'Working out the split': creative collaboration and assignation of copyright across differing musical worlds
Contributor(s)The University of Newcastle. Faculty of Science & Information Technology, School of Design Communication and Information Technology
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AbstractWhen songwriters sit down to write a song there are multiple ways they can do it. They can start with a title, the first line for the verse, a chorus fragment, a set of chords, a sound they have heard and want to emulate, a narrative idea, a simple desire to express a feeling or the deadline of a pressing brief that will put the dinner on the table. There are many, many more ways to do it. There are also multiple combinations of ways for writers to collaborate. They could split the work evenly between writing lyrics and writing music, one could rewrite the lyrics to an already existing song and then pass on the new lyrics alone to their partner to write new music to, both could write the lyrics and one could come up with the melody, six people could work out the arrangement and one could take it away to write the top line and then they could all add the lyrics to that top line. Maybe two people could get together over tea, start from scratch and within two hours have the core components of a song fully fleshed out and ready to be orchestrated and recorded, as was often the case with Lennon and McCartney during their productive middle period (McIntyre, 2009a). The combinations of collaboration seem to be limitless. Most often, most writers are not too concerned with who does what or how it happens that the song is created. Until of course it’s time to work out the ‘split’ or financial remuneration for the work involved. Then a number of complex financial, legal, moral, social, cultural, ideological, discursive and, dare we say, mythological factors become very important. However, before we give an analysis of this situation it may be best to outline a little of what we already know about creativity and collaboration, copyright and how this relates to popular music.