#1
I have a question for you all that has more to do with the business side of being in a band than the music side as the whole legal thing is not my area of expertise. I'm a multi-instrumentalist and I have a home recording studio, as well as an abundance of material I have written that I planned to record myself. The plan was to record these songs myself and possibly get a band together at some point if I decide to start playing gigs. However, I recently learned that a vocalist from a really good local band that broke up quite a few years back is looking for musicians to either get the band back together or start a new band. While I initially jumped at the thought of joining this band/starting a new band with this guy, I have a ton of material I have written that could be used for the band and my main concern is that they will kick me out of the band and then steal all of my material that I have worked so hard on for many years and reap the profits. Because of this, I am conflicted as to whether I should continue with my plans to record as a solo artist, or if I should take him up on his offer. Has anyone on here ever gotten kicked out of a band and then screwed out of all the material they wrote? Is there any legal course of action that I can take to prevent this from happening, or to at least assure that I get royalties if they do use my material? I realize this is long, but I tried to only include the important points. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated
#2
1) you can record the songs yourself now so there's proof that you wrote them

2) it's only a legal dispute if there's some actual damage - namely loss of income - which is unlikely to be provable with 99% of bands because they're not making jack on anything they do.

3) If the guys want you out of the band, they probably aren't interested in your music, either. Unless you're some kind of jerk, there's no reason to kick out a good songwriter.

4) You could just be up front and tell them that you'd like to retain sole ownership of your already-written material if your membership doesn't work out. Nobody wants their stuff ripped off, and although it's extremely rare, I think any decent person would completely understand someone wanting to own what they created.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jun 29, 2016,
#3
Thank you for the speedy reply, cdgraves. I do already own recordings of all the material in question, albeit most of them are not complete recordings but rather just demos to get the ideas down on record. As long as I have the recordings then it should hold up in a court of law whether they are complete or not, right? I see what you mean about not being able to prove loss of income because most local bands don't make shit and have to hold down full-time jobs anyways. I don't know why a band would want to kick out a good songwriter either, but I am just trying to protect my own hiney. As for expressing to the rest of the band that I would like to retain sole-ownership of the material that I have written, I know how shady things can be when it comes to the business side of the music business and I am just afraid that it would be labeled as hearsay or he-said-she-said and I would not be able to legally prove that I wrote the material or be able to do anything to stop them from using my material or even "covering" the material (another example of how shady the music business can be)
#4
I dont think there is really much that you can do about this. I think you have to copyright the songs and list yourself as the author if you eventualy record and release them. Other than that, you can only rely on them being nice about it and respecting your wishes.

EDIT: Just a question, are you actually making money with your music? Because if you arent, thinking about courts and trials is kinda pointless, since you probably wont get much in the way of royalties anyway.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
Last edited by gorkyporky at Jun 29, 2016,
#5
Thank you for the reply, gorkyporky. I own and operate a home recording studio so most of my income at the moment is coming from music lessons and from recording other artists. I'm not making anything off my music yet as as I am not currently in a band therefore I'm not playing any gigs, and most of my recordings are just demos. That's pretty much why I'm asking the question... I'm trying to figure out whether I should go ahead with the recordings or if I should devote most of my free time to this new band. I just don't want to get screwed over is all
#6
Well the way i see it, even if you record all of your songs alone, and release them, you will probably get minimal income from that, since a: you are not well known, and b: very few people still buy music. If you will then want to put your songs on the road and get some money from playing them live, you will still need a band, that you will then be responsible of. Since they will be your backing band, you will carry the burden of paying them for shows.

If you go into a band as an equal member, you will get a cut of anything you make while playing shows. And when you record and release songs, you just make sure that you are credited as the author on the songs that you wrote or co wrote. That way you will also get royalties or whatever from any sales you do.

I think the bigger question here is, do you even wanna be in a band. Because there is a chance that they wont like your songs, and the whole issue will just go out of the window. But if you make a solo project and hire a backing band, then you have free reign over all the music.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#7
AFAIK, the default is everyone contributing to the music owns equal share (copyright law) ... that default changes under written agreement. Chord progressions, drum parts, and usually bass, are not eligible for copyright. So, best bet is get written agreement on copyright ownership. Verbal promise is not worth the paper it's "written" on. Never forget that.

