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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
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Writing credits and publishing shares for Guns N' Roses songs

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Writing credits and publishing shares for Guns N' Roses songs Empty Writing credits and publishing shares for Guns N' Roses songs

Post by Blackstar Mon Sep 06, 2021 8:10 pm

Introduction

I had a thorough look at the online repertories of ASCAP, BMI, GMR (Global Music Rights) and SESAC, which are PRO's (Performing Rights Organizations) that collect royalties on behalf of songwriters and their publishers, so they list all the musicians who receive songwriting royalties for each song.

These data are the result of the way a band has decided to split the publishing rights/royalties (i.e. royalties from songwriting) between the members and may not be identical to to the writing credits in an album's liner notes: or example, a band member may not be listed in the liner notes as one of the writers of a particular song, but may be entitled to royalties for it; or the songs may be collectively credited to the band, but in reality not all members get an equal publishing share for it.

GN'R members and outside co-writers are represented by different PRO's as follows:

* SESAC: Axl.
* GMR: Slash, Duff.
* ASCAP: Izzy, Steven, Matt, Dizzy, Paul Tobias, Tommy Stinson, Robin Finck, Chris Pitman, West Arkeen (estate), Chris Weber, Dave Lank.
* BMI: Josh Freese, Buckethead, Brain, Pete Scaturro, Caram Costanzo, Del James.

ASCAP, BMI and GMR report the percentage they control over other PRO's; e.g. for a song listed as co-written by Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff and Steven, ASCAP reports the percentage it controls, which corresponds to the combined shares of Izzy and Steven, and the same goes for GMR in regards to Slash and Duff's combined shares.
SESAC doesn't provide this information, which would be Axl's share. However, there is another source for that: the database of Universal (which has Axl's publishing) reports the percentage it controls. Universal also has Chris Weber's publishing, so that makes possible to determine which portion of the share controlled by ASCAP is his, as well as Timo Kaltio's publishing (he's not on ASCAP though, so it doesn't help as much).
There are also the databases of PRO's that represent music rights in other countries (e.g. CMRRA in Canada and SACEM in France), which may provide more details about the publishing shares in combination with the main databases listed above, as songwriters that are in different PRO's in the US may be in the same PRO of another country.

Appetite For Destruction and GN'R Lies

In the albums' liner notes all original songs are credited collectively to "Guns N' Roses" and, wherever the case, to additional songwriters (West Arkeen on It's So Easy, Chris Weber on Anything Goes, Reckless Life and Move To The City) *

The information in the databases confirms what we know from other sources about how the publishing was split between the members: Axl 25%, Slash, Izzy and Duff 20% each, and Steven 15%.

More specifically:

1) For all original songs with no outside writers: ASCAP (Izzy, Steven): 35%; GMR (Slash, Duff): 40%; Universal (Axl): 25%

2) In the case songs with additional songwriters, as expected, the band members' shares are decreased:

- It's So Easy: 17,5% Axl; 28% Slash + Duff; 54% Izzy+Steven+West Arkeen.

- Anything Goes, Reckless Life and Move To The City: 22.5% Axl; 36% Slash + Duff; 31.5% Izzy + Steven; 10% Chris Weber.

* Note: Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, which was later included in GN'R Lies, listed individual writers: Axl, Izzy, Slash and Chris Weber for Reckless Life; Izzy, Chris Weber and "DJ" (real name Daniel Nicolson) for Move To The City. However, as evident from the data above, the arrangement changed later with these songs being credited collectively to GN'R and all members (plus Chris Weber) having a publishing share.

Use Your Illusion I and II

Unlike Appetite and Lies, the UYI liner notes list specific writers for each song (e.g. Axl and Izzy on You Could Be Mine, Slash and Axl for Locomotive, etc.).*

However, those credits don't reflect the way the publishing for each song is split: according to the PRO's, all four "main" members (Axl, Slash, Izzy  and Duff) get a fixed percentage for each original song written entirely by the band (Matt and Dizzy get a small cut). Only this time the way the shares were split  was more complicated compared to the shares for AFD and Lies songs, so  the percentages are not round figures (according to Slash's book, that  happened because they had to take into account a small share for Matt - and I  guess Dizzy, too - as well as because of the many outside writers like  West Arkeen, Del James, etc.).

