So I've written this "play with songs" (not a musical, damn it!), and I've been thinking about approaching composers to lay out a score so that theaters don't have to come up with the songs from scratch (and maybe go in a direction that wouldn't suit the play). Anybody done any contracts with composers? Do you do a set fee or set up some kind of return on future royalties? Advice here or off the board appreciated.
Steve, when I was toying with turning 3 Guys . . . into a musical, I quickly learned the rule of thirds. One part of the pie for the book. One part for the lyricist. One part for the composer. So much for toying with that idea. I imagine there are all kinds of arrangements you can make. The guy with the rule of thirds was a protege of Sondheim.
I offered my composer 5% of royalties. I think I was rather low, but I walked with him every step of the way. I wrote the lyrics and knew where I wanted the music to go (what feeling I wanted to evoke from the audience).
With that said, Samuel French turned me down in record time. The second publisher (it made it to the second reader) sent me a long letter about how it wouldn't be marketable because of the expense of performing the music (singers and musicians) for such a small cast (8). So, the third time around the block, I have offered to delete the score and move the lyrics into dialogue. (I have seven songs.) My six month wait is just about up to hear from the third publisher.
I know I am a bit late in replying to this post but I would just like to chime in with my current situation.
I posted on ASCAP for a composer (and a lyricist, which I have been blessed with) and actually had a great composer for a while. He actually wrote the music for the first song (though I found out that a composer is not necessarily an arranger also) but then left me (he was working with me free of charge until the play gets produced) because of creative differences (he didn't think the songs would be good for the play and I wasn't about to change my vision).
Now I have another composer (who is on a cruise ship working right now) that is willing to trade work with me. I have agreed to write his musical and he has agreed to write the music for the other songs in the play I am working on.
I stated in my posting on ASCAP that this would be a voluntary collaboration with the composer being paid upon production. Thus far I have not had any problems with this.
For what it's worth, here's how I handle songs in my plays and musicals. Maybe it will be helpful to those wanting to incorporate music in their plays.
I use songs to establish the time and place, develop character, forward the plot, and evoke a mood. Because they do so much, I write the lyrics and melodies myself. I register the copyright for the lyrics and melodies before approaching a musician. Then I contract with them (with funds from the producing organization) only for the arrangements. And I put everything in writring. I have learned that if everything is not in writing, creative people get creative. It is amazing how a verbal agreement affects people's hearing. In the written contract, I specify delivery dates, how much, and when they will be paid. I initial each step of the process as I approve it for payment. It is clearly stated that the musician's work is "work for hire" and I will retain all copyrights.
I have learned to be very specific about what I expect as the end product. I specify sheet music written out on paper for each instrument as well as on a midi disk. I specify a CD music track for each song as well as a sung through CD. The back up music can be used for rehearsals and performances and the sung through CD helps the singers learn the lyrics. (If I don't specify the sung through CD, I sometimes get a wonderful score that is impossible to sing.) I don't specify a key since singers vary, but I specify that I can go back for key changes and minor revisions if necessary at an agreed upon amount. Otherwise, the musician may want more for the key changes and revisions than for the entire project and you may have to pay due to the time restraints of being in the middle of rehearsal for an upcoming production.
Maybe that will be helpful to some folks. Seems like every time I do it, I learn some lesson the hard way.