6 Songwriting Tips

Writing a song might sound like a fairly easy thing to accomplish, and sometimes it can be.

But not every time.

Sure, there are only 11 notes in the scale, but there are a seemingly infinite amount of combinations waiting to be discovered. And if you want to write something truly original, that quickly becomes a tall order. Here are a few songwriting tips to stop those of you who want to rewrite the book from going insane.

One Small Step

Every great something comes from nothing. At the very start of your songwriting journey, it can feel as though you’re drifting alone through space, with the blackness of the universe stretching out forever in all directions. But then, you come across a tiny speck of light in the distance, and as you approach, it grows in warmth and brightness until you’re engulfed in possibilities. You’ve just got to take those first couple of steps into the unknown – pick up your guitar and strum any chord, put your pen to paper and write any word. It might end up in your song, it might not – the point is, the only sure way to stay lost is to stay still.

Any self-respecting writer will have high expectations of themselves, and while hanging onto that will ensure you don’t let yourself off too easily, you can think yourself into a hole if you don’t accept that the first thing you do isn’t going to be life-changing. The Mona Lisa began with a single brush stroke, and so will your masterpiece. Allow yourself a few ‘OK’ ideas first, because then at least you’ll have yourself the building blocks you need to construct yourself an absolute Taj Mahal of a song.

It’s a Lyrical Miracle

A well written melody or some well placed chords can evoke a powerful emotional response from your listeners. There’s no denying that, but you’ll be able to connect with them on a much more literal level through your word choice.

The most important thing to bear in mind here is – be yourself. Sure, use interesting rhyme patterns and far-fetched metaphors, but make sure you’re using your own. You’ll find that when you can empathise with your own words, your listeners will be able to too. Avoid trying to be too clever for your own good – the best lyrics use a balance of head and heart, of thinking and feeling, that may take a few attempts to perfect.

Like these songwriting tips? Want to make money from your songs? Download this free ebook: Everything You Need to Know About Licensing and Publishing Your Music. Click here to get it for free.

You can also check out this article, and this one for tips on how to start licensing your songs (even if you have no connections in the licensing industry.

Songs Aren’t Plasters, So Don’t Rip Them Off

We’ve all been there. You’re sat there twiddling on your guitar, or walking around humming a tune, and suddenly you realise – this is it! This is your new song! You race home, get your phone out, and lay down a rough demo before the idea escapes you.

Naturally, you’re anxious to share your new track with your friends. But as soon as they hear it, they tell you they’ve already heard it somewhere else. This may well come as a crushing blow, but even if it’s not the first time this has happened, it’s no reason to give up. Do however, take this as a sign that it’s time to broaden your musical horizons. There are tropes and trends within all genres of music, and to an extent these are tools at your disposal, but also areas to explore and expand upon.

Is Enough Really Enough?

It’s almost impossible to know when your song is 100% finished. There are so many checks that you could – and perhaps should – run your song through, but eventually you’re going to have to move on.

Once you can honestly say to yourself that you’ve examined your song from every angle – does the melody help convey the message of the lyrics? Is the melody memorable? Do the verse and chorus suit each other? – then the next step is to get an outside opinion.

It’s always nice to have positive feedback, but try to ask someone whose opinion you can trust. Which, of course means swallowing your pride. There might be something you haven’t considered that a fresh pair of ears will pick up on. And that something might just be the final piece of the puzzle. But you might not be able to see that piece when you’re pouring over all the other pieces laid out before you. So your best bet is to take a deep breath and offer you song up for some constructive criticism. You’ll thank yourself later!

Bring Your Creation to Life

As soon as you’ve written your song to a standard you’re happy with, learn it. Learn every inch of it, inside and out. The dedication you’d demonstrate by doing this will be evident when you come to perform the song live, and this is many ways is the final hurdle. Yes, it’s important to take the advice of others on board, but what’s more important is to true to yourself. Make sure you can play your song blindfolded, because your confidence will convert the last of the haters.

