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Posted on 13 April 2023

Band Agreement: Does it matter?

How important is a band agreement in a band's career?

Based on the case of Ahmad Dhani and Once, we know that this song business will become serious when it is at the highest level, especially when it involves a legal case involving two big names in music.

Every day, many bands emerge and many songs appear on streaming services that if we look deeper, not much awareness arises from the band or each personnel in it to put their names in the songwriter column. This may be in addition to perhaps maintaining cohesiveness and togetherness as well as the same feeling between bands, feeling good or bad, or indeed from the beginning not wanting to increase conflicts that will occur in the future.

It's not a bad thing, but sometimes as a career goes on, there are things that make the songwriter's name a big problem, Ahmad Dhani and Once are the latest examples in the performing rights area.

The case of the songwriter's name is one thing. Another thing that often arises is the name of the band. There are not a few cases of bands or band personnel who sue the band name when used by others. Pink Floyd is one of them.

Pink Floyd's story is very interesting to dissect. The iconic rock band of the 70s went through a divorce due to a huge legal battle between the band members. Roger Waters, one of the founding members, was known as the creative essence of the band who wrote the lyrics. After 1983, the other members realized that the lyrics Waters wrote started to become too political, too personal, and headed down a dark path. After "The Final Cut" album, Roger Waters made a solo album before David Gilmour, another band member, put out a solo album.

Waters left the band in 1985 while the other band members got in touch with lawyers to ensure that they could continue Pink Floyd without Waters. However, Waters and his legal team warned them not to use the name when recruiting new members, making new albums, or touring without Roger Waters.

Waters accused the band of using the band name without his consent. The lawsuit resulted in a ruling that the members of Pink Floyd kept the name, while Waters was financially compensated and credited for the album "The Wall". Subsequently, following the decision of the lawsuit, Waters lost his rights to the name and band membership.

In Indonesia, band name cases exist, although not a few. There is Bimo, the former drummer of the band Neutral who sued Neutral with new personnel for using the name Neutral, Adhika, the former keyboardist of Peterpan who sued Ariel for the name Peterpan, Badai, the former keyboardist of Kerispatih who sued Kerispatih personnel for the name and songs that Kerispatih often performed until the case of Naniel Yakin, the writer of the song "Bento" who claimed that he did not get his rights as a songwriter.

All of these cases might not have arisen or become serious problems if the band had prepared a Band Agreement.

A Band Agreement is perhaps the single most important document a group of musicians can have to ensure that everything within the group runs smoothly as their career progresses. Band Agreements do not recognize levels, whether the band is a new band or an established band, all bands need this agreement.

In essence, a Band Agreement is a contract between band members, just like a partnership agreement for a company, it's as simple as that. It outlines how the band's business will be conducted.

A band agreement will at least discuss and decide on a few key things including:

- Who owns the composition

- Who owns the master recordings

- Who owns the band name

- What happens if a member leaves

- How decisions are made (i.e. majority vote, unanimous decision, etc.)

- How revenue is divided from touring, record sales, merchandise sales, publishing revenue, etc.

- Who owns the musical equipment (band or individual members)

- Who can sign contracts and checks on behalf of the band

- Who can hire/fire members

- and many more minor issues to be noted

A Band Agreement becomes the initial legal guide if something happens in the future with your band, from disbanding, royalties, or if songs from the band are used for needs such as soundtracks, advertisements and so on.

The importance of getting awareness to make a Band Agreement or at least properly record the name of the songwriter in every published work, is the first step to getting proper rights for songwriters. Registering with music publishers is a more careful next step for songwriters so that their songs are protected and legally represented.