Reasons Why You Need to Have Contracts
The reasons for the need for band contracts are wide-ranging and varied, but perhaps the best way to illustrate just how important they are is to look at examples of bands with unfavorable contracts or, worse, no contracts. The following is quick snap shot of the contract problems some of the biggest bands in the world have had to deal with. And if the biggest bands in the world can’t avoid these problems, it stands to reason that other groups of varying success levels have the same or worse issues all the time.
When the Beach Boys announced late last year that all of the surviving original members of the group would reunite this year for a new album and tour to celebrate the band’s 50th Anniversary, it was something of a shock to music fans. Original members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love have been filing lawsuits against one another for much of the last three decades over songwriting credit and use of the band name, with the most recent being filed in 2007.
A large part of Prince’s decision to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol that led to him being referred to as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince throughout most of the 1990s was because of his dissatisfaction with what he saw as an artistically limiting contract from his label, Warner Bros. Records. He said once that his name had become “merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner” and did not release records under the name Prince again until his contract with Warner Bros. expired in 2000.
Most of Brian Epstein’s work as manager of the Beatles from 1962 until 1967 is seen as a success, though the contracts he negotiated during the band’s early days led to the group receiving extremely low royalty rates. In 1969 they signed with new manager Allen Klein, who re-negotiated the contracts to give the band much more money from album and single sales. The downside was that Klein’s negotiation funneled a huge portion of the band’s income to himself, and left the band’s record company, Apple, in financial turmoil and led Paul McCartney to comment that he would rather dissolve the band than have its artistic legacy diminished by Klein.
The Rolling Stones
By the time he got to the Beatles, Klein was no stranger to working with the biggest bands in the world. He also served as manager of the Rolling Stones in the late 1960s, but was fired. However, after being fired he sued the group and obtained the rights to most of the band’s songs recorded before 1971.
Bands often sign contracts early in their career that come back to haunt them. One famous example is TLC, which had a contract so bad that the group eventually was forced to file for bankruptcy even though its CrazySexyCool album sold more than 11 million copies.
In a similar position as TLC, Toni Braxton was forced to use legal action to rectify pending contracts with two of her record labels. One of these involved her ex-manager Barry Hankerson, and the lawsuit alleged he mismanaged her relationship with Arista Records.