Event Recap: ASCAP Panel Discussion - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Event Recap: ASCAP Panel Discussion

Event Recap: ASCAP Panel Discussion

Earlier this week, my fellow IPLJ journal members and I attended a panel discussion at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (www.ascap.com).  The panel of music industry lawyers, executives and producers discussed the pressing IP-related legal issues in the music industry.

One of the points that the panel drove home was how important it is for songwriters to establish ownership over their copyrighted work.   Songwriters don’t get 100% ownership; they get a percentage of ownership that is usually allocated upfront when all parties involved work out the “split.”  The parties involved include, but are not limited to: the songwriter, producer, and co-publisher.  Through the split, each stakes their claims to a piece of ownership in a track.  The panel emphasized how important it is to work out the allocation of ownership in advance to avoid disputes when the track starts generating revenue later on.

Splits are usually divided up in the same way within each musical genre.  In rock and country, the songwriter typically maintains ownership over the lion’s share of the copyrighted work.  Meanwhile, in the “urban” category, songwriters give up a larger percentage of ownership to their producers, often dividing ownership 50-50.  The rationale for this is that in rock and country, the producer typically does far less than hip-hop producers who create the track’s beat—a main source of a song’s underlying value.  This is one of the reason’s why we see so many superstar hip-hop producers like P. Diddy back in his “Puffy” days, and Pharrell Williams before “Blurred Lines.”

The panel also discussed recent developments in digital distribution that are reshaping how all stakeholders to a copyrighted work make money.  One of the essential steps that all artists must take in order to get paid is to register each track with ASCAP or one of their peer organizations.  Doing so ensures that royalties are paid out every time the song is played on the radio or in a public venue.  With the growth of streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify, there are now more ways than ever for an artist to make money, but it they need to make sure they are registered so royalties get paid across all of these platforms.

The event was packed, and everyone in attendance came away with valuable knowledge about the legal side of the music industry.  Many thanks to ASCAP for hosting a great evening!

Drew Morris

Drew Morris is a 2L at Fordham Law School. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley, and attended undergrad at USC before moving to NYC to attend Fordham.