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When you finally have a Number 1 hit record, who will pop up from your past to grab your royalties?

'Where there's a hit, there's a writ', so they say. If you have a hit record, you can be sure others will want to stake a claim on your money.

Congratulations to James Blunt, the first British artist to top the US charts for nine years. Blunt has already sold two million copies of his album 'Back to Bedlam' in the UK alone and clearly US sales could far outstrip that.

Since Blunt writes his own songs, he stands to cash in big time on his success, and he deserves every penny.

But he might not get every penny of his royalties. According to this article, Blunt's former producer Lukas Burton has suddenly realized that he 'helped' write several of the songs on the album. And he wants his 'fair' share.

According to the article, Burton helped Blunt shape his raw songs, and thus contributed significantly enough to be considered a co-writer.

Now I have to say that I don't know all the details. Indeed, it is rare that all the details in such cases are published, so my comments are of a general nature.

What I wonder is why Burton has left it so long to state his case. It seems like he waited until the album became successful and then suddenly popped up out of nowhere to claim his royalties.

I would have thought that the ideal time to agree shares is when a song is written, or when a producer helps rewrite a song.

I would also say that when a producer rewrites a song, in most cases he is fulfilling his role as a producer and should not require a writing credit.

Even if they didn't agree a share at this stage, surely Burton would have been savvy enough to make an agreement when they parted company. Or force an agreement through legal means.

There are two possibilities...

  • Burton didn't think the songs had any value at the time, so he didn't bother pressing for an agreement on how the writing credit should be shared.
     
  • Burton didn't do any more than a producer would normally have done. He didn't expect to get a writing credit at the time, and it is only since the songs have become successful that he has decided that he should get a share.

Given the information we have, my opinion is that Burton doesn't have a leg to stand on. If he co-wrote the songs, then that should have been agreed at the time. Waiting until the artist hits the big time is simply too late.

By David Mellor Monday March 20, 2006