Music Licensing ‘In Perpetuity’

I recently received a music licensing contract which basically requires an artist to sign over their song(s) in perpetuity.  Unless you have legal training or understand the music biz legalese, these contracts can bring some unwanted surprises or legal action against you if you’re not clear upfront on all of the terms you’re agreeing to.  Please see the document below:

Based on the wording of this agreement, the music licensing company would own all rights in and to your compositions, including but not limited to all copyrights, master rights, synchronization rights, mechanical rights, etc., in perpetuity. (That’s the legal talk that means they own whatever music you submit to their library.)  If you have tracks that you want to market elsewhere, or someday work into a bigger production, then this would NOT be the contract to sign.

 

 Be aware that no upfront fees of any kind will be paid for music submitted under this agreement which this publisher would then own exclusively (i.e., such compositions can only be exploited by this music company ONLY).

 

 This is how you would typically make money from this type of arrangement:
Music composers are compensated based upon a share of Public Performance Royalties paid by the applicable Performance Rights Societies directly to Publishers and Writers.  The Publisher would retain 100% of the Publisher’s Share of Performance Royalties, and you would retain 100% of the Writers Share of Performance Royalties generated from the use of your compositions.

 

 I attended a Grammy Recording Academy panel discussion a few years ago, and one of the panelists suggested that we never sign an ‘In Perpetuity’ agreement ever.  A better option would be to ask the licensing company for a non-exclusive agreement where you would still retain rights to your music.

 

 You should always know what you’re signing before you put your signature on the dotted line.  If you can’t understand the jargon in a contract, then you should definitely consult an attorney or someone who has experience in this area.  Personally, I won’t be signing this type of contract unless I’m being guaranteed a lot of money up front because I don’t want to lose ownership of one of my creations forever and ever with no way to make any money off my songs should this company decide to shelve my work.

 


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