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Music is an important part of our society, which also holds a special place in the hearts of our attorneys. The focus of our music law practice is to increase the profitability of the business for both creators and labels.

Music Attorneys

Our Maryland and DC music lawyers are prepared to pursue your copyright infringement, royalty nonpayment, breach of contract or case in state or federal court to pursue major labels and small businesses on your behalf.


JD James & Associates PC ranks amongst the paramount entertainment law firms in Maryland. Our Maryland entertainment lawyers specialize in providing legal services to clients in the music industry. Our approach to the entertainment industry is informed by our experience with celebrity representation and has been cultivated to produce a music law representation system that works to effectively serve the needs for established as well as aspiring artists.

With extensive experience and relationships, as well as dedicated all-inclusive hands-on service, we offer unmatched services in music law and are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the complex legal landscape of the entertainment world. Our Maryland music attorneys service client matters including litigation, copyright infringement, contract negotiation, royalty disputes, music licensing, appearances, and touring.

Our Maryland music lawyers are familiar with the core components and deal frameworks of the music business, which allows us to effectively serve corporate interests of startup and established labels in addition to our creator services.

Our Maryland music attorneys are happy to serve the unique concerns of music creators, including vocal artists, songwriters, and producers, and their support staff, such as managers and agents. We are experienced with the ins and outs of production, songwriting, recording, engineering, promotion, booking, label deals, and audits.

DMV Music Lawyers

Copyright Infringement

Are you an artist whose original musical composition has been unlawfully used by another artist? Or, are you a music producer, songwriter, producer, or other rights owner, concerned about potential copyright infringement of your work?

If so, you may be considering pursuing a music copyright infringement lawsuit. In this discussion, we will guide you through the process of developing a strong copyright infringement case by highlighting the importance of a musicologist as an expert witness, as well as the significance of musicology reports and prior art reports.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Before diving into the legal process, it is crucial to understand what copyright infringement entails. Copyright gives the creator of an original work, such as a song, the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and display that work. When someone uses all or a substantial part of a copyrighted work without permission, it is considered copyright infringement.

To pursue a music copyright infringement lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove two elements: access and substantial similarity. Access refers to the defendant's opportunity to hear or have access to the copyrighted work, while substantial similarity pertains to the degree of similarity between the original work and the alleged infringing work.

What Is Required To Win A Copyright Infringement Lawsuit?

When pursuing a music copyright infringement lawsuit, it is necessary to gather evidence and build a strong case. This includes identifying the copyrighted musical work, establishing ownership, proving that the defendant has unlawfully used or copied the protected material to creative a derivative work, and that the defendant has distributed the infringing song.

Proving Ownership Of The Infringed Work

Proving ownership is the first step to pursuing your music copyright infringement claim. Production project files, lyrics sheets, and other creation materials may be used to support your claim of ownership. However, the most reliable way to prove ownership is through copyright registration with the US Copyright Office.

Is Registration With The US Copyright Office Required?

Registration with the US Copyright Office is not required to establish ownership and enforce copyright rights. Proof of ownership alone can be sufficient in a copyright lawsuit.


However, registering a copyright with the US Copyright Office offers several benefits. It creates a public record of ownership, provides prima facie evidence of ownership in court (meaning the court will assume you own the original work), and enables the pursuit of statutory damages and attorney's fees. Statutory damages can be substantial and act as a strong deterrent against infringement.


A competent Maryland copyright lawyer can assist you in properly filing your copyright application in order to ensure you are able to receive maximum compensation in the event of copyright infringement.

What Are Statutory Damages?

Statutory damages in copyright infringement cases are determined based on the discretion of the court. The specific amount can vary depending on several factors, including the nature of the infringement, the willfulness of the infringer, and the circumstances of the case.

The US Copyright Act provides a range of statutory damages that can be awarded. For works registered before the infringement or within three months of publication, the court has the discretion to award damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed. If the infringement is found to be willful, the court may increase the damages up to $150,000 per work.

When determining the amount of statutory damages within this range, the court considers various factors, such as the actual harm suffered by the copyright owner, the profits gained by the infringer, the deterrent effect of the damages, and the need to compensate the copyright owner adequately. The court has the authority to assess damages based on these factors and the specific circumstances of the case.

