Monday, October 24, 2011

Do we need a band agreement?

Do we need a band agreement?

      Do you write songs in the band your involved in?
      Do you plan on making a living playing in a band?
      Are you planning on seeking royalty payments for your music?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, and you decide you are going to pursue making a living with this group of people you need to look at obtaining a trademark with the group name,  and having a band agreement. To determine in writing how you are going to conduct business with each other, and how you are going to run your business.
Having a agreement in place early in your careers to clarify in writing how earning will be split, what roles and responsibilities for band members are,  and how decisions are made within the group will help avoid and resolve confusion and disputes as your band business grows.

Devote as much time understanding your business as your music they are equally important. Jay Z, Lady GaGa, Madonna, Tom Petty, ALL made the time to learn about the many business details, which has contributed to the success of their huge careers.

When your working with a group of individuals it is in each members best interest to define their responsibilities. 
Clarify compensation, and creative control, scheduled band meetings, to help prevent  huge misunderstandings, and  lawsuits.

I have outlined a few key points to help you draft your initial band agreement,

Getting Started:       

Do you get along and share similar values and goals?
Joining a band is just like dating, in the beginning, everyone is on their best behavior, after the “honeymoon period” is over,  unless there are clear parameters, and ongoing communication, disagreements, and disputes can derail any creative process and progress.

If you are currently booking a few local gigs, playing for the tip jar, you may opt to draft your own version of an agreement that all the key members sign and have a copy of.

If you are booking gigs that provide guarentee’s and contracts,  it’s time to have a entertainment lawyer draft a proper agreement helping you formalize your business identity,  and protecting your band trademark and  assets. 
Keep in mind that if you have having a attorney draft a copy of your band agreement, that one legal person is acting as "secretary" to legally draft a document. They cannot jointly represent multiple clients without creating a conflict of interest, therefore will need to agree to signing a conflict waiver . 

In California you can start by contacting California Lawyers for the arts-  who provides education,  representation, and dispute resolution services for artists.

The terms of your agreement should answer in writing :

Beatles Agreement
Clarify business relationships  and     responsibilities-
Are you a band member?  Are you self employed or contract? Solo artist or employer? What are key responsibilities?

Compensation: Songwriters vs non songwriters- Address division of advances, music publishing, recording royalties, merchandising, and performances.  

 Decision making: How will you make decisions, Leader rules, or Equal votes for all?

 Band Investments: Purchases/Investments, and debts- Is a band vote required for all purchases? Or only purchases of $250 and over?  How are purchase expenses re-cooped

Hiring/Firing: How are members hired or fired?

Band Name /Trademark: Who owns and controls rights to the band name and use- while in the band and after a breakup?

Band members obligations- highlight some key responsibilities, beyond playing a instrument, are members required to devote time to booking? promoting? taking turns driving the bus? Attending scheduled rehearsals?  If a member simply wants to just show up and play- does that make them a minority member? or a gun for hire?

Dispute resolution: will disputes  be resolved in- or outside of court

Identify Key Members / Minority Partners    Identifying Key members, minority partners- do minority partners earn as much

  Travel and accommodations- when money starts coming in, does the lead singer always gets to travel 1st class, but the drummer has to drive the bus? Meal stipends?

Departed members rights to profits- can you sell a cd that has a former member in it?

  Term of agreement (1 yr 2 yr)

Each band member needs to sign and date the band agreement which they are given a copy of  as members of the band.

Need help creating a music marketing plan or simply have questions on managing your music business strategy?

Tamra Engle is a independent music business strategist based in the S.F. bay area she is available for private consultations to help you develop your independent music business, You can read more about her at  you can email her at

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