Hello! I'm a singer, living in NYC, who just recorded a track with a German DJ…the lyrics are mine, but we worked together on music…Before I send him the track I'd like to have a legal agreement with all the terms and conditions, signed from both sides…I need help to do it…Thank you!
Yipes---you should have done these agreements before you entered the recoding studio. In any event, you need several agreements, including a songwriting agreement, music publishing agreement, artist agreement, mechanical license agreement, and sound recording agreement. Some of these are traditionally combined in a single document, but others are traditional done separately. You need to retain music licensing counsel to prepare these agreements. I regularly represent record labels and artists in drafting these agreements, and they are neither simple nor short. You can't do this yourself, and lawyers do not work for free. Thus, you need to be prepared to pay a lawyer for ten or so hours of time to prepare these documents and potentially more time to handle negotiations, Performing Rights Organization registrations, Harry Fox registrations and other matters.
The type of contract you need will be completely dependent on how you want to split ownership of the song. If you have nothing in writing BEFORE you make a song, then all of it belongs to both of you equally. The lyrics are yours in the sense that you wrote them before the song (ie for publishing and SESAC), but the recorded track is a collaborative work that right now is 50/50 unless you have something like a simple split sheet.
So why do you need contracts before exactly? Contracts require what's called "consideration", meaning a give and take where everyone has to contribute something new. Here and in the future, why you should sign a contract before is because the "give" you contributed was your lyrics and the DJ's "give" want his production. You have both already given consideration (ie performed), so there is nothing right now left to enforce a contract (ie nothing that you can give or take because it's already done). If it's already done, no consideration, then a contract is unenforceable and no matter what you sign, unless done right, will have no weight.
All of that said (shared for the sole purpose of encouraging you to write something out in advance in the future), you now need something a little special, like a copyright assignment agreement (where you both are 'giving' different rights to each other) or some sort of publishing agreement that has something new to it. For example, your DJ assigns his/her copyright to you totally and you agree to pay him/her for it. Or your DJ agrees to let you be the only person to have the right to sell the song to other people, but you pay him royalties and he keeps his rights. Something to that effect.
Music rights get complicated and as much as I want to give you an easy answer, I think you gathered from the other answers that you need an entertainment attorney. You need someone professionally to look at what you and your DJ want from the relationship, choose a contract based on their advice and let the attorney draft it for you to make sure that you leave nothing up to chance should a dispute arise.
But good news, almost any attorney anywhere can work as counsel for an entertainment contract since copyright is generally a federal issue. So even though NY is a fabulous scene for music, if you want an attorney in LA or Nashville because of your TYPE of music, that could work out, Of course there are some limitations to what someone out of state can and cannot do but often a firm will have an attorney licensed in that state to work on the case or review the work.
In the end, the hope of every artist (and their attorneys) is that their work blows up throughout the world and makes good money. Good money usually means friction at some point, and like my colleague said, you are incredibly wise to realize that you need to hold onto the song until you have something that will make sure you keep what's yours. Just make sure you don't leave it up to chance with a DIY contract.
Congratulations on creating your new music and best of luck!
You are so smart to want to take care of this now. New York is a great place to be if you are looking for an entertainment attorney. You can look in the AVVO directory for entertainment lawyers near you. If money is an issue, there is also Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. www.vlany.org.
If you were hoping that an attorney would come forward in response to your question and offer to help you, it is against the rules of AVVO for any of us to do that. But you can certainly contact the attorney of your choice, whether it is someone who answers this question or not.
My colleagues have already ably answered your question. I strongly suggest that you read a book or two on how the music business works [visit the links below] and then start a relationship with a local entertainment attorney. Search Avvo for Maurice Ross -- he's not only a good music lawyer, he's a musician himself. Good luck.
Hello New York singer. You are right you need to have a legal agreement. In fact you should have had it before you ever recorded the track with that German DJ. I suppose you realize that by now and that is why you are here asking. You are smart to ask before you sent the track. Now be just as smart and get a NY music industry lawyer to draft that agreement for you. You are in luck, there are at least two New York musician IP lawyers that post frequently here on Avvo and one has answered this question. You should call him
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