In the ever-changing landscape of the Philippine music industry, both emerging and established artists have to navigate a scene that is filled with both challenges and opportunities. Though success could come at any given time, there is still that delicate dance that most artists have to play when it comes to safeguarding themselves from the legal complexities of the industry –– whether it be by safeguarding their intellectual property rights, going through the logistics of potential collaborations, or unpacking the intricacies of recording contracts from music labels.

Of course, these are just some of the several aspects that any artist could watch out for, especially when it comes to protecting themselves and their best interests through the volatile nature of the field of show business. Even the biggest stars in the field could fall victim to certain issues, as exemplified by the widely popular case of Taylor Swift and the masters of her first six albums (which eventually birthed her chart-breaking re-recording project), or even local examples of trademark disputes.

In an interview with Billboard Philippines, seasoned legal expert and President of PARI (Philippine Association of The Record Industry) Atty. Marivic Benedicto shares her insights on what considerations any artist or musician must understand when navigating the legal landscape of the Philippine music industry. We sit down with Atty. Benedicto — who is the chairman of the Philippine Association of the Record Industry (PARI) and the longtime Head of Music Publishing and New Media for Music at ABS-CBN — to unravel key insights that can empower artists and guide them through the multifaceted legal landscape.

Billboard Philippines: What key legal considerations should emerging musicians in the Philippine music industry be mindful of when negotiating their first recording contracts?

Atty. Benedicto: [First of all], central to any musical endeavor is the recording contract, a document that serves as the foundation for an artist’s journey. Music industry contracts in the Philippines are fairly standard and similar to contracts in other territories. Here, these contracts are broadly classified into three categories: Artist-Label, Producer-Label, and Producer-Distributor. Understanding the nuances of each contract is paramount. 

In the Artist-Label arrangement, all production and marketing costs are borne by the label, with the artist typically receiving a royalty ranging from 3% to 10%. For Producer-Label contracts, costs are shared, and revenue is split 50/50 between the label and the artist or producer. The Producer-Distributor contract places the onus of all costs on the producer, who retains 60-70% of the producer’s share.

While these contracts provide the necessary framework, emerging artists may find their negotiating power limited initially. Labels often seek comprehensive rights to ensure the music gets a fair chance in the competitive industry. However, as artists gain prominence, negotiation opportunities expand, and established artists can secure more favorable terms, recognizing the importance of retaining creative control and fair compensation.

In the context of the Philippine music scene, how can artists protect their intellectual property rights, including songwriting credits and royalties, during collaborations with other musicians and producers?

  1. Have a lawyer read the contract and explain the implications to you. Don’t be trusting. Be paranoid. Also, assume that you don’t know. 
  2. For songwriters, if a group of you have written the song, sign a Composers’ split sheet which outlines exactly how much each of you contributed and or will control. Sign it now. Don’t leave those agreements among band members unwritten. It makes for good relationships and friendships that will last a long time – until you are grandparents. 
  3. Know your rights and understand intellectual property rights and how they work. Most important is to know that the copyright in a composition lasts during your lifetime along with the fifty years after you die. Moreover, copyright is an asset. It is a property that you can sell, transfer, mortgage, and most importantly, pass on to your heirs.  
  4. Understand who owns the asset. Songwriters “own” the copyright to the song, but you can sign up with a music publisher (ideal) who will manage the song for you.  Labels “own” the recordings. They usually manage the recording themselves.  Artists who are not songwriters, by operation of law, don’t own the recording. They just share in the revenues generated by the label from the exploitation of the recording. 
  5. Artists need record labels because labels have the expertise to (1) choose the right song for the right artist (2) can record it according to “commercial” or “market” standards or (3) have the expertise to market the songs and create hit songs. Hit songs are more valuable than songs that are not hit songs, so basically, the “value added” by a label is to turn a song into a hit, or to amplify an emerging song so it does become a hit, and then to exploit the recording and maximize its earning potential.
  6. Work with a professional manager and music publisher. They know the best deals and rates and the industry standards. They will protect you. 

Are there specific clauses or terms in a standard music contract that artists should pay special attention to, and how negotiable are these terms in the Philippine entertainment industry?

There are “standard” provisions that apply to everyone – typically, these are the provisions that allow a label to exploit a recording and maximize revenues.  Then there are the “variables.”  These are term, territory, recording commitment (number of albums), and royalty rates.  

In general, new artists can’t negotiate these terms because they are standard and since the artist is new, the label needs all the rights to ensure that the music gets a fair chance. Established artists, however, can negotiate.

As artists start gaining popularity, what legal measures can they take to safeguard their brand and image, especially in the age of social media and digital platforms?

Copyright attaches upon creation, so you don’t need to be famous to be protected under the law. As for brand and image, you can have an artist logo registered as a trademark. 

How does copyright law in the Philippines apply to music, and what steps can musicians take to prevent unauthorized use of their work in a digital landscape?

Music is subject to copyright and is protected from the moment of creation.  So technically, there are no legal steps needed as copyright attaches by law. Registration with IPO or the National Library is not necessary, but you can register if you wish.  