It is important to note that statutory damages provide a predetermined range and do not require the copyright owner to prove the actual financial losses suffered due to the infringement. This simplifies the process for the copyright owner and can result in higher damages.

The copyright owner may choose seek actual damages rather than statutory damages. Actual damages aim to compensate the copyright owner for the specific financial losses suffered as a result of the infringement. To claim actual damages, the copyright owner must provide evidence of the actual harm suffered, such as sales or licensing fees earned by the infringer or lost by the copyright owner.

Proving Infringement Occurred

Copyright owners must prove that infringement occurred. This involves proving that the author of the infringing work had access to the copyright owner’s work. In addition, the copyright owner must prove that the allegedly infringing work actually infringes on the copyright owner’s work in the eyes of the law.

Proving Access

Access is an important element of copyright infringement lawsuits. A defendant must have had access to the infringed upon musical work for the court to find that the defendant infringed upon the copyright owner’s work. Access may be proven by email or text evidence, split sheets, and/or songwriter relationships, among other things.

In addition, copyright ownership of a popular record that has been widely listened to may more easily be able to secure a court finding that the defendant had access to the song.

Proving Infringement: Expert Witness Testimony

When pursuing a music copyright infringement lawsuit, it is crucial to have the support of expert witnesses, specifically a musicologist. Expert witness testimony is a core component of proving your copyright infringement case, in addition to determining the appropriate amount of compensation.


One essential component of copyright infringement cases is the involvement of a musicologist as an expert witness. A musicologist is a professional who possesses in-depth knowledge of music theory, composition, and history.


Musicologists analyze the copyrighted work and the allegedly infringing material to determine whether there is substantial similarity. Musicologists provide expert opinions on the matter as valuable expert witness testimony that can greatly influence the outcome of the lawsuit.

Here are two notable copyright infringement cases where the importance of musicologists was highlighted:

One notable example of a successful music copyright infringement lawsuit that relied on a musicology report is the case of the Estate of Marvin Gaye versus Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, and TI. In this case, the jury found that Thicke, Williams, and Harris' hit song, "Blurred Lines" infringed upon Gaye's 1977 song, "Got to Give It Up."

In addition to testimony that Thicke and Williams attempted to recreate Gaye’s “vibe” in the studio, the decision was largely influenced by the testimony of musicologist Judith Finell, who compared the two compositions and provided expert analysis on the similarities between the songs, resulting in a $7,000,000 plus verdict in favor of Gaye’s estate.

Another example is the lawsuit between Led Zeppelin and the estate of Randy Wolfe, known as the Spirit case. Led Zeppelin was accused of copying portions of Spirit's song, "Taurus" in their iconic track, "Stairway to Heaven." In this case, the court admitted a musicology report by expert witness Lawrence Ferrara, who provided analysis on the musical similarities and dissimilarities between the two songs. Ultimately, the jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin, finding that no copyright infringement had occurred. The use of a musicology report was a critical component of Zeppelin’s successful defense to Spirit’s claims at trial.

At JD James & Associates PC, we regularly work with highly credible and influential musicologists in the development of copyright infringement cases. It is wise to consult an experienced Maryland music copyright infringement lawyer when developing your copyright infringement case.

Musicology Report

Musicology reports are crucial in supporting the musicologist’s finding. These reports detail the analysis process, explaining how the expert arrived at their conclusions. Musicology reports are comprehensive documents prepared by musicologists that outline their findings and opinions regarding the similarities or differences between two musical works.


These reports provide an objective analysis of the musical elements, such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics, to determine if copyright infringement has occurred. If infringement has occurred, the musicology report will also analyze the impact and importance of the infringement on the infringing work as a whole. Musicology reports serve as crucial evidence in music copyright infringement cases and help guide the court in making informed decisions.

Prior Art Report

Prior art reports are another essential component in music copyright infringement cases. These reports examine prior musical works that may have influenced or been similar to the copyrighted work or the allegedly infringing work.

By identifying and analyzing these prior art examples, musicologists can establish a historical context and demonstrate that the allegedly infringing work is not original or unique. The report may also be used to show that the copyright owner’s work was original and not based on prior art.

Pursuing a music copyright infringement claim is a complicated process, which requires expertise and attention to detail. Our team of Maryland and DC copyright infringement lawyers can analyze the evidence in your case and help you to craft the strongest argument in support of maximum compensation.

Maryland and DC
Music Lawyers


Understanding Music Royalties and Their Role in the Music Industry

Our Maryland and DC music lawyers are highly experienced in music law and we regularly assist musicians, songwriters, artists, publishers, and labels in music revenue management, including managing copyright chain of title and other royalty matters.


In this discussion, we will explore what music royalties are, why they are important, some of the most important types of royalties, and some of the corresponding royalty collection outlets. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of royalties and how they can benefit your music career.


What are Royalties?


Music royalties are payments made to copyright holders for the use of their intellectual property, specifically in the form of music. These royalties play a vital role in compensating creators for their work and providing a sustainable income stream. They ensure that artists, songwriters, and composers are fairly rewarded for their artistic contributions. 


How Are Royalties Divided?


Royalties are divided equally amongst songwriters and publishers. In other words, 50% of the earnings of a record are distributed to the songwriter(s) and 50% are distributed to the publisher(s). It is important to note that an artist may be missing uncollected royalties if they have not entered into a publishing agreement with a publisher. Independent artists often choose to form their own publishing entities. An experienced Maryland music publishing attorney can assist you in collecting publishing royalties or other uncollected songwriter royalties.


Types of Music Royalties


Mechanical Royalties


Mechanical royalties are earned when music is reproduced or distributed in physical or digital formats (such as digital downloads). This includes CDs, vinyl, digital downloads, streaming, and interactive streaming services. 


Generally, the record label or distributor (including digital service providers – DSPs – such as, Spotify, Apple Music, Distrokidd, or Tunecore) pays mechanical royalties to songwriters and publishers. The Harry Fox Agency (HFA) also licenses music, in addition to collecting and distributing mechanicals to publishers.


Performance Royalties


Performance royalties are generated when copyrighted music is performed or played in public, including on the radio, television, streaming, live concerts, through digital platforms, and background music in public places.


These royalties are collected by Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), such as American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC), and Global Music Rights (GMR).


Digital Performance Royalties


Digital performance royalties are a specific type of performance royalty that refers to the use of music on digital platforms such as streaming services, satellite radio, and internet radio stations. These royalties are earned when a musical composition is publicly performed through digital transmission. 

Synchronization Royalties


Synchronization or sync royalties come into play when music is synchronized with visual content, such as in movies, TV shows, advertisements, or video games. This is a large revenue source for copyright holders as they provide additional publicity for new songs in addition to the possibility of revitalizing older songs.

Sync royalties are paid to the copyright holders for the use of their music in these visual mediums. The fees may be collected directly or through synchronization licensing agencies, like the Harry Fox Agency or individual media production companies, handle the collection of synchronization royalties. The use of a synchronization agency allows copyright holders with added confidence that they are collecting all available compensation from all outlets worldwide.


Print Music Royalties


Print music royalties are earned when sheet music or music books are sold. These royalties are paid to the copyright holders, including songwriters, composers, and publishers. Publishers may collect directly or PROs such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC may also handle the collection of print music royalties on behalf of publishers.


Here is some more information on Performance Rights Organizations (PROs):


Performance Rights Organizations play a crucial role in collecting and distributing performance royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers, and publishers. Here are some of the main PROs in the music industry:


American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)


ASCAP represents a broad range of music genres and works towards ensuring fair compensation for its members. It collects performance royalties from various sources, including radio airplay, live performances, and digital streaming platforms.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)


BMI represents over 1.1 million songwriters, composers, and music publishers. It focuses on collecting performance royalties and licensing music for various uses, including public performances, radio airplay, and digital streaming. BMI advocates for fair compensation and the protection of its members' rights.


Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)


SESAC specializes in collecting and distributing performance royalties for various uses, including public performances, radio broadcasts, television shows, and online streaming. It aims to provide personalized and efficient services to its members while ensuring their rights are protected.

Global Music Rights (GMR)

GMR represents a select group of songwriters and composers, including some well-known artists. It primarily focuses on collecting performance royalties and ensuring fair compensation for the use of its members' music.

Harry Fox Agency (HFA) 


The Harry Fox Agency (HFA) is a leading licensing and royalty collection organization specializing in mechanical royalties. It provides a range of services, including licensing, royalty administration, and distribution of mechanical royalties for songwriters, composers, and music publishers. HFA ensures proper compensation for the reproduction and distribution of musical compositions.


