The dream is starting to come true! The band is sounding great, getting some cool gigs and starting to get some name recognition. We all get along and share the same vision – make good music and have fun doing it. Why in the world do we need to worry about some “agreement”?
Believe it or not, the Band Agreement can be one of the most important pieces of paper you sign as a musician.
There was a commercial years ago for oil filters. The catch line was “pay them now (for a new oil filter) or pay them later” (for a new engine). A band agreement is much like the oil filter. A good entertainment attorney can draft one at a very reasonable price. On the other hand, a few years down the road, the band without an agreement will likely have an issue pop up. Now you (and possibly each band member), will have to pay the entertainment attorney a ton of money to resolve that issue. There’s your new engine.
WHAT IS A BAND AGREEMENT?
To keep it simple, it’s a contract between band members. Let’s face it, your band is a business. That doesn’t mean you are going to have stockholders, board meetings, etc. However, the band does need to have some structure to it and a basic understanding between members.
WHAT WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE BAND AGREEMENT?
The agreement can be as detailed as desired. A few basic matters that should be addressed are:
- Who owns the band’s name
- Who can hire/fire members
- Who can sign contracts and checks on behalf of the band
- Who owns the compositions
- Who owns the master recordings
- Who owns the band’s equipment
- What if a band member leaves
- How are decisions made
- How is revenue divided from merch sales, recording sales, touring, publishing, digital distribution, etc?
- How are expenses shared/divided
- Any other matter that is important to members
WHY HAVE THE AGREEMENT?
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to look at the list above and see how any of those matters could result in a big blow-up that will likely lead to COSTLY and lengthy litigation. Not to mention the very real likelihood that the band will cease to exist.
WE DON’T HAVE AN AGREEMENT, SO WHAT?
If your band decides not to invest the small amount required to draft an agreement maybe you dodge the bullet and never have any type of dispute or disagreement. BUT what if all those creative minds disagree on some issue, what then? Too late to simply put in a new oil filter, now you’re buying a new engine. A famous example is Guns & Roses. Axl Rose was able to secure the band name despite more of the band members being in a group known as Velvet Revolver. Needless to say, hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars were spent in order for a judge to decide something that could have been resolved with a simple band agreement.
WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?
Contact an Entertainment Lawyer today, ask some questions, get some info. Consider not only the relatively inexpensive option of a band agreement versus the potentially extremely costly litigation which can result from not having an agreement in place.
Remember: If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist!