. I am registering my works there. I need help to figure out if I should be getting 100% songwriting royalties or not.

    I’m a bit confused about song writing distinctions because I write songs alone but I don’t use musical accompaniment when writing. It’s just me and my voice. I write all the words and use my voice to create a vocal melody. But of course music is added later. I just dont use any instruments to aid me in this process.

    My fully formed lyrics and vocal melody are then presented to a producer to create a musical composition to accompany them. I often provide inspiration for this by sending them a reference beat on YouTube that I’d like my record to sound similar to.

    Doesn’t this make them a songwriter too if they 100% create the music my lyrics and vocal melody would be sung over? I It’s confusing because no one was there when I wrote the song. But I didn’t have any actual musical accompaniment until the producer. Musical composition is still technically song writing isn’t it?

    Please let me know.

    Many Thanks,


    1. Sounds like they are definitely a co-writer with you as they create the music, even if they are guided by you. The question is: how much songwriting do they deserve? I’d have to hear the songs before and after the producer’s involvement to get a better idea.



      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  44. Hi I was hoping you could shed some light on my situation.
    I brought finished songs, (melody, lyrics and structures) to a producer who helped me overdub sample tracks. The producer did not create these samples, I provided them. In some cases the producer and i re arranged, pitched up, sped up or added samples to the tracks. They were not all my ideas, but it was a guided process and involved pitching up pre recorded songs. They are asking for a 40 to 50 % writers credit. does this sound legit? Thanks!

  45. Quick question. If I wrote the bridge for all of the songs my husband has written and recorded, should the copyright include me as a writer? We are not at odds or anything. I was just going to copyright them with him as the writer but wanted to ask to see if I should add my name (as well) for writing the bridge on every song.

  46. Hi Kurt,
    many thanks for this article, very useful. Here is my situation :

    I’ve invited an artist to my studio in the UK, and recorded her freestyling her lyrics on third-party beats. I’ve then heavily re-arranged the vocal parts to create a chorus/verse structure (there was no repeating chorus in the freestyles); then acquired the licenses for the beats, mixed/mastered the tracks; created artwork and her social media profiles and released the music, all financed by me.

    I’m now wondering what sort of credit or deal I should be entitled; could the vocal arrangement work be considered songwritting ? Or should I request song recording credits since I financed the recordings and took the role of executive producer ? Or simply record points ?

    thank you very much

    1. Hmm. Interesting situation to say the least. Not sure if it’s songwriting but more adapting/producing. What does the artist feel is fair?

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  47. I’ve been reading up on your forums and i find them really interesting and helpful, i have a bit of an issue that has been occurring the past three years.

    Three years ago, I produced a song creating the chords, the structure and instrumentals with a vocal demo. A singer friend of mine who is an independent musician stumbled upon the song while I was working on it in the studio and decided to work with me on it. As she being a friend and not a client I decided to not draw up a contract and give her equal shares to help her promote it as her own song too. The work she originally did was write the lyrics and co wrote the melody to the lyrics with me. If she was a client or a musician I wanted to work with it would have been a ‘work for hire’ situation. But me being passive gave her 50/50 share of the song. She mentioned that she wrote the lyrics and co wrote the melody inspired by my vocal demos . Three years pass by and I wasn’t able to release due to issues with the mix not sounding professional enough. As a singer and co-writer I understand the frustration of the song not that being released ( again none of this is done legally on a contract basis nor tied up to a label) so a few weeks ago i had the final mix ready for release and she unfortunately disagreed with mix, she decided to take things on her own and claims that since she wrote the melody and sang it, she owns the whole song. Which is disappointing as a whole, cause for me being an independent producer who usually pays musicians to write the vocal melodies to songs and owning the rights to it Created this song from scratch giving her inspiration to co-write the the vocals to it. And it feels like she’s stealing my song and she still claims that she owns majority of the song even though I was the one who created most of the creative music, structure, Chords, vocal demos ( which was changed due to the new co-written vocal melody) and the recording process, mixing and mastering. since we owned 50/50 ion this scenario i offered a solution of which since she didn’t like the new final master mix, she was free to mix it and release it as her own song, and that i would do the same with the final mix.

    Please do let me know what you think about this situation and your input would be helpful.

    1. It sounds like you wrote the music, she wrote the lyrics/melody, so it’s a classic 50/50 ownership of the songwriting. And because you created the master and it sounds like she didn’t pay to record it, you might own 100% of the master unless the two of you agree on something else (points for you on the backend, etc). Whatever the case, get something in writing asap. Email me to further discuss.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  48. Hi Kurt!
    Thanks for answering these questions! I’m a producer and I had a client come in with lyrics and melody ready to go. He sang it, and payed me my track building fee and I wrote, performed, and arranged everything else about the song, including parts for drums, bass, piano, organ, clavinet, guitar, percussion, samples, and a riff, groove or theme that wasn’t exactly based on the chords he implied with the melody. We didn’t discuss songwriting credits beforehand, but the way it turned out, it seems fair to me for me to ask for songwriting credit on top of my track building fee. What do you think?

  49. Hey Kurt,

    My band writes music then we take it to a producer and he definitely takes them to a new level. Mainly the track around the lyrics although he may suggest I write new lyrics for parts of the song.

    We pay him an hourly rate. So I was wondering do we still pay royalties to him or no?


    1. Well, based on industry standards, he would be entitled to a producer royalty (or “points” – typically 2 to 5% of master revenues) and it also sounds like he may be entitled to a % of the songwriting, but that needs to be examined further.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  50. Hi kurt ,

    my name is Gengiz and i create the whole music and melody and want to rely on some one else on lyrics is that mean still 50/50 and i feel this is unfair…

  51. Hi Kurt,

    i write music and the melody for the vocal line and want to rely on some one else writing the lyrics but do you think it should be 50/50 because i keep hearing music writer and lyrics writer 50/50 and from my and i feel its unfair.


    1. It really depends on the circumstances of each particular song, but yes, a common practice in the industry is 50/50 music/lyrics.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  52. Hi Kurt

    i am a music writer and melody writer for the vocals and i like to get someone else to do the lyrics in the future and i keep hearing 50% for the music writer 50% for the lyrics writer, do you think still it should be 50/50?


  53. Hey Kurt i hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. I musically produced an instrumental, wrote and performed the chorus. Two other writers wrote 3 verses. They want 10% of my pub and want to keep 100% of the writing. Please share your thoughts on this? Thank you!

  54. Hey Kurt referring to my last question. In that kind of situation i normally get 50% of the pub and 15% of the writers, leaving the co-writers with 35% to split. Please share your thoughts on this as well? Thanks again!

  55. Hi Kurt, I worked as a producer/collaborator with a songwriter recently and I’m wondering what is fair to ask in terms of ownership. I worked on songs that she wrote, built an entire sound/aesthetic around them, altered the feel/tempo in some places, changed some chords around (completely changed the chord progression of one song), played almost every single instrument on the record, mixed it and mastered it. It’s now getting a release on an indie label so we’re having to formalize everything. I did this all without being compensated under the assumption that it would be a friendly sort of deal where I would get some songwriting credit since I did all of the arranging, recording, mixing and mastering for free (I also recall having a very informal conversation about sharing credit/revenue, although nothing was ever put in writing), but my collaborator has now taken a bit of a hard line that she wrote the songs and deserves 100% of the songwriting credit. What do you think? Am I getting a raw deal?

    1. Hi Lerry. If you helped write the music, you should get some sort of songwriting percentage, full stop. The hard question is: how much a percentage. You would need to look at the compositions before and after your work on them. Now, for the masters – if you are doing all of this work for free, ideally you would have agreed on some sort of co-ownership of the masters ahead of time. I often see producers do all the work for free in exchange for a % of ownership. Sometimes 50%, sometimes 100%, where the producer is acting as quasi-label. These points are much better to deal with ahead of time but so be it. You need to have some real discussions with her. Feel free to email me once you’ve done so.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  56. Hi Mr. Dahl,
    I recently recorded at a music studio and sang an original song that I had written. I hummed the melodies to a guitarist to lay tracks down for my song. I also dubbed in some guitar riffs of my own. When the studio sent me the music file it credited the guitarist as the composer and me as a lyricist to which they established was 50% owned by me and guitarist. I feel that I should be considered the composer. Whats your take? And Thank you for your time regarding this question.

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