If you’re a songwriter, there are occasions where it might make sense to give an original song a second name or even create a second variation of the song. Here’s one to ponder.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you don’t have a publisher. Along comes a company that wants to use your song for a particular purpose, but there’s a catch: they won’t use it unless they can have a piece of the publishing, or maybe even 100%. It could be a film production company, for example, or even a music producer or record label. You may not feel comfortable with that scenario, especially if they’re not a bona fide publisher and you don’t sense they have the wherewithal or inclination to promote the song much, other than in conjunction with the particular use they plan to make of it.
There’s a simple solution to this, and that is to give your song an alternate second name. In other words, let the party use the song under a new title. Changing the name can be as simple as adding something like “Version 2” to the end of the original title. In such case, you would keep the original title for your use, maintaining your full publishing rights and any existing royalty collective registrations intact, and let the other party have sole right to use, promote and register the song under the second title.
If you feel a little queasy about doing this, then just do a relatively minor re-write of the song for them. You’ve every right to create as many variations on your song as you like, because you own it. Then all you have to do is give that second version a new name. You can do what you like with that version, including signing all the publishing over to another party, without impacting your copyright or registration status with the original version. Assigning more than one name to a song is not as uncommon a practice as you might think, and it is perfectly within your legal right to do so.
Now, just between you and me, some royalty collection organizations frown on song owners attaching more than one name to the exact same musical work, and in some cases if they know that’s what you’re doing they may refuse to register the titles independently as two separate registrations, forcing you to have the second title as an “a.k.a.” of the first. In such case, in our example of the party demanding some or all of the publishing, you would take the route of doing a simple re-write of the song as I suggested in the previous paragraph.
Why wouldn’t royalty collectives want to accept two registrations of the same song? What other scenarios might present themselves as reasons to consider giving your song an alternative title or a re-write?
Stay tuned for some more on this in a future blog. If you live in the greater Vancouver area you can join my music biz program where we’ll be getting into all kinds of neat stuff about this business that you probably never knew about.