SoundExchange is a prominent organization responsible for collecting and distributing digital performance royalties to recording artists and record labels. SoundExchange has established relationships with various digital service providers, including popular streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.

SoundExchange acts as a digital performance rights organization (PRO) specifically for the digital streaming of sound recordings and is the only entity legally permitted to collect and distribute digital performance royalties.

To ensure that artists receive their fair share of digital performance royalties, it is important for rights holders to register with SoundExchange, as both songwriters, performers, and publishers, and provide accurate information about their recordings. SoundExchange uses this data to identify and track performances of registered works and distribute the royalties accordingly.

By registering with SoundExchange, artists and rights holders can tap into a significant revenue stream from the digital performance of their music. This allows them to benefit from the growing popularity of digital music consumption and maximize their earnings in the digital age, as streaming and other digital performance royalties continue to represent the majority of royalty earnings today.

These PROs play an essential role in collecting performance royalties and advocating for fair compensation in the music industry. Artists should carefully consider which PRO aligns best with their needs and register accordingly to ensure proper collection of their performance royalties.

Hiring A Music Royalty Attorney

Music royalties are a crucial aspect of the music industry, ensuring that artists and creators are fairly compensated for their work. In this article, we have explored what music royalties are, why they are important, and the different types of royalties that exist. Additionally, we have discussed the role of Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) in collecting music royalties and the specific types of royalties they collect.


By understanding music royalties and the collection outlets associated with each type, artists can take control of their intellectual property and ensure they receive fair compensation for their artistic contributions. Whether through mechanical royalties, performance royalties, synchronization royalties, or print music royalties, artists can maximize their earnings and sustain their music careers.


If you have any questions or need legal advice regarding music royalties or any other aspect of the music industry, please contact us for a free case evaluation. Our experienced team of Maryland and DC music royalty attorneys is here to assist you and provide the guidance you need.


Maryland and DC
Music Lawyers

Signing To A Label

When an artist is presented with an offer to sign with a record label, there are several important issues that must be addressed in order to ensure a positive experience. 


The largest major labels include Atlantic Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. However, these concerns apply to both major labels and independent labels. An experienced entertainment attorney can help clarify and solve these concerns, such as understanding the terms of the recording contract, negotiating fair financial and ownership terms, and addressing issues related to creative control and promotion.


Signing with a major label offers advantages such as increased exposure, financial support, and established industry connections. However, it may come with the loss of ownership and creative control, as well as higher expectations for commercial success. On the other hand, signing with an independent label provides more creative freedom and personalized attention, but may have limited financial resources and distribution capabilities. At any rate, the financial support provided by labels are loans, which must be repaid by the artist to the label.


There are many different types of contracts, including recording contracts, 360 deals, publishing deals, and admin deals. Each type of contract has a specific deal structure and is intended to address different aspects of an artist's career. 


For example, a recording contract focuses on the recording and distribution of the artist's music. A 360 deal involves the label receiving a percentage of various revenue streams (typically all entertainment industry income, including shows and merchandise). A publishing deal concerns the ownership and exploitation of the artist's compositions (songwriting copyrights). An admin deal involves the administrative aspects of music rights management.


In evaluating an offer from an independent label, concerns include the label's financial stability, growth plan, marketing and promotion strategies, and distribution capabilities. Artists should carefully review the financial terms of the agreement, as well as the the level of creative control they will possess, in addition to assessing the label's ability to effectively promote and distribute their music.


Ultimately, engaging a a Maryland or DC entertainment attorney to review and negotiate the terms of a record label offer is crucial to ensure that your rights and interests as an artist are protected. The attorney can provide guidance on the specific concerns of the artist and help them make an informed decision regarding signing with a record label.

Types of Music Contracts

Here is a brief discussion of some of the most common music agreement formats:



Recording Agreement


A recording contract is a legally binding agreement between the artist and the record label that outlines the terms and conditions of their professional relationship, focusing on recording and distributing the artist’s music. In a recording agreement the record label promises to assist the artist in exchange for ownership of the masters (sound recordings – or recorded versions of the songs) created by the artist, in addition to a percentage of the royalties the label generates by distributing the artist’s music. It is important to understand the terms and conditions of the deal.

