Legal Tips for creating a Band Agreement

1 July 2015
Posted by Jennifer

What is a Band Agreement?

There is no better time like the beginning of a band’s life for its members to sort out and enter into a band agreement.

A band agreement is a written partnership agreement between various members of a band which deals with highly important matters including the following:

1. Will members perform for the band exclusively?

2. Can members be involved in side projects outside of the band (i.e. as a session musician on a recording or in a live performance, remixer or producer)?

(it is always a good idea to let band members be involved in side projects, to allow band members to earn a bit of extra cash and to work on other creative endeavours that do not interfere or conflict with the band…happy individual band members = happy band…a side project clause can help members understand what they can and cannot do in regards to side projects)

3. What obligations does each band member have to the band (including attending rehearsals, professionalism, media opportunities, social media updates and devoting necessary time and attention to the band)?

4. Who owns the copyright in various content created by the band, including recordings, musical works, merchandise, logos, designs and websites?

(usually the members own content equally however band members often own the publishing rights in the songs in different percentages, depending on how much they contribute to song-writing)

5. Is there a primary song-writer (or song-writers) who does most of the song-writing for the band? Will the primary song-writer(s) own the copyright in the songs written for the band?

6. How will income be split between band members? will publishing income only go to song-writers or will all band members be entitled to a percentage of publishing income whilst in the band?

(if there are primary song-writers and they own the compositions and have registered their shares with APRA, it is always good, for the goodwill of the whole band to give non-songwriting band members a smaller share of actual publishing income whilst they are in the band, including money earned from exploitation of the songs written for the band, from APRA, through publishing companies or from other licensing opportunities).

7. How are decisions to be made? by majority vote? will founding band members have a right of final approval over certain band decisions?

8. Who will look after the band’s business and banking affairs? who will have access to the band’s bank account?

(usually you want the most sensible band member or the band’s manager looking after the band’s financial affairs…to make it fair, all band members should have the right to see the band’s books to make sure they are happy with how things are progressing and being managed)

9. What happens if a band member leaves the band or if a new member joins the band? what rights will such members have in connection with band content and income? if a band member leaves the band, will he have to had over his ownership in any recordings to the band (this is recommended so the band has complete control over all recordings)

10. How will disputes be resolved? is there an industry professional that you respect that you could go to to discuss problems and look for guidance?

(sometimes band members will have completely different opinions on band .matters…to avoid a stalemate which prevents the band from moving forward in a particular area, it is always a good idea to speak to someone with ‘wisdom’ who may be able to help mediate a solution…having a mediation clause in a band agreement, requires the band to really try to positively and proactively resolve disputes)

11. What happens if a band members goes ‘off the rails’ – is there a way to kick that band member out of the band (for example for continued missed band practices, for alcohol or drug problems, for a serious breach of the agreement)?

We cannot stress the important of sorting the above issues out at the start of a band’s existence. If things start to go wrong or there are issues regarding money, decision making and ownership of copyright, the band simply refers to the terms of the partnership agreement for the answer. This will help resolve conflict and confusion down the track.

How to get your own band agreement?

Ideally you put some money aside and have a music industry lawyer draft you a tailor made agreement (if you have 4 members it will only cost less than a couple of hundred dollars each).

Before you meet with a lawyer, you will need to consider how you want the band to operate and discuss the issues outlined above in this blog. To save money on legal fees, you need to come to the lawyer with unified instructions.

So call a band meeting, print off this blog and go through each of the points above and work out your band’s ‘unified position’ with respect to each point. Of course, things may get a little heated when talking things through, however once the agreement is signed, you can file it away and hopefully you will never need to refer to it again.

Written by Jennifer Tutty, Principal Lawyer of Studio Legal.

DISCLAIMER

The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter

For additional information or advice or assistance preparing band agreements, please contact hello@studiolegal.com.au or 03 9521 2128.