Split Sheets – Stake your Claim to your Creations

Split Sheets – Stake your claim to your creations

Get your agreements in place BEFORE the money comes to prevent fights later on.

Get your agreements in place BEFORE the money comes to prevent fights later on.

Some of the greatest songs of all time have come from collaborations. While it may seem easier to work independently, that extra something added by others can take a decent concept and make it great. Unfortunately when multiple people create a work together, there is always the possibility of an ownership dispute later down the line. These disputes can be avoided (or mitigated) with split sheets.

What are Split Sheets?

Simply put, a split sheet (or split agreement) is a contract of ownership; it is a legal document that details the percentage of ownership of a song that each creator holds. With the details specifically established, each owner signs the document to acknowledge their acceptance of the terms of the agreement. Without such an agreement, ownership of a co-written song would be determined by the laws of your state. You might think that you don’t need this kind of agreement because you’re friends/family/a couple/cool with each other, but these relationships can break down especially when there’s money involved. You’d be better off if you just protect everyone from the very beginning.

How do we decide who gets what split?

Yikes. This is the big question. You have options. The simplest path is to give each writer an equal share of the song. This can be a way to avoid any conflict since each writer is treated equally. Many of our clients operate this way since they feel that each member’s contributions are equally important to the overall success of the band. Slightly more complex, would be to try to quantify each person’s contribution to the song. Did the majority come from one person with the others only giving a little? Maybe a 70/10/10/10 split is in order. This can be a bit more difficult and contentious, but it will credit each individual more closely to what their contributions were. In a case like this, it is advisable to complete the split sheet when the song is written. Waiting makes everyone’s memories of who did what just a bit more hazy. Do it while everything is fresh in your minds.

How do I get help creating Split Sheets?

A quick google search will turn up many basic forms. Be careful, not all of these forms are written following proper legal standards. They may serve their purpose at first, but might cause problems later on down the line. Most studios, producers, and publishers have Split Sheets available for their clients. These (generally) have been prepared by lawyers who are skilled in the nuances of intellectual property. You’ll probably want to run these forms by your lawyer before you use them for the first time. Of course you can always turn to your own lawyer and have them draft a template for you to use.

Split Sheets might seem like a formality, but there's no substitute for smart business.

Split Sheets might seem like a formality, but there’s no substitute for smart business.

[Please keep in mind, I am not a lawyer (nor have I ever played one on tv). This post conveys personal experience in the music business. This experience is not a substitute for expert legal advice from an accredited attorney in your jurisdiction.]

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SSA Music Publishing
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Split Sheets – Stake your claim to your creations

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