Here are some key clauses that an artist should consider when reviewing a recording contract:


Term of the Agreement


The term of the agreement refers to the duration for which the artist will be contracted to the record label. It is essential to understand the length of the contract and any renewal options, which may be automatic. Optional contract renewal periods can significantly extend an artist’s obligation to a label. Artists should consider whether the term is reasonable and aligns with their career plans. Longer contracts may limit their flexibility, while shorter contracts may not provide sufficient time for development and promotion.


Exclusive Recording Rights


It is critical to understand whether your agreement is exclusive or nonexclusive. Exclusive rights may include rights granted to a record label, controlling the artist’s right to record as well as the right to distribute the artist's music. Rights may also be granted to a manager to manage the artist’s affairs, a publisher to license and collect publishing royalties, and an administrator to administer the artist’s copyrights.


It is important to review the scope of these rights and understand whether that they are limited to specific territories or mediums. Artists should consider hiring a knowledgeable entertainment lawyer to negotiate for territorial restrictions, or carve-outs for certain platforms like YouTube or social media or revenue sources such as touring and merchandise.


Royalty and Payment Structure


The royalty and payment structure determine how the artist will be compensated for their work. Additionally, the contract should specify how and when payments will be made and on what basis the artist may inspect the records of the label or perform an audit as necessary.

Artists should carefully review the royalty rates for physical sales, digital downloads, streaming, and other revenue streams. It is crucial to ensure that the rates are fair and competitive within the industry. A music contract attorney can advise you as to standard payment provision in music agreements.



Advances are upfront payments made by the record label to the artist before the release of an album or project. Artists should consider the amount of the advance and whether it is recoupable or non-recoupable. Recoupable advances will be deducted from future earnings, while non-recoupable advances do not need to be repaid. A recoupable advance should be considered to be conceptually the same as a loan. Generally, artists must repay their advances before receiving any royalties. 


Producers’ ability to collect royalties may also be affected by their own advances as well as those of the artist. It is critical to contact an experienced entertainment lawyer who is familiar with the terms of music agreements in order to ensure that you are paid from the first sale of the record, also referred to as “record one.”


Recording and Promotion


The recording commitment and budget are two of the most important provisions of music agreements. It is crucial to understand the number of required albums in addition to the tracks per album. Artists should also understand the costs of recording. It is important to pay attention to the total recording budget as well as who the contract identifies as responsible for recording costs. Artists are usually required to reimburse recording costs, which means paying for studio time, production, and other costs associated with developing the album.


The promotion and marketing commitment is equally important to the recording budget. Commercial music success requires promotion and marketing spend. Depending on the terms of the deal, artists may or may not be required to pay the advance costs of music video production. It is important to hire a Maryland music attorney negotiate for an explicit promotional commitment with a specific marketing budget.


360 Deal


A 360 deal, also known as a multiple rights deal, is a type of contract where the record label takes a percentage of the artist's earnings from various revenue streams, not just from record sales. This includes revenue from live performances, merchandise sales, endorsements, and other sources within entertainment or as otherwise outlined within the agreement. The label may also provide financial support for the artist's career, such as funding for recordings, production, videos, marketing, and promotion.


The main characteristic of a 360 deal is that the record label shares in the artist's income from multiple revenue streams, hence the name. This type of deal can be seen as a partnership between the artist and the label, where both parties have a vested interest in the artist's success.


The advantages of a 360 deal for the artist include access to financial resources, increased exposure through label promotion, and support in various aspects of their career. However, the artist must be cautious about the terms and percentages outlined in the contract, as they may be giving up a significant portion of their earnings across multiple revenue streams for an extended period of time – this is often during the time the artist’s catalogue is most profitable.


In addition, the artist may not receive ownership of their catalogue upon termination of the agreement. Many 360 deals include ownership of all of the material recorded during the term. A credible Maryland or DC entertainment attorney can help you understand your terms if you have been offered a 360 music contract.


Publishing Agreement


A publishing deal, also known as a songwriter deal, focuses specifically on the ownership and exploitation of the artist's musical compositions. Compositions include lyrical as well as musical writing contributions. The publishing company will handle tasks such as licensing the artist's music for use in films, TV shows, commercials, and other use and will collect and distribute the royalties to the artist.

When an artist signs a publishing deal, they typically assign all or a portion of their publishing rights to a publishing company, allowing the company to exploit and monetize those rights on their behalf. An artist may also reach a deal allowing the publisher to share only in the profits rather than ownership of the artist’s publishing. Publishing deals usually include an advance fee paid by the publisher to the artist. A music publishing attorney can help you negotiate the terms of a publishing deal to your benefit.