And if you’ve gone overboard trying to think outside the box in terms of new techniques, that’s great. Challenging yourself is what this game’s all about. Just make sure you can do your song justice every time by learning it properly. You won’t impress nearly as many prospective fans by reading your lyrics off a screen. And there are only so many times you can pass off bum notes as ‘jazz’. Become your own master, and people will recognise you as a force to be reckoned with.

Revisit And Revise

After all the time and effort you’ve put into your song, there’ll be a strong temptation to finish that particular chapter and close the book for a while. You definitely deserve a rest, but only in extremely rare cases will a song be finished the first time the songwriter thinks it is. You might have to record your song, or even give it a live airing, before you realise what it’s missing. This can be incredibly frustrating. But you’ll know in your heart of hearts that your song is worth making the sacrifice for. Writing is a process, and sometimes that process involves a couple of failed test runs.

Try to remember this when you first perform your song. There’s no official cut-off point between playing your almost-completed creation in public and adding the final touches. But it’ll be confusing for your audience if you allow them to get used to your song only to change it a few weeks down the line. Use this interim period to talk to friends and peers, and score yourself some of that sweet, sweet feedback. By this stage, you’ve done everything you can with this particular song. That’s one in the bank, so it’s time to start thinking of a few more to add to the collection. Back to step one!

Conclusion – Songwriting Tips to Write Your Next Hit

Hopefully these songwriting tips have helped you. That’s just a few difficulties you may encounter on your songwriting quest. But don’t feel as though you have to shy away from them. If anything, meet them head on like the intrepid musical adventurer you are.

The best way to learn from such hardships is to experience them for yourself. Once you’ve mistakenly lifted a melody from someone else’s tune or tried to perform a song in public you haven’t quite got the hang of, you’ve got to rip it apart and go back a few steps. You’ll realise that it’s not so bad, and that there totally is something you can do about it.

Written by Joe Hoten at Bands For Hire

Improve your songwriting

Songwriting is often a mysterious, transcendental experience when it is going well. It can also be one of the most challenging and frustrating creative experiences in music. Often, songwriting seems almost like a spiritual place we must magically arrive at through some sort of weird set of unexpected and inspirational circumstances – but it is also a craft that can be learned and improved on by building the skills to catch the inspiration when it hits and to create inspiration when it seems far away. 

Understanding and being able to apply music theory is enormously helpful in this process and can help you improve your songwriting. Here are a few of the big ways it can help.

Find the Best Chord for Your Song

How many times have you sat down, written inspired lyrics, strummed the first chord, started to sing and then found it impossible to find the next chord you hear in your head? Music theory can save you in this situation by helping you learn to name and identify what you hear in your head so that it is easier to find the right chord. 

A major aspect of music theory is describing the way a chord functions inside a key – or how it interacts with all the other notes and chords. By developing your ear to hear these functions, you can learn to identify what you hear in your head and, in turn, play it on your instrument. You can also find great inspiration and ideas this way by thinking about which chords or chord functions you haven’t used as much and beginning with them when you write a new song.

Start learning music theory and see how the concepts are used in modern music. Download the free ebook – Inside the Hits: The Music Theory Behind 10 Hit Songs

Find the Strongest Pitches for Your Melodies

There is never a substitute for singing as a way to create melodies, but after singing melodies for a while, you may find yourself becoming stuck and not being able to find a new melody that seems “right”. One of the best ways to address this and to improve your songwriting is to understand how melodies fit inside chords.

Without often realizing it, we usually sing melodies made up of notes that come directly from the chords we play. Learning music theory provides a way to identify and describe the way we hear a melody and expand on it. For instance, you might find that a lot of your melodies come from the notes in the first chord of a scale. If that is the case, you can expand your melodic ideas by building melodies from notes in other chords in your song. Exploring theory intentionally like this can open up a huge range of melodic options that work well.

