File Under: Understanding Your Legal Rights, Building Your Music Business
When the guitars are being wielded as weapons, drumsticks and hard drives are flying, and everyone in the band is yelling at one another about “the band’s direction”, that’s not the time to work out a formal band agreement. And yet, that’s exactly the time when most musicians wish they had something in writing to help them deal with the “artistic differences”.
Many bands do fine without any formal legal agreement among themselves. They handle issues, negotiate business deals, and figure out the money situation on a case-by-case basis. However, the informal approach doesn’t protect you from yourselves. For example, if a band member leaves the group, does the band get to continue to go forward with the same name? Are you able to still play that person’s songs live? Can you still record them?
A good band agreement helps define who gets what when the band breaks up, who makes the ultimate decisions, and everyone’s rights and responsibilities. Taking time to do this can help set band members’ expectations and avoid needless disputes in the the future. Good band agreements usually cover things like:
- Who owns the band name(s)
- Who owns your sound recordings and compositions
- Who owns your videos
- How band business decisions are made
- How business disputes are handled
- Who’s authorized to enter into agreements on behalf of the band
- How profits, losses, and expenses are handled
- Who owns equipment or instruments paid for by the band
- Who owns your brand and the brand assets
- Who owns your trademarks
- How publishing revenue is administered and distributed
- How merchandise and merchandising rights are handled
- What happens when additional band members join
- What happens when band members leave
When it comes to drafting a band agreement, it’s best to work with an attorney. While you could write an agreement yourself or use a form, an attorney will help make sure you have all the legal issues covered.
And finally, the most important thing to understand is that the time to figure out your band agreement is when you get started -- when everyone’s on board, excited about the music, and pretty much on the same page. If you do it right, it shouldn't kill the free-flowing creativity that sparks great music or hamper the trusting relationships that make a band work, it will simply lay out expectations clearly. After all, the best agreements are ones that you never need to use.
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