The contracts from music libraries may vary from one library to another so it is important that you examine them carefully before deciding to commit to one. Some libraries are in fact publishing agreements where they will own the copyright, just as if you signed any other publishing contract and where you will get 50% share.
What kind of deal should you be looking for?
While searching for the appropriate m. library to submit your work to, you can opt for the one offering a non-exclusive deal, where you will be free to use the songs from your own CD and sell them or place them by yourself to as many films or TV shows that you want. However, in these situations the libraries will most likely want the publisher’s share of the income, as well as the 50% of the writer’s share, which will leave you with 25%. You will need to decide how important a non-exclusive contract is to you, especially if you have a co-writer, when your share will only be 12,5%.
Music libraries often have their involvement limited only to audio-visual productions. The advantage of this fact is that it will leave you free to use your songs to create your own CD, without having to pay anything to a music library, as it didn’t play any role in exploiting of your songs. Libraries benefit from being able to offer non-exclusive licenses to writers, giving them more competitive access to quality material from those bands who aren’t interested in an exclusive contract.
Re-titling is one of the practices related to m. libraries, where they acquire the rights for a ‘derivate’ of the original song, which allows both the writer of the song to retain the ownership over the composition and the library to collect the adequate income on the composition placements.
To create this ‘derivative’ version of the song, the music library will simply use the same original as it is and just rename it. This renaming practice goes against the copyright laws which do not recognize existence of a separate creation unless the derivative result has been fundamentally changed in the way of lyrics and melody.
Still, m. libraries continue with this practice and will probably do so until they get confronted by copyright charges. An author signing the contract still has the means to protect their work by requesting that the library has no right to authorize any derivative work, without specific permission of the original author.
Re-titling creates a practical problem with many audio-visual production companies, which is why music supervisors are against this practice. If a library pitches some derivative song for some TV show, and the original author does the same thing by himself, the music supervisor will get in the situation of hearing the same song, from two different sources, only differently titled. This immediately rings the bell of a legal trouble, which is why the music supervisor will reject the both sources. And in TV series production there is never enough time to sort the legal dilemma out.
Anyhow, a music library still present a great opportunity for both composers and song writers to place their work on television, in movies, games and variety of other media uses, while also earning a substantial income. Submitting to m. libraries also requires patience, dedication and time, as you will need to make the library grow, song by song and by one placement after another.
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