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Setting Up a Band Agreement

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A band agreement is essential if you want to avoid messy arguments and breakups down the road. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the main things a lot of musicians and bands skip when they are just starting out. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new band and a new creative endeavor and sometimes the boring legal stuff can be overlooked. But if you want that awesome new creative group to stand up to the test of time, a band agreement is your best friend. Band agreements aren’t just for breakups. They also help you avoid disagreements and arguments that could potentially rip the band apart. If you set out who will get what percentage of the money at the start there won’t be any arguments about it once the money starts coming in.

This article is by Wallace E.J. Collins, a copyright and intellectual property attorney. The article was originally posted on Hypebot. This is only an excerpt, so I highly recommend heading over there to read the full article.

A typical band contract will address certain fundamental group issues. One important issue is who owns the group name if one member leaves or if a group dissolves which group of members are entitled to use the name. Under partnership law the partners would be the joint owners of the name and any member would probably be permitted to use the name (or maybe no members would be allowed to use the name once the partnership is deemed dissolved). Trademark rights are determined based on the “use” of a mark (not on who thought of the name) so each of the members of the group would be an equal co-owner of the group name under trademark law. The end result under either partnership law or trademark law might be impractical.

In most cases, the band agreement will state that if a particular founding member was the creator of the group name then only a group comprised of that member and at least one other member can use the name. This will apply whether one other member leaves or if the group disbands and only the founding member and one other reform the group. There are as many different ways this provision can be drafted as there are different group names. When a group member leaves, the remaining members are going to want to keep the group name and are not going to want the leaving member to dilute its value or confuse the public by using it in any way. The band agreement provision may say that a leaving member cannot use the name at all or that the leaving member can only mention that he was “formerly” a member of the group (provided that such credit is printed smaller than the member’s name or his new group’s name, etc.).

The band agreement will need to contain provisions regarding the sharing of profits and losses. One provision may pertain to revenues earned during the term while each member is in the group and another may pertain after the departure of a member or the demise of the group. In most cases, a group just starting out will have a provision that all profits from the group are shared equally between all members with an exclusion for songwriting monies (which each of the respective songwriter members would keep for themselves). Where an established group adds new members the provision may provide that a new member gets a smaller percentage than the founding members.

However, in most cases, during the term there is not a problem determining appropriate revenue shares. The more complicated problem of revenue division arises after a member departs. The agreement may provide that the leaving member is entitled to his full partnership share of profits earned during his tenure but a reduced percentage (or no percentage) of profits derived from activities after his departure – or the agreement may provide for a reduced percentage for a short period of time after departure (e.g., 90 days) and then nothing thereafter. This is an easier issue to remedy as it relates to live performances and sales of merchandise during those performances than it is as it relates to record royalties. The group needs to determine what happens, for example, when a group member performs on 3 albums but leaves before the fourth album is recorded. Although it might be acceptable to refuse to pay the leaving member any royalties on the fourth and future albums recorded by the group under the record contract the leaving member signed as part of the group, it might not be fair to refuse to pay that leaving member his share of royalties from the 3 albums that he did record with the band. Of course, this might vary in the agreement depending on whether the leaving member quit or was fired.

Do you have a band agreement? 

We discuss band agreements and more in the New Artist Model online courses. The New Artist Model is an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success. Get 5 free lessons from the New Artist Model online courses when you sign up for our mailing list.

Guide to Music Merchandise

Merchandise can potentially be a huge revenue stream for independent bands and musicians. However, knowing what to make, how many to make, what company to use, what to sell for, and how to let your fans know you have merch without sounding like an advertisement can be difficult.

Check out this extremely detailed guide to merchandise from Music Think Tank to get a better idea of how to create a viable merchandise revenue stream for your band.

What you should order and who you should order from

  • Music – CD’s are generally the best option for most artists because fans like having something tangible that they can take home (as opposed to a digital download) and take up less room than vinyl. They also have higher profit margins. Companies that I recommend for replication: Cravedog and Discmakers.

  • T-Shirts – The basic tee usually is a solid product to go with. You can usually get a better price and a more comfy product if you choose a lighter shirt, such as a Gildan 5.3 or 5.6 oz. More on how to get better prices below. These are some decent companies.

  • Stickers – Stickers are cheap, easy to produce, and can be used for promotion or selling. I order all of mine through Stickerguy.

  • Buttons – These are another easy, cheap product that you can sell for $1 each. I recommend the quality, pricing, and service from Busy Beaver Buttons. Or, if you have some upfront money, invest in a button maker. Badge-a-Mint makes a good one.

  • Posters – These are a staple. Most companies should give you a 12×18 poster for the same price as 11×17. I recommend Printing Conexions (let them know that Simon Tam sent you).

How to get better pricing for band merchandise

  • Begin a Partnership – I worked with a local vendor to get exceptional pricing and price terms by committing to a long-term partnership. I agreed to always consider them first when pricing options out and to order a certain amount of business. In return, I get the best pricing around and also 45 day net terms – In other words, payment for the products aren’t due until 45 days after I pick them up. It’s perfect when I need start up cash and merch for a tour because I can pay when we get back. You can also pitch a potential sponsorship deal.
  • Order in bulk – Most of the time, you really start saving money on shirts when you order at least 48 of them at a time.With stickers, it’s 250. With buttons, it’s 100. If you want to balance price per item and minimum quantities, talk to a representative about what optimal quantities are.

  • Order less designs – If you reduce the number of different designs, you can order higher quantities of each product. This in turn drives down the price per unit. Variety is good but often gives you a much higher start up cost.

To read the full guide, visit Music Think Tank.

Collaboration to Grow Your Fanbase

Photo by buddawiggi

Photo by buddawiggi

Collaboration is a key factor for success in today’s music industry. It is very difficult to “make it” on your own without the help of band members, team members, and other musicians and bands. When it comes to growing your fan base, collaborating with other bands or musicians is a great method. You can promote each other on Facebook, you can play live shows together, and you can share each other’s music with your followers. Get creative with your collaboration ideas! In the end, collaboration between two or more bands creates a mutually beneficial relationship.

Here’s one example of musician collaboration from Hypebot:

Let’s say you put together a playlist with tracks from 10 artists you feel close to in your scene, with a couple of simple assumptions: each of you has 2,000 fans (or followers), and there is no cross-over in your fanbase. If each of those 10 artists shares your playlist, you’ll be reaching a potential of 11*2,000 = 22,000 fans. Assuming 20% actually listen to the content, and a quarter of those become fans or followers of you and the artists in your playlist, that’s 1,100 new fans for everyone. Some of the assumptions are simplistic, but you get the picture.

This idea of curation as a means of putting a musical scene you feel a part of in the spotlight has yet to overpower the hype of discovery algorithms, but already some artists have been headed in that direction for some time, notably in the electronic music and hip-hop scenes. Take a look at French artist Brodinski: hisFacebook and Twitter feeds are filled with musical content from artists he’s close to. Or Boston duo Soul Clap, who regularly create DJ charts on Beatport; and, because, there’s a “buy” link on the tracks, these guys are actually providing their fans with an incentive to financially support the acts they’ve curated. If you believe in the power of connecting with other musicians, of creating a movement, your job as an artist becomes to get connected with your scene, finding the artists you see as part of your movement, help them be discovered and identified as part of the movement, and help them reciprocate. As long as there’s an unmistakable unity, the bigger the movement, the bigger everyone’s personal gains, ultimately.

To read the full article, visit Hypebot.

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