- What is a Band Agreement and Why You Needed One Yesterday
What is a Band Agreement and Why You Needed One Yesterday
Whether you and your friends have just started a band or you have been playing together for over 10 years, your band is a business. Sure, your focus is on creating music and hopefully making money from that music, but it is also important to recognize that that can have legal implications.
A band agreement is quite possibly the single most important document a band can have, so that everything in the group continues to run smoothly as your career progresses. From the get-go, you should be treating your band like a business, which includes executing an operating agreement between the members (and forming a legal business entity). Contracts are better made when everyone is happy and getting along, so even if you have been together for a while, it is important to establish an agreement between the members before a dispute arises in the first place.
What is a band agreement?
A band agreement is simply a formal contract between you and your bandmates – much like a partnership agreement. These agreements outline how the band’s business will be run and provide a mechanism that answers how issues will be handled when they arise. They also help clarify the roles, responsibilities, and level of ownership of each individual member, and help address financial concerns such as royalty payments.
What should a band agreement cover?
A band agreement acts as a guide to clarify any lingering questions that you have now, as well as any issues that could arise in the future.
The fundamental issues that should be addressed include: (1) who owns the name of the band; (2) who gets songwriting credits; (3) how profits from a gig are split; (4) how merchandise profits are split; (5) how future decisions will be made (by majority vote, unanimous decision, thumb war, a battle to the death, etc.); and (6) what happens when a band member quits.
Other issues that can be covered in a band agreement include, but certainly are not limited to, who owns the master recordings, who owns the equipment (the band or the individual members), what happens when a new member joins the band, who manages the band’s social media, and what happens if a member misses a gig.
A band agreement is the place to address these issues, otherwise the law will decide them and it may not be the solution you were hoping for.
What happens if I don’t have a band agreement?
If things turn sour between you and your bandmates, it is possible that any one member may be able to cause chaos if a band agreement is not in place. For example, a member who leaves the band may prevent songs that they helped create from being performed, the sale of CDs, or from completely using the band name all together, and may even be able to start their own band and use your existing band name. When Roger Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, he sued the remaining three members for continuing to use the name without him. The Beach Boys spent years in court over the rights of certain band members to use the band’s name. While these are only a small sample of the high-profile disputes, both could have been avoided had business details been established from the start.
So, is it worth it?
YES! Boring legal documents are probably low on your priority list, but a few hundred dollars to get a band agreement properly drafted by an attorney now could save you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress down the road. When issues do arise, they are able to be resolved without any individual member looking like the bad guy.
Ultimately, band agreements allow the band to function better, so that you can spend more time creating. Your band is a business and band members need to give it the time and consideration it requires. Sitting down and having “the talk” with your bandmates will be awkward at first but is crucial to the band’s longevity.
Amanda Alasauskas is an attorney at Swanson, Martin and Bell, LLP, where she focuses her practice on entertainment, media, and intellectual property issues, and commercial litigation. Amanda is one of LCA’s volunteer attorneys and serves as President of the Associate Board.