I'm a UK-based singer-songwriter. I've had a demo of a duet I wrote professionally recorded by two session singers in the US, as my voice wasn't what I wanted for this one. Piano track is essentially as I wrote it, there's an added cello part, and the vocal melody/harmonies/lyrics are all mine. But what's the right/legal thing to do re: releasing this on Spotify - do I have to pay the singers/cellist a % if and when I clear the costs of recording, etc? And if so, does this mean that I'm in effect becoming my own publisher? I know nothing of how this all works, but I do know this is by far the best and most commercial song I've written to date - and it's a Christmas one, so I'd really like to put it out there and earn some of the production costs back.

  • 1
    Did you have a contract with the recording artists? Ideally you would have engaged them for a fixed fee and they would have released any copyright claim in the recording to you. See here for info on how performance fees are managed in the UK.
    – feetwet
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:03
  • Hi feetwet, and thank you for replying. They were hired via the demo producer for me; he both singers in and the cellist. The project was to work the song up for pitching to publishers, song-pluggers, etc; when result was so good, I asked producer about rights, etc, if I were to pitch it to one company looking for 'retail use'. He said he'd be happy for me to do so, provided that, if it took off I got performers to sign a retrospective contract (which he sent) so they could each get 5% share of profits – fair, after costs are covered. But Spotify is a different animal, I think?
    – J Ambrose
    Oct 24, 2015 at 16:40
  • Post an answer if Spotify does it differently. My general understanding is that you "put it out there" however possible, and meanwhile register with the performance fee management companies in the big markets you think it might hit, then hope that they can catch and collect on all commercial use. Maybe releasing on major platforms like Spotify and iTunes you make a direct arrangement for compensation.
    – feetwet
    Oct 24, 2015 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


There's a long and solid history around "demo" recordings. Demos are...well...for demonstration. For shopping. For a work-in-progress reality check. The session musicians get a different, lesser scale for "demo" work than they do with "master" work. ("master" being a track intended for release/distribution). It has of course happened many times that a demo ends up being better than the master, and gets released.

In a formalized contract situation (read: union), what would happen is that the session would be retroactively upgraded to a master session from being a demo session, and the players would get a bump. Those hired players would not typically get royalties though. In today's world, the notion of back-end royalties is essentially moot, or even (not)amusing.

Mind you, I'm talking USA...UK is not quite the same kind of animal, though it's similar.

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