What is CCLI? Important!!

What is CCLI?

Christian Copyright Licensing International, http://www.ccli.com, is an organization founded with the idea in mind that all songs used by churches should be catalogued so as to bless the songwriters with any income the songs might generate.

Primarily, they were founded to help churches comply with copyright law.

A CCLI song number is a number given by CCLI for each song registered with them in order to track usage and to pay the owner of rights any monies that they collect. Churches have the responsibility to report usage (usually, only random churches are selected, depending on the size of the church).

Copyright law states that churches are EXEMPT from paying for PERFORMANCE of songs, but they’re not exempt from liability of distribution of COPIES of the lyrics, whether or overheads or lead sheets, etc.)

CCLI exists in order to grant churches licenses to cover these distributions.

I know, the opinion exists that songs in churches should be free, no matter who wrote the songs. Although no church organization has been sued for copyright infringement, the real possibility exists, and the truth is that churches ARE in copyright violation if they distribute works from Hillsongs, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, and on…AND, why not BLESS these songwriters for their contributions?

(the full story on Performance rights is that there are Performance Rights Organizations in each country. Here in the US they are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. These organizations license restaurants, night clubs and other venues to play copyrighted works. These organizations in turn pay the holder of rights of songs, publishers and songwriters, depending on how much the songs are played. Churches are the only organizations in the this country granted exemption from performance as stated in copyright law.

How other royalties are paid is another story. CCLI is an organization that helps churches comply with the rest of copyright law. So, they’re exempt from performance but not from distribution of lyrics. )

CCLI will grant a license to a church or church organization with the cost being determined by the size of the church or church organization. CCLI will give an identifiying number for each organization. Churches then report their actual uses of songs (not all churches have to, but your church might be picked randomly) so they can bless the songwriters.

HERE’S WHERE WE COME IN: Songwriters and publishers can apply to CCLI to become a publisher or an administrator and then submit songs to them in so they can be listed with them. CCLI will send you a song number. The song number is how a songwriter can be credited for usage.

Church administration, here’s where you come in: visit ccli.com and seek a Church Copyright License.


Ok, that’s it for CCLI as far as songwriters are concerned.

I to take it one step further to say that CCLI also grants licenses for reahearsals of songs (mp3 distribution). The sound recording is a separate copyright, Again, why not help bless the songwriter? Even though the formula for how the artist/songwriter gets paid from this in the end result will vary, churches are in violation of copyright law unless they have a license.

1) Let our worship and music leaders at church know so they can be legal

2) Register our original songs we wish to use in church with CCLI

ANYONE here can register with ccli.com as a publisher or an administrator. This is not one of those ‘this levels the playing field’ type of come-ons. This is serious stuff.

If anyone is serious about their songwriting in churches, they should do this. Do this if you are a prolific writer and wish to share your songs with other churches.

If anyone here is NOT interested in registering with CCLI, but wish to have any of their songs registered with them, let me know. I am a publisher registered with them, and I’ll be glad to submit your song.

What happens when you submit your song? At this date, they want the title, writer and publisher information for the song and the lyrics. They will only ask for any lead sheet or mp3 submissions after your song has been reported as used by two or three churches.



Songwriters: learn how to submit your songs to CCLI.com so they have a song registration number.

Churches: visit CCLI.com and obtain a Church Copyright License (this covers the overhead and physical distribution of copyrighted lyrics). It doesn’t cost big money. Churches, also obtain a Church Rehearsal License (this covers the distribution of recordings of songs used by the worship team). Also not big money, and well worth it.

Which PRO?

Which Performance Rights Agency should you choose as a writer? For the U.S., you have the choice between ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. You only choose one, but the one you choose is up to your tastes and how you feel the PRO fits with your style. And how you agree with the way they handle business. All three have an impressive list of songwriters as members.

It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but it’s important that you choose one and that you register your works with them. After/before you seek a copyright registration, but registering your songs means that the PRO has a database of your songs from which they can assign any royalty payments that may come your way. Many doors and career benefits will be opened.

