I was just approached by an artist I work with over this ("Are You The Next Radio Star?") contest from Premier, KIIS-FM (sometimes called "KISS" FM in certain locations, a Clear Channel company) and Sony ATV Music. In going over the forms and rules here is what I saw:

Under the rules of the contest you give “all rights” to Premier and Sony ATV in perpetuity for both commercial and promotional purposes under a “work made for hire” contract and waive all royalties and payments. (A work make for hire agreement means that Premier and Sony ATV become the owner/authors of the song as your employer. You did the work for them as an employee under their control and therefore have no rights or interest in the work.)

What that means is that by simply sending your song into the contest you are giving it to Premier and Sony free of charge forever and Sony gets to be the legal author of the song. You will never be paid one red cent of money for any use, including statutory mechanical royalties and your ASCAP or BMI “small rights” as song writer. In short you give Sony ATV both 100% pies or 200% of your songs. What you get in return is the right to enter the contest. You have to sign this form, provide your social security number and if you are under 18 a parent must also sign the form.

If you don’t or can’t believe this, read the contest application for yourself.

Now, if you become a finalist Sony ATV is obligated to provide you with a demo recording valued at up to $10,000. But that only happens if you become a finalist and sign the separate contracts with Sony ATV which then makes you an exclusive artist and they will own every song you have ever written and during the term of the contract any new song you write at unspecified terms.

If you win the contest Sony ATV is obligated to record a single valued at $25,000. You also get a signing bonus of $50,000 for hair and wardrobe. Now, that seems to be a legal restriction that limits what the money can be used for. You also get to appear at KIIS-FM shows in Los Angeles and New York City, however you must pay your own way to these shows (buy tickets on a plane, train or bus out of your own pocket – remember that $50,000 front money you get is restricted to use for hair and wardrobe, not travel or lodging) and pay your own hotel accommodations. William Morris Agency has the option to pick you up for representation (which they may or may not act upon and it's unclear how William Morris will make any money off winner, except for live show, as your contract gives you no royalties or payments from which their 20% fee will taken). Sony ATV has the option to record more masters at the same $25,000 budget for each master.

The song(s) you submit, however, are already owned free and clear by Sony ATV and can be used commercially without any further payments or royalties to you now or ever.

If you submit your song and they don’t even select it to be played on local radio, Sony ATV still owns all rights and you can’t ever use the song again without their permission and you may even have to pay them money to use the songs under certain circumstances. Therefore you are giving your songs away without even getting exposure on the radio. All entries become their property now and forever.

If the song gets played on the radio and ASCAP or BMI logs it, only Sony ATV gets the royalty money. You get nothing, based upon the language of the entry form. If you are selected to go into the national finals you must sign the contract with Sony ATV to go into that round, but even if you don’t sign Sony ATV still owns the entry submission you made.

ASCAP, BMI and the U.S. Copyright Tribunal have worked for almost a century to make sure royalties, small as they may be, are set aside for both the songwriters and the publishers of songs. Publishers, such as Sony ATV, are certainly entitled to their share of the pie, but from what I read in this deal they also want your share of the pie (or at least want to keep you from getting it by having you to "waive" all royalties and payments).

Approach this or any contest you see slowly and carefully. Read all documents and decide if you want to give away your work in exchange for a shot at the gold ring – not the gold ring itself, just a shot at it! That’s all this particular agreement seems to give anyone as far as I can tell from reading it!

Editor's Note: KIIS has modified the contest rules since publication of this piece, due to external pressures. Only the "disk copy" is owned, no underlying rights, unless you are asked to sign the Sony contract. You can't use the original song you submit commercially until after the contest ends. No rights or copyrights are exchanged by entering the contest. Only royalties that come from contest promotions are now waived. This contest is now a "safer" contest to enter as a result of these changes brought about by complaints over the originally "published rules" to BMI, the N.Y. Atttorney General, the FCC and the U.S. Attorney General.

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