Top Legal Tips for Musicians and Bands

Top Legal Tips for Musicians and Bands


The history of modern music is built on stories of musicians who signed a bad deal because they were taken advantage of by greedy labels or overzealous managers. It may be hard to resist signing the first deal you are offered, but you should ensure the deal you are about to sign is fair. The tips below can give you some leverage when negotiating with a record label.

Form a business entity.

If your band has not registered as a particular business entity, such as an LLC, you are treated as a general partnership by default. That means that each member of the band is personally liable for any debts of the band, any contracts signed by the band, or any litigation brought against the band. You may limit your personal liability if the band incorporates as another type of business entity.

For more on business entities for musicians, see this blog post.

Draft a band partnership agreement.

If your band involves more than one person, you should have a signed band partnership agreement which explains the responsibilities of each band member. The agreement should address how tips, payment for shows, and royalties earned by the band will be paid out. It should also address how management decisions are made by the group.

For more on band partnership agreements, see this blog post.

Keep 'em separated. (Personal and band funds, that is.)

You should strive to keep personal and business assets separate. You should open a business account in the band's name. You can deposit income the band makes and make payments for band-related items and expenses from this account. You do not want a creditor seizing band assets because they were paid with your personal funds.

Register your music.

If you write your own songs, you should register them with a performing rights organization (PRO) so you can receive royalties when songs are played in various mediums (radio, TV, live concerts, etc.). The three most popular organizations are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. You should also register with SoundExchange, a site that collects digital royalties from service providers like Pandora, SiriusXM, and other streaming services.

For more on performance rights organizations and publishing, see this blog post.

Get advice from experienced professionals.

Your friend may able to get you a few shows when you are starting out, but you can gain a lot more from relying on experienced professionals. Seek out management that has an established reputation in the locations where you wish to perform. If you don’t understand a contract, consult an experienced entrainment attorney who can explain the it to you. An experienced attorney may also be able to negotiate better terms./P>

For more on hiring professionals, see this blog post.

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