Admin Agreement


The purpose of admin deals is to further ensure that artists collect all available royalties. In exchange for a fee, administrators monitor, collect, and distribute royalties to artists. Managing the global network of DSPS, tv/film distributors, and other outlets is very complicated due to the sheer volume of vendors, so working with an administrator lessens the risk of missing royalties.

Although admin deals are useful to artist’s there may be value in waiting to sign until the right moment. Admin deals often include advances, which are based on the value of the artist’s catalogue. Waiting for more career growth may therefore increase an artist’s ability to secure a large advance. An experienced music royalty lawyer can help you decide whether you’re ready to enter into an admin agreement.

Publishing Agreement - Maryland DC Music Lawyers
Admin Agreement - Maryland DC Music Lawyers

Maryland and DC
Music Lawyers

Placing Beats or Lyrics

Understanding What To Do When You Get A Placement

Placing a beat or lyrics with a major artist involves several steps and agreements that lead to a sale of rights to the artist. These agreements include split sheets, production agreements, and songwriter agreements. It is important to understand the ways you should be paid, and the steps you should take to ensure compensation, if you have placed music with an artist.


In this discussion, we will discuss some of the important issues creators face when placing beats or lyrics major and independent artists. It is crucial to differentiate between compositions and sound recordings (masters) and to understand the compensation due for each. It is also important to note that advance fees may be due to producers and writers and that they may also receive points (royalties) in addition to publishing.


Hiring a knowledgeable music attorney is a critical step to ensuring you receive full compensation if you have secured a placement. It is important to make the decision to consult and hire representation before you have negotiated any of the terms of the placement agreement as the attorney is likely to be able to at least double your advance and other compensation.



Split Sheets


One of the key agreements in the process of placing a beat or lyrics with a major artist is the split sheet. A split sheet is a document that outlines the ownership and distribution of composition and/or master royalties for a specific song. It specifies the percentage split between the different contributors to the song, such as the producer, songwriter, and any other individuals involved in the creation process.


This means that both parties will receive equal shares of the revenue generated by the song, including profits from publishing and other forms of royalties. A split sheet is an important tool for producers, songwriters, managers, and labels. It is important to secure a signed split sheet at the end of session as a matter of best business practice, whether you have relationships with the other people involved in the record or not. An experienced Maryland or DC music royalty attorney can assist you in drafting a split sheet or in reviewing your rights if you have signed or failed to be included on a split sheet.


Production Agreements


In addition to split sheets, production agreements play a vital role in the music placement process. A production agreement is a contract between the producer and the artist, outlining the terms and conditions of their collaboration. Production agreements cover various aspects, such as the scope of work, payment terms, ownership rights, and the allocation of royalties.


Producers typically receive 50% of the composition royalties as their contribution of music represents half of the songwriting contribution to the record (lyrics are the other 50% of the composition copyright – composition copyrights are registered for the music and lyrics rather than the recorded song or “master recording”).


This means that producers are entitled to receive 50% of the revenue generated by the exploitation of the composition. This includes royalties from samples, streaming, radio play, synchronization licenses, and other forms of exploitation.


Additionally, producers and writers may receive points (royalties) in addition to publishing. Points in music royalties refer to percentage points of the revenue earned from the commercial use and exploitation of a song or album. In other words, one points equals one percent. 


Producers and songwriters may negotiate points as part of their compensation for their contributions to the project. These points can result in additional royalties beyond the publishing rights they receive, with producers typically earning between 1 to 3 points per record in deals with artists signed to major labels. In an independent deal, where there is no base rate, producers possess much more bargaining power and may receive as much as 50 points.


It is important to note that when collecting from PROs such as SoundExchange, that the producer or songwriter’s royalty payout will be determined by a fraction between the producer’s royalty rate and the artist’s royalty base rate. 


The artist’s royalty base rate is the percentage of royalties generated on the record that are paid by the label to the artist. Major labels today often pay artists between 19 to 23 percents (or points). For example, a producer royalty rate of 3 points and an artist royalty base rate of 19 points would result in the producer receiving 15.79% (which may be rounded as 15.8% or 15.789% depending on the person doing the calculation).


