Band Agreements – Four Things you Definitely Want Covered

Poor Robin

With all this talk about contracts between artists and managers and agents and promoters and publishers and record labels and all kinds of other money grabbing people and things, it becomes easy to overlook one of the most important and fundamental  agreements a band can have: the band agreement. The band agreement is exactly what it sounds like – an agreement between the band members that outlines the business aspects of their art. I know that for all the cool kids out there that are in bands with their BFF’s because their ‘vibe is just so pure and wonderful and it’s all about the music, not the money’ – this doesn’t apply, you guys just high five and call it a day. But, for anybody else here are some things you might want to consider about the band agreement.

First of all this is something that should get done in the very early stages of the band. It brings up very important questions that you normally wouldn’t necessarily think of. These are best discussed when there isn’t too much money coming in (or any at all) and everybody in the band still loves each other. This just ensures everything gets done in an easy and friendly way. Sometimes it is difficult to bring up depressing things like breakups and it might be a good idea to hire a lawyer to overlook the whole process and bring up the negative stuff for you. You may never need the agreement but it will definitely be better to have it rather than not.

So we have established that they should be done in the early stages and that they might never even be used but what exactly should the band agreement entail, what questions should get asked? Here is a summary of Martin Frascogna’s four things that should always be covered at a minimum level and I think these are pretty good starting points.

1. Decide How the Band and Will Decide

For any decisions the band makes from buying new equipment or software to who to hire as a manager, there should be a defined way that they are made. A simple vote makes sense but what if the band has an even number of members and the vote comes in 50/50? Furthermore try and think about which decisions will require a unanimous vote and decide who has the power to break a tie based on things like financial investments and individual workload.

2. Income Structure

When the band makes money where does that money go? With certain income streams and depending on other contracts you might not have a choice but for when you do have a choice this comes in handy. Do all members get a cut? Is some of the income put aside for investments in the band? Establish who the songwriters are, in other words if you register a song for copyright (or a creative commons license woop woop!) Whose name is it registered under; the band as a whole or a certain individual?

3. Trademark

Who owns the band name? If you assume everyone shares equal parts that means 3 people could leave a band that originally had 5 members and start using the name. In a weird way them quitting would be like the other two getting fired. Figure out what you want because once a band gets started they will be spending a lot of effort and resources in branding themselves and getting the name out there/developing a fan base. There is a lot at stake with band names and trademarks so it is important to discuss the best way to go about it. If this isn’t determined often times a court will decide that no one can continue using the name and then both sides get screwed out of it. Furthermore, if your band has registered the name and somewhere down the road you come into contact with someone else who has the exact same name but isn’t registered, you can probably guess who wins and get’s to keep it.

4. Jurisdiction

The band needs to know under what laws their disputes (if any) will be governed. If you ever need to go to court will it need to be in California? or Massachusetts? or Valencia? This are more important than one thinks. If you live in Boston and you have a deal with some company in Los Angelas, that says your jurisdiction is in California you would need to  pay California Courts, travel expenses to and from LA, and you might even need to deal with different laws you were unaware of. In any case, make sure you pick a home base!

Remember that a band agreement is as important as any other contract and the earlier it gets done the less painful and expensive it will be for everyone if you ever need it. As a manager this should be one of the first things you organize for a band if they don’t already have it.

Phillip Richard

Sources and Further Reading:

http://blog.midem.com/2012/06/martin-frascogna-4-minimum-requirements-for-artist-agreements/#.UIgyFLTevWY

http://www.themusiciansguide.co.uk/blog/13/why-you-need-a-band-agreement-contract-guest-post-by-daniel-ward/

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/020311samename

XBOX I MUSIC

This post won’t be too long, I just wanted to share this because it’s in it’s early stages of marketing at the moment and I think that within the next few months it will explode. Even if this becomes just the “Zune” of the streaming world, it will still be interesting to see how it plays out. But, it looks like Microsoft is about to take the music scene by storm.

It is always interesting when a massive company comes out with a whole new product, especially since a company like Mircrosoft has all the resources they could ever need to create something incredible. Anyways, Xbox Music is a music streaming service that will soon make 30 million songs available globally across several platforms. And from what I have seen, it looks pretty damn sexy and I might even personally make the switch from Spotify.