If you choose to be the administrating publisher for your works, then find out the requirements for having a publisher membership and seek that. If you have a publisher membership, then register your songs under your publisher membership instead of your writer membership. This assures that the entire performance revenue stream is assigned to you or your company. As expected, the main criteria for joining as a publisher is to show evidence that you have had a song published. Find whatever opportunity that you can, say with an independent artist, to get a cut so you can apply for a publisher membership. Or, if you’re a solo artist, then providing info on your first solo CD project or EP or solo song will be the ticket.

If by chance you intend on helping other writers by being an administrating or exploitation publishing agent for them, be sure to sign up for a publisher membership with their PRO so you will receive the publisher’s share of performance royalties.

The Business of Songwriting – 101

Beyond understanding why my heart burns for songwriting, there lies a need for me to understand the beginnings of songwriting administration. The separate business of Songwriting Administration that is performed by a publisher is also crucial, but that lies separately from what I need to understand as the songwriter.

As a songwriter, I need to begin to ‘dot my i’s and cross my t’s’ by being organized. Not everyone is going to feel the need to be so tidy as another might, but what I mean is so that you have a listing of your songs available so that at a moment’s notice you can be prepared to pitch a song. Creating a spreadsheet with items such as title, song form, musical style, copyright registration in hand/application sent, PRO registration and contract status are some important items. I’ll break out some of these items below.

Why have a column for song form? Not only is it a good way for you to understand the different types of song forms, but it might be a catalyst for you to intentionally write songs in certain song forms. Just another way for you to sharpen that tool for the craft tool box.

Musical style column? No matter what genre(s) or sub-genre styles you write, you’ll be prepared to pitch certain songs when a music manager calls for certain styles or feelings in a song.

A column for copyright registration explains itself. This is a great way to remind yourself that protecting your work before any submissions are made is vital.

PRO registration. Performance Rights Organization. In the US, these companies are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Don’t forget about registering your songs with CCLI. These companies collect royalty monies for any works that are made public, whether that’s radio/tv/satellite or other digital transmissions. Bars, clubs, restaurants, broadcast companies and websites that allow copyrighted material to be publicly played are required to pay license fees to the PROs and the PROs distribute money directly to you, the writer. This revenue is called performance royalties. This is how the basic revenue stream is set up, depending on the agreement you have with your publisher: The PRO will distribute 50% directly to the writer, if you have registered the song with them, and 50% to the publisher. Traditionally, the PROs only paid performance royalties to the songwriter and publisher, but due to the digital act of 1995 added to copyright law, artists now also receive a share of ‘digitally transmitted’ royalties.

Contract status. It will be good for you to keep track of whether or not a song is currently under contract, the type and length of contract and whether or not the contract has granted any exclusive exploitation. Unless you really want to have a column for all of these separate considerations, at least the easy visual of a check mark will lead you to discover the rest of the details in a specific file folder or computer folder somewhere.

As your musical catalog grows, the more you’ll find the need for organization. But only you can dedide that, and whether or not songwriting is a serious business consideration! But let me say that the more you treat it professionally at home, the more professionally you’ll be treated when pitching your wares ūüôā

The actual method of pitching will probably vary, depending on your personal or other contact. I guess it’s best to say that being prepared to pitch your songs in a variety of ways might be the best thing. For example: mp3s at the ready, the ability to burn CDs or even inexpensive thumb drives with your personal information. Creating relationships with those who might be willing to listen to your work is a great consideration. Deciding on what type of package to create for pitching is up to your creative genius. The more professional the package and your willingness to make contacts or follow the rules of submission, the more receptive music managers and publishing agents will be with your works.

It’s all about relationships!

Music publishing: What Are Your Goals?

I would never suppose that any songwriter or artist should take the tac that I am taking.¬† But I might encourage them to look into how I’m handling it, at least for food for thought!

What are my goals as far as music publishing?  Well, in this case, my overall goals in songwriting include the self-publication of my music. So my overall goals belong here in this mission statement:

To be true to the call I have in writing songs for God.  To be true to the call that these songs will be edifying to the body of Christ. To help other writers along the path.  Kingdom ethics, considerations and relationships are first.  Money is second. 

