Rock Band Legal Troubles And How To Avoid Them
by Sue Basko
I get contacted on a regular basis by people from rock bands that are having legal problems. In almost all of these situations, the problems could have been avoided or minimized by getting proper legal advice and help all along during the rock band process.
IF YOU DO NOT CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR MUSIC OR TO YOUR CAREER AS A MUSICIAN, then you can do whatever.
IF YOU DO CARE about your music career, THEN READ ON:
When you are forming a band, you should formulate a plan and have contracts between the band members.
When you are in a songwriting partnership, you should have a contract.
LONG before you work with a producer or step into a studio, you should have a contract.
ANY contract you sign should be read and analyzed by a lawyer.
ANY time you join an organization (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc) you should get legal advice first -- before you join.
ANY time you sign your songs over to any organization or company or website for any purpose, you should have a lawyer analyze if this is the best thing for you to do.
Before you upload your music onto any website for any purpose, have a lawyer check it out.
Any time you buy a promo package, have it checked out.
If you want your copyright registered properly, or your songs registered properly with a PRO, or your trademark or service mark registered properly, get it done by a lawyer.
These are the kinds of complaints I hear:
I played on a major tour and they never paid me.
I have CDs in distribution and was never paid.
I uploaded my song to (some website) and now it is being used in a movie/ commercial/ video game/ and I am not making any money.
I uploaded a song to a website and they won't let me take it off.
I signed a licensing contract, they changed the name of my song, used it for things, and paid me nothing.
I wrote songs with someone and they registered copyright in their name only.
I signed with a promo company and they registered my songs in their name.
We were offered a show and they wanted us to sell tickets.
We played a show and never got paid.
I signed with a record label, it is 6 years later, and I have never been paid royalties. It was a bad contract. What can I do?
I got kicked out of my own band. I thought I owned the songs or CDs, too, and they are telling me I don't.
We signed a contract with a manager and he took all our money.
We signed a production deal and the record label paid all the money to the production company and not to us.
I signed a 360 deal, I don't even know what it is, and now I am being billed for all kinds of things I don't even know anything about.
WHAT I DO ABOUT THESE KINDS OF COMPLAINTS:
WHAT I DO -- Generally, nothing! I do not get involved in crazy messes that people brought upon themselves by not having a music lawyer take care of their business all along.
So -- go to the top list, read it again, and see if you better get a lawyer before you get into a mess.