For example, although only Axl is credited for writing November Rain in the album liner notes, GMR (Slash and Duff) controls 47.68% of the song, ASCAP (Izzy) 24.26% and Universal reports 26.27% for Axl - and these shares apply to every original UYI song  that doesn't have additional writers (the decimals in the ASCAP shares  differ slightly from song to song - it may have to do with the publishers). The remaining percentages are obviously Matt's and Dizzy's small shares.

The formula they seemingly used was: first they determined who wrote what (ie. the writers of each songs that we read in the liner notes) and  the percentages of each one's contributions to each song (e.g. Don't Cry could be 50% Axl and 50% Izzy); then they calculated all that together and  determined each one's shares in the album as a whole (at least the songs that didn't have outside writers), so e.g. Izzy has a share around 24.5% for his overall contributions to the albums; and then they applied those percentages to each song.

So, the fact that, for example, Slash wasn't credited in the liner notes as a co-writer for November Rain and Estranged may affect his share in the albums as a whole, but doesn't mean that he doesn't get royalties for these songs (like when streamed or played on the radio).

* Note: In the 2022 reissue of UYI, the liner notes reflect the real credits that can be found in the PRO's databases, so all members are credited for all songs.

More specifically:

1) Original songs with no outside writers: 26.27% Axl; 24.5% Izzy; 47.7% Slash + Duff; 1.5% Matt + Dizzy.

2) Songs co-written by outside writers:

* Right Next Door To Hell: 50.84% Axl + Timo Kaltio; 32.52% Slash + Duff; 16.18% Izzy. That leaves a small share of about 0,5% for Matt and Dizzy.

* Bad Obsession: 18.38% Axl; 33.38% Slash + Duff; 47.1% Izzy + West Arkeen; 1.14% Matt + Dizzy.

* Back Off Bitch: 21.01% Axl; 38.84% Slash + Duff; 40,15 Izzy + Paul Tobias (+ Matt + Dizzy).

* The Garden: 5.26% Axl; 9.54% Slash + Duff; 54.84% Izzy + West Arkeen. So the remaining 30.36% includes the shares of Del James, Matt and Dizzy (BMI doesn't provide info on Del James' share, but it's safe to assume that it's about 29%).

* Don't Damn Me: 21.89% Axl; 40.44% Slash + Duff; 20.22% Izzy; 16.66% Dave Lank. That leaves about 0.8% for Matt and Dizzy.  

* Yesterdays: 8.67% Axl; 15.72% Slash + Duff; 68% Izzy + West Arkeen + Billy McCloud. So the remaining 8.92 includes the shares of Del James, Matt and Dizzy (again BMI doesn't provide info on Del's share).

Ain't Goin' Down (pinball machine)

25% Axl; 50% Slash + Duff; 25% Izzy.  

Shadow Of Your Love

24.38% Axl. The rest is divided between Slash, Izzy, Duff, Steven and Paul Tobias (the databases don't provide percentages).

Appetite For Destruction 2018 reissue ("Locked and Loaded") - "new" songs

* The Plague, New Work Tune and Ain't Goin' Down No More (instrumental): 25% Axl; 37.48% Izzy + Steven; the remaining 37.62 is apparently Slash's and Duff's combined share, who are also listed as writers (GMR doesn't provide info).

Izzy's and Steven's combined share appears to be slightly higher than for Appetite/Lies songs, but it might be a mistake on ASCAP's database.

West Arkeen songs/"Hell House demos"

* Crash Diet: West Arkeen, Axl, Del James and Daniel Clarke are listed as writers: 31% West Arkeen; 38% Axl. No info on the other percentages.

