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Ending agreements in the beginning for bands. 

Many musicians feel like the band they are in is destined for success and that the group will never break up. Even after being a part of a number of bands, there is still that glimmer of hope—which is not a bad thing, but often times it can set you up for problems further down the road. Imagine that things are really starting to take off, money is coming in, you have forward motion and momentum. At this point, things feel good, everyone is happy, decisions are made fast, and quite possibly, never formalized in writing.

Now fast forward two years. For some reason, whatever reason, someone is leaving. The band is breaking up. If there was already fighting going on, it escalates: arguments over who gets what, who is owed what, and who has rights to what. Everything is twice as challenging and twice as hard. In a lot of cases, people hate each other, the fights get louder and harsher. This is not an atmosphere in which any equitable decisions can made.

Simple Solution

It really comes down to a very simple solution: In the early stages, while the band is new, while things are getting ready to happen, and most of all while everyone is happy and friendly, work to set up your end agreements then.

You do not have to set up expensive meetings with a lawyer from the start. There are many template agreements out there where you can get a solid start. I tell the bands I produce to come to mutual agreements on the different items and concerns, then bring those notes to a lawyer to finalize it into a legal document. This way, you all know what you want and you are going to a lawyer to finish up everything, instead of working with him or her from the start. I look on it as writing a song at home before you go to the recording studio.

Cover your issues and your backside

Cover the simple topics while everyone is happy. Sometimes—and I know it can seem a little harsh—imagine if you hated the others in the band, they hated you, and nobody was speaking to anybody. Think about the worst case scenario and every issue that would come up should the group break up in that atmosphere. As negative as it sounds, it can be key to setting up an agreement to protect everybody, make sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone has a clear understanding of what each person wants and is ready to give or share.

Who has rights to what songs? What happens if a band member quits? How do you handle firing someone and is everyone agree on the legitimate reasons for firing? What is invested into the band as a whole? When money comes in, what is split, paid out, or reinvested? On the same note, what items belong to the group and what are personal items? Does the band lend money to members? This is just hitting the tip of the iceberg, but they are all issues to address now, so if or when things change, it will make it easier.


Think of all the things you want to be clear whether you were best friends or ex friends that will never talk again. Some think of it as a pre-nuptual, others think of it as planning a divorce or break up while things are still in the honeymoon stage. Prepare now for the issues that could be troublesome, expensive, and a true pain in the ass down the road. And then, regardless of what happens, good or bad, you know you don’t have to worry about it. If the day never comes, you are just that much more organized. If it does happen, you’re prepared. You’re making things that much easier if a hard time comes during the break up, firing or whatever problem may arise—and when those days come, “one less thing”, one less fight, one less anguish, will be more than worth the time you invested today.

© 2009 Loren Weisman

Watch out for Loren Weisman’s “Realistic Music Careers 101 Seminar” coming to a city near you and Loren’s book “The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business” coming in 2010.

Reader Comments (2)

Loren, good article. I can say from experience that the cost (in time and money) of getting things straightened out up front saves a LOT of pain, headache and cost down the road for bands that encounter disputes without agreements in place.

As you said, it doesn't have to be expensive up front - I always send my bands a sample band agreement and have them read through and talk issues over before having me draft the final document. Usually this only takes one round of comments, and really isn't that expensive.

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterEric Galen

I heard a talk by Oscar Castro Neves, who has had years of experience in music, who said the same thing. Start any music project (a band, a company) with how you are going to end it. Figure out what you will do when someone wants to leave.

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

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