Your Music – Your RightsOct 29 2012 · 2 comments · Articles, Jordan Reed, Legal
Recording a great song often means involving others in the process. There are many reasons why you might hire someone to perform on your song, for instance they might be proficient at playing a particular instrument or maybe you feel they can add a special vibe to the recording. No matter what the reason is, it is important to know that the person you are hiring has a copyright interest in their musical performance. In order to prepare your song for commercial release and make sure everyone gets paid for their contribution, it’s best to deal with these issues up front . Doing so can perhaps save years of drama and legal fees that may otherwise come later. Now I’m not a lawyer and this information is not to be taken as direct legal advice. Always seek the help of a qualified professional when drafting documents or making a business decision! I’m just passing on information that I’ve found invaluable to protecting my rights as a studio owner, sound designer and musician.
Get it in Writing
Firstly, a copyright can only be transferred from one person to another by a written agreement signed by the copyright owner. A verbal agreement does not suffice. That means it is necessary to have anyone who is involved in the recording of your song (often referred to as sidemen) sign an agreement transferring their copyright interest to you. This document is a type of service release that can be called “sideman release” or “work-made-for-hire agreement”. For simplicity we’ll just call it a “Service Release”.
The format of a Service Release is quite simple. It may be only a page or two and has the objective of outlining the following terms:
- A description of the sideman’s services (e.g. instrumental performances);
- The song or songs the sideman played on and the dates of the recording;
- The compensation the sideman received for his/her services; and
- That the sideman is transferring his/her copyright interest in his/her recorded performance to you in exchange for the fees he/she is being paid.
As a session player I’ve frequently been asked to sign such a Service Release either at the end of a session, or in the following days. Similarly as a producer or on projects where I am the artist hiring session players, I’ve often asked other artists to sign a Service Release. These agreements are usually pretty simple, serving the pragmatic need to make it clear who owns the master recording. – Bruce Kaphan
Excerpt from the article “Money Matters – Know The Law” written by Todd Gascon and Bruce Kaphan in the June 2010 edition of Recording magazine.
You may also want to make it clear that the sideman is not providing any songwriting services. This is important and should be put in writing because disputes can arise in many situations. For instance, unless it is clearly stated that they did not provide songwriting services they may be treated as a”co-writer” if they improvised while recording a solo or made a suggestion to how the bridge should be played. Addressing these issues up front and having the legal agreement well documented can save you from all sorts of problems later. The same can be said about acknowledging production services. A simple statement that the sideman did not provide production services on the masters he/she performed on will prevent any future assertions that he/she is owed a producer credit and producer royalty because of suggestions made during the mix of the recording. Does this seem far fetched? Believe it or not such claims are common and can result in a lengthy dispute.
Until Next Time
This concludes part one of the Your Music – Your Rights blog series at FreqWaveStudios.com. I hope it has been helpful in discussing some of the legal issues you may face when recording your songs with others. In our next article I will address what is legally involved in using samples and pre-existing work of others in your own recordings.
About the author: When Jordan Reed isn’t flexing his blog muscles he can be found lurking in the corner of his control room designing sound, writing music or just plainly making noise. As the founder of Freq Wave Studios and author of this article, he hopes to cast light on the wonderful world of audio production and all the adventures it can bring. Have a question or want to connect with Jordan? You can find him on Twitter under the assumed handle: @FreqWave