Does your band have an agreement? You know, something written down that simulates a business plan or a constitution, or maybe even resembles your last will and testament? A written agreement may seem pretty formal, but if thought through, documents can save a band a lot of heartache down the road.
Now don’t fret. Most bands rarely even think about this topic. You’re busy slapping the band together, scrutinizing all of the players to size up the weak links…and really, you’re probably still searching for a bass player, right? Who’s got time to whip up a rock contract? But even if you don’t ever get around to pressing pen to paper, think about these items and be prepared to convey the bylaws:
Who gets songwriting credits?
We might as well start with a biggie. From a legal perspective, this is one of the most important aspects of your original music. The most basic definition of a song is “words and melody.” But many a band has been ripped apart, simply lacking an upfront understanding of this topic. Have you pow-wowed with band mates, or do you follow the advice of JJ Cale?: “What’s understood does not need to be spoken.”
How are product decisions made?
Your songs, your recordings, your live performance and your marketing efforts (pictures, video, graphics, web presence, etc) are all part of the product. When you are thinking about rearranging the configuration of the band or dress code, or what the stage plot is going to look like – these are all product decisions.
Are you on the road to constant improvement, or perhaps struggling just to get few less blurry pics out on the web? Product decisions can make or break a band. There better be a formal process in place and hopefully decisions are being made like a business.
How are players paid?
Now don’t fall down here…there’s no reason an original band can’t get paid for their efforts. And it doesn’t need to be in the form of food, drinks and token gas money either. Players should get paid if they are doing their job well. And any band should be compensated if they are actually entertaining. Beyond that, there’s a bunch of tax stuff to think about too.
And what about exit strategies?
Another biggie, what happens when a key player leaves the band? Maybe even a founding member? Is it automatically R.I.P. for the project, or do you have some understanding of how things will take shape? Some of the other things to consider: who owns the band name? The web site (and Admin control)? The overstock of CDs and T-shirts and other paraphernalia? What about images and videos? At a bare minimum, you better have some Photoshop skills…
As you may guess, there’s a lot to cover in each of these topics. We’ll touch upon them in more detail in the following segments. Please stay tuned…