Things to Do and Don't
DO retain your Writer’s share!
In Australia, you have a statutory right to your Writer’s share of your royalties and this cannot be granted to third parties. However, if you are working on overseas commissions it is important to be aware that in some territories it is possible to relinquish your Writer’s share. However, we believe that your Writer’s share is sacrosanct and should never be given up! Read Protecting Your Writer’s Rights from our friends at the American Society of Composers and Lyricists.
DO register your musical works
DO submit your cue sheets
A cue sheet is a list of all the music and songs used in a film and television production. Unless you or the producers submit this list to APRA AMCOS you will not be paid your royalties. Make sure that the details of each musical work matches your registrations. More info here.
DO limit or try to negotiate the lowest percentage given to the publisher/production company
Remember that the maximum a publisher is entitled to is 50% of your overall public performance royalties. If you don’t ask to retain more of your publishing, you won’t get it! Historically in Australia it is not routine to hand over your publishing rights. Don’t forget that that unless you have a publisher you are automatically entitled to the entire so-called ‘Publisher’s share’ of the royalties. More information here.
DO negotiate respectfully
Ideal negotiations result in both parties getting at least some measure of what they want. Compromise is part of negotiations, but there is almost always a way to get to “yes” if your client respects you and what you can bring to their project. If you are making concessions, being reasonable and respectful, you will likely find the same approach reciprocated by your client and collaborator. If not, you have to consider if this is a commission worth accepting, or a relationship worth building.
DO look after yourself
This is a tough career, often littered with many deep troughs and fewer high peaks. Studies have demonstrated that screen composers have up to 5 times a greater risk of suffering symptoms of depression, and 10 times the risk of displaying symptoms of anxiety than the general population. Talk to your fellow composers. Reach out to us. Come to Guild events. An understanding ear can go a long way. If you are suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression help is available. Contact Beyond Blue, Lifelife or Support Act for assistance.
DON’T sign something you don’t fully understand
Talk to fellow composers. Ask advice! Learn what is and isn’t standard industry practise. Examine standard contracts. If, for example, you don’t know the difference between the Music and the Master, publishing and sync licenses then educate yourself. Read our Resources pages. Contact fellow Guild members. Above all, seek the advice of a specialist entertainment lawyer when considering contract wording.
DON’T agree to a reduction in working conditions or the loss of further rights such as copyrights or publishing without getting something in return!
If you have to turn around a project in an unusually short period of time, or write more music than would be reasonably expected for a given project, or incorporate more live players than is normally possible within a budget then it’s not unreasonable to ask for either an increase in your fee, or concessions elsewhere in your music agreement. Likewise if you are asked to grant further rights to a client for the same fee it’s reasonable to ask for concessions elsewhere to balance this, such as allowing more time in the schedule, limiting a period of exclusivity, retaining a greater proportion of the publishing for example. Negotiate respectfully, point out what you can deliver given their financial or contractual requirements and be prepared to compromise. You may just find that your client reciprocates in kind.
DON’T agree to a buyout, work-for-hire, or direct license agreement without speaking to a qualified lawyer first and without negotiating significant increase in your upfront fee
These types of agreements are not standard industry practise in Australia, and our low upfront fees reflect the rights that historically we have retained. If giving up these rights is non-negotiable, then be sure you receive a significant increase to your upfront fee to adequately compensate you for the loss of these rights. If you are an AGSC member contact us for more information and speak to an experienced entertainment lawyer able to assist you with your contract negotiations. If you are an APRA AMCOS member, contact the organisation for more information to ensure that your agreement is not in breach of your membership.