10 Fool-proof legal tips for band contracts
Attorney Ben McLane (Afroman, POD, LL Cool J, AM Radio, Gilby Clarke, production companies, & indie labels) offers insight on major issues that should be considered in every band contract. The average cost of a band contract can range from $500 to $5000. 1. Name/Logo Who owns it? Founding members own the name/logo. Who can use it? The group uses name with the ownerâ€™s permission. What happens if the band breaks up? Name/logo retained by the owners.
2. Key Players/Founding Members Whoâ€™s essentialâ€???found member(s), songwriter (s), or front person? This clause is not always necessary unless someone is critical to the act. Key members are the â€œdriving forceâ€?? behind the band. These members may be given more power over decisions.
3. Income & Expenses Profits & Lossesâ€???Who gets whatâ€???Who owes what? Income & expenses are usually equally shared.
4. Songwriting & Publishing Income Who are the songwritersâ€???copyright ownersâ€???how is income handled? This is a sensitive area. Songwriters should retain copyright ownership. Songwriters usually offer to share publishing income with band members that contributed to the song.
5. Business Management & Voting Who runs the showâ€???how are decisions madeâ€???who can say no? Some groups are completely democratic by majority rule. Others may have a key member who has more power.
6. Tangible band assets Who owns itâ€???who can use itâ€???who gets it if the act breaks up? Tangible property such as equipment, gear, instruments, etc. If the act breaks up, the tangible property should go to whoever paid for it. However, if everyone shared equally in the cost, then a decision must be made on how it will be handled. Always try to be fair.
7. Record keeping & Accounting Whoâ€™s organizedâ€???whoâ€™s trustworthyâ€???whoâ€™s business savvy? Thereâ€™s usually at least one member who handles the band business. The business records must be kept straight to avoid serious financial troubles.
8. Leaving members/New Members What do they getâ€???what do they give upâ€???how is it handled? Most important area to consider. Are leaving members entitled to anything? Does it matter if they are fired or if they quit? Are new members given the same benefits as older members? How do you hire, fire, and deal with band membersâ€???who has the final say?
9. Legal status What are you as a groupâ€???what are the implicationsâ€???is one form better than another? Is your group a simple partnership, a limited partnership, or a corporation? See professional counsel to see what is best for your band.
10. Arbitration Resolving disputesâ€???whatâ€™s fairâ€???whatâ€™s cost-effective? Arbitration is the best way to get everyone focused on the issues and the most cost-effective way to handle the issues. You may not want to â€œbindâ€?? yourselves to arbitration because you may still want your day in court.
To read the full article, pick up a copy of the Music Connection Vol. XXVIII, No. 12