* Bring It Down Home: West Arkeen and Axl are listed as writers. 50% West Arkeen; 50% Axl.

* Too Much Too Soon: West Arkeen and Duff are listed as writers. 90% West Arkeen; 10% Duff.

* Sentimental Movie: West Arkeen, Duff and Del James are listed as writers. 75% West Arkeen; 25% Duff + Del James (the databases don't provide info).

* Just Another Sunday: No information at all (most likely because it's not on the West Arkeen tape).

Hollywood Rose songs (The Roots Of Guns N' Roses album)

* Killing Time and Rocker: 50% Axl; 50% Chris Weber.

Interesting that Izzy doesn't have a share, although he probably co-wrote these songs. Maybe he didn't care to pursue it, but apparently Axl did.

Chinese Democracy + Oh My God

Like on UYI, the credits in the album's liner notes list specific writers for each song. But, in this case, the publishing is also split on each song separately. However, the album credits don't completely coincide with the names found in the repertories: in some cases, the latter list additional names. The are also some differences between the credits in the liner notes that can be found in the booklet of the main album artwork ("bicycle" cover) and the ones in the booklets of the alternate artwork ("red hand" and "grenade" covers), which suggests that there were probably mistakes in the liner notes.. So the data provided by the databases about the percentages they control on each CD song may be actually informative, at least to an extent, about each member's contributions.

Specifically (marked in red are the additional writers that are listed in the repertories but not in the album's liner notes - I have gone with the liner notes in the alternate album artwork):

* Oh My God: 50% Axl; 33% divided between Paul, Sean Riggs and Tommy; 15% Dizzy; 2% Josh Freese.

* Chinese Democracy: 50% Axl; 27% divided between Josh Freese and Caram Costanzo; 21% divided between Dizzy, Paul, Robin and Tommy; 2% Eric Caudieux.

* Shackler's Revenge: 50% Axl; 20% divided between Buckethead and Brain; 25% divided between Pete Scaturro and Caram; 5% Robin.

* Better: 50% Axl; 50% Robin.

* Street Of Dreams: 63% Axl; 37% divided between Dizzy, Paul, Tommy and Robin.

* If The World: 55% Axl; 45% Pitman.

* There Was A Time: 50% Axl; 50% divided between Dizzy, Paul and Tommy.

* Catcher In The Rye: 67% Axl; 33% divided between Dizzy, Paul, Tommy and Robin.

* Scraped: 52% Axl; 24% Buckethead; 24% Caram Costanzo.

* Riad N' The Bedouins: 50% Axl; 50% divided between Dizzy, Paul, Tommy and Robin.

* Sorry: 50% Axl; 33.33% divided between Buckethead and Brain; 16.67% Pete Scaturro.

* I.R.S.: 75% Axl; 25% divided between Dizzy and Paul.

* Madagascar: 50% Axl; 50% Pitman + MLK estate. Universal database also lists a version without credit to the MLK estate in which Axl's share is 67%, so it's safe to assume that Pitman's share is 33% also in the version with the MLK speech, which leaves 17% for the MLK estate.

* This I Love: 100% Axl.

* Prostitute: 90% Axl; 10% divided between Paul and Robin.

So it seems that Axl reserved a fixed 50% for himself for lyrics, melodies, and probably also arrangement and production. Then his percentage might increase depending  on the part he had in writing the music. So, for example, it appears  that Axl wrote most of the music on Prostitute (since he has 90%) and a big part of the music on I.R.S (since he has 75%).

CD era songs reworked and released by the NITL lineup

As far as the "liner notes" go, there seems to be a return to the  Appetite/Lies formula (which is a common formula used by many bands):  the songs are credited collectively to "Guns N' Roses" (however, according to a press release issued by the band for Hard Skool, the song was written by Axl).

