Types of Music Contracts

Updated July 20, 2017

With the music industry continually booming as a result of celebrity iconography and new technology, music contracts are becoming more of a necessity for success in the industry. There are several types of contracts, all of which are legally binding documents in which both parties divulge their objectives and terms. Some important things to consider when creating or reviewing a contract are compensation, dates and times for performances, recording and reproduction, rights to merchandise and royalties.

Exclusive Songwriter Contract

The Exclusive Songwriter Contract ensures that the song writer's work is exclusive to a specific music publisher for an agreed period of time. Under this contract, the writer gets paid an advance of future royalties by the publishing company; in turn, the writer is expected to sign away rights to and agreed number of songs or music created during the contract period. This contract is usually offered to musicians who have already demonstrated repeated success, as the music publisher is looking for a return of investment.

Single Song Contract

In a single song contract, the songwriter grants rights to a music publisher for one or more songs. The songwriter is then paid a one-time advance on estimated royalties, or is considered for a 50/50 split of revenue. A single song contract is usually the first step in a relationship between song writer and music publisher, and depending on the success of the single song contract, the songwriter may be considered for further contracts with the music publisher.

Co-publishing Contract

A co-publishing agreement is the most common music contract available. Under this contract, both the song writer and the music publisher share equal ownership of all copyrights, and set up a deal for the distribution of royalties to both parties. This is usually a 50/50 split on revenue, though variations may exist depending upon specific methods of revenue (such as merchandising).

Administration Contract

The administration agreement is created between a songwriter or publisher, and an independent administrator. Under this contract, the songwriter self publishes his own work, and allows music publishers license to certain songs or records for an agreed period of time and royalty split. This type of music contract is rare, and is granted to songwriters who have demonstrated a significant amount of popularity, as well as a long-standing record of prolific and consistent artistic output. A songwriter should not seek out this type of contract unless there has been a long standing co-publishing contract already instituted.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Dastan Dival has been writing professionally since 1999. He has been published in the "L.A. Times," on commercial posters and in literary journals around the country. His areas of expertise include travel, education, law, art and home improvement. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/creative writing from the University of Arizona and a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.