Need Help Solving Songwriter-Publisher Royalty Split Disputes?

“If there is a split dispute on a song, and the writers and publishers are not able to agree on how the ownership shares are to be divided, there is no way for the publishers to issue the necessary mechanical license. That means no money until the fight is settled…”

~Eric Beall – Berklee Online Instructor, respected music industry veteran, author of “Making Music Make Money”, and A&R for independent music publisher Shapiro Bernstein.

Everyone in the music industry, whether you are independent, mainstream or otherwise, should heed this warning.  Eric Beall, former songwriter for the likes of Diana Ross, The Jacksons, Brenda K. Starr, and many others, wrote an article back in 2010 titled “The Great Pie Fight” and its content still holds true today.  In it he discusses the issues associated with songwriters and publishers splitting royalties and what could (and probably will) happen when the song(s) are released but neither side can come to an agreement on who gets a percentage of the royalties and how much.

If you are an artist who wrote some, or only one, song on an album and you and your publisher are in agreement as to who gets what, this may sound like it doesn’t affect you and your royalties, but it DOES!  Beall goes on to say the following:

Over the last decade, the record labels, seeing an opportunity, have used those split disputes, along with arguments about controlled composition clauses attached to producer contracts, three-quarter rates, and sample clearances to withhold payment for ALL the songs on an album in which even ONE song has not been licensed. This means that one split dispute on one song on an album can hold up money for every songwriter and publisher with a song on that record, often for years and years.

Wallace Collins, an attorney, pointed out in that article that these problems of split disputes that cause withheld payments are predominately centered in urban music genres.  That means Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B/Soul, etc.

But there is hope!  There is what’s known as the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) Late Fee Settlement Program.   A member alert posted to the NMPA Legal/Business page stated that the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) ruled that music publishers and foreign societies are entitled to collect a late fee of 18% annually for late payments of royalties from record companies and other music distribution services.  It went on to delineate that over $200 million in pending and unmatched accrued royalties may be available to music publishers who owned or administered works released by major labels between 2000 and 2008.

So what does this mean for all of you who are affected by this?  In Eric Beall’s own words:

Songwriters need to make their claims to publishers now and let them know that they are aware of the NMPA settlement and want what they are owed.

Get involved.  Ask questions.  Be your own advocate!  If you want to know more, or to enroll in the late fee settlement program, go to their website or call their hotline:

(866) 249-8110 | www.nmpalatefeesettlement.com

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