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Old singer wants lyrics

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by swiggyswag, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. So they old singer from the band that quit 5 months ago told us he doesn't want us using any lyrics that he helped with or came up with for the band. He wants to use some of them for his own band he's in now. I think its because we just recorded 5 months after he quit our EP and its really good and he's jealous. What does everyone think.
  2. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    If there is no contract, you can do whatever you want.

    I would not use any of the lyrics that he wrote completely or more than 50% of. I would just have the new singer do his job and come up w/some lyrics. ;)

    If there are songs that you wrote most of the lyrics to, IMO, they're yours.
  3. UncleBalsamic


    Jul 8, 2007
    What Nino said :)
  4. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    This brings up an interesting dilema.......
    You say you recorded after he quit-did he give you permission to use his lyrics and record them?
    What you may want to do is look into royalty fees.... pay him say .09$ every CD you sell or when you perform his songs. And by "his" he had to have written more than 50% of the lyrics.

    Am interested to see how the law applies on this one..... course, if all he did was lyrics and you guys did the hook/melody/etc, you could keep the song and change the words :)
  5. Rick Auricchio

    Rick Auricchio Registered Bass Offender

    Technically, the songwriter must give permission for the first publication of the song. After that first publication, anyone can record and pay the mechanical royalty (is it 9c?).

    If the singer wrote lyrics, he may be a co-writer. But if nobody did anything official, then he has to get a lawyer to make anything stick. Offer 9c per copy sold and he'll probably take it. I would make no higher offer.
  6. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Did you give him credit on the EP for the lyrics? Seems like a done deal since you recorded an EP. So he wants you to record it again with other lyrics. I'm no lawyer but it seems like he gave you permission when you first wrote the tunes and didn't claim them until after you had recorded the EP. YMMV. You probably want to check with an entertainment/copyright lawyer to be sure and act based on knowledge of the law rather than ignorance of it.
  7. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    How much money is involved ? If you can see yourself selling upwards of 1000 CDs, yeah, I'd look into options not to have a lawyer knowcking on your door Monday morning.

    But if it's more of a promotion tool and you stand to make little or no money, even 9 cents would be a lot (is that the royalty rate? I don't know). Changing lyrics or a fixed amount of money (write this in a contract) would be good. That or telling him to get lost or use the damn songs for himself if he wishes to. I know I've written a couple of songs for bands before and I've always surrendered them when we split ways unless I really wanted to use them for another band (wich happened once).

    Coming back 5 months after quitting to shut you down is a bit naive.
  8. I had an ex guitarist tell me that. I told him to take me to court. no contract=no judgement. We wrote all new songs anyways.
  9. I'm no lawyer, either. IMO, though, if he provided lyrics to songs you later recorded and you know he wrote them, then you should honor his contribution. It may or may not be legally binding, but it's still the ethical way to handle the situation. Either a royalty fee against sold CDs or a one-time fee seems reasonable. I'm sure the remaining band members feel they contributed something to those songs (riffs, hooks, etc. - we all know how that goes), so I would certainly try to work that into the discussion, too.
  10. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Above all, you'd be smart to submit the EP for copyright as soon as possible. That way, when his new band comes around with new songs but identical lyrics, you have some defense. Beyond that, it's just a smart thing to do.
  11. Absentia


    Feb 25, 2009
    take the recording, put it in an envelope, mail it to your self but don't open it.
    you have now successfully poor man copyrighted it.

    tell him to take a hike.
  12. jro


    Mar 29, 2004
    St. Paul, MN
    Mailing something to yourself to copyright it is an urban myth and would never stand up in court. There are way too many ways to fake it.

    From the copyright.gov web site FAQ

    I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
    The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

    As for the lyrics question I think if he wrote them, they are his. Put yourself in his shoes - would you want an old band using lyrics you wrote without paying for them? Its just the right thing to do. Just my 2c.

  13. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    "Poor man's copyright" has never been upheld in any legal sense. Even if you use certified mail with an unbroken seal, there are ways to fake it. Seriously, it only costs $35 for an online registration at copyright.gov.

    EDIT: Ah, got beaten to it. Nice.
  14. I would say he wrote about 25% of the lyrics for the song. The song was almost done before he joined the band. I was in another band with him, the one he is still in and wants to use the lyrics for and he uses stuff that I wrote for the band and I honestly don't really care. But in my opinion we wrote them as a band and he didn't even write 50% of the lyrics. We performed these songs for 5 months after he quit with no warning before a show. His new band is doing very poorly and I feel he's jealous. He didn't write the course he wrote some of the verse. Its not that we ever care that much its just that we have put the money out and recorded already. I would say imo that the songs don't belong to anyone. And doesn't the copyright paying thing only occur when someone publishes the lyrics, he's in a band that is going on two years and still play free shows in the town he lives, no recording at all or sale. He told us that he can't believe we can play something that doesn't come from our hearts he wrote the lyrics from his heart (a lot of which have been changed) there are probably a good 5 - 10 words maybe that he originally came up with 7 months ago. he tried begging to join the band again and we said no and now he started this. Let me know thanks so much for everyone's replies...band drama = AWESOME!
  15. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Can he prove exactly which lyrics are "his"? Can you prove they aren't?
    He can't stop you from recording or gigging with the songs but he may be owed a small amount of royalties and a credit on the CD. What that amount is, maybe some other TB'r can help you out.
  16. Music Attorney

    Music Attorney

    Feb 22, 2004
    I don’t have time right now to address this specifically, but a quick read suggests to me that previous posts I’ve made should answer some of the issues regarding joint authors, poor man’s copyright, and other issues raised in this thread.

  17. YUP, I once had a judge tell me that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. Consult an attorney, and if you need to copyright the songs, then DO IT NOW... And be sure to have everything in writing, properly signed, witnessed and notarized. In other words CYOA.
  18. Absentia


    Feb 25, 2009
    well, my bad
    I formally apologize for my ignorance.
  19. gonzilla


    Jan 26, 2009
    Can't you figure out some kind of alternate plan without coming to blows? Why don't you just agree to keep different setlists and entirely retire the old catalog after a year or two?
  20. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    I believe during a Music Law discussion at SXSW a couple of years ago the speaker mentioned that once lyrics are joined to a melody to make a song, they are forever linked and can't be "unlinked" by writing new lyrics or music to the old music or lyrics.

    For example if you used the music of a song where one writer is credited to the music and one to the lyrics, the lyric writer would still hold rights to your new song even if his lyrics weren't used in the new version. Something about how the creation of lyrics and melody are integral to each other and inseparable. I'll see if I can find a link to this in the law.

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