Regarding the publishing shares, although there seems to be a similar pattern with CD as far as Axl's share is concerned, the difference is that now Slash and Duff get a cut from the remaining percentage (apparently as part of an arrangement for agreeing to work on these songs). Judging from the data so far, it seems that Slash and Duff's combined share varies from song to song - there is probably a blanket deal for 15%, which may be higher or lower than that on  each song depending on how many other writers there are.  It should be also noted that there may be additional factors affecting these shares; for example, Slash's and Duff's shares are all theirs, since they're their own publishers, whereas a portion of Axl's share goes to Universal, since it has his publishing (usually the publisher gets 25%-50% of the artist's share, but in Axl's case it's likely that Universal gets more because of the deal Axl signed in 2005).

So in this case the shares are not as representative as the ones on CD about who wrote what, however they do give an insight.

* Absurd: 49% Axl; 30% Dizzy; 21% Slash + Duff. Pitman is not listed as writer.

* Hard Skool: 76% Axl; 11.5% divided between Tommy, Robin and Paul Tobias; 1% Josh Freese; 11.5% Slash + Duff.
So it seems that Axl wrote a big part of the music for Hard Skool besides the lyrics, similarly to I.R.S.

* Perhaps: 70% Axl; 30% divided between Slash, Duff and Paul Tobias (no information about the exact shares).
So it appears that the song was mostly written by Axl. .

* The General (listed on SESAC as The General and Monsters): 40% Axl; 60% divided between Slash, Duff, Brain, Steve Freeman and Marc Haggard (no info on the exact percentages yet).
Note: Steve "Extrakd" Freeman and Marc "Mirv" Haggard have written songs with Brain and Buckethead.


Last edited by Blackstar on Wed Nov 08, 2023 3:39 am; edited 18 times in total (Reason for editing : Additional information)
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Post by ludurigan Thu Sep 09, 2021 11:16 am

Wow great info. Apparently Izzy wrote even more than I thought!
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Post by Blackstar Thu Sep 09, 2021 11:29 am

ludurigan wrote:Wow great info. Apparently Izzy wrote even more than I thought!
It basically means that the the way the band shared the publishing (the royalties) from the Illusion albums wasn't essentially different than the way they did it for Appetite and Lies: all Axl, Slash, Izzy and Duff got a fixed share on every song that didn't have additional writers, regardless of who wrote what (and who got writing credits in the albums' liner notes) on that particular song. So, for example, Izzy, Slash and Duff got a share on November Rain and similarly Axl, Slash and Duff got a share on You Ain't The First (even though, according to the album credits, they didn't have a part in writing it). I assume this is information that most people were not aware of.

Addition/clarification: But the way the shares for the Illusions were calculated was more complicated (Slash talks about it in his book): this time they used a formula, calculating who wrote what, then that was applied to the album as a whole (at least for the songs that didn't have outside writers), and then it was divided per song, so they ended up getting the same fixed percentages for each song.. And as a result, whenever a song, e.g. November Rain, is played on the radio, they all get royalties for it, although Axl is the sole writer.


Last edited by Blackstar on Thu Sep 09, 2021 10:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Post by Blackstar Thu Sep 09, 2021 1:17 pm

Regarding the royalty shares on Absurd, it seems that the policy is similar to the Illusion albums: the "main" members and partners in the band (now Axl, Slash and Duff) are getting a cut regardless of who wrote what. And then, other current members (Dizzy) are getting a share depending on if and what they have contributed.

What remains to be seen is whether Chris Pitman's exclusion from the credits is indicative of a pattern that will be followed with other former members (or at least some of them) or it just happened that his contributions to the song were not such that would require giving him credit and a royalty share.


Last edited by Blackstar on Thu Sep 09, 2021 2:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by ludurigan Thu Sep 09, 2021 1:47 pm

very interesting!
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Post by Blackstar Mon Aug 15, 2022 4:22 pm

I have updated the first post with the latest information on the writing credits for Hard Skool.

Also moved the thread to the song section.
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Post by Blackstar Mon Oct 23, 2023 2:33 am

OP updated with the writing credits for Perhaps and The General.
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