Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Pays To Know Your Bandmates

It's tough to be in a band. Forget about the music part (which should be mostly fun), the personalities and politics are enough to make anyone crazy, as it always is when art and egos are involved. But just get close to a record deal and everything magnifies. When people begin to think they can be a star except for someone in the band (or even the entire band) that's holding them back, you get some real trouble that can't be overcome easily without serious disruption in the band itself. Then, when the prospect of big money is involved, and you have management that's looking more at the bottom line than at the music, you get a recipe for what's seeming is happening currently with the Atlantic Records band Paramore.

Brothers Josh and Zac Farro recently left the band and posted an interesting blow-by-blow on their blog that's worth a read.

In a nutshell (according to the blog post), the band started as friends in school, found a lead singer who eventually takes over the band direction, the lead singer signed the record deal without the rest of the band, the label and management wanted to fire the band, and it goes on. You've all probably heard this before.

Now there are two sides to every story, and in the case of a band, there's usually a different story for every bandmate. The sad part is that there are a thousand stories just like this, and it will keep on happening unless everyone in a band does at least some of the following (in no particular order):

1) Don't sign anything unless you have a qualified music attorney look it over first.

2) Make sure that any manager that's hired is the manager for the entire band, not for one person. If that happens, you're just a hired gun. If that's the case, at least get paid like a hired gun should be paid!

3) Don't let one person sign a record deal. If that happens, once again, you're a hired gun.

4) Make sure that you have an agreement between band members regarding at least the following:
  *  Who pays the bills
  *  What kind of vote is needed to incur expenses?
  *  How will the profits be divided?
  *  What happens if a member leaves?
  *  How are the band assets divided if a member gets fired or leaves?
  *  What kind of a vote is needed to fire a member?
  *  What happens if a member becomes incapacitated or dies?
  *  Who owns the name?
  *  Do you need a majority or does it need to be unanimous to make a decision?
  *  Who owns the bands assets?
  *  Are side projects allowed?
  *  What's the term of the agreement?
  *  Who owns the name?

And this is just the tip of the agreement iceberg (consult an attorney about this too). Without a doubt, it's one of the most difficult things you'll ever have to do as a band, but if you can get through it, you'll be a lot stronger for it, and a lot clearer about what to expect when the unexpected happens.

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