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?
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.
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.
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