How to Create a Band Agreement (And Why You Need One ASAP)

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You may have started out just playing for fun, but if you and your bandmates are now at the point where you want take your music career seriously, then it’s time to create a band agreement – and soon. You’ll thank yourself later that you got all of the legal kinks worked out now rather than waiting until an actual issue comes up.

 

Why do you need a band agreement?

Overall, a band agreement helps maintain levels of commitment to the group. It’ll clarify everyone’s roles, responsibilities and levels of ownership. It will also help address any financial concerns, such as who will be paid what percentage of royalties from recordings, publishing and performances.
Complications and disagreements will undoubtedly arise at some point in your band’s career, so having an agreement will come in handy when you need to smooth things out. For instance, how are major band decisions determined? Is it an equal vote, or do certain members have more of a say? What are the consequences if a band member misses a certain number of shows or rehearsals? Start thinking about the kinds of issues that could potentially affect your band at some point, and do your best to come to a compromise on the best way to handle them.
The process might sound a little boring or awkward, but that doesn’t mean it takes the fun out of playing music together! When it’s all said and done, your band agreement will actually help keep your experience together harmonious and allow you to focus on the music rather than worrying about how to deal with every little dispute.

So how do you have “the talk” with your bandmates?

As soon as it feels like the band is “going steady,” you should talk to everyone about what the commitment level really is. Bring up the idea of a band agreement to the group. Explain why it’s important and how it’ll help. (In fact, it might make people happy to know what exactly they’re guaranteed as a band member.) Then pick a time to work out the details.
Nina Noir, a musician from San Francisco and a member of the all-girl Queen tribute bandThe Killer Queens, confesses that having “the talk” with her band was pretty awkward at first. “It felt like, ‘why so serious?’ But every band is a business,” she says. “Even though it’s for fun and it doesn’t seem like a regular job, there are taxes being paid and there’s money being invested. With an agreement, the band functions better.”
However, Nina stresses that you shouldn’t let the idea of a band being a business ruin the creativity that comes from playing music together. “A lot of people get disenchanted by legal contracts,” she says. “It is a necessary evil, but it does not take away from being in the band at all.” In fact, you’ll probably be saving your friendships and professional relationships by getting everyone on the same page sooner rather than later.

What topics should your band agreement cover?

Your band agreement should act as a guide to clarify any questions you or your band members have now, and also to address any issues that you think could arise in the future. At the very least, make sure to cover topics such as:
  • Who owns the rights to the band name?
  • Who owns which songs?
  • If someone leaves the band, can the remaining members continue using the same band name and playing the same songs?
  • How will band expenses be funded?
  • Where does income go? (For example, does the band split income or put it towards a collective band fund?)
  • Who makes the business decisions?
Nina believes that the most important part of the agreement it to determine what will happen if a member leaves the band. “Even though it’s not fun to think about, you really don’t want any loose ends. You want to prevent a case where someone might sue for his or her share of the band. They could claim payment for gigs booked while they were still in the group. They could get their cut of 25 shows they didn’t play. Or if the band wants to use a music video they all made together, the member could say that you can’t use his or her image if there is no prior written agreement.”

How do you create a band agreement?

  1. Set aside a few hours together without distractions.
  2. Make a list of areas to cover.
  3. Go over each component and come up with a compromise.
  4. Draft the agreement.
  5. Have a lawyer review and revise it.
  6. Sign it.
We’d recommend working off of this band agreement template from Music Biz Academy to get started, but make sure you customize it for your band’s specific needs.
While you’re at it, other useful business to take care of early in your band’s career is tocopyright all your music, trademark your band’s name, and make sure you write upcontracts in your favor prepared for your producers and agents to agree to. Then you’ll be all set to share your music with the world!

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Is Instant Online Mastering Worth It?

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Guest post by Jay Heiselmann, a sound engineer with over 15 years of experience working in studios of all sizes. Jay is also a musician who plays in various bands including GroomsThe Immaculates and French Miami. He currently works in Brooklyn’s Death By Audio and specializes in mixing and mastering.

A quick fix for your mixes or a scam?

Want to master your tracks for almost free in just a few minutes? Well, companies are popping up claiming to provide “intelligent” or “instant” mastering using complex algorithms to analyze the waveform and create high quality masters. We saw this technology a couple of years ago in audio plugin format, but these new companies are upload-and-go – all you need is the file. Some are free and others cost only a couple of dollars a track, which is very inexpensive especially if you consider that professional mastering can cost hundreds of dollars. But how good are these “instant” masters? Is it worth cutting corners on this piece of the process? Is the difference noticeable?

I decided to test two popular instant mastering sites against a professional mastering job and review the results. One of the companies making the most waves (get it?) and touting the newest technology is LANDR, a product from MixGenius. I also tested out WaveMod, which has a less flashy site than LANDR, but the easy-to-access examples on the homepage sounded pretty great. 

