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Legal question on usage of my studio work by a former band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Lichtaffen, Jan 9, 2014.


  1. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Media:
    1
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    So I recently got let go from a band I was working in for about 2 years. The band leader is on a small independent label which distributes his recordings. I know it's hearsay, but I started this recent band with him and came up with the name. He writes the songs, all other musicians write their individual parts. I've done everything from promoting, booking, making posters, photography, facebook support, etc., so I was not just another hired gun. I laid down tracks for 13 songs, one of which was released as a 45 on the label and I was given credit as the bass player. I never signed a thing or received a dime for those record sales. Now he's got 12 other songs he's going to release as a CD. I asked him not to use my tracks after he let me go, he agreed (we'll see if he honors that request).

    Basically, the question is: do I have rights to anything he releases with my tracks on it? Did I give up my rights by not signing anything? I've known him for almost 20 years and didn't feel he'd screw me over, but it happened. He's getting royalties for the recordings, but no other band member has received a dime from any sales (they are definitely selling). Has anything similar happened to any of you?
     
  2. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Mendocino County, California
    Sounds like you're screwed. If he wrote the lyrics and melody, he owns the song. With no written agreement, there is no basis to pay you even for contributions as a hired gun. Your labor of love was just that ... free - and a good deal for him, apparently. Too bad.
     
  3. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2003
    Location:
    Southern California
    Since you have no writing credits and have signed nothing, he can say he paid you in cash for your studio work. The rest of the work you did for the band is of no consequence.
     
  4. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Media:
    1
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Yeah, kinda what I figured, just wanted to ask the more experienced cats on the forum. Thanks for your time and wisdom.

    Sad thing is that we've been really good friends for almost 20 years and then one day "bam!" I get this phone call and he basically attacked me personally. I won't get into it, but he was very unprofessional and just plain mean about it. In all honesty, I don't care about the money, I just want to be a pain in his ass and drag him through some mud. You know, some good old fashioned revenge. I know I'm being emotional about it and I should move on, but he's done this to so many people in the local scene. I just want to be the guy he'll really be sorry he did it to.

    What's hilarious is that he fired me and the keyboard/sax player, and in all modesty, we were the two most skilled musicians and brought more to the table than anyone else. He just has serious ego issues. In the end, I know he did me a favor, I'm capable of so much more than what I was putting into that band.
     
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  6. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Mendocino County, California
    Wouldn't worry about it. His blip will probably be no bigger than the size of a gnat on iTunes, and then he'll fade into an ignominious black hole, where all egotistical guitarists go. Best of all he'll still owe the label for his advance. Serve HIM right! :)
     
  7. IPYF

    IPYF

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Unfortunately revenge doesn't seem to be achievable for you considering you're not holding any of the cards. I really am unsure though why you'd work in an agreement-free environment with a guy who was known for stabbing backs. There's a mistake you'll never make again hey...
     
  8. Downunderwonder

    Downunderwonder

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Have a search of a white knight known here as MusicAttorney. I could be wrong but I got a feeling you're entitled to share in some of the proceeds. Your best bet may be to register your interest and wait until it possibly pays off before becoming a major pita.
     
  9. IPYF

    IPYF

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Yeah, honestly I would have just told him to use your tracks. You've already lost financially. You might as well have taken the credit for the basslines you recorded. You might have even been able to use them to promo yourself (unless you did a bad job of course). Now you get nothing which seems like a pointless waste of your time.
     
  10. Music Attorney

    Music Attorney

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2004

    You’re right ……………….. and I’m not referring to the “white knight” part ;-)

    I’ve written about this multiple times so I’m going to let you follow Downunderwonder’s advice to do a search, but the short story is this:

    1. Under U.S. law, there are two distinct copyrights at issue here. One is for the musical composition and the other is for the recording embodying your playing on the track.

    2. If you didn’t write the melody or lyrics, then you are not a copyright owner in the musical composition, in my opinion, but Lord knows that considerable bandwidth has been used up by people on this site arguing this point.

