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The Composition (Publishing Rights) vs The Sound Recording (Master Rights)


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Hi guys! I would like to ask to anybody who is delivering music through Fiverr more specific with the "Commercial Use" enabled (cause that's kinda scary! 😄 ).

Let's say I don't want to lose all my rights when I deliver my music to my clients, I would like to be credited and they probably won't even need all the rights, they just need to get an exclusive track and maybe be able to sell it most of the time.

I would like to register my songs with my music rights management company and get the royalties I deserve as usual, so I guess I should better understand and be clearer about what rights I am giving up in my gig.

Let's also say that I don't want to limit my customers in their "commercial purposes" so ...

In my understanding (and please correct me if I'm wrong...) an original song is made of "The Composition" (Publishing Rights) and "The Sound Recording" (Master Rights).

"The Composition" refers to the "musical work" (musical elements, structure, and composition of a song, lyrics) and are generally owned by the original writer or composer of the song.

"The Sound Recording" refers to the master recordings and royalties when the song is played or reproduced (including radio, streaming, downloads) and is generally owned by the artist or record label that they are signed to.

Now in a scenario where I can have a percentage from 0% to 100% for the Performance, Mechanical and Master rights what we should give away are only the Master rights (The Sound Recording)... because Performance and Mechanical rights are part of "The Composition" (Publishing Rights) and we still deserve 100% on them... am I right?

I know that other beat-selling platforms also do a 50/50 split on Publishing Rights in their contracts but I think it's mostly because of derivative works.

Anyway, I know that many composers and producers don't even bother with these things and end up giving up not registering their tracks and giving up all rights for "simplicity" ... I understand why but I think this is a bad approach, and I hope some of you guys more knowledgeable than me on these things can share their experience and give help on this!

Thank you!

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I have several threads dedicated to this topic. Feel free to message me personally and I'll talk to you in detail. Right off the bat though - let me clarify this:

20 hours ago, giworks said:

"The Sound Recording" refers to the master recordings and royalties when the song is played or reproduced (including radio, streaming, downloads) and is generally owned by the artist or record label that they are signed to.

The recording is owned by the person who financed the recording. Without exception.  For this reason, clients have a legal claim to "commercial use." This does not prevent you from obtaining royalties - and in fact - is the intended design for both parties to profit. Leveraging a charge for "commercial use" is a total internet fabrication and misunderstanding of the term itself. In most cases, "commercial use" refers to using someone else's audio in a setting that people pay for (tv, film...). It's not a term  referring to people using things they paid to have created.  

Record labels normally "own" recordings in a interim scenario. This is referred to as a "record advance." The "masters" revert to the people (person) who paid off the advance (normally with interest) at the completion of payment. In some instances they retain a percentage as defined in the original agreement. This does not prevent the writer from recording another version of the same material for commercial release. 

 

21 hours ago, giworks said:

Now in a scenario where I can have a percentage from 0% to 100% for the Performance, Mechanical and Master rights what we should give away are only the Master rights (The Sound Recording)... because Performance and Mechanical rights are part of "The Composition" (Publishing Rights) and we still deserve 100% on them... am I right?

This is absolutely accurate and aligns completely with the laws. In zero cases have I, or will I, give up my publishing without a documented track record of major distribution that guarantees major quarterlies. Even then, I'm only willing to negotiate fifty percent. 

What we have here is a "linguistic" issue. Freelancers, not learning the laws, are repeating terms to outline their ownership principals without actually knowing the inherent rights of the client. 

Again, feel free to contact me personally for ideas on translating these concepts to the market - but from what I see, you're nailing it. I can tell you this though... you'll find yourself explaining this position to clients a lot. You'll be asked for "commercial rights," when they mean "copyright" and end up explaining the various publishing occurrences to calm their nerves regarding "ownership" and "profit" of a recording. I'd suggest having it an a pdf. Remember, the client's are being trained incorrectly by sellers with little to no idea of these instances. In most cases, these sellers have never (and will never) be in a situation where royalties are substantial enough to matter. And to be fair ... even at a songwriting staff level, the whole thing is convoluted.  I've watched entertainment attorneys struggle to verbalize the nuisances of this rabbit hole.  So it's best to keep your explanations simple. 

After all, clients are really just asking, "can I sell this or post it without it being taken down?" Some of them (most) don't understand publishing firms and why these matters will never even make it to their attention. 

I think you're on the right track.   

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1 hour ago, damooch916 said:

I have several threads dedicated to this topic. Feel free to message me personally and I'll talk to you in detail.

First of all I wanted to thank you sincerely for your time, availability and for the quite comprehensive answer!

I had already seen you in another post, however, I think there is little talk about these more "technical" / "bureaucratic" sides and little goes into detail, so maybe this can help other musicians too.

1 hour ago, damooch916 said:

The recording is owned by the person who financed the recording. Without exception.  For this reason, clients have a legal claim to "commercial use." This does not prevent you from obtaining royalties - and in fact - is the intended design for both parties to profit. Leveraging a charge for "commercial use" is a total internet fabrication and misunderstanding of the term itself. In most cases, "commercial use" refers to using someone else's audio in a setting that people pay for (tv, film...). It's not a term  referring to people using things they paid to have created.

Ok, thank you very much for your detailed explanation!

1 hour ago, damooch916 said:

In zero cases have I, or will I, give up my publishing without a documented track record of major distribution that guarantees major quarterlies. Even then, I'm only willing to negotiate fifty percent.

I totally agree with you on this one.

5 hours ago, damooch916 said:

After all, clients are really just asking, "can I sell this or post it without it being taken down?" Some of them (most) don't understand publishing firms and why these matters will never even make it to their attention.

Exactly! To put it simply, customers own the master (the sound recording),  we own the composition (the musical idea).

By owning the master, customers will have all the necessary rights to use and sell that specific master.

By owning the musical idea, we composers / writers can still create a different master based on that musical idea and retain all rights to that newly created master.

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