Friday, December 19, 2008

So You Want to Start a Band - Music Contract

When I was much, much younger I had friends in bands. I think they might have wanted Music Contract - Band Members Agreement from

"So what is this music contract known as the “Band Members Agreement?”"

Well it can outline in advance what roles the band members play in its future. These are some examples but they can vary a great deal. Can a band member work with another artist? What happens if one band member dies? How should the profits from, for example, royalties be split? Who pays any band debts? Who looks after the bands finances? Who owns any assets, equipment, transport etc? Who has ownership of the copyrights of the songs? Who takes care of any master recordings? Who decides when to employ or fire a manager? Who owns and has the legal right to use the bands name? Often all members of the band own the name. Are the decisions of the band made by committee, by a votes system? Alternatively, is this responsibility left to one or two band members?

Please note that in the absence of any written agreement the law of the land in your country may ultimately decide things on your behalf, as is the case in state partnership law in America. Based on this, as with any legal matter, it would be better if a music attorney were employed to draw up the contract. In an ideal world every member of the band would have a music attorney to represent their interest and help to make the music contract more equitable and fair between band members. “Well that sounds like a whole load of money?” I hear you say. You can hold off the cost by agreeing on paper the basic things that should be included in the Band Members Agreement until a later date when things get on to a more serious financial footing. The band can then look at employing professional advice. Remember that, music contracts are drawn up to limit the likelihood of a serious financial or artistic dispute. If such events do occur, then a music contract as with any contract is there also to resolve any issues that might arise. Without them, everything is based on nothing more than a handshake or hearsay. Although music contracts are a psychologically uncomfortable issue to deal with for bands they are a necessary evil in the long run. Bear in mind that proposing a Band Members Agreement could be an excellent way of testing the amicability of the band members, if they argue before they have an agreement imagine what it would be like without one later on when things are really serious. This article is not intended to be legal advice. As always take professional advice before you ever sign a music contract.

On the other hand, none of my friends really thought of the music as a business. The thing is that music is a business if you want to make a living at it. The Rolling Stones understood this but then Jagger attended the London School of Economics. For those who still do not understand the concept, take a listen to this from The Byrds.

For American bands, I can only recommend the form contract linked to in the quote as starting point. Get yourself to a lawyer for a finished product.