Why have an agreement?
Taking the time to draw up a band agreement can seem onerous, but it can save a lot of unpleasantness and confusion if the band splits up - particularly if the split is not amicable.
Whenever work is created as a joint venture, it can be difficult to remember, (or agree), exactly who owns what. 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.
Drawing up the agreement
Your band agreement should attempt to answer the following questions:
Who owns the songs - are they written by one person, a few principal writers, or as a group effort? Do you want to differentiate between each person’s contribution, or do you see the band as equal partners?
If a member of the band leaves, do they forfeit all rights to the songs, or would they retain a claim to the work?
You will also need to bear in mind that copyright can be separately applied to:
- The musical composition itself.
- The lyrics, which are protected as literary work.
- Recordings of the musical work, which are subject to copyright in their own right as sound recordings.
- Any original artwork, illustrations, etc. (such as artwork for CD covers, T-Shirts, etc), will also be subject to copyright as artistic work.
What share of royalties or other income, (such as merchandising or sponsorship), which each member receive?
How will the income be divided if a member of the band leaves?
How will any income be divided if the band splits up?
Who would be responsible for ensuring everyone gets their fair share?
- The band name
Who has the right to use the name, is it something that a single member owns, or belongs to the band, no matter who comes and goes?
Who can use the name if the band splits up?
Other points to consider
While things are going well, an agreement can seem unimportant, or even distasteful, but it will be far easier to reach an agreement while the band is on friendly terms.
It is worth revisiting the agreement from time to time throughout the life of the band to ensure that it still meets your requirements, and reflects any changes in circumstance.