What is A Split sheet In The Music Industry?

A quick primer on what a Split Sheet is, who needs it, how and when to use it, and how to create one.

In this article:

  • What Is A Split Sheet?
  • What It’s NOT For…
  • How To Make A Split Sheet
  • Why To Use A Split Sheet
  • When To Use A Split Sheet
  • How To Use A Split Sheet
  • Final Word on Split Sheets


In the music industry, some artists prefer to write alone, but these since the beginning of recording about one-hundred years ago all the way up until today, most big hits are a collaborative effort. The massive 2021 hit “Peaches” by Justin Bieber is credited to an astounding eleven co-writers, Bieber included. How do the labels, managers, and, most importantly, music royalty collection services keep track of a song created by so many individuals?

The answer is: the Split Sheet. Traditionally coming out of the Nashville scene, where signed artists co-writing songs with professional career songwriters is a weekly or monthly facet of the job, the Split Sheet is an easy, effective, and legally binding way of ensuring that if a song ends up making it big, everyone is already in agreement about who gets credit for what.

In short, it is a signed agreement stating the name of the song, when it was written, by whom, everyone’s contact info, and agreed percentages of the song between all co-writers that equal 100% and represent the amount of songwriting royalties to be received if the song ever makes money.



First off, a Split Sheet is signed and used by the co-writers of a song, usually 2-4 people (but sometimes more as we’ve seen with Bieber). This agreement has to do with the possible songwriting and publishing royalties the song may earn in the future. 

Split Sheets Are NOT For:

  • Songs that have already been written and recorded already. You can’t go back in time.
  • Songs you are being paid to write by a company or individual. Usually songwriting for money results in you waiving the rights to the song, allowing who purchased it to own it 100%. Split Sheets are used when there is no money changing hands and everyone is hoping the song takes off and makes money in the future.
  • The royalties associated with the recording of a song. In the industry the songwriting royalties and mechanical royalties from the “master” recordings are not the same thing.
  • Royalties paid to performers on the master recording, whether non-writing band members or hired studio musicians. Those deals are hammered out separately.



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Since Split Sheets are a part of the writing process, which takes place before the album comes out and almost always before the recording even takes place, you want to have a Split Sheet pre-made and ready to sign before beginning the writing session, or at the end of the session when the song is at a stopping point, or finished. It is common practice to have a PDF of your Split Sheet ready in your phone to email or text the other writer(s), as well as a few hard paper copies printed out in your bag as well. Some people like to take it home and read it, or have their lawyers look at it. Other may just sign and leave it with you. Not having one may lead to the process not going smoothly and questions arising later on about how did what and how much they actually deserve. This is, end of day, the true purpose of the Split Sheet.

A split sheet should have spaces ready to be filled out, for the following:

  • Who the co-writers are, with full legal names 
  • Their contact info: email address, phone number, or PO BOX/Address
  • The date
  • The song title
  • Role (songwriter, producer, arranger, composer, lyricist, etc.)
  • Ownership percentages equaling 100%
  • If applicable: MGMT & representation, record label, publishing company, PRO (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC), mailing addresses
  • And MOST IMPORTANTLY: the signatures of each cowriter, to make the agreement binding



Everything is always fine and dandy when the song is being written and everyone is having fun. Anything is possible and people sometimes like to believe their co-writer is trustworthy. A Split Sheet ensures that by the time you leave the writing space (or Zoom meeting!) there is a understanding in writing about who did what.



A Split Sheet is not a one and done production deal. This means if you write three songs with someone you will have to sign a Split Sheet for every individual song you create, because variables can change from song to song. Depending on the session and how well you know the writer, the timing when you bring up the sheet is very important.

In general, most co-writers sign a Split Sheet at the end of the session when you are leaving the recording studio, when the song is at a stopping point, or has been completed. This way the artists can easily know exactly what they did. To do it later or after the fact can cast doubt on what really transpired in the writing room.



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Sometimes when two writers work together for the first time, they will write a song, take home the Split Sheet, and determine what they want to do and then stick to their agreed amounts in the future, while still signing a different sheet for each individual song.

Many, for ease and respect toward their co-writers, agree to split finished songs equally. SO two can split 50/50, three can split 33.3/33.3/33.3, etc…

If someone writes only lyrics and the other only writes music, that’s an easy 50/50 split.

If they both write lyrics but only one writes music, they (or their manager) can determine if it is a 50/50 or a such as even split 60/40 or 66.6/33.3.

Sometimes there are two writers and a producer, and the producer will want a cut of the songwriting because he/she/they suggested something central to the song, like the hook, but didn’t write the whole thing. They could give the producer a lesser percentage, but sometimes end up splitting it evenly since the producer usually facilitates the whole project.

In the end it’s there to be hammered out, and when it is, you can fill in the blanks on the Split Sheet.



Split Sheets are a great way to keep the business side of being a musician clean and clear, so no one ends up feeling cheated if a song happens to make it. Again, these are used in situations when songs are being written and no money changes hands, in the hopes that if and when the song gets recorded, then released, and then through the best music promotion in LA (from Planetary!) makes a million bucks, there is a clear plan on how to split the songwriting/publishing royalties.

And for online Split Sheet help, the website www.songtrust.com/ has a downloadable template and he free app SPLITS creates digital split sheets on the spot.

Happy co-writing!