Buy a new Gretsch… or invest in a band partnership agreement?

I am guessing 99.5% of musicians will choose a variation of option #1. I don’t blame them, I almost have myself!

But while buying the instrument of your dreams will only cost you once, a disagreement in the band (due to the lack of a clear agreement) can cost you many times over the initial price of a band partnership agreement.

Go ask bands like Guns N’ Roses who have been at war with one another for longer than they have played together. [And if you can’t find a way to ask them, I am sure a local band will readily tell you about the trials and tribulations of dealing with ex-band mates.]

In my opinion, a partnership agreement is a cornerstone in the career of a band – regardless of how far up they are in the industry (if at all). It puts everyone on the same page and removes all ambiguity out of the essential elements of working as band (i.e. who gets what?). Less ambiguity, less unpleasant surprises.

Here are some things to consider in a band partnership agreement:

  • How will copyright be divided within the band ?
  • How will the band’s expenses be divided (touring, studio rental, promotion, etc.) ? Will one member pay and be reimbursed by the others ?
  • How are recording expenses divided: who are the co-makers and how are the rights to the master recordings shared ?
  • Who owns the rights to the band’s name ? What happens when someone quits – can they use the band’s name without the permission of the other members ? As you may have guessed, this aspect is paramount: in the absence of a clear agreement saying otherwise, the name will be presumed to be owned evenly by each member, meaning that someone who leaves could object to the name being used by the others.
  • How are decisions made within the group (majority, unanimity, etc.) ?
  • Who owns the gear purchased for the group (monitors, microphones, etc.) ?
  • How are profits divided (from shows, merchandising, album sales, publishing royalties, etc.) ?
  • What happens if a member leaves, dies or becomes incapacitated ? Can a member be dismissed ?
  • Who takes care of the accounting and administrative tasks ? Is compensation provided for? What are their responsibilities ?
  • Is compensation provided to the person who provides their vehicle for touring ?
  • Must members make the band their priority project ?

Sure, investing time and money in a writing a partnership agreement sounds as exciting as budgeting for a roof repair, but for the good of band, you should place it as a medium-term priority.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any guidance in this task. When it’s done, you will be happy to check it off the list!

:: Translated by Emily Alberton / Photo credit : Diego Catto

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