    3. However, if you played on the recording of the musical composition, then you are a “joint author” and co-copyright owner of the recording. For example, if you are a member of the AF of M and you record on a session that’s governed by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the labels and the union, then the CBA handles the legal transfer of ownership from the session musician to whichever signatory record label is involved and there is no need for additional signed paperwork on the issue of ownership. HOWEVER, transfer of copyright ownership MUST be in writing. For example, paying for the session doesn’t, by itself, transfer ownership. Therefore, if there is no signed paperwork and this wasn’t a union recording session, then the folks who are distributing the recording have a problem because you are still a co-copyright owner of the recording until you sign your rights away.

    4. I’m not sure if the artist signed over his rights in the recording to his label, but whoever the copyright owner in the recording is has a legal duty to account to you as a joint author (i.e., co-owner) of the recording. Of course, a legal right is just part of the analysis. The ability to enforce your right is a whole other layer to the onion.

    Have a search and then let me know what questions remain unanswered.

    I’ll check back after jousting practice.
    MA

    PS - they can go back in and re-record the bass line (and pretty much copy your stuff note-for-note) if they like and they won't owe you a thing with respect to the new recording. But as long as the recording with your playing is being exploited, they have to pay you.
     
  11. Downunderwonder

    Downunderwonder

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Location:
    New Zealand
  12. Chuck King

    Chuck King Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago
    Legal rights aside, the odds of somebody on a "small independent label" actually making any profit off a record are so slim that it's hardly worth worrying about. Just make him give you a handful of the CDs so you have a record you played on.
     
  13. jdwilliams

    jdwilliams

    Joined:
    May 16, 2010
    Location:
    Las Vegas NV
    Glad you posted this, im in a similar spot my last band used my playing on there EP even know when I left, we agreed it would not be used, and it was not a pretty parting ways.

    I just dont want my name connected to the band pretty much they will never make a penny but there public image has gone to hell..
     
  14. Nephilymbass

    Nephilymbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2011
    Location:
    Fayetteville Ft Bragg NC
    yeah I had a side project you can listen to on my youtube page Nephilymbass1. Basically me and the guitar player who is also in my main band were in this project. I wrote all the bass and guitar parts. The singer and drummer were never available to practice, we even had to cancel a couple shows last minute because the drummer would rather go fishing and eventually me and the guitar player went back to focusing on our long time rock project, funny thing is they eventually got a new guitar player and bass player and they occasionally play a show here and there and they still play the music I wrote, the music me and my guitar player recorded. And they use the recording to promote the band. I'm like "thats not even how the band sound now" Anyways I never got a dime from that recording. Don't even care to argue with those two guys over it. I'll write more music and the few songs they have written since are nothing like what I did with them.

    What we've done in the past and what I consider is the best way to do things is if a former band member is wanting money for album sales. just give away the copies you have at shows, 1/4th or 1/5th of nothing is nothing. With that side project. It ticks me off mostly because they don't sound the same at all. with me not to sound egotistical but the bass had a bigger role in the music, now its totally a guitar focused band and the bass just plays the root all the time.
     
  15. Downunderwonder

    Downunderwonder

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Location:
    New Zealand
    OP must have gone lost his agitation.
     
  16. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Media:
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    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Trying to convince myself it's not worth the time.
     
  17. bigswifty1

    bigswifty1

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Did he tell you, note for note, what to play for your basslines? If not, you should be entitled to a (however small) writing/royalty percentage.

    I am acquainted with a bassist who was credited with writing 17% of a pretty big hit single from the early 80's. It still brings him a pretty tidy annual income. Particularly in years when the original artists tours (without him)

    Mike
     
  18. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Are you registered with ASCAP or BMI? There's a couple more options too… these are the companies you use to register your work with. You can also create publishing companies through them. They are also great sources of information on how to take care of yourself as a musician.
     

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