Navigating the complex world of music rights and royalties can be daunting for artists, producers, songwriters, and others involved in the music industry. However, grasping the concept of music splits is essential for ensuring that every contributor gets their fair share of the earnings from a piece of music. This comprehensive guide aims to simplify the concept of music splits, detailing their importance, how they can be managed using tools like spreadsheets and specialized software such as Jammaround, and the distinction between publishing writers and master splits.

The Foundation of Music Splits

At the heart of music production is the understanding that there are two distinct copyrights: the composition (song) and the sound recording (master). The income generated from these can be categorized into four main streams: songwriter and publisher (writer’s share and publisher’s share) for songs, and artists and record companies (or equivalent) for masters. The division of these incomes must be clearly delineated to prevent disputes and ensure fair compensation.

Who Owns What in Music?

Master Recording Ownership

  • Master Recording: The master recording, or simply “the master,” is the original recording of a song or sound from which copies are made. The owner of the master recording typically has the right to reproduce, distribute, and make derivative works from the original recording.
  • Ownership: The record label or the artist who finances the recording session generally owns the master recording. If an artist is independent and self-produces their music, they retain ownership of the master. However, if the artist works under a record label, the label often owns the master or shares ownership with the artist, depending on the contract terms.

Composition Rights: Writer’s Share and Publisher’s Share

  • Writer’s Share: This refers to the portion of earnings allocated to the songwriter(s) for creating the composition (melody and lyrics). The writer’s share is inherently owned by the songwriter or songwriters who created the work.
  • Publisher’s Share: The publisher’s share represents the portion of earnings from the composition allocated to the publisher for their role in promoting, distributing, and exploiting the musical work. If a songwriter does not have a publishing deal, they effectively own both the writer’s and publisher’s shares, granting them 100% of the publishing rights and revenues.
  • Ownership:
    • Songwriter(s): Owns the writer’s share, receiving royalties for the composition aspect of the music.
    • Publisher: May own the publisher’s share if the songwriter has a publishing deal. This share compensates the publisher for their efforts in managing and promoting the songwriter’s work. In the absence of a formal publishing agreement, the songwriter retains ownership of both the writer’s and publisher’s shares.

Distribution of Royalties

  • Royalties generated from the use of music (e.g., mechanical royalties, performance royalties, synchronization fees) are distributed according to the ownership of the master and the composition. Performance rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and others play a crucial role in collecting and distributing royalties for the composition, while organizations like SoundExchange handle certain digital performance royalties for the master.

Why Clear Agreements Matter

To prevent future disputes, it’s critical to establish clear, written agreements on music splits before the music is released. These agreements ensure that all parties are aware of and agree to their share of the revenues, setting a transparent and fair foundation for the distribution of earnings.

The Types of Royalties

Understanding the various sources of royalties, such as mechanical, performance, and synchronization rights, is crucial. These royalties are generated differently, from sales and streams to radio play and music used in visual media, and they play a significant role in how revenues are split among contributors.

Tools for Managing Music Splits


For many, spreadsheets are the go-to method for managing music splits. They offer a simple and flexible way to record each track’s contributors and their respective shares. However, this manual approach requires diligence to maintain accuracy and prevent disputes.

Specialized Software: Jammaround

Jammaround offers a more sophisticated solution for music rights management, automating split calculations, ensuring legal compliance, and facilitating communication among contributors. As a specialized software designed for the music industry, Jammaround simplifies and streamlines the process of managing music splits, offering a robust alternative to spreadsheets.

The Choice Between Spreadsheets and Software

Choosing between spreadsheets and specialized software like Jammaround depends on your needs. While spreadsheets are easily accessible and customizable, software solutions offer scalability, automation, and integration with music industry databases. Software like Jammaround provides a more comprehensive approach to rights management, including features like automated calculations, analytics, and strategic insights.


Understanding and managing music splits is fundamental to ensuring fair compensation for all music creators. Whether through spreadsheets or sophisticated software like Jammaround, the goal is to maintain accuracy, transparency, and fairness. By familiarizing yourself with the different types of splits and utilizing the right tools, you can navigate the complexities of music rights and royalties, fostering a more equitable and successful music industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *