A Musician’s Guide to Band Agreements

By Andy Whitehead

If you write songs within a band, you need to plan for the day when you will be earning royalties from your songs, and be clear what will happen if a member of the band leaves or if the band splits up.

The best way to deal with this is to all agree what is fair, and then put this in writing as a formal agreement which you all sign. This way there is little chance of any comeback if the band splits for less than amicable reasons.

Here are a few specific points you should consider:

If a member of the band leaves, do they forfeit all rights to the songs, and the songs remain the sole property of the band?

Are the songs written by one person, or a few principal writers, who wish to retain all rights?

If a band member leaves would both he and the band both retain a claim to the song, (this is probably the most likely option).

How do you determine each persons share?

Do you base it on a song by song basis ranking each member’s input, or use the same formula for every song?

Do you simply divide everything up equally, (e.g. 5 members each own 20% of all the songs and therefore receive 20% of the proceeds/royalties), or do you rank each individual’s input?

If a member leaves, can he/she perform or profit from the music outside of the band.


Sample band contracts can be viewed and downloaded from the following sites:

http://undercurrents.com/agreements/agreement-bandmember.html

www.blues101.org/articles/promotion1.htm


The advice from the UK Copyright Service on this subject is:

“Where music is written as a group effort, we recommend that you draw up an agreement to clarify issues, such as which rights belong to which member, and how royalties would be distributed in the event that members of your group leave.

For successful commercial bands, incorporation is also an option. As with a normal incorporated company, the band members would own shares in the band/company. In this situation, a band member would typically sell his shares to the other members if he decided to leave.”

Music Copyright fact sheet:

http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/protect/p07_music_copyright