(This guest post is written by Jo-Ná A. Williams, Esq., a former vocalist and attorney with her own firm in New York, J.A. Williams Law – The Artist Empowerment Firm. Her Firm empowers musicians by helping them create successful careers by merging their art and their business.)
You ever wonder why some bands continue to release music year after year and still have harmony 10 or 20 years later? Why do some bands seem to have great chemistry on stage and off-stage, in interviews, and no one seems jaded or bitter? Can bands really have that kind of harmony? Want to know their secret?
The most successful bands have ironed out the details of their band’s operations in a band agreement. I know what you’re thinking, “Paperwork, contracts, business, ugh! I don’t want to deal with any of that, I just want to make music!” I totally get that, but listen—if you’re serious about becoming a legend you need to nail down all the sticky details that could lead to your band’s future status as the next “Rolling Stones” or the next “Broke Unknowns.”
Yes, every band is different but the crucial trap most bands fall into is not building a proper business foundation from the beginning. “How will the profit be split?” “Who owns the songs?” “Who makes the final business decisions?” “What happens if a band member wants out?” Some of the most amazing bands in history never got past their first or second album because they broke up over details like this. But you’re more savvy; you won’t fall into this trap.
How to draft a band agreement
So, how do you do this? What are the main topics your agreement should cover? Here are a few crucial steps to create your own band agreement and move to the next level with direction and a solid foundation:
Step 1: Set a date – Decide upon a date for the band to get together without distractions. It will take a few hours.
Step 2: Write a list– Make a list of topics you want covered in the agreement. This list includes the following:
- Profit – How is the profit split from shows, merchandise, touring, album sales, etc.
- Who owns the Copyright in the music – This can be a sticky topic if different members created different components of the songs.
- Who owns the name of the band, should you break up?
- How are band changes made – Hiring, firing, dissolving the band
- Who’s the deciding vote if the band can’t reach a consensus.
Step 3: Hire a music lawyer – If you want your agreement to be solid and legally binding you need a legal representative. However, this can get costly, especially if your attorney gets paid hourly. A more affordable way to get the legal eyes you need is to take a stab at creating the agreement, THEN have an attorney review and revise it. CAUTION: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! It could mean the difference between paying a few hundred or THOUSANDS in fees and court costs if you end up in a dispute. Be proactive, not reactive.
Step 4: Come to a reasonable decision you can live with – Make an agreement that addresses all your concerns and reaches a compromise. Remember why you decided to form a band; you believe in each other. Hold onto that belief and try to be respectful and understanding to everyone’s opinions and/or concerns.
Step 5: Go – Go play, grind and make it happen!
I know it can be uncomfortable to face your business responsibilities “head on,” but if you want the type of career filled with longevity, money, and screaming fans from here to the other side of the world, don’t fight it. Embrace your business side and access your dreams. We’re waiting on you!
Jo-Ná A. Williams, Esq. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter. For a FREE copy of her guide “Blueprint: The Insider’s Guide to Empowering Your Career as an Artist and Ditching your 9-5 for Good” Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/iOqe1.
(Legal stuff: this article is for information purposes only. It does NOT replace the advice administered by a licensed attorney in YOUR state based on your specific situation. I know you wouldn’t assume I was your lawyer cause your mama “didn’t raise no fool.” But mine didn’t either, hence the disclaimer!)
[Handshake image from Shutterstock.]