Find the Most Exciting Rhythms for Your Band

Great chords and great melodies often aren’t worth a thing until the groove being played underneath them makes people want to dance. Finding this groove depends on your understanding of rhythm – and music theory can help you with that too. 

Think about how you feel the beat underneath your song. How is it broken up? Are the rhythms you’re playing built out of eighth notes? Sixteenth notes? Triplets? How much space is there? Does it feel very even and straight or does it feel laid back like a heavy hip-hop groove? These are all rhythmic concepts explored in theory as well. Knowing how to identify and talk about them will give you all the power you need to write and communicate what you want to your band and help them play with a powerful groove that supports your song.

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There’s a concept in music called “making it.”

You know the story. “Making it” could be getting that big publishing deal, it could be getting the chance to perform in an awesome venue or at an event, or it could be a having your own band and recording your first few songs.

It’s interesting that, although we use the term “making it” in the music industry, most musicians and songwriters have this idea that someone else will give them their big break – be it a publishing company, and A&R agent or a booking agent.

The truth is, if you want to “make it,” you need to make it happen – you make your own opportunities.
It’s the same for inspiration.

Writer’s block is a big topic in the world of songwriting. It seems like it’s an impossible barrier that we will all inevitably face at one point or another. The ideas will be flowing, you’ll be on a roll, and then one day you’ll hit a brick wall and words won’t come out anymore. Sometimes the block will last a few hours, and sometimes you can feel like you’re stuck in a rut for days or even weeks.

Just like “making it,” inspiration seems like an uncontrollable force. Sometimes it’s there and you’ll write incredible songs, and sometimes it’s just not. But there are actually some things you can do to make inspiration something you control. If you want even more great songwriting tips, you can sign up for these free lessons.

1. Schedule Your Writing

This may sound overly simple, but the best way to find inspiration is to just write. Set aside a certain amount of time every single day to work on your songs whether you’re feeling inspired or not. Eventually your mind will know that when you sit down at your desk, it’s writing time, and you’ll be able to snap into the right state of mind almost immediately.

2. Always Carry a Journal

Although you can train yourself to get into the right mindset to write, inspiration will still strike you throughout the day when you least expect it. You could be doing something as mundane as sitting on a subway and the perfect song title or lyric line will hit you, and if you don’t write it down, you’ll often forget it before you get home.

With that in mind, always have some way to write your ideas down. You could carry a small journal, take notes in your phone or tablet, text yourself the lyrics, or record a short voice memo. Then, when you sit down in your writing chair, you’ll be able to come back to your ideas.

3. Challenge Yourself

With any activity, you’ll hit plateaus, and songwriting is no different. Even if you’re writing a lot of songs, you get this feeling that you’re not progressing, or that your lyrics seem to be different variations on the same thing.

A plateau is just a comfort zone. You get comfortable writing about certain themes, in certain keys, or with certain melodic phrases or song structures. And the only way to break out of that comfort zone is to challenge yourself. Set yourself little tests like writing a song about an everyday object, writing a song that modulates, writing a song that uses a particular word, or writing a song that’s under two minutes long. These exercises may not go on to be a top 40 hit, but they will help you expand your creativity.

The truth is, songwriting is a craft, and something you can learn to do better with practice and a plan. If you’d like more songwriting tips, you can sign up for these free lessons I created with Kevin Thomas, songwriter, teacher, and founder of Songwriting Planet. In the free lessons, we go through techniques that will help you write better lyrics and melodies, and then protect your songs and start growing a fanbase.

music copyright

Your copyrights are your business! So it makes sense to take the time to understand how it all works. Unfortunately, “copyright” and “law” tend to have pretty scary connotations. Just hearing the words is often enough to make our heads hurt.

This article from Digital Music News pretty much lays out everything you need to know about your copyrights, publishing, royalties, and licenses in a way that’s easy to understand. Here’s the copyright segment of the article.

