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Hugh, Composer, Producer and Performer
Category: Entertainment
Satisfied Customers: 59
Experience:  20 years experience in performing, studio sessions, producing, composing, entertainment management.
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My 17-year-old daughter is an aspiring singer. She has written

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My 17-year-old daughter is an aspiring singer. She has written several original songs which include the lyrics and music. ( Should she copyright her songs? From the research I have done (and from a contract that was presented to her from a production company where she was referred to as a "work for hire") it seems she is just going to have to transfer ownership of these rights over to the company or future label she signs with, anyway. I'm confused on why an entertainment lawyer advised us to copyright her original songs if she most likely will lose publishing rights if she gets signed.
As a composer, producer and session player, I've only worked on two "work for hire" contracts. One of them was for a regional television show, in which I wrote the theme song. Any other work I do, is typically through licensing my songs (which is more typical). That way, I get royalties. I know a few major recording acts. The money they get from their songwriting royalties is considerable.

I highly discourage work for hire. This means your daughter is getting a set amount for each song she writes and then the compensation for those songs is finished. I went to the link you gave me. She is very talented. I'm not sure what your objectives are for her, but what she is doing is giving up the rights to her songs. Is she just a songwriter, or does she has aspirations of being a recording artist? What does the production company have to offer? I just can't see this.

Some songwriters work for publishing companies on a work for hire basis. They literally sit in a room all day and just churn out songs. It's a living - if that is what your objective is. But, if the song hits big, just think of all that money the composer forgoes. Also, they get no credits for the songs!

Just say hypothetically, they are able to do something with your daughters songs. If they place these songs with someone else (Say a big name), then it is the production company that will be making continual royalties from her song...and that adds up to big money. Typically, work for hire contracts require that you totally give up the song. She will have no credits!

Say your daughter is "discovered" on the basis of the songs she wrote for this production company. Guess what? She will have to turn around and pay royalties to this company to record the song she wrote. Why? Because she no longer has rights to it. It's not hers. She is giving up potential income in what she rightfully deserves. You really need to think this through.

She does need to file for copyrights. It gives her ownership.

I've been in the business over 20 years. I've seen it all - and I've seen people get burned in this scenario way too many times.

Good luck. Let me know if I can assist you more, or if you have any other questions.

Edited by hman20 on 10/26/2009 at 5:31 AM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hey, I just had deja vue. That is so weird. Thanks so much for your answer. I can see it would be hard to reply to my question when you don't have all the facts. Yes, my daughter wants to be a recording artist. She worked for the last 5 months with a "production company," and now that the album is almost complete, they handed us a very aggressive and oppresive contract. We paid one entertainment attorney to look it over who told us (begged us) not to sign it. He said it was the worst he'd ever seen! He said we would regret it. Since we are new to all of this, we wanted another opinion. We didn't think the first attorney was up on the new "360 deals." The second attorney has been trying to negotiate for us on major deal points. It hasn't gone well. We just decided last week to walk away from it. They want all publishing rights with no right of reversion, no outs, no advances, and 50/50 split on everything plus a guaranteed 10% on gross for touring! My head was spinning after reading the contract (which I hear is nothing compared to a label contract.) Well, we are learning fast. I just don't understand the whole copyright, royalty, publishing thing too well, If she ever gets to a point that we are looking at another contract, I want to know what to look for that is fair and more industry standard as far as her original songs are concerned. So after paying 2 attorneys and after 5 months of hard work, we are disappointed, to say the least, that we were about to be taken advantage of because of our newness to the business. I'd love to chat with you some more, but we are broke. :) Great web site. I'm sure I'll be back sometime soon..

Thanks. I wish you all the best. 360 Deals are common these days, but you never give up your complete rights to publishing. They are just a production company. They are making a deal like they are a record company. Even when a writer signs to a publisher, the songwriter still retains ownership. The publisher is merely "assigned" the rights for certain amount of time, which gives them the right to make money on your songs. From what you tell me so far, it is terrible deal and you are clearly getting ripped off. They clearly don't have your daughter's best interest. They are out for the money.

Another thing - a lawyer can call himself an entertainment lawyer without any prior experience, and there is no need for a certificate to say so. You really have to watch what entertainment attorney you get.

BTW: If you like the answer, please accept it. That is why I'm here!

All the best-
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