FAQ - How important is it to have a band agreement/contract? What should be included?

If you’re serious about your band, then it is worth the expense of paying an entertainment attorney to draw up a legal agreement so you can set the parameters of your partnership right from the start. Otherwise, you’re setting landmines for yourself in any future dealings between you and your band mates. If you’re all professionals, approaching the band about this shouldn’t be difficult.  The time to draw up such an agreement is as soon as profits are going to be made.

Member Comments

Posted by James Roberts on 2012-09-11 at 4:03:39 pm

May I get more detail on this topic please. I can see the usefulness of this agreement process but would like a little more thourough description of some of the most recomended parameters of partnership. Of course there is writing % and performance % but i know there is much nore that should be clarified for all band members piece of mind and satisfaction. Thx in advance

Posted by Gary E. Andrews on 2017-04-11 at 5:03:06 am

I see nobody got back to James on this topic. Some of you have played in many bands, some for years, and probably without contracts other than a nod. Anyone have any harrowing tales of how a contract might have made things better?

As bandmates you enter into a ‘partnership contract’. It may be simply verbal or never formally verbalized, but there is an ‘offer’ and an ‘acceptance’, constituting a contract. Each member says, “I’ll play this/sing this part of the performing, in exchange for you playing/singing that part.” If somebody doesn’t show up it’s breach of contract. Without a formal piece of paper there’s not much use in going to court over anything though, especially if there’s not a great deal of money or some other issue at stake.

In business law in high school I remember the lesson that, “Inherent in any partnership is the potential for an adversarial relationship.” People think, ‘Oh not with my buddy. We’ve been friends since kindergarten.’ But it does happen to the best of friends who enter into contractual partnership with the best of intentions, even love; witness, marriage. ‘Until death do us part’ the couple pledge, and end up in bitter, even violent dissension.

And, the very real potential for adversarial conflict when the band contracts with other parties, venues where you play, management, publishers, record labels, maybe even product endorsements. Does any one member or management personnel have authority to commit you to something? Thinking about it ahead of time might save your fortune later.

Contracts, even simple ones, can help clarify and commit the partners to performance of things ‘offered’ or ‘accepted’.

“I commit to…” might be a good opening line for just what each player is ‘offering’ and ‘accepting’. “I agree to…” What do you want assurance of from your bandmates, your business partners? There might be agreement of self discipline regarding alcohol and other drugs, health maintenance, responsible spending, savings, outlays of expenses of being in business, travel costs, insurance.

I remember a band member who, while the rest of the guys were down at the beach or out sightseeing on tour, was back at the motel silk-screening t-shirts. “I make more money merchandising than I do playing,” he told me. But one day someone in the band said, “We should get a share of those merchandise profits.” They were all in the band named on the shirt. Perhaps there was a picture of all the members. Did that entitle them all to a share? His was the only investment in materials and labor. Did he deserve it all? No one had thought of that issue when ‘banding’.

I remember in my youth thinking of writing a booklet titled “Banding: Things you should know about committing to working together.” Or something like that. The idea was to get all members to think ahead about things like health and having everyone’s head in the same place in a business sense, to ensure we all understand that we’re in business as partners, not just partiers. ‘A fool and his money are soon partying’ was a paraphrase of the saying that ended, ‘...soon parted’. Musicians can take it to heart. The business is full of party opportunities, and they don’t always end well.

Often players live hand to mouth, paying out every dime put in their hands to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, and pay for other things demanded or desired. When a crisis arose they have nothing to deal with it, no cash reserve for equipment failures or damage or theft. No money for health care or emergency travel home, vehicle repairs, insurance. Considering these crises ahead of time and committing to an individual cash reserve might enable a band to stay together, functioning, earning a living, instead of crashing just when earnings and lifestyle enjoyment were getting good.

I’d say, start with any contract. It can be amended as time goes on, as you or others think of things they’d like assurance of from and to the other partners. Formalize it, in writing. “If it ain’t in writing it didn’t happen,” they say. At some point you may be ready for a lawyer to help you with it.

If only Sheldon of “Big Bang Theory” were here, he’d know how to write a bandmate agreement!

So, anybody got any tales to tell, things you wish there had been a contract to clarify responsibilities for? Your experience might help others avoid the downsides of whatever happened.

Posted by Gary E. Andrews on 2017-04-11 at 1:48:49 pm

I came across this today. Sort of humorous. Sort of something to think on.

Six People to Avoid When Forming a Band


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