I know it’s not the most exciting topic out there, but understanding your rights (and more importantly how you can monetize them) will unlock a lot of income opportunities for you in music. After you finish this article, check out this free ebook to learn how to take those rights and score awesome licensing deals.

We’re also hosting a free licensing webinar covering a surefire way to license your music. You’ll learn how to get your music on music libraries and how to make connections directly with music supervisors. Click here to register for free and choose the date and time that works best for you.


As a musician you are a creator.  Whether you’re a composer, lyricist or performing artist, you create works.  These works automatically become copyrighted once they are documented; for example through recording or writing.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property.  The creator becomes the copyright owner.  If there are multiple creators, this right is automatically split equally.  Writers are free to deviate from this equal share through mutual agreement.

The duration of this copyright is generally until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. It differs in some countries.

Copyright ownership rights give control over who can reproduce, distribute, perform publicly, display and create derivatives of a work. These ownership rights can be fully transferred and assigned to others.  Others can also be granted licenses to use your music, typically in exchange for a payment. These payments are called royalties.

There are two types of musical copyright;

Musical Composition Copyright:

A musical composition is a piece of music, in part or in whole.  The authors are typically the composer (writer of music) and the lyricist (writer of text, in case of lyrics). These authors are the owners of the musical composition copyright.  Typically in equal share, as both the composer and lyricist of a track get assigned 50% of the composition’s copyright, unless they agreed on a different split. This can be done when one party contributed more than the other.

The creators have the exclusive right to determine who can produce copies of their song, for example to create records.  This right can be granted to others by giving out a mechanical license, which is done in exchange for a monetary payment (mechanical royalties).

Whenever a record label or performing artist wants to record a song that they do not own, they have to get a mechanical license from the people that do. Always.

All decisions regarding the composition can only be made when agreed upon by all copyright owners.  As mentioned before, the ownership and control of copyright can be transferred to others.  Generally, songwriters get a specialized third party, namely a publisher, to control and manage their songs.  In exchange, they get a cut of the royalty streams which they help generate with the repertoire.

Writer-publisher splits tend to range between 50%-50% and 70%-30%, depending on the clout of the artist and sometimes even on the relevant country’s regulations.

Sound Recording Copyright:

A sound recording is the actual final recording of a song, a fixation of sound.  It often goes by the name of ‘master’ from the old ‘master tape’ expression.  The authors are the performing artist and record producer, who in essence are therefore the owners.  Producers typically get a small share of the master rights (up to 12.5%). However, recordings are typically made in assignment of record labels, whom have negotiated deals with both the artist and producer in which they transfer ownership of their copyright to the label in exchange for royalty payments.

Also, it’s increasingly more common and easy for performing artists to record independently.  In these cases, the master ownership belongs to just them, or them together with the producer.

Royalty payments to performing artists are called artist royalties.  Royalty payments to producers are called producer royalties.

Now that you know about the two different types of musical copyright, it is important that you grasp the difference between the ‘writers’ of a track and the owners of the actual ‘master recording’.  The composition, made by the writers, is typically represented by a publisher.  The sound recording, made by the performing artist and producer, is typically represented by a label.

To learn more about publishers, royalty calculations, and licenses, check out the full article over on Digital Music News.

Many musicians dream of their songs appearing on TV or in a film. Just wanting your music on TV isn’t enough! The chance that someone will come out of the blue and hand you money to use your song is very slim. You need to be out there promoting your own music and networking with people involved in the film and TV industries. Start small and work your way up from there! It will be hard to score a place on a hit TV show if you’ve never licensed any of your music before.

Sarah Sharp is one songwriter who has gotten a strong understanding of the publishing industry. Her songs have appeared in ads for Chanel, Dell, Macy’s, and ABC’s “Revenge.” In this article that originally appeared on Hypebot, she shares 7 tips she’s learned about getting licensed.

