Whether you are from Florida, Tennessee, or typically elsewhere, the law will presume each member of your band is a “general partner” when no written contracts are signed between the members. This means each member owns an equal portion of the band and has equal say in management decisions. This is important as some members might be more involved in management, decision making, song writing, and general band business activities than others and might consider themselves as owning or controlling a different percentage of the group. Likewise, without an agreement, band members could equally be liable for band debts (potentially including those of other bandmates). This is not a smart way to run your band. A way around this “general partner” presumption is treating your band like a business, and entering into what we call Band Operating Agreement.
This agreement is the core understanding among the members when you set up your band as a corporation, or other legal entity, and discusses a variety of issues central to your business as a band. It will include:
1. Ownership of Band. Who owns what percentage of the band? Who gets control of the name now and in the future?
2. Ownership of band property. Did the band buy your second guitarist amp and new guitar? Who owns that? More importantly, does the band own the songs you write and record?
3. Profit and Loss Splits. Who gets what money that comes in?
4. Management Decisions. Who gets to decide what gigs you play and what your new t-shirt design looks like? What if the bass player doesn’t want to go on tour and the other four guys want to?
5. Administrative Rights. Does the band control your publishing catalogue and can sign contracts on your behalf?
6. Breakups. Can the guitar player who left the band market himself “formally as band name” on his website or worse yet just use the band name? Does he still receive income from the sale of merchandise that has his face on it? What about the songs he helped write? Can we still use them?
These are very important decisions to make when the band first starts, because once you become more successful, people’s attitudes change and you want to make sure your musical career is protected. Remember, there is no music without the business, and you need to treat your band like a business to make the music.
Bradley Legal Group, P.A. are Intellectual Property lawyers, Entertainment lawyers and Music lawyers servicing clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Nashville. We also affiliate with entertainment lawyers licensed in New York and Washington, D.C. © 2011 Bradley Legal Group, P.A.