There are also different aspects of music that hold copyright, not just composition. There's also performance, recording,
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jun 29, 2016,
#8
You both make some good points gorkyporky and jerrykramskoy. So from what I've gathered so far, if I do join the band then my best bet would be to copyright the songs that I have written under my name, retain the home recordings as further proof that I wrote the material, and try to get a written agreement from the other members of the band. If that's the case then I guess my only other question is, if for some reason they do kick me out of the band at some point, would I continue to receive royalties for the songs that I wrote and/or contributed to even after I am no longer in the band? Again, thank you to everyone that has offered their advice as the whole legal thing is not my forte
#9
Quote by derekmichael
would I continue to receive royalties for the songs that I wrote and/or contributed to even after I am no longer in the band? Again, thank you to everyone that has offered their advice as the whole legal thing is not my forte


Yes.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#10
I forgot to mention that the band was signed to a label before they broke up. I also know most of the guys in the band personally including the singer as we all grew up together and went to the same school, for whatever it's worth
#11
this scenario seems extremely unlikely, honestly. If you get into recording and royalty contracts, you'll just have to negotiate your own writing credits on stuff that you wrote by yourself prior to joining the band. I haven't been in that situation, but I really can't imagine anyone having a problem with that.
#12
I probably am overthinking it, as I have a tendency to do with things. I've just heard too many stories about people who were in bands and wrote all or nearly all of the material and ultimately ended up getting screwed over by the rest of the band, one way or another. I take my craft very seriously and I just can't take the risk of that happening with all of the material I have worked hard on for so many years. If I were just joining some local band rehearsing in someones garage that nobody even knows exists then it might not be such a big deal, but this band in particular was not only signed to a label before they broke up, but they were the most popular band in the whole area where I live, not just my hometown... So that kind of changes things a little.
#13
Since you are moving into uncharted (for you) legal areas you may want to get some more knowledge about copywrites, publishing etc. I recommend a book called "This Business of Music". It's very good and covers all these issues and things you haven't even considered. Well worth the money.

https://www.amazon.com/This-Business-Music-William-Krasilovsky/dp/0823077233/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467294789&sr=8-1&keywords=this+business+of+music
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#14
I doubt anybody would start a band just to rip off your songs. Usually when people start a band, they want to play with each other. They don't start a band with musicians that they don't want to play with. Also, usually people that get kicked out of the band are those who don't have the motivation to practice, show up late to rehearsals, don't contribute anything to the band and stuff like that. I don't think people usually get kicked out if they contribute a lot to the band unless they have some personal issues or they have too big of an ego or something like that.


But yeah, if you have written the songs and can prove that they are your songs, there should be no problem.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#15
Contrary to what almost every single musician seems to believe, their songs aren't worth stealing.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#16
Quote by derekmichael
I probably am overthinking it, as I have a tendency to do with things. I've just heard too many stories about people who were in bands and wrote all or nearly all of the material and ultimately ended up getting screwed over by the rest of the band, one way or another. I take my craft very seriously and I just can't take the risk of that happening with all of the material I have worked hard on for so many years. If I were just joining some local band rehearsing in someones garage that nobody even knows exists then it might not be such a big deal, but this band in particular was not only signed to a label before they broke up, but they were the most popular band in the whole area where I live, not just my hometown... So that kind of changes things a little.


Unless you're joining the Eagles, this all sounds very improbable. People who get booted from bands are understandably bitter, but for the most part they are entirely within the terms they agreed to. Plenty of bands have specific writing credits on each song for purposes of ownership. If you're joining a band that is also a serious business, I think you have to accept that years from now, they may be performing songs you wrote without you. If you are savvy, you will still make money on those songs.

If a band is around long enough, it's gong to replace members, but how often does that result in losing a bunch of the repertoire? There are bands with no original members! When you get into music on this level, I think that's just the trade you make.

If you can negotiate sole performance and recording rights post-membership, good on you, but that seems like a steep demand.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jun 30, 2016,
#17
Thank you for the book reccomandation, Rickholly74. I do have a couple similar books about the music business that I haven't got around to reading yet, but I will definately add this book to my collection.

MaggaraMarine, you're absolutely right, although it should be noted that we aren't necessarily "starting a new band" as the band has had SOME success in the past, being signed to a label, playing festivals, being the most popular local band in the area, etc. If I were just starting a band from the ground up in my garage then that would be another story, but as one person said I am moving into uncharted territory (for me)

Cdgraves, you make a lot of good points. It's not the prospect of them performing the songs I wrote without me that I'm worried about; that doesn't bother me. I just want to make sure that I am being compensated and given the proper credit is all
#18
You just have to write the scores out in staff form, and pay the money to copyright your material. As far as I'm concerned there is no good side to human nature..