1. Go to film festivals. Make friends with filmmakers at every level of production & success.

I particularly get excited when I meet editors. Editors will often choose from their personal music library for temp music in their rough edits and often, everyone becomes accustomed to the temp music & it stays. Take a genuine interest in what people are trying to write or get made and help each other on the way up.

I have read my friends’ scripts and given feedback and made them mix tapes of indie artists years before the film finally gets made. The 1st film I music supervised was a Jason Lee, Crispin Glover film called “Drop Dead Sexy”. I probably earned $1/hr by the time it was all said and done for the time I put in, but one of my songs ended up in the film and I have made several thousand dollars in royalties from that one placement. BIG PICTURE.

2. Get a final mix of your entire album with no vocal.

There are a lot of places where the instrumental version of your song can be used. Also, it’s often helpful to be able to comp together both versions around the dialogue. This promo for ABC TV’s “Revenge” used our Kaliyo song “Deep Girl.” It barely resembles the full song, but they made great use of it by weaving both the instrumental and vocal version in and around the voice over.

3. Don’t be a pain in the ass and get out of your own way.

Sometimes people get a little whiff of success and they get so caught up in the idea of what could be or worrying about not “getting screwed”, that they blow the whole thing. If someone wants to use your song and you have never placed anything before, just say “YES & THANK YOU.” Reply immediately. Be the easiest, most reliable person to work with on the planet. Have a lawyer read your contract and then just say yes. A really smart and as yet still accessible/affordable music lawyer is Amy Mitchell. Tell her I sent you.

4. If you have a great cover version of a really well-known song, try to get it to the publisher of that song.

Often their hands are tied because they own the song, but the record label owns the really famous master. Some publishers would love to know about a fantastic version of their song that they can actually clear.

To see the other 3 tips, check out the full article on Hypebot.

Have you ever had your music licensed for TV or film? What are some things you’ve learned from your experiences? Share your own tips and thoughts in the comment section below!

Opposition to online streaming has been intense this summer. Songwriters, performers, and various music companies have spoken out against the meager royalties the streaming giants Spotify and Pandora dish out to musicians. Many prominent and influential artists have taken their music off Spotify. It seems that these streaming companies are in the business of fixing and maintaining their reputation against the onslaught of musicians and have little time left over for developing and improving their core competency – streaming music.

This past week, Pandora won an important court case against ASCAP, which solidly reiterates what was already written in copyright law. Spotify is an “interactive streaming service,” meaning users can skip as many songs as they like and choose what song or artist they want to listen to at any given moment. Because of this function, it almost replaces the need to own music. Musicians therefore have the right to choose to license or not to license. Pandora, on the other hand, is a “non-interactive streaming service,” and functions similarly to terrestrial radio. Like terrestrial radio, there is a compulsory license in place, requiring artists to license their music if they are associated with a PRO like ASCAP. This is why you hear about artists taking their music off Spotify, but not Pandora.

So what does this court case actually mean? Basically it removes the possibility of getting through any loopholes to take music off Pandora. If an artist wants to boycott Pandora, their only option is to remove all their music from performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Publishers and songwriters are not allowed not allowed to make separate, market-driven deals with Pandora if they are also a member of a collecting society. Pandora had made private copyright deals with prominent publishers like Sony, EMI, Universal, and BMG, requiring the streaming company to pay a higher royalty rate to their artists. This court decision will most likely void those deals and prevent any similar deals from happening in the future.

While most artists wouldn’t dream of taking their music off their PRO, the possibilities for direct licensing are becoming easier with new technology. In a few years, big record labels and publishing companies may have these functions in-house.

For more information on this topic, check out these two articles from Digital Music News (article 1, article 2).

