As a guitarist, I more or less write a whole song from start to finish with completed lyrics and melodies.
When I was in bands, I would bring the song to the band and we would start jamming it. In the course of the jam session, the drummer comes up with a bass drum pattern under the current riff, so the second iteration I decide to syncopate the current chords with the pattern. Does that mean that the drummer now deserves a song writing credit?
The singer doesn’t like the chorus melody and suggests that we tweak it a little bit to suit his style. We try it out and it works. I don’t like it, however the band’s harmony is more important than my ego. With the vocal melody change, the underlying riff now needs to change as it sounds too busy. So instead of playing the busy riff, i move to just standard chords. Does that mean that the singer now deserves a song writing credit?
On both occassions the changes happened within the context of the song that I submitted. No new music was brought in and no extra lyrics got written.
The bass player locks in with the syncopated drum/guitar groove and suggest that we do that again for an interlude. The song didn’t have an interlude, so we try it out and it works well. It grooves. Does that mean that the bass player now deserves a song writing credit?
The above examples are all different scenarios that happen within a band and it those scenarios in the end that lead to court cases when bands break up or fire members.
There is always a main songwriter in each band. That is why in Motley Crue you see a lot of songs written by Nikki Sixx. Iron Maiden have Steve Harris. Skid Row has Rachel Bolan. Zebra has Randy Jackson. Badlands had Jake E Lee as the musical force and Ray Gillen as the lyrical force. Same as White Lion. Vito Bratta was the music man and Mike Tramp was the words man.
In the majority of the cases, the original song writer will be listed as the song writer. There could be a band agreement in place here that distributes monies earned from the songwriter to the other band members in relation to licensing royalties.
For example, “This Is A New Song” has Member A listed as the main songwriter and all royalties, licensing and publishing go to Member A. Member A has a band agreement in place that states that Member A needs to distribute 30% of those monies to the other three band members. So if the band has four members, Member A will get 70%, Member B will get 10%, Member C will get 10% and Member D will get 10%.
Then Member D gets fired or just leaves. The band agreement is renegotiated to include Member E who takes up the percentage of Member D.
When a band member leaves or is fired, they are angry. They feel betrayed. They want payback. They want recognition. So what do they do. They start legal proceedings. They start to claim they should be credited as songwriters. They start to claim mismanagement of monies and how they have been underpaid. They start to claim that “This Is A New Song” was their idea and that Member A took that idea from them.
For example, should Sting take all the Puff Daddy royalty monies? Apart from Puff Daddy lifting the chorus vocal melody, it is the Andy Summers guitar riff that is heard throughout his version. Granted, that the guitar riff is based on Sting’s chord structure. Maybe there needs to be a bit more common sense used for licensing arrangements if pieces of music are sampled.
I am currently listening to the Lynch Mob album called “Wicked Sensation”. It is a great album and it involves some of the best work of the guys involved. A look at the album credits shows that all the music was done by George Lynch. This is what bass player Anthony Esposito had to say about the song writing sessions that took place in an interview on the Metal-Rules website;
“George plays the way George plays and there are always little turnarounds that he’ll always throw in. Oni [Logan] is a genius at taking little things, like “Do that little lick, George. Give me that.” and making that the verse. … Oni’s very talented with that; you can hear what Oni did to George. My argument is that George goes around telling everybody that he wrote all the music, listen to every record George did after that and it doesn’t come close. WICKED SENSATION was completely a band effort and the reason why it came out so great is you had [Wild] Mick [Brown], Mick is like the king of the chorus, he writes these big choruses, these hooks, he’s like a Beatle guy. It was all of our colours and I’m the dark guy, I was always like the punk rock guy. I think I brought in the dark textures like “For a Million Years” and “Hell Child” that are like dark, you know, because Dokken wasn’t dark, Dokken was “foofoo”, with a great guitar player. Lynch Mob had none of that, it’s all the elements of the four of us and that made that record so awesome because it wasn’t just one guy writing it all.”
So let’s use Lynch Mob as an example.
George Lynch comes in with music. Let’s just say that it just riffs. No song structures, just riffs. Oni Logan picks out the bits that he wants and he writes vocal melodies to those riffs. So the music is created by George Lynch and the lyrics/melodies are created by Oni Logan. However, those initial riffs from George Lynch are just that, riffs, so the song is arranged by Oni Logan, as he was making the call on which pieces of music to use for verses and choruses. So should be another credit for ARRANGEMENT. If that is the case the credits would look like this;
MUSIC – LYNCH
LYRICS – LOGAN
ARRANGEMENT – LOGAN
Another way is that George Lynch comes in with the music, all arranged in an intro/verse/chorus fashion. Oni Logan writes the lyrics to the Lynch’s arrangement. If that is the case the credits would look like this;
MUSIC – LYNCH
LYRICS – LOGAN
ARRANGEMENT – LYNCH
Another way is that George Lynch comes in with the music, all arranged in an intro/verse/chorus fashion, however Oni Logan re-arranges the order of the riffs. The verse riff becomes the intro, the chorus riff remains as the chorus and the intro becomes the verse riff. Mick Brown then makes the chorus the pre chorus and a asks George Lynch to come up with a riff to suit his vocal melody. If that is the case the credits would look like this;
MUSIC – LYNCH
LYRICS – LOGAN, BROWN
ARRANGEMENT – LYNCH,LOGAN, BROWN
Another way is that George Lynch comes in with the music and the lyrics with vocal melodies all arranged.If that is the case the credits would look like this;
MUSIC – LYNCH
LYRICS – LYNCH
ARRANGEMENT – LYNCH
In my view there needs to be a rethink here. How is the ORIGINAL CREATOR going to be credited? They are the ones that spent time in solitude coming up with musical ideas and the lyrical ideas before presenting it to the band.
Dee Snider is credited as the songwriter for Twisted Sister. He has a contract with Jay Jay French, where 20% of the publishing income goes to Jay Jay French. Should he have that contract? What about when the band goes through the process of jamming on Dee Snider’s mouth ideas.
The bottom line is this; if the original band stays together and it’s always smooth sailing and monies are paid on time and honestly (without any creative accounting) no one really cares who is credited. However as soon as band members leave and are replaced it starts to get messy.
Expect dirt like this to come out with Adam Duce’s case against Machine Head.