Have you as an artiste, musical producer, beat maker, talent manager or business manager and industry stakeholder come across the word ”split sheet” in your short or long term of years in the industry? I bet NO! as most Nigerian artistes never take out time to research out things. All they care about is performance fees better known as ”show money”. One can attest to this as the often heard phrase amongst our naija artistes is ”mr manager, get me shows nah”. In the just concluded entertainment law connect where publishing was discussed, a talent manager for over a decade by name Mr. Godwin Tom said that he has two A list artistes he has constantly been talking to about publishing and importance of split sheet but it always fruitless.

With that said, I bring to you a well researched and easy to understand article about split sheet starting from the meaning of publishing.

What is Publishing?

Publishing is a non-legal term that is used to refer to part of a collaborator’s copyright ownership in a song. The copyright in a song actually consists of two parts, a writer’s share (50%) and a publisher’s share (50%), but some people casually use the word to represent both shares.Unless otherwise agreed to by the collaborators, a copyright owner is free to do whatever he or she wants with his or her portion of the song, such as assign it to a publishing company. The primary benefit of owning part of a song is that it generates royalties and other income from single and album sales, radio play, music streaming, and licensing, which is why claiming your ownership of a song is so important.

What is a Publishing Split Sheet?

A “split sheet” is an agreement that identifies each producer and songwriter, and states the contributor’s ownership percentage.The split sheet should include other important information as well, such as the contributors’ performing rights organization (in Nigeria we got only COSON and MCSN who actually are at loggerheads currently), the specific contribution of each person (i.e., beats, melody, core lyrics, hook), and each person’s publisher information. Also, it should indicate whether different versions of the song were created. These details may not seem important in the early stages of creating a song, but a split sheet serves as evidence of copyright ownership and will assure a third party, such as a potential publisher that there are no disputes over splits.

A split sheet should be created for each and every song you write, before ever shopping it to a third party to be published commercially. If you’ve been in the music industry long enough, you’ve likely heard someone say, “I don’t like the business stuff because it gets in the way of my creativity.” Unfortunately, every day around the world, songwriters sit and collaborate on songs and never clarify who wrote what. As a matter of fact, they’re generally more concerned with copyrights than they are with song publishing, which baffles me because publishing is how they get paid. When it the time comes for your songs to be licensed, you’ll be fighting over who owns what percentage of the revenues generated from your intellectual property if you don’t have it down on paper.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see collaborating songwriters and producers make is failing to complete a simple split sheet because if the song becomes successful, which is the intent of all collaborations, then there is a risk that one of the contributors, or more likely his or her publisher, will claim that he or she should own a larger percentage of the song than originally assumed.

How Are Splits Typically Determined?

In concept, splits should be allocated according to a collaborator’s contribution to a song. Unfortunately, this is not a bright line concept because a contributor may believe that his or her contribution is more valuable to the final result than the other contributors may view it to be.

For example, if a song is divided up based on quantifiable measures, such as the lines of lyrics or music written, then a contributor who only wrote the hook to a song would only be entitled to about ten percent of the overall song.

The contributor who wrote the hook might not believe this method to be fair if the hook is frequently looped in the song and clearly raises the quality of the entire song, which is typical in hip hop. There are countless examples like this so the bottom line is that all of the contributors need to come to an agreement.

What Split Should I Receive?

The true answer to this question is the same answer that applies to all terms in music contracts, “it depends on the situation”. With that said, I have seen the following rules of thumb:

In urban music (hip-hop/contemporary rhythm & blues), a producer is typically going to receive 50% of the song, less any portion allocated to existing samples, because the music significantly contributes to the success of a song, and the songwriters will split the remaining part.

To warrant such a large share, an urban producer is expected to not only deliver a finished master, as opposed to just beats, but to also manage the project and sometimes mentor the artist.

In the rock and pop genres (and old school R&B for catalogue owners), a producer typically receives an equal share of all of the contributors based on the notion that the music and lyrics are equally important to the end result. Rock and pop producers are also expected to help make the song successful by using their connections with industry professionals. Lastly, in the jazz and classical genres, producers rarely receive any copyright ownership in a song.

With that been said, I hope you found this article really helpful to your career. Remember we now have attorneys specialized in entertainment law and media in the country. So wisely contact one today to draft a copy for you as you decide to protect your future earnings and intellectual property.

This article was written by Henry Ezikeoha and was first published here

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