In addition to composition royalties and points, producers may receive advance payments. Advances are upfront payments based on the artist’s confidence in the future earnings of the record, paid to producers to secure the artist’s exclusive purchase of the production. Royalty advances are usually recoupable, meaning they must be repaid. Advances are similar to loans or pay advances. A producer’s acceptance of an advance, in addition to an artist’s advance, plus the artist’s recording and marketing expenses, may delay the producer’s collection of royalties as they all represent loans and expenses which must be reimbursed. 


It is possible for producers to negotiate nonrecoupable advances, as well as royalty payment from “record one”, or the first sale (rather than the first sale after recoupment of any advances and expenses). It is wise to consult an experienced Maryland or DC music production agreement lawyer to ensure that your advance is non recoupable and that you receive payment from record one.


Songwriter Agreements


Songwriter agreements are an important aspect of placing lyrics with a major artist. These agreements outline the rights and obligations of the songwriter and artist in relation to the song. They cover aspects such as copyright ownership, credit, and compensation.


Songwriter agreements specify the contribution of the songwriter to the composition and the terms under which they will be compensated. This includes the allocation of publishing rights and any additional points (royalties) that may be negotiated based on their contributions.


It is important to note that producers and lyric writers are both identified as songwriters in music law., and underlying musical elements. Lyric songwriters receive a 50% allocation of publishing rights. This means that they are 50% owners of the composition copyright of the record. Songwriters contribute to the creation of the composition, which includes the melody and lyrics. Songwriters are also entitled to receive royalties based on the commercial use of the song and may receive points. A music royalty and rights attorney can help you negotiate your songwriter agreement to receive the most benefit.



Understanding The Difference Between

Compositions and Sound Recordings (Masters)


When it comes to placing a beat or lyrics with a major artist, it is essential to differentiate between compositions and sound recordings (masters). Compositions refer to the underlying musical and lyrical elements of a song, including the melody, lyrics, and chord progressions. Sound recordings, also referred to as master recordings, or masters, are the actual recorded versions of those compositions.


Major labels often require major artists to clear and license both the composition and the sound recording before using them in their projects. This means that producers and songwriters need to ensure that all necessary permissions are obtained and that the rights to both the composition and the sound recording are properly secured, which includes clearing samples and contributions from all writers and producers (including loop makers and other contributors).


It is important that an independent artist license use of the composition and own the master recording prior to distribution of any record in order to avoid copyright infringement claims in the event of a record’s success. Copyright infringement claims can be extremely costly and may exceed the artist’s earnings on the record itself. A competent music attorney can help you ensure you are fully protected from copyright infringement claims if you are planning to release a record.



The process of placing a beat or lyrics with a major artist involves various agreements, including split sheets, production agreements, and songwriter agreements.


Understanding publishing splits, points, and royalties, as well as differentiating between compositions and sound recordings and considering the potential for advance fees are all crucial aspects of the placement process that an experienced music placement lawyer can help you navigate with success.

Hire A Maryland or DC Music Attorney

Hiring a competent Maryland music lawyer with contacts and experience in the industry is crucial for any musician, industry professional, or music business.


At JD James & Associates PC, we offer the following advantages:

Industry Knowledge


Our team possesses in-depth knowledge of the music industry, deal structures, and standards, and stays updated with the latest trends and legal developments.

Extensive Network

We have built strong relationships with highly experienced music law litigation attorneys, musicologists, music law experts witnesses, A&Rs, managers, agents, promoters, venues, developers, and others key players in the music business, allowing us to provide our clients with invaluable opportunities and connections.

Tailored Legal Solutions


We understand the unique needs of our clients through personal experience in the music industry as producers, songwriters, managers, and promoters, in addition to extensive legal experience, which allows us to provide personalized music law solutions that protect our clients’ rights and maximize their opportunities for growth, success, and longevity.

By choosing JD James & Associates PC, you are gaining a strategic partner who is dedicated to your success. Our team will work closely with you to understand your goals, protect your rights, and guide you through the complex legal landscape of the music industry. Contact us today to discover the value of hiring an experienced Maryland music lawyer or DC music lawyer.



The above article provides a discussion of some of the core concerns of individuals involved in the music business, with a focus on music law. It is not legal advice. It is critical to hire a Maryland entertainment attorney when participating in the entertainment business.



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