FAQ - I’m writing with someone else. How and when do you decide how to split up a song? Do you divide a song up by music and lyrics?

It varies depending on the co-writing situation. What is important is that all writers as a collective agree on the decision.

Member Comments

Posted by Andreas Johansson on 2004-11-25 at 5:54:42 pm

My advice is. (If you aren’t a big time songwriter.) Is to split everything in half.  Maybe you’ve been writing more this time, but on the next song, he or she might be doing more than you. So split everything 50-50. That’s the easiest way.  Best way to stay friends and collaborators. It’s better to have 50 % of something than 100% of nothing

Posted by Jimi Heath on 2004-12-07 at 5:23:58 pm

I disagree. I find that many “lyricists” and people I just start to co-write with want to do the 50/50 split.  I find myself working on all the music and fixing up lyrics in some co-writing situations.  In these scenarios I do real percentage splits.

Now when I write with my friends, Nashville buds, etc.  50/50 is acceptable, because I know they will be putting in as much effort as I am.

Posted by Nancy Lee Cunningham on 2005-01-29 at 9:35:30 pm

I wrote the lyrics and the melody to a song, and my piano instructor did the accompaniment and wrote out the sheet music. I copyrighted the song in both our names, listing the contributions as per the above. Now, I want to take the song, rewrite and add to the lyrics, add a bridge, etc. and get a completely new arrangement professionally done. Can I copyright this version under my name only changing the name of the song somewhat? I don’t want to be unfair or unprofessional, but since I will be paying for all production costs, I need to know. Thanks.

AngelWings

Posted by James Roberts on 2012-09-11 at 4:27:27 pm

It seems to me Nancy, that your piano teacher played accompanyment and wrote out the music to paper but had little to do with the actual writing of the song. I would think that you should not feel guilty for wanting 100% writing because your pianist was merely a performing artist. Accompanyment and ink to paper are nice to have and are surely worth a fee, but the lyrics and melody are something no song can do without.

Posted by MBarne4908 on 2017-05-07 at 11:22:58 am

If you start out doing percentage splits, you are going to be cutting your nose off to spite your face. Most real writers are not going to do that. If there are people insisting on different percentages, you probably want to avoid those people completely. More than a few “Nashville hit writers” found themselves losing cuts, writing appointments and finally quitting the business due to their insistence on uneven splits.

In this day and age, where everyone is fighting to get anything out there, even cutting artists in on songs they had nothing to do with is standard to ensure a cut. It is energy in the room and practicality. And with songs earning literally NOTHING, it only creates more negative energy when insisting on unequal splits. Save yourself headaches. Split it down the middle.

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