6 Reasons Why Your Band Needs a Band Agreement

Breakdowns and splits between band members are legendary. At the last count, Manchester band The Fall had 64 different line-ups since its formation in 1976. The detail of the Pink Floyd split is the thing of legend. Whilst a band agreement will help you deal with the fall-out from similar disputes, there are sound commercial reasons for protecting your band with a formal band agreement.

  1. Doing nothing is not an option: If you do nothing and simply run your band without any formal agreement in place then an archaic piece of law (the Partnership Act 1890 – yes – 1890!) says that the relationship between the band members is a legal partnership. The Partnership Act 1890 gives rights but also imposes obligations on the band members in the partnership. This can have severe, unintended consequences. For example in the event of a split, no band member can use the band name without the consent of the other band members (which is unlikely to be provided!). Neither can the majority of band members ‘oust’ another band member from the group.The good news is that a relatively simply band agreement can amend the terms imposed by the Partnership Act 1890 so that you have an agreement that works for you.
  2. No time like the present: Right now the band is doing great. It’s hard work, but you’re starting to get some great feedback and managers and labels are showing interest. A band agreement is the last thing you need – right? Wrong! Now is the best time to put together a band agreement – whilst you’re all still talking and getting on fine.  Getting a lawyer to draft an agreement needn’t be costly either. At Sound Counsel we offer a free one hour consultation, will fix a price with you for completing a band agreement, and will only expect payment once you start receiving income. So have a simple agreement drafted now. That way you can get on with the business of making music, safe in the knowledge that many key issues have been put to bed.
  3. Protecting your assets: Your band already owns some valuable assets – your band name, your MySpace & webpage and all the goodwill that you have been built up playing gigs – not to mention the band’s PA system and other equipment.
    A band agreement allows you to protect these assets by providing answers to questions such as
    “Who owns the band name?”
    “What happens to the band name if we split?”
    “Can we stop a departing band member posting to the band’s MySpace page?”
    “What are my options if I choose to leave the band?”
    “Who owns the PA?”
    “Can I take my guitar with me if I leave?”
  4. Knowing where the money goes: A band agreement will specify what happens to the income received by the band. The question is particularly relevant to songwriting income where disputes can be particularly bitter. What works for you will depend on your own situation. For example, does one band member tend to write all material, or does each band member contribute? There are various solutions to this issue. For example, it is reported that Blur share all income equally, though Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn as key composers, receive a 30 and 40 per cent share respectively.
    The agreement will also identify what expenses are band expenses and what expenses are personal expenses. Most importantly, the agreement will set out how the band will authorise expenditure on equipment. Typically, group expenses are deducted from the group’s income before any payment is made to the band members.
  5. Smooth management of departures and new arrivals! There are 101 different reasons why band members may wish to leave – from family reasons to relocation to a breakdown in relationships within the band. Likewise, there are as many reasons why a band may wish to dismiss one of it’s members. Consider the sad and well documented fall from grace of Guns N’ Roses’ drummer Steven Adler. But the fact is that you can’t have a drummer that can’t drum!
    A well drafted band agreement will provide for what happens if a member wants to leave. For example, whether the member be entitled to receive income on recordings made during his or her time with the band?
    It will also provide an agreed process by which a band member can be dismissed if needs be. The agreement will often provide examples of behaviour that is considered unacceptable and which will, if not corrected, ultimately result in dismissal.
    Finally, the agreement will provide an agreed process for bringing in new band or replacement members. Here, the agreement would typically provide that the band must reach a unanimous agreement so as to avoid the scenario where several band members are unhappy about the new appointment but have been forced to accept the new arrival by the majority. This would otherwise provide a harmful source of resentment and ill-feeling within the new line-up.
  6. Look professional: I always think that a band that has covered all the commercial bases demonstrates their commitment to the music business. The band looks professional and other advisers and suitors will recognise this. In any event a record label will almost certainly insist on the band having an agreement so as to protect their investmnet in the band. I’m not promising that a band agreement will result in a management or record deal – just that it’s one more box ticked on the commercial side that leaves you free to concentrate on the creative side of the band’s business!

Should you wish you discus any of the issues raised above, or talk through your need for a band agreement, then please call me, Mark Roberts, on 0161 826 9309 for a free, without obligation chat.

Mark Roberts

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