music-businessEven if you’re a solo performer, music is never a solitary activity. You will always need other people involved, whether they be collaborating musicians, sound/lighting people, or managers (to give a few examples).
Whenever you get more than one person involved, there will be differing expectations and differing understandings. For musical collaborators these differences can often lead to the creation of something totally new that none of the collaborators could create on his or her own. For business collaborators, differences can often lead to disagreements and arguments. While a business disagreement about strategy may lead to healthy discussions, a business disagreement about how much you should have been paid for that gig you played last month—in other words, a disagreement that arises after you have paid all your expenses—would not be welcomed.
To stop these sorts of disagreements—which can and do escalate into court battles—it is important that you:
Develop a common understanding before you agree to do business.
Ensure that this common agreement is understood by all parties and that all parties intend to be bound by the agreement.
Record the agreement to help confirm the understanding and to ensure that everyone knows the full extent of what has been agreed upon, and so that other parties can follow the agreement.
Change the agreement if circumstances change, the agreement is not working as intended, or there are unintended consequences.
And how do you do this? By writing it down. Contracts may seem tedious—and to a large extent, they do lack excitement—however, I would rather spend a few hours reading a piece of paper to ensure my rights are protected and that my collaborators and I are on the same page, than lose money or spend several years in litigation (or both).
The choice is yours.
In this chapter, I look at the issues you need to consider, and I have also included sample wording to illustrate how you could document some of these issues. You are quite welcome to take these words and use them as the basis of any contract. Some you can use as drafted, and some will need to be adapted. However, please do be aware that these words are offered to illustrate the points I am raising in this ebook—they should in no way be considered as legal advice, and you should always consider consulting a suitable qualified and experienced lawyer before entering into any business contract. In short, if it ever goes wrong, don’t blame me and don’t blame the publisher.
Band Partnership Agreement: Considerations
In many ways, the most basic, and yet the most fundamental, document is the band agreement. In spite of this, many bands continue without one. So if you can continue without one, why bother with the hassle, effort, and arguments to draw one up, not to mention the expense? There are lots of reasons, so let me outline a few.
When Do You Need a Band Agreement?
In essence, by forming a band you are establishing a partnership. (See Chapter 1 for an explanation about the different business structures that are available.) Establishing a partnership is usually a good thing, and something that you are likely to want to do.

However, in most jurisdictions, there are overriding provisions that apply to partnerships, which you may not want to apply to you. For instance, if someone leaves the band, then you are likely to be required to dissolve the partnership and establish a new one, even though it would be easier to maintain a partnership but with a different member. In short, by drawing up an agreement, you get the chance to run the band (and the partnership) in the way you want it run, not in the way someone else wants it run.
Perhaps the most pressing reason for a formal agreement is clarity. Without an agreement, how do you distinguish between being a bunch of individuals who occasionally make music together and being a band? If there’s no agreement, how do you distinguish who has been hired to play a gig? How do you say, “I’m part of the band,” if there is nothing to record who or what constitutes the band? If there is no “band,” then the booker would be responsible for hiring all of the members individually—a mad situation that no booker would seriously contemplate.
Without an agreement—whether verbal or written—you’re just a bunch of individuals. Beyond recording who is in and who is out of the band, an agreement gives authority for the individuals to behave as a band—in other words, to behave as a single entity. For instance, when you operate as a single entity, you can authorize one person—on behalf of everyone—to:
Book gigs
Book studio time
Organize CD pressing and uploading your latest album to iTunes and the other online retailers
Of course, you don’t need an agreement for someone to physically upload tracks—pirates do it every day—but you do need some sort of structure to acknowledge how your intellectual property rights (in other words, your music) will be exploited (turned into cash).