How to not screw over a co-writer?

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erynmichel
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How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by erynmichel » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:33 pm

Hey folks--I’d love your take on how to not screw over my original co-writer on a guitar/cello duet I’m reviving from almost 10 years ago.

TL;DR: I’m working with a new cellist on rewriting some of the instrumentals, but I want to make sure to honor my agreement with my original cellist (50-50 writer’s). I have no idea how extensive the rewrites will be at this point. Is the right thing to do to take my 50% writer’s and cut that in half with the new cellist? Should I notify the original cellist and see what he thinks first?

More detail:
So I wrote the song completely, and linked up with a cellist to produce the cello parts (which are just as long as the vocals). Although I gave him guidance on what I was looking for in the structure, I absolutely could not have written the cello part by myself. Not even close. So I like to think the cellist had an equal part in bringing the song to life. We don’t have a formal agreement written up except some emails where we agreed on 50-50 writer’s share. The cellist and I were both in college at the time, and frankly I had no idea what a publisher’s share even was back then.

Fast forward 9 years to today--I’m now working with a cellist from Iraq on a series of soothing, healing guitar/cello/voice pieces. Sort of like modern lullabies, for adults. I can’t place the genre yet. My new cellist wants to rewrite and record the cello pieces, and do a new multitrack arrangement.

My OG cellist is now a successful musician in Los Angeles and I’m interested in doing the right thing by him and acting with integrity in this rewrite. I think with the right arrangement the song could be pitchable to TV, so I think it’s important to think about what’s fair to everyone now.

So the final question is how do I be fair to my old writer and my new writer?

I so appreciate any insight, guidance, links, reading, anything you can point me to! Thank you in advance!

Warmly,
Eryn

Oh duh, if you want to hear the original, very poorly balanced song (you can even hear a car in the background!), here is the link:
https://youtu.be/lmaH0HMzuG0
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by funsongs » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:55 pm

Is there such a thing as creating an after-the-fact WFH agreement, and agree to a flat fee that would release you from any other agreement with OG cellist?
That, IMHO from the Peanut Gallery, would be the cleanest thing.

Also - I'd suggest doing the new composition on a WFH basis, so that you can have total control on the future of the song. Of course, if funds are the issue - then the split makes sense, I reckon. I think you could both split the writer/composer share,
and you can maintain 100% ownership of the your master(s).

I had a similar deal, recently - can explain in depth (via email), if that you want.
Hope that helps, and that others with experience will weigh in.

Cheers.
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by DesireInspires » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:30 pm

Write new music.

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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by erynmichel » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:50 pm

DesireInspires wrote:Write new music.
:D somehow that just feels like more effort than figuring out the business end of what to do. That also feels like avoiding the issue. Well, I’ll certainly consider it, but before I go to that extreme I think I’ll just contact the original cellist to discuss it.
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by annayarbrough » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:25 pm

You're doing the right thing!

I think you've got a few options (and this probably isn't an exhaustive list, either!)

1. Buy out your original cello player—flat fee, signed agreement in writing

2. Draw up a new collaboration agreement splitting the shares between the three of you (only possible with the consent of all parties)

3. Do the new project as a work-for-hire, pay your new cellist outright and get a signed agreement in writing.

I'm guessing you're probably on good terms with your original co-writer? Definitely worth a conversation to see what they're open to. Maybe have an idea in mind of what you'll approach them with/offer them beforehand.


Also—splitting your share would mean that the new cellist would also only be receiving a 25% share. They may/may not be cool with that!

Hope that helps!

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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by annayarbrough » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:30 pm

Oh and one more thing—as you and your original cellist agreed on a 50/50 collab, he legally owns half of the song (to state the obvious!) and you would need his consent before doing anything with it anyway

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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by erynmichel » Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:22 pm

annayarbrough wrote:You're doing the right thing!

I think you've got a few options (and this probably isn't an exhaustive list, either!)

1. Buy out your original cello player—flat fee, signed agreement in writing

2. Draw up a new collaboration agreement splitting the shares between the three of you (only possible with the consent of all parties)

3. Do the new project as a work-for-hire, pay your new cellist outright and get a signed agreement in writing.

I'm guessing you're probably on good terms with your original co-writer? Definitely worth a conversation to see what they're open to. Maybe have an idea in mind of what you'll approach them with/offer them beforehand.


Also—splitting your share would mean that the new cellist would also only be receiving a 25% share. They may/may not be cool with that!

Hope that helps!
MASSIVELY helpful. Thank you Anna for helping me think about this in an equitable way. I’ll think on your suggestions and let you know how it turns out!
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by Len911 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:19 pm

I can’t place the genre yet.
Chill-a-cello :lol:
It reminded me of this:
https://primeloops.com/chilled-cello-guitar-vol-1.html

Eryn, like Desire said, write a new song. The cellist is going to be doing a different accompaniment anyway, and the lyrics could be re-written as well. I thought the song was well done, but I didn't think the lyrics and melody couldn't have been improved on. Imo it would be more trouble messing with the old song than it might be worth, especially in terms of contacting and negotiating with your previous co-writer and getting all the paperwork in order.
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by Len911 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:43 pm

I absolutely could not have written the cello part by myself. Not even close.
Eryn, maybe this isn't the place to bring this up, and you didn't ask, :? , but have you considered using audio loops? I don't know if you record and use a daw yourself or if you have someone else record your work?? Or even if it would be something that might interest you.
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Re: How to not screw over a co-writer?

Post by erynmichel » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:13 pm

Len911 wrote:
I absolutely could not have written the cello part by myself. Not even close.
Eryn, maybe this isn't the place to bring this up, and you didn't ask, :? , but have you considered using audio loops? I don't know if you record and use a daw yourself or if you have someone else record your work?? Or even if it would be something that might interest you.
Funny you should ask Len! I just bought my first MIDI keyboard this week, and my new iMac from Santa gets here on a Friday. My family is getting me Logic Pro X early for Christmas. I absolutely plan to learn to do these loops myself. What do you use?

But this project is special and specifically a collaborative—the new cellist was the maestro of the Iraq symphony orchestra, and I’m an Army vet who served in Iraq. We both love Iraq so much, and to watch it descend further into chaos has been heartbreaking for us both. We specifically want to create a grouping of songs (not sure how many) that are peaceful healing songs using a combo of his cello plus my guitar and voice. It’ll be long in the works and might take years. Who knows, maybe I’ll know how to loop by then! But that’s the story behind why we’re staying old school for this one. However, your instincts are on point that that’s where I’m trying to head with my music education next.
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