With all this conflict in the streaming industry, there is little room for improvement and progression. Streaming companies are fighting rights holders and rights holders are speaking out against unfair royalties. Not to mention, the lawsuits are creating a further rift between modern artists and the copyright law, serving as a confirmation to many that copyright law is not caught up with modern society.  This battle between the law, the streaming services, and the musicians does not equate to a healthy industry. Streaming companies will stagnate if they refuse to grow with artists, and artists will lose out on opportunity if they insist on shutting streaming services down their early in the game. Surely we can move forward and find a solution together?

What are your thoughts on music streaming? Should artists be concerned about taking their music down? Does the exposure make up for the small royalties? Can this ever be a healthy industry?

Kelly Cha, nicknamed Zhazha in China, is a Chinese-American singer/songwriter, author, and TV/radio personality. She has published three books and released several singles in addition to hosting radio shows in Los Angeles and China for the past decade. Kelly is currently the acclaimed host of “Action English’s Action DJ,” a daily television show in China for which she wrote the theme song. She also hosts for the popular Hunan Satellite TV channel, plays in the Beijing rock band Orange Factory, and hosts a radio show on China Radio International’s Easy FM.

Jill Sobule is a singer-songwriter best known for the 1995 single “I Kissed a Girl”, and “Supermodel” from the soundtrack of the 1995 film Clueless. Her folk-inflected compositions alternate between ironic, story-driven character studies and emotive ballads, a duality reminiscent of such 1970s American songwriters as Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, Loudon Wainwright III, Harry Chapin, and Randy Newman. In 2009 she released an album funded entirely by fan donations.

Paul Hoffert is a founding member of Lighthouse a rock band that sold millions of records, toured the world and earned three Juno Awards as Canada’s # 1 pop band (1971-1973). He was inducted into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and is a multi-awarded composer and conductor of movie and television soundtracks. Paul is also an entrepreneur and CEO of Noank Media Inc., Fine Arts Professor at York University, Chair of the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, and Chair of the Guild of Canadian Film Composers. He is former Faculty Fellow at Harvard University Law School, President of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Chair of the Ontario Arts Council, and a founder of the Canadian Independent Record Producers Association (CIRPA). He presents his recipes for thriving in the Information Age in his best-selling books: “The New Client”, “All Together Now”, and “The Bagel Effect”. He received the Pixel award in 2001 as the new media industry’s “Visionary of the Year” and was awarded the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honor – in 2005 for his contributions to music and media.

J the S is a New York-based underground hip-hop artist born in the West Indies and raised in Boston. In just four years, J the S dropped two internationally distributed full-length albums and a pair of venomous mixtapes, landed singles on Rap Network, Rap Attack Lives and CMJ charts, and enjoyed rotation on more than 300 college radio stations including Boston’s renowned WERS, where he earned “Artist of the Month” honors in June 2007. Beyond his East Coast ethos, J the S is also marked by his experience as a middle school teacher and his socially progressive mission, which has landed him on bills alongside dead prez, Brand Nubian and KRS-One. He has also opened shows for Kool G Rap and Wu-Tang Clan, and has gained buzz for his music video featuring Atlantic Records’ rapper B.o.B.

Decades before indie labels and DIY were the norm, and years before women had any real access in the industry, Cris Williamson was busy changing the face of popular music. Cris’s stellar vocals and compelling persona are regarded as legendary for good reason. Despite being like a well-kept secret, and dwelling almost completely in the independent music world, she nonetheless had an impact worldwide. Her now-legendary classic, The Changer and the Changed, is one of the best-selling independent releases of all time. For nearly 30 years, Cris has toured incessantly, selling out Carnegie Hall numerous times and headlining various folk festivals.

Amber Rubarth is a young singer/songwriter from New York City who only started playing music in 2004, but is making a full-time living touring, including many tours of Europe, booking it all herself. She got her start by learning to play and working for a booking agent for a brief period and just doing it. She makes most of her money selling cds at shows and custom items. She has an incredible online following and so much to offer the aspiring indie artist and songwriter.


