Music Industry and the Law


Legal Business Structures For Bands and Musical Ensembles - May 2014
by Harrison Ottaway and Katarina Klaric, Stephens Lawyers and Consultants

Music is our passion, why complicate it with legalities and company structures? 

Emerging bands rarely consider legal and business issues associated with the band’s activities which may include, live performance, concerts, touring, recording, marketing, distribution and sale of their recorded music and associated merchandise. Most bands exist as an informal partnership arrangement, without any documented partnership agreement dealing with:

• Ownership of copyright in the music, lyrics and artwork created by the band members;
• Ownership of the band name, logos and trade marks used by the band;
• Ownership of domain names, website and social media sites associated with the band;
• Ownership of copyright in recordings and video clips;
• Ownership of equipment and other assets purchased by the band;
• Sharing or distribution of money made by the band from performances, recordings, merchandising and other activities;
• The ongoing funding of the band’s activities;
• Contributions from band members required for the funding of the band’s activities, such as the costs associated with the production, marketing, distribution and sale of recordings, videos and merchandise;
• The liability of band members where an expense, debt or other liability is incurred;
• Liability of band members where a claim of unauthorised use or copyright infringement is made in respect of music performed or recorded by band members;
• Liability of band members in contracting or entering into arrangements with third parties, including band managers, venues, production, record and distribution companies;
• Exit of an existing member of the band;
• A new member joining the band.

The informal arrangements between band members can expose members to both commercial and legal risks and liabilities, particularly, if a dispute occurs amongst band members as to respective contributions and/or entitlements, or if any third party claims are made against members.

Emerging and existing bands can benefit from obtaining strategic commercial legal and accounting advice on what legal structure is best suited for their band, whether that be a formal partnership or a company.

Stephens Lawyers & Consultants can provide strategic commercial legal advice to band members as to options for structuring bands including:

• partnership agreements for newly established bands;
• agreements recording existing informal arrangement between band members;
• agreements dealing with the ownership of intellectual property - including copyright in their lyrics, music, recordings, videos and other works; and
• Setting up a company and shareholder’s agreement. 

Although, a company structure is rarely on the agenda for an emerging band or music ensemble, there are benefits in using this structure over a partnership arrangement. Read more ....  

Registering your band name as a Trade Mark

Registering your band name as a trade mark is an effective way of protecting the reputation built up in that name. For more information on the benefits of registering a trade mark, see our article:

Benefits of Trade Mark Registration

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