Legal issues when forming a professional band

Region: Ontario Answer # 168

Whether professional or semi-professional, forming a band has many legal considerations.

First, you should consider the business structure of your band. It will enter into contracts, pay bills and buy equipment. The band or group may be a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, and a lawyer may be needed to create the terms of your legal structure.

A band agreement, which may be apart from the structure documents, should also decide how expenses will be shared, how profits will be divided, and even how writing or song ownership credits will be handled.

The band may also have to consider getting insurance. For example, what if a bar patron trips on a guitar cord and breaks an arm? Who pays if the band is sued?

Bands also have to address who owns the name of the group from a legal standpoint. Is it the band’s founders? All members of the band? Or the band’s corporation? This may be important if the band ever breaks-up or new members join. You want to ensure a departing band member doesn’t try to use the name on the road with a new band.

As for the songs the band plays, you will also have to ensure you have the legal right to use them, particularly if you are a “cover” band that uses material created by others. In this case, written permission to perform the songs will need to be secured from a copyright collective, such as SOCAN, which is the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

Once a band becomes serious, and starts performing in public,  it is often best to consult a lawyer with experience in entertainment law.


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