The new platform will share the same model as Spotify in terms of distribution. There will be an ad free version for a whopping 9 bucks a month – a dollar cheaper than Spotify – and then there will be the free version with advertisements.

The subscription will eventually work on iOS and Android devices as well. Here is what Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft had to say about the new service.

“The launch of Xbox Music is a milestone in simplifying digital music on every type of device and on a global scale. We’re breaking down the walls that fracture your music experiences today to ensure that music is better and integrated across the screens that you care about most — your tablet, PC, phone and TV.”

The important element of Xbox Music is that it is offering everything one could want in a streaming service at a cheaper price and on a sexier layout.

Click the thumbnail to take a look at this comparison chart provided by the Daily Mail.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217903/Microsoft-Apple-Spotify-streaming-music-service.html#ixzz29jIaSNBL

Xbox music has a pretty good chance of being successful, I will definitely give it a try.

More importantly and on the larger scale I think this step from Microsoft is a very important indicator that the future of recorded music will be through subscription services, and streaming.

What do you people think of Xbox music? Will you try it out? I leave you with a video of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs9R9-vbeN4

Phillip Richard

Additional Sources:

http://www.xbox.com/music

http://hangout.altsounds.com/gear/153532-introducing-xbox-music.html

Windows and Other Transparent Ideas

What could these two albums possibly have in common?

Ever heard of “Windowing”? Yeah it’s this cool new thing some signed artists are doing that lets them feel like they have some control over the business aspect of their music.

Basically these artists figure that delaying the release of their music on streaming services like Spotify and what’s that other one again? Oh yeah; Rhapsody, will lead to increased downloads on online stores like iTunes. There is not any evidence that this is true really, and if anything an artist that isn’t already a filthy rich millionaire probably just wants their music as available as possible, but anyways in my humble opinion I think the whole idea is another crap way to play around with the industry cause we’re bored with it.

All I mean is that the general population will not substitute a streaming service for an iTunes download. They will substitute it for a listen on YouTube, or Grooveshark, or a download from a BitTorrent site. It has been like 13 years since Napster and people still have not seemed to figure this out.

Another good point brought up by Ken Parks CCO of Spotify out of New York is that the people that are paying for Spotify are kind of getting ripped off with a late release and the last thing you want to do is rip off your fans. I’m not a fan of the bastard after hearing him speak at Rethink in Boston, MA. last August but he does make a good point here.

On the other hand the Track Record for artists doing this is pretty impressive so who knows, it might be valid. I’d like to think the general public isn’t so easily pushed into a market but who knows. People like Paul McCartney, Adele, Coldplay, Deadmau5, and The Black Keys are all taking part in this idea. And Adele and Coldplay had 2 of the top 5 selling albums this year.

I say get the music to your fans in every way you can. If it brings in any income then it’s only a bonus. The real money is in live music and merch anyways.

Phillip Richard

————–

I want to know what you people think of Windowing. Do you think that delaying the release of music on streaming services can help significantly increase the total number of downloads? Take into consideration the different levels of fame an artist has because that definitely plays a factor. But yeah comment and share your thoughts.

Sources and Additional Links:

<http://www.fastcompany.com/1818163/rhapsody-spotify-netflix-and-28-day-waiting-game>

<http://www.prefixmag.com/news/spotify-lashes-out-at-artists-windowing-their-musi/62552/>

<http://www.fastcompany.com/1821063/spotify-exec-ken-parks-windowing-mind-boggling-very-bad-hostile>

<http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120925deadmau5>

The Birth of a Criminal

It is a great week for lawyers in Japan. The Worlds second largest market for music is hungry for more and has figured it is a good idea to expand on their initial plan that made piracy illegal in 2010. Instead of this issue remaining a civil matter, it now turns everyone that downloads or uploads illegal copyrighted content (which is apparently a shit load of people) into criminals that could potentially face up to 10 years in prison with a 10 Million Yen fine. Pretty classy stuff. A study in 2010 revealed that the laudable music loving people of Japan illegally pirated about 4.36 BILLION music and video files, while ONLY legally purchasing around 440 million. It seems like they are trying to shut down a pretty damn good potential market here. But will it work?

