Much as we’d like to avoid thinking about them, conflicts arise even among the best of mates. Bands don’t always manage to stick together and it isn’t always a smooth ride. Contracts are among the best ways of preempting conflicts. Bands especially don’t like to think about think about contracts because they think that even broaching the topic would imply a lack of faith, or even mistrust.
But anyone who has seen how ugly things can get can attest that it would have been best if everything had been discussed and formalised well in advance. This is why band contracts are essential and you should discuss them with all the members of your band. Here are some specific reasons why:
We are pretty sure that you must have all sworn in fits of bonhomie that nothing could drive you apart or have base things like money ever create conflicts among you. It all looks good till the band starts making serious money. It’s after that the fighting over things like royalties and songwriting credits starts.
It’s actually to maintain harmony in relationships that contracts are required. Simply put, contracts remove mistrust. When everything is laid out and clear to everyone, there’s no space for conflict. In fact, the saying goes that ‘one should never do business with a friend’ (with the caveat that only if things are left unclear, the friendship would suffer). And unless the band is just a hobby project for you and your mates, think of the band as a business and make it function like one.
As your band starts to expand or enter into legal relationships with other entities, more reasons to have clearly stated contracts will arise. Here are some of those scenarios:
- Your gigs or tours require you to enter into contracts with promoters, organisers or other such entities. These contracts put the entire band under legal obligation to deliver on certain parameters. So, imagine if your drummer decides to not join the tour at the last moment.
- If the equipment bought after the band’s formation is jointly owned, the question of how this is to be disposed off in case the band breaks up should be addressed through a contract.
- Songwriting credits and associated royalties are also best addressed through a contract. You never know which song will become a hit (we hope all of them do) or when another band would want to cover it years or even decades later. It is this kind of opportunity and uncertainty that contracts help address.
- Working with session musicians creates another scenario where clarity around who is in the band, what is the fair share of the earnings for them, and who has been hired for a song or a short while. These boundaries blur and create confusion if contracts don’t exist.
- Handling of band expenses needs to be handled through a contract. If one or two members of the band are spending on the band, it needs to be clearly stated how they will be paid back. If this is not clear, there can conflicts over the “ownership” of the band and what it produces. Needless to say, no one owns the band and these sort of situations should never arise if a band truly wants to stay together.
It’s easy to ignore the need for contracts. But thousands of musicians have suffered the heartbreak, beautiful friendships ending badly and loss of opportunities because they didn’t insist on the clarity that a contract brings with it. So, discuss it, get it all down in writing and formalise it with a notary public.