If there were a course entitled "How to Start a Band 101," one of the most important sections of the syllabus would concern the all-important band partnership agreement. A well-designed band partnership agreement can provide guidance for how your group will handle decisions and disagreements among band members. It also can help your band deal with any contract disputes and mismanagement of funds that might arise.
Once you have your band personnel assembled and have chosen a business structure for your group—whether it's a general partnership, limited liability company, or corporation—it's time to get down to some legal business to help the group keep working in harmony through good times and bad. And this is where a band partnership agreement comes in.
Standard band partnership agreement
While each band partnership agreement is unique, there are certain provisions that should be included relating to the business structure of the group. These apply, of course, whenever there is more than one member, which would be a sole proprietorship, making you in charge of all the decisions.
Some of these considerations include:
- Voting rights
- Process for bringing in new members
- Breakup provisions, including potential buyouts
- Dispute resolution
Beyond business structure-related provisions, one of the biggest potential points of contention is intellectual property rights. Your band partnership agreement should be clear as to who is responsible for obtaining the copyright protection and/or trademarks in the band's name, songs (lyrics and music), recordings, and equipment, as well as who owns them once they are secured.
Other items to consider include how the band will manage taxes, income, and bookkeeping activities.
Executing a band partnership agreement that works for you
Your sound isn't like that of any other band, right? Well, your band partnership agreement should be specific to the circumstances of your group as well. Note that a discussion of any or all of the terms and conditions above could and should be part of negotiating a band partnership agreement.
Your best bet here is to consult an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process of developing the right band partnership agreement for you. A little extra work now can pay off big down the road.
Band and manager partnership agreement
If your band has a manager, you also should have a band and manager partnership agreement in place, so all parties are clear on their rights and responsibilities. For instance, how far your manager's powers reach regarding contract negotiations with third parties should be included in your agreement.
A band manager can be an incredible asset to your group, but, without the proper legal framework set up delineating the terms and conditions of your relationship, your band could end up with a lot more headaches than concerts, so it's a good idea to get a band and manager partnership agreement set up as soon as possible.
Overall, a band partnership agreement is a document that can provide you and your bandmates great peace of mind, knowing that no matter what happens with your success or failure as a musical act, at least the business aspect of your band is solid.
And remember: Business-related disputes can arise at any time, so don't play your first gig without first getting a band partnership agreement in place.
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