Writing Music: How to Copyright, Publish and Record a Song

Singer-songwriter John Bassette tells readers how to copyright, record, and publish your original music.

| September/October 1970

  • Recording an original song
    Most important of all, if you are offered a deal concerning any of your compositions, no matter how small or lucrative it may appear, get a lawyer — a good MUSIC LAWYER — to look the deal over first.

  • Recording an original song

This article is based on a lecture given at Oberlin College by John Bassette. Singer-songwriter, actor and all-around Good Guy, John has appeared at Carnegie Hall in the New Songwriters Concert, with Sammy Davis in the London production of Golden Boy and at hundreds of college concerts throughout the country. He has just signed a recording contract with United Artists. Watch (Please!-John Bassette) for the album. 

First gang, let me say that writing one — or even a hundred — songs doesn't make you a songwriter any more than painting one or even a thousand canvases makes you a real painter. Songwriting is an art. However, let us assume you have written at least one song you feel is good enough to sing for someone other than a few captive friends; one tune good enough to be recorded. Now what?

Well, you've heard stories about songs being stolen. Believe me, some of those stories are true and it is most important that you protect your work from any unscrupulous "bad guys". So, before you do another thing, COPYRIGHT your song. Copyrighting is the best proof of ownership. With a copyright, you will be sure that no one can steal your work . . . without your permission.

Copyrighting a song is fairly simple. Just write the United States Bureau of Copyright, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20504. Ask for a FORM E for each of your compositions. Fill out a separate form for each song. Return the completed forms and one manuscript copy of each composition. Remember: Tapes are not accepted, so get busy on the manuscripts.

You must also — in addition to the Form E and manuscript copy — send the Bureau of Copyright a fee of six dollars for each song. When I copyrighted my first composition around 1965, I think I paid only four dollars. The price may change but, if you believe in your material, six dollars is cheap insurance against a possible hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now this is important, so dig it. The copy you send to Washington will not be returned. Please don't send your one and only. Keep an exact duplicate for yourself. Also, once a song has been filed with the United States Bureau of Copyright, there can be no changes, additions, or corrections. So do it right the first time.

10/25/2013 4:08:27 PM

I feel like I have read a Million articles about MUSIC publishing and selling my songs and copywriting.. however this have been the best by FAR! thanks a million

12/22/2007 3:57:53 PM

thanks alot for that info it was very helpful


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