A Band Agreement is likely the most important agreement you can sign in a band. I say this based on my years as both an entertainment lawyer and a band member. It costs relatively little, and could save you thousands upon thousands of dollars (and a great deal of headache) years down the road. Yet most bands do not think about one until it is too late.
What is a Band Agreement?
A Band Agreement is a contract between band members, much like a partnership agreement is to a partnership. It simply outlines how the band business will be run. If you don’t run your band at least somewhat like a business, please stop reading and choose an easier career. You won’t make it in this one.
Some of the main issues covered in the Band Agreement include:
– who owns the compositions
– who owns the master recordings
– who owns the band name
– what happens if a member leaves
– how decisions are made (i.e. majority vote, unanimous decision, etc.)
– how revenue is divided from touring, record sales, merch sales, publishing revenue, etc.
– who owns the music equipment (band or individual members)
– who can sign contracts and cheques on behalf of the band
– who can hire/fire members
– and much more
Why Have a Band Agreement Drafted?
The Band Agreement is perhaps the single most important document a group of musicians can have to ensure that things in the group run smoothly as their career progresses. Whether you are a new band or a well-established one, you need this agreement. Most of the legal issues that come across my desk could have been avoided with a proper agreement in place.
Yet most bands do not think about signing one until it’s too late…and it comes back to haunt them.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Band Agreement?
I get many emergency calls from musician clients of mine across the country. Often when a member quits, threatens to sue, or simply refuses to let the other members carry on as a band.
Without a Band Agreement in place, any one member of your band might be able to stop you from using the band name if he/she chooses. In fact, they might be able to start their own band and use your existing band name. They can also stop you from exploiting the songs that you’ve worked to hard to write and record. They might be able to withdraw band money from the band bank account.
It can create a stressful situation to say the least.
Is it Worth It?
While buying a new guitar, new touring van, or new merch often takes priority over something as mundane as a legal agreement, I can’t emphasize enough how important this will be for you and your band going forward. It’s either a few hundred dollars now or thousands of dollars later, when sh*t hits the fan. And sh*t often hits the fan.
Some examples of high profile legal disputes between band members include Pink Floyd (both David Gilmour and Roger Waters laid claim to the use of the band name, and for a time there were actually two versions of Pink Floyd tour simultaneously), and Guns n Roses (Axl successfully established his right to the band name, even though more of the original members were together in another band – Velvet Revolver of course). Members from both bands spent hundreds of millions of dollars for a judge to determine what could have been determined from the outset in a good agreement.
Make it happen!
I have drafted hundreds of Band Agreements over the years, for all levels of artists, big and small. Email me if you have any questions about the process, and whether it is right for you.