This is history repeating itself. (Prohibition of Alcohol, Marijuana etc…) People demand their freedom, but it is shut down by a few corporate interests (who in this case happen to be record companies falling apart like a cheap suit grasping at anything they can to save themselves). However will these legal threats actually do anything? Will they actually save the music industry? No. Because the music industry they are trying to save exists only in the old stubborn “in denial” minds of these record companies. Here is a neat quote from Naoki Kitagawa, Cheif Executive of Sony Music Entertainment Japan on the new laws:

“This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the internet.”

I highly doubt that. It might scare a few people but not for long. All this does is take innocent people, turn them into criminals, and then punish them. It does not stop the activity. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) one in four internet users around the globe regularly access unlicensed services. Looks like Japan might need to invest in some extra prison cells.

The music industry is slowly progressing towards a universe where record companies are not needed. They know this but refuse to acknowledge it and are waging war on the freedom of information that they can not control anymore. I think they are so pissed off they are literally trying to drag everyone down with them. Unfortunately they are letting themselves dissolve through focusing their efforts in the wrong ways. Forget about piracy, you won’t get rid of it, you wont stop it, you will only promote it.

Every time there is an article in the media about the pirate bay, or bit torrent, or some other file sharing/torrent hosting service, the traffic on the websites significantly increase. It’s like a sore tooth: stop poking at it cause it will just get worse.

At the end of the day all this will do is screw over a few Japanese citizens that have an apparent love for music (remember 4.36 billion illegal downloads) and wont benefit record companies, artists, fans, or anyone else for that matter that isn’t a lawyer. What a waste of time.

Phillip Richard

Additional links:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/01/162096387/japan-introduces-stiff-fines-jail-time-for-illegal-downloads

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19767970

http://torrentfreak.com/japanese-bittorrent-user-avoids-virus-but-not-the-police-100720/

Black and White Makes Grey

“When you hear a riff similar to your own, your first feeling is ‘rip-off.’ After you’ve got over it you think, ‘Look at that, someone’s noticed that riff’… Imitation is the highest form of flattery!”
– Paul McCartney

Chances are this is old news to a lot of people, but I just heard about it yesterday so I’m betting there must be some people out there as oblivious as me. In 2004 a man by the name of Brian Burton, or more commonly known as DJ Danger Mouse, released an album called the Grey Album. There are a few remarkable things about this album I would like to outline in this post.

Content

The Grey Album is a mashup between an a capella version of Jay-Z’s iconic Black Album and the Beatles’ timeless White Album. The Grey Album is more than just a slovenly thrown together mash up of the two albums, it is a complete breakdown and reconstruction of the music that creates something completely unique and different. Doing something like this is not easy, it takes enormous amounts of vision, skill, and talent. When listening there are parts where it is hard to believe that what Danger Mouse is creating came from only the two albums and no other outside sources or samples.

Context

Danger Mouse has done something in 2004 that I believe is still far beyond our times even today. What is essentially being proven through this album is that recreating is in fact creating something new (hence black and white makes grey). And even further by that notion, that computers can be used as a tool to create music. Another way to put it would be that computers are valid and useful musical instruments that through mash-ups can most definitely be used to “promote the progress of useful arts.” Though the a capella version of Jay Z’s Black Album was released with the intention for it to be remixed, Danger Mouse did not have permission to use the work from the White Album. Within the context of copyright law this album was illegal and due to its popularity and hype, EMI ordered its distribution to be terminated. This album is ahead of its time both technically and in context with the legal boundaries it crossed. What I mean by that is that in the very near future, it is my belief that those legal boundaries will not exist. After all, the album did “promote the progress of useful arts”.

Concomitants

The album left a legacy.  It influenced some controversy with the law through an event not directly affiliated with Danger Mouse that was known as “Grey Tuesday”. On February 24th 2004 an activist group by the name of “Downhill Battle” organized an online protest. This was a protest against EMI’s attempts at halting the distribution of the album, as well as a general act against the structure of the music industry. Several free copies were released on over 170 websites to promote the idea that artists should be free to sample. Over 100,000 copies of the Grey Album were downloaded that day alone. Even more pertinent to creativity, the Grey Album inspired musicians all over the world to create several new mashups of Jay-Z’s music with artists including Radiohead, Metallica, Weezer, Wu-Tang Clan and others alike.

Whether or not record companies agree with sampling and remix, it is a large part of the future of music and it is important for music intermediaries to understand this. Changes in the law are most likely right around the corner and this means a world of both difference and opportunity in management, publishing, promoting and especially lawyering.

Phillip Richard