If your band wants to make a profit, you must think about more than making music. Discussing how you will conduct business (while everyone is still getting along) will help clarify responsibilities, simplify decision-making, and prevent conflicts. Ideally, the decisions you make will be put in writing, which will reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
If you’re investing a lot of time, money or equipment in your band, you may want to consider writing an agreement among the group members — a Band Partnership Agreement (BPA). A BPA typically addresses the following key issues:
• Who owns the band name and logo?
• What happens to the band name if the band breaks up or a band member quits or is fired?
• If the band breaks up, who can still perform using the name?
• How will band profits/debts be distributed?
• How are performance fees and royalties distributed among members?
• What will happen when one band member contributes more/less time/money than expected?
• Who keeps track of the money and how?
• How will band business decisions be made?
• Are decisions made by majority or unanimous vote? Do any band members possess veto power?
• How will the band resolve disputes?
Acquisition of Equipment
• How will the band purchase equipment?
• How will it be stored and transported?
• Do we need insurance?
• Who owns the songs we write?
• Who decides which songs to perform/record?
• How is it determined who gets songwriting credit?
• Who owns the master recordings we make?
• Who decides what gigs to play?
• What happens when a new member joins or an existing member leaves the band?
Type of Business Entity
• Which legal structure is right for your band?
• What are the tax and personal liability and start-up expenses associated with operating as a sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation or nonprofit organization?
A simple BPA can be written by a band member and signed and dated by all band members. Alternatively, your band can use one of many “fill-in-the-blank” partnership agreements available for a fee on the web or in books, such as the agreement in Music Law: How to Run Your Band’s Business by Richard Stim. Like any “off the rack” contract, the agreement should be tailored to your specific needs. If you live in Southwestern Illinois or Missouri and would like an attorney to help you draft a BPA, please apply for assistance.