It would be best to work with a professional music publisher and to be a member of a collective group like FILSCAP. They will help you register your work in other territories so you are protected there too. 

In the era of streaming services, what considerations should musicians keep in mind regarding the distribution and monetization of their music, both locally and internationally?

Basically, platforms are global in scope, so it’s important to hook up with a good international distributor like The Orchard or Believe which are globally competitive and present in many territories. They can negotiate the best rates and terms in each territory and are often given preferential treatment. They also have the technical expertise and communicate directly with the various platforms for optimum monetization and best practices. 

Can you provide insights into the implications of live performances and endorsements for musicians in the Philippines, including any contractual pitfalls they should be cautious about?

Live performances and brand endorsements and the biggest source of revenue for artists. If managed right, they can (and should) generate more revenue than the recordings. As far as contracts go, if you’re an established artist or are managed by a good manager, you can get as many concessions are you want and as the client is willing to provide. The manager is important for these negotiations because an established manager will be able to use his connections and even the other artists he/she/it manages as leverage for you.

An established manager will also be able to separate the live performance rights from other rights like synchronization, music publishing, and video-on-demand rights and charge more and separately for those. However, an unknown artist managed by an inexperienced manager will not be able to bargain like that. It’s also important to understand that it’s a play on VALUE.  An experienced manager will know your value in the market and will be able to negotiate a fair deal. 

What role does collective management play in the Philippine music industry, and how can artists benefit from joining relevant associations to protect their rights?

There are two types of associations – (1) trade associations that are not for profit in which the members have common interests that they want to lobby for or protect and (2) collective management organizations (CMOs) that actually license and collect money based on certain rights that are more difficult to collect individually. Examples of CMOs are the Filpino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (FILSCAP) which covers the public performance and communication to the public of compositions, and the Philippine Recorded Music Rights, Inc. (PRM) for producers and recording artists, which collects on neighboring rights (i.e., on recordings).  CMOS should help you earn more revenue,  while trade associations  are usually created by members to lobby for their collective interests. 

CMOs that collect on public performance should have the biggest collection/revenues so they should impact the industry in a very positive way.

Given the diverse cultural landscape in the Philippines, how can musicians navigate the legal and cultural aspects of incorporating traditional elements into their music without facing potential legal challenges?

The law applies equally to all. So if you employ an indigenous person’s services as a musician, you need to compensate him/her adequately and credit him/her accurately. For your legal protection, it is always wise to have him/her sign a release for the recorded performance or some other agreement reflecting your agreement on the compensation, ownership, and royalty arrangement if any.

In the age of digital piracy, what legal strategies can musicians employ to combat the unauthorized distribution of their music in the Philippine market?

The best weapon against piracy is to make content available on legitimate platforms and to support those platforms so they become top of mind of most if not all, listeners. This is why we are earning from Spotify and YouTube.

As musicians explore collaborations with international artists or seek opportunities abroad, what legal considerations should be taken into account to ensure a smooth and fair working relationship?

You must put all agreements in writing before you start the collaboration.  Bear in mind that laws and practices vary in each country, so you need to understand how each country’s copyright works. You need to communicate thoroughly and clearly (and in writing) and make sure to sign an agreement, especially regarding 1) ownership of assets created (who owns it?) 2) who will exclusively administer and where (to prevent double sale/ double licensing/conflicting licenses) 3) how will you share costs and revenues.   

If you have created a new song, you need to agree on the percentage share of each participant and whether you will administer the rights separately or together via a designated publisher or agent. 

How can artists proactively address potential disputes or conflicts within a band or with collaborators, and what legal mechanisms are in place in the Philippines to resolve such issues amicably?

As mentioned, the best way to protect yourselves is to enter in a split sheet where the composers declare and agree on the percentage of each participant. That agreement should be notarized so it’s binding on the world. This should be done soon after the song is finalized and preferably before it is released in the market. You can also enter into a Publishing Agreement with a music publisher where you will still declare the percentage controlled by each co-writer.

If the band owns the recording, they should agree if all proceeds will be split equally (or not), but after those who spent for the recording are reimbursed. The amounts which should be deducted and paid out (and to whom) should also be agreed upon.

With the rise of independent artists and DIY approaches, what legal resources and support systems are available for musicians in the Philippines to navigate the industry without the backing of major record labels?

Without the backing of labels, indie artists usually accept “contracts of adhesion” or “opt-in” standard agreements of platforms like CD Baby or Tunecore, where you can’t really alter or modify a contract. Typically, startup indies are not able to negotiate for better rates and terms and sometimes even have to pay to make a song available on a platform. 

I haven’t heard of any “legal resource” available to an indie artist for free. You need to pay for a lawyer’s services. It’s best that you do. 

How can emerging musicians in the Philippines establish effective contracts with managers, agents, and other industry professionals while protecting their own interests?

Get a lawyer. Always. Don’t rely on yourself or your parents (unless one or both of them is/are lawyers). Make sure the lawyer knows about the inner workings of the industry.