For the past 5 years I have been delivering presentations, in a wide variety of contexts including Digital Music Forum, AES, Billboard, IEBA, Music Hack Day, NAMM, Digital Hollywood and at many, many other private consulting gigs.   The essence of the presentation I have been making since 2006 is shown below with a couple of updates, roughly based on the Top 10 Truths described in our Future of Music book.  All along I have been advocating for artists, songwriters and publishers to challenge the way iTunes transactions were accounted for by the labels on the legitimacy of the splits.  The way iTunes royalties have been distributed is just wrong, a scam and a holdover from the accounting practices of the record companies past.

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Finally someone (Eminem’s production company), challenged Universal Music Group in the way that artists and labels split the money generated by iTunes transactions and won an initial ruling in their favor.  Just this past week Universal Music Group’s inevitable appeal was rejected meaning that the industry giant may now have to split its digital music royalties from money earned from ringtone sales and iTunes.

San Francisco’s US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided last month that all royalties made by the record label from such sales must be shared in higher proportions with producers. The recent court rejection will result in this case proceeding in a lower level court which will then determine exactly how much Universal owes Eminem and his producers, taking into account both damages and royalties.

This could be a very significant development for the entire recorded music industry.  When Steve Jobs and his team negotiated the original iTunes deal with the major labels, the economics of what iTunes would receive from transactions was roughly 35% of each download, a similar number as a  distributor/retailer of CDs would receive and the remaining 65% would flow to the labels and be split as with a traditional CD sale.

This was a masterful negotiation by Apple, effectively granting itself amnesty from claims of copyright infringement or inducement to infringe copyright on the part of the major labels and publishers in exchange for the promise of digital cash flow, potentially reigniting the recorded music business for the labels.  Even if most of the music contained on iPods was pirated, now the labels would have a new revenue stream and Apple would be safe from litigation.  This move paved the way for Apple to become the dominant company in the music business and one of the most valuable brands on the planet.  A transformational revenue shift was underway whereby Apple would effectively eat the labels lunch.  The ultimate iCon.

But what artists and writers failed to question at the time, was the way the 65% label share would be split.  The labels assumed that these downloads were “sales” of copies of the songs and that artists would receive their royalties based on traditional accounting practices.  In the early days of payments from iTunes, labels often continued to deduct fees from the artists share for “packaging” and “marketing” and “coop” often when there were no actual costs being incurred.  No one questioned whether iTunes downloads were “licenses” versus “sales” which would have tipped the accounting in favor of the artists.  Indeed Steve Jobs himself referred to his deal with the labels as a “license” in his rare and open “Thoughts on Music” letter posted February 6, 2007.

Now fast forward to 2010.  Although not directly listed in the UMG suit, Eminem could benefit from the results, as he could get a much larger share of the payments. The case is being touted as a landmark decision for the music industry as it could determine a precedent that could see 90 per cent of contracts signed before 2000 change for the benefit of the artists and songwriters.  If this ruling holds up and is widely interpreted, it will destroy the traditional record labels.

The ruling will hinge on the standard record deal contract, which predates the digital era and changes that have come with it. New rulings will most likely govern how digital royalties will be accounted for.

In the most recent decision the court has defined record companies’ deals with such firms as Verizon and iTunes as ‘licensing’ contracts as opposed to music sales, meaning the 50/50 split would apply.  This will be devastating for the labels and great for artists.

When I commented on this issue in an earlier post, one of my readers wrote “if Eminem eventually prevails it will be the end of discovering and nurturing new talent by record companies and will throw the music scene into more disarray that P2P ever did.”  While this may be true, I am completely convinced that the old record company model must change, will change, and will eventually be replaced by something more clearly aligned with the times and the new digital reality.  There is no doubt that these times are truly wrenching for the music industry – but music will prevail and the interests will realign into something sustainable.

Read more here and stay tuned to see how this all turns out.

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.