The Business in Music

For those looking to get into a group project, you could have a myriad of reasons for doing so. Perhaps it's a new venture for you to experience, or something you enjoy doing with others as a pass time or hobby. But, should things look like they're going to go further than just kicking back playing cover tunes in the basement and hanging out, you need to think of (as Bachman Turner Overdrive sang it) takin care of business.

Nobody I've known in music likes to put business tasks into the band, but face fact, it's the music business. What exactly am I talking about? Agreements when doing a performance. Splitting up the profits among one another within the project. The details within a record contract or management deal. Rights to your royalties on compositions you had a part in writing. You need to have the business portion of everything lined up to ensure everyone involved is on the same page as you. Failure to do so could result in you forced to be on the same page as someone else.

The first contract you need to sign is actually with your band mates. It is your group as a whole that will determine the fate of the project, and where it will go from there. Sounds like a fairly simple process, and being all friends and having a great time, you may think a simple handshake and just take on the world together is enough, but it's not. What happens when someone quits the band? Who owns the rights to the song? The name of the project? Have the compositions been submitted to the Copyright Office indicating each member as a co-writer? What if the member who left your project actually tries to take the band name, the songs, designs, etc and continues to use them without your permission, because the rest of the project still planned on using them?

If you're saying "can't happen to your band" you're fooling yourself. Remember when Guns n Roses lead man Axl Rose fired the rest of the band and continued to use the name, song rights, et al for his project? LA Guns ran with two different versions of the band, earmaked "Tracii Guns' LA Guns and Phil Lewis's LA Guns for about 5-6 years before they decided on a reunion. Those two tales ended in harmony, but if you want to see how ugly things can get between former band mates, familiarize yourself with Queensryche, when Geoff Tate was expelled from the project.

If you're a solo artist, you need to protect yourself from studio musicians you work with. If you wrote all the material yourself, it would be really disappointing to hear a knock off rendition of your song played by someone else, because one of your hired hands took the material for his up and coming project to use. I would recommend more than just a written agreement prohibiting use of your works elsewhere, but recorded sessions proving the hired hands were used and exposed to playing your creations.

Once you have your crew within the rehearsal room all on board and secured to a fair agreement, you're ready to take on the music world. From bar managers, recording studios, to tour managers and talent agents, every move you make inside and outside of the rehearsal room can make or break a career. It's your responsibility to ensure others success isn't because of your creations.


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