Make what's yours, legally yours, and be done with it.

As far as I know, (which isn't a whole lot), the only parts of the song you can copyright, are the lyrics and the melody. Chord progressions and rhythm parts, AFAIK, are basically public domain
#19
My suggestion would be to call a copyright lawyer to answer any and all questions you have. They would be able to explain, at an insanely high fee per second, much better than anyone on a random message board could, even if the board is full of bands and band members.

If you are not 100% sure, then simply don't give them access to your existing work at all, and/or write specifically for said band. Are you being recruited specifically to play or also because you write (and have access to a recording studio that they can use for cheap/free)?

Thinking what I would do, if I was in your shoes, would be to negotiate a licensing deal with them, allowing them publishing rights on songs I wrote specifically for the band, in exchange for x-royalties on performances, as well as negotiate for royalties on collaborated works in the event you leave the band (you can't prevent them for playing stuff they also helped to write, I think, but again, lawyer, not me). Again, I'd get a lawyer, because it's well outside my realm of experience. Then, I'd write specifically for that band, and keep a separate book for it vs my usual writings (given my usual lyrical subjects, that's likely going to be necessary anyway).

The only advice I could give otherwise is that if the band members seem reluctant to discuss writing credits and royalties, or even outright refuse to, then I would pass on them. No one should begrudge you protecting your work. If they do, it's a red flag. But, I am of the opinion that keeping ownership of what is, to me, a part of who I am is more important than fame. But then, I write more personal songs, and don't often write beyond that.

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ50.pdf

This is US-based, so may or may not apply. I accept no responsibility if you use this information to sacrifice a goat.
#20
Quote by azrael4h
My suggestion would be to call a copyright lawyer to answer any and all questions you have. They would be able to explain, at an insanely high fee per second, much better than anyone on a random message board could, even if the board is full of bands and band members.

If you are not 100% sure, then simply don't give them access to your existing work at all, and/or write specifically for said band. Are you being recruited specifically to play or also because you write (and have access to a recording studio that they can use for cheap/free)? .....[ ]....
This is the kind of thing which destroys bands. Nightwish's Holopanen is constantly getting trashed for "getting too much money", yet he pens all their material. Yet Nightwish is still Nightwish, and he controls his material. Better to know who the owner is right up front, than argue about it later.
#21
Quote by Captaincranky
This is the kind of thing which destroys bands. Nightwish's Holopanen is constantly getting trashed for "getting too much money", yet he pens all their material. Yet Nightwish is still Nightwish, and he controls his material. Better to know who the owner is right up front, than argue about it later.


Yep. It's always better to know up front whats going on rather than get something done together, and end up fighting. This goes for most any collaborative effort, from bands to software development (another hobby of mine) to relationships of all kinds.

To be fair, the OP is probably over thinking things. I don't think most bands are actively seeking songwriters to get some material and then kick them out and stiff them on the royalties. I suspect many instances where this happens is just people who didn't think ahead, got things done, and then had a falling out elsewhere and only then found out that the legalities of song ownership hadn't been settled beforehand. A few dicks being vindictive, and you've got civil suits, and lawyers buying oil changes for their Ferraris over your songs.
#22
So is it safe to say that normally everyone who contributes to the music would get an equal share, no matter how much they contributed, unless you work out a separate agreement and/or own the rights to the song?
#23
Quote by derekmichael
So is it safe to say that normally everyone who contributes to the music would get an equal share, no matter how much they contributed, unless you work out a separate agreement and/or own the rights to the song?


I think you should always make a separate agreement. Decide these things ahead of time and you'll get no surprises, just tell the people in the band that the songs are yours and that you want to retain full ownership. That being said, no one probably cares since there will likely be no profits anyway. Also, don't be a dick. If someone contributes a big part of the song (vocalist writes the lyrics, the bassist comes up with epic basslines etc.) you need to acknowledge that they had big creative input, and again sort the matter out before you go releasing the song.

A while back, I wrote some parts on this shitty metal song with a band, and after I quit and the bassist joined an another band, they used parts composed by me. I'm fine with this however, since I came up with the song in 5 minutes, it's complete crap and their band sucks.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here