Question: What is a reversion clause and why is it important to have one in a song contract with a music publisher?
Answer: Reversion clauses, in the terms of a song contract with a music publisher, refer to the rights of the song “reverting” back to the songwriter, should the song never be recorded, or used in an agreed-upon manner.
You will want to negotiate a time-frame stating that all of the song’s rights will go back to you if the publisher does not accomplish the goal of placing the song with an artist. Most publishers agree that it often takes a long time to place a song, even a really great one. Matter of fact, many of the biggest hits in the last century sat around for a long time before anyone wanted to record them.
Most publisher will want 2 years, at minimum, to get a song placed before reverting the rights back. This is very common with publishers that will even offer/allow a reversion clause. Remember that the publisher will, in most cases, pay to record a professionally recorded demo of the song, in the hopes of pitching the finished demo to multiple recording artists/bands. They will need time to use this investment in the song and should be given at least 2 years after the song demo has been recorded to use it to shop the song around (song plugging). This should be thought of as a common courtesy to the publisher, as they believed in the song enough to offer you a contract on it.
Check With Your Entertainment Attorney
There are many music publishers that feel that a song should never be given a time limit to revert back to the owner. These guys are either very good at what they do, or song sharks. Make sure you check with your entertainment attorney before agreeing upon a reversion timeline.