What’s the difference between the composer and the arranger, and who gets the royalty?

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The composer creates the basic melody, lyrics, chord progression, rhythm, anything that identifies the song. The arranger creates the unique touches that make that version of the song unique. Often, but not always, the composer & arranger are the same person. In marimba music, the arranger is the one who creates the individual marimba parts (baritone, 1st soprano, etc.), and perhaps creates intros, breaks, etc. In practice, almost every marimba band arranges its own material somewhat, but rearranging someone else’s arrangement does not free you from the obligation to pay royalties, because you have still based your arrangement on another person’s musical ideas. In the U.S., in general, the composer gets the royalties and the arranger gets nothing. However, if the song is traditional and the composer is unknown, or if the song is public domain, the arranger gets the full royalty. You don’t have to pay royalties when a traditional song is played in a traditional arrangement. This would ... more
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