Although it may not seem like it, starting a band is akin to starting a business or even getting married. Making quality music should not be the only concern you have, even though that is important. Important steps need to be taken to relieve any unnecessary and avoidable stress as your band progresses. You have to protect yourself from potential legal issues within the band. Here is a list of topics that you and your band should consider before you even perform your first gig.
Choose a band name
A very difficult subject to agreeing upon is a band name. Once you pick one that works for all of you, you have to make sure that it isn’t working for someone else. Google the name and make sure it hasn’t been taken. Then, contact ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to check again if the name has been taken. Once you have a unique band name, then buy the domain name for your website and claim it on social media.
Agree on ownership percentage of the band’s name
Sometimes one band member comes up with a band name, sometimes more than one band contributes, and sometimes a third party gives the group its name. Whatever the case may be, ownership of that name needs to be decided especially in the event that someone leaves the band wants to use the name for their own project.
Agree on songwriting ownership
This can become a huge point of tension in a band. When a song is written, many times multiple people are responsible for the creation of it. Because of this, it needs to be put in writing how much each writer contributed to the song. For example, if a person just wrote one verse and another person wrote the rest of the song, that needs to be represented in the copyright document. Or, some bands like to just split every song equally no matter how much each member has contributed. This needs to be agreed upon before any songs are officially written and performed.
Agree on sound recording ownership
Once a song is finished and recorded, someone or something has to own the masters, or the sound recording. If a band is signed to a label, then usually the label owns it. However, if the band does not have a label, they need to ensure they can agree on who actually owns the masters. If it is not decided, then technically they belong to the producer/engineer because they created it.
Put together a break-up agreement
In the event that your band breaks up, you need to have a contract in place outlining how the assets of the band will be split up. It is basically a prenup for bands.
Get a music/entertainment attorney
If it is within your budget, get an attorney that specializes in music and entertainment. A divorce lawyer or your family lawyer won’t do for your band/copyright disputes. They can explain the important parts of entertainment law with you, help you draw up contracts, and defend you in court.
Starting a band with your friends can be fun and incredibly exhilarating; however, if you intend on becoming serious with your band, then all of these steps need to be taken seriously in order to make sure everyone is on the same page, and extra trouble is avoided.