When the songwriter is also a recording artist and is not
only creating the song for the motion picture but also performing
it in both the film and on the soundtrack album, the composing
agreement will cover, among other things, not only the writing
aspects and mechanical royalty issues but also the areas of
recording procedures, recording costs, artist royalty percentages,
advances and any restrictions placed on the record company
distributing the soundtrack by the record company to which
the artist is signed.
The following represents some of the basic items contained
in this type of agreement, which is many times a 7 to 10 page
"short form" agreement rather than the much longer score agreement.
- Basic Project Information: The title of the film, plus
the names of the director, the stars appearing in the film,
the identity of the distributing film company and the projected
release date are mentioned.
- Cooperation: The writer-artist agrees to cooperate with
the reasonable requests and instructions of the film company.
In most cases, the writer-artist agrees to make any changes
reasonably requested to not only the composition but the
master recording as well until a satisfactory composition
and recording is delivered to the film company.
- Record Company Waiver: The writer-artist acknowledges
the right of his or her current record company to the exclusive
recording services of the artist and agrees to cause the
record company to grant a written waiver of the exclusivity
provisions to allow the film company to hire the writer-artist
to record the composition for use in the film and soundtrack
- Publishing Company Waiver: If the writer-artist is signed
exclusively to a music publisher, the writer-artist will
also secure a waiver from the music publisher to allow the
writing of the composition for the film project. This waiver
is vital since most film companies demand all or a portion
of the copyright in the newly created composition and this
transfer of rights would not be possible if a writer is
signed to an exclusive music publishing contract under which
all compositions written are owned by the publisher.
- Work-For-Hire: The writer-artist will agree that the
newly written composition is a work-for-hire and that the
copyright (or a portion thereof) is assigned to the film
company. The film company will also secure the right to
utilize the composition in the motion picture and in advertisements,
trailers and other promotions as well as to distribute the
film on video.
- Co-Ownership: Many successful writer-artists are able
to retain 50% of the copyright in the music publishing rights
with the film company securing the other 50%. If this is
the case, the agreement will specify the ownership percentages
of the new composition. Even though it is not the norm,
certain very successful writer-artists are able to retain
100% of the copyright and publishing rights.
- Fees: When a film company is dealing with a very successful
writer-artist, the fees will be substantial. In many cases,
there is a so called all-in lump sum recording fund which
covers not only the creative fee for writing the composition
and for being the recording artist and producer of the composition
but also all the costs of recording the master (studio,
tape, engineers, musicians, vocalists, equipment rentals
and mixing costs). When this all-in fee approach is used,
there is also usually a negotiated sum designated as the
creative fee for composing the composition (for example,
$60,000 of the $200,000 recording fund being the songwriter
There are many variations as to how the monies are paid but
the norm is pay a portion on the signing of the agreement
with the writer-artist with the remainder being paid when
the composition and master recording have been accepted by
the film company.
On occasion, a portion of the recording fund is treated as
an advance against future recording artist royalties but this
is negotiable since the monies paid to the writer-artist for
production of the master recording are usually not recoupable