Breaking Down Song Splits

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 95 minutes
Recorded Date: November 21, 2017
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1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
  • What is a Song?
  • What makes a song recognizable?
  • What can't be protected?
  • Sognwriters role in the Copyright Act
  • Assessing Percentage of Authorship/Ownership?
  • Collaboration/Joint Authorship/Joint Works
  • Work Made for Hire
  • Song vs. Sound Recordings
  • What is a Beat?
  • The Producer's Role
  • Songwriting Income
Runtime: 1 hour and 35 minutes
Recorded: November 21, 2017


Songwriting is a craft, an art, a profession, and often a complicated business that causes confusion and contention among band members and creative collaborators. It is important for lawyers who represent musicians, songwriters, bands, producers, recording artists, and music publishers to know what songs are made of, what songwriting is and what it isn't, and how songwriters get paid.

This panel, joined by a nationally recognized band attorney (and musician in his own right), will discuss the elements of a song and the process of songwriting in a collaborative environment. They will provide valuable guidance on preparing song splits and other song revenue-sharing agreements that recognize and capture the value of each songwriter's contribution.

This program was recorded on November 21st, 2017.

Provided By

American Bar Association


John P. Strohm

Lawyer, Songwriter & Musician

John P. Strohm is a songwriter, musician and lawyer. He is well known as an original member of the popular 80s Boston band The Blake Babies with Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love. This summer, The Blake Babies will reunite for shows in Boston, MA and Evanston, IL and will also release Earwig Demos, the 12 demos of songs recorded at Fort Apache Studios in 1988 that became their acclaimed Mammoth Records debut, Earwig. The original tapes were recently remixed and remastered and the LP, along with other incentives, are available for pre-order via Pledge Music now. John was also a member of The Lemonheads with Evan Dando during two eras of the band. He appears on drums on their 1988 albums Creator, and Lick, and was also touring guitarist for the band from 1993 through 1997. He also appears on Mike Watt's superstar-studded 1995 classic Ball-Hog Or Tugboat and has three solo albums to his credit as well. Since 2004, he has been a lawyer with an emphasis on music & entertainment who counts Alabama Shakes, Bon Iver, Sturgill Simpson, Dawes, Julien Baker and more as part of his impressive list of clients.

Jay Ollero

Signer/Songwriter and Producer

Long before releasing his first project as a singer-songwriter, Jay Ollero wore many different hats working behind the scenes: audio engineer, corporate manager, music producer, hip-hop executive. It was those experiences that led him to songwriting. “In the music business it all begins with the song”, he says. Adding, “When you’re not the one writing the songs, you’re stuck waiting for the writer to deliver something honest and something pleasing to the ears. I got tired of waiting so I started writing”. Jay gravitates toward relatable lyrics and dynamic melodies, crafting songs that feel like a private conversation between two people. His live performances and story telling facilitate an experience that he equates to time travel. “I can’t change the past”, he says, “but I can change how I relate to it because songwriting is like reliving a moment in time, with the added benefit of understanding what I should’ve done or what I should’ve said”. What makes Jay stand out from other singers is his soothing, raspy voice and calming nature that combine to create a unique and intimate musical journey for those who seek it.

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