I want to accomplish these goals by pursuing the following:

1) Become the best songwriter I can be.  Take songwriting course(s), read books and  complete exercises as well as create relationships with other songwriters.  Attend seminars when possible.

2) Become an efficient music publisher.¬† Be as prepared as I can be in administrating my song catalog.¬† Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s legally.¬† Offer publishing services to a few other songwriters (be the exploitation publisher for some, administrating publisher for others).

3) Create a tight branding for my publishing company (stay and create within my niche in the songwriting world, use the same visuals in advertisements, be known for creating respectful relationships).  Create the right relationships and connections to get my songs in front of the right people.

I can’t ask if you agree with these or not, because that doesn’t matter.¬† What does matter, though are your comments or questions (if you feel like giving them).


Should You Learn More About Publishing?

You know, it’s not an easy decision to be a music publisher when your first passion is writing.¬†My first thoughts were, ‘hey,¬†the publishing aspect is for those who aren’t creative’.¬† And in some cases, that’s absolutely good.¬† But a quick read of the basics of copyright law and what publishing actually means to a songwriter had me thinking and researching.¬† There is too much at stake in the ownership and income¬†pie of this aspect of intellectual property to ignore. ¬†Should you learn more about music publishing??

Copyright law, at it’s very core, is a very simple read.¬† It’s just that there are so many different contingencies and what-if scenarios that it’s easy to have your eyes glaze over . Unless you’re either a lawyer or extremely interested, it’s easy to give up.

Ok, wait.¬† This blog isn’t meant to try and explain all there is to know about music publishing, but I’ll tell you this:¬† The copyright law for the U.S. is found in U.S. Code Title 17 at the Library of Congress.¬† You can find it all broken into nice little sections in .pdf format at http://www.copyright.gov/title17.¬† Or download the entire Title 17 there.¬† The entire code is continually updated to be relevant to current times, and includes all sorts of amendments in regards to other forms of creation, such as semiconductors.¬† As it pertains to songwriting, no further explanation is necessary, as an introduction, other than¬†the following three paragraphs.

The U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 says this: The Congress shall have power…to promote the Progress of Science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective¬†Writing and Discoveries (emphasis mine).¬† This says that our founding fathers made sure that Congress could make laws protecting songwriters and other authors.

Section 101 describe all of the definitions of Article 17 of the U.S. Code.  Section 102 tells us that (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.  This says that IF you are the creator of any writing AND the work is expressed in a fixed form THEN copyright protection automatically subsists.  Only one more paragraph, hang with me.

Section 106 of Article 17 says this (I will highlight): Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords; (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pan-tomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Let’s break that down into small words and few of them:¬† You, the writer, AUTOMATICALLY own a copyright on the stuff you write.¬† You also own the EXCLUSIVE right to the words in bold above.¬† HOWEVER, even though you automatically own a copyright, it is highly suggested by the LOC that you apply for a copyright registration so that your work will be supported by them in a court of law should infringement occur.

What this means in practice is that routinely a song writer will sign away at least half of the rights of a song that they wrote (read over half of the possible income generated by the song).¬† But they have traditionally given away even more than that.¬† The majority of publishers in the past have included all sorts of schemes and costs that they can deduct from any monies owed you, and suddenly, you are not receiving even 25% percent of the monies generated by your song.¬†What’s worse, some unscrupulous¬†so-called ‘publishers’ and others that want to make a demo of your song are there only to loosen your wallet and give you promises they have no intention of keeping.¬† Paying for a demo separately is one thing, but just know this:¬† a real music publisher would never ask for any of your money up front.

A real music publisher will, however, ask you to sign over a certain percentage of your exclusive rights so they can do their job.  The percentages are a matter for another blog.

There are some basics to know about dealing with publishing contracts.¬† Reading legal lingo is usually no fun, though.¬† Learn about the basics of publishing and music publishing history in plain words.¬† One very good book to do so is Music¬†Publishing: A Songwriter’s Guide¬†by Randy Poe.

If you have any specific questions, please contact me at songs at solidwalnut dot com.