Here’s an un-mastered track from my band Grooms, to give you a starting point:

LANDR

Pros:
  • Navigation was very easy and an all-around excellent design. 
  • Free for MP3 output.
Cons:
  • Masters sound a little over-hyped. I ran a couple of different songs through the engine and they all had some artifacts I didn’t like (for example, some hyped frequencies and widening that sounded artificial).
  • There is no ability to master a whole album and have the engine even out songs to make it a complete project.

Cost: Free, with the option to pay a monthly subscription fee for uncompressed masters

Verdict:  In the end, it falls short to the professional master.  

WaveMod

Pros: 
  • Sound was even and natural. Full disclosure: I picked medium on the compression setting, which was fine, but I think if I had picked high it would be up to snuff. (However, it would have cost another $4.30 to do that.)
  • They offer “project mastering,” which, according to them, is “limited” but does master an overall album. When I asked about said limitations, Tom Metz at WaveMod says, “[WaveMod] mildly does [project mastering], but not drastically if songs are way off. We usually encourage working on the mixes more if that is the case. But we are working on making [the product] do that better! For now we suggest working on the mixes or hiring an engineer to master the album [if you encounter this issue].” 
Cons:
  • The site was hard to navigate, and I wasn’t sure where my completed track was for couple of minutes after submitting. 
  • I couldn’t try the platform out for free. 

Cost: $4.30 per track (without trying additional settings – see above)

Verdict: This one sounded better than the LANDR version to me. However, compared to the professional master, it sounded a little weaker, less 3D and the drums didn’t pop quite as much.

Professional Master

Mastered by Brooklyn-based engineer Heba Kadry at Timeless Mastering
Pros:
  • This one sounded more 3D to me and the drums hit harder. 
  • I did notice some hyped frequencies, but ultimately this was the most exciting master to my ears.
Cons:
  • Getting tracks professionally mastered can be pretty expensive.

Cost: approximately $300 per track

I asked veteran engineer Mike Wells, who has been running a mastering studio and putting the final magic on records for 10+ years, to compare these tracks and give us his objective opinion on the quality of the mastering.
“At the end of the day, you get what you pay for,” says Wells. “Sure, I can see the initial appeal of low-cost, quick-return. However, as an artist and an audio engineer, I can’t imagine anyone with a serious investment in their music giving final control of their art over to an algorithm. As a professional mastering engineer reviewing these tools, I can say with confidence that I’m not worried about being outsourced to automated tools like these. The proof is in the results.”
So the end result is what you might expect: These new instant mastering technologies are exciting, and they could be a great tool for someone without the experience but who still wants to get tracks out into the world quickly and cheaply. If you’re looking to take your finished product to the next level, though, it’s still worth shelling out the cash to hire a professional.

For more information on DIY mastering, we recommend this article by Resident Advisor. For more information on where to source mixing/mastering engineers or studios in your area and price range, we recommend checking out SoundBetter.

Everything you need to know about PROs (Performing Rights Organizations)

phonograph Everything you need to know about PROs (Performing Rights Organizations)Ok, sure — if you’re going into entertainment or IP law, there’s plenty more to understand about PROs and the intricacies of music publishing.
But for your average independent musician, understanding the basics of performance royalties and how they’re collected/distributed should suffice. So let’s get started. First…

What is a Performing Rights Organization?

As you may already know, music publishing is one of the most important revenue generators for an artist that writes original material.
Performing Rights Organizations (or PROs) help songwriters and publishers get paid by collecting one of the most important forms of music publishing revenue: performance royalties.
[To read about the various kinds of publishing royalties you can generate through the usage of your music, click HERE.]
As a songwriter, composer, or lyricist, you’re owed a “performance royalty” any time your music is played on radio stations (terrestrial, satellite, and internet), used on TV shows or commercials, or performed in live venues.
Those performance royalties are paid by radio stations, venues, and TV networks to Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAPBMISESAC, and SOCAN (in Canada). The PRO then distributes the money to their affiliated songwriters and publishers.
[For a complete list of copyright collection societies worldwide, click HERE.]

Do independent musicians that aren’t getting played on the radio need to affiliate with a PRO?

“Need” is a strong word. But you SHOULD!
Some publishing experts claim that the amount of performance royalties distributed to songwriters and publishers each year accounts for as much as 30-35% of the total available publishing royalties — so there’s huge money being generated from the “performance” or broadcast of songs and compositions in public.
What constitutes an “in public” instance of “performance?” 
Well, you are owed a performance royalty any time a song you’ve written gets:
• played on terrestrial and satellite radio (Sirius, KEXP, etc.)
• used on network and cable TV shows, commercials, etc.
• played on internet radio (including customized radio such as Pandora)
• played on online music streaming services (Spotify, Rdio, etc.)
• performed in a live venue (either by you or some other act)
• played in a restaurant, bar, or other public establishment
Sure, you may not be generating significant income from any of these sources right now. But here’s the thing: if you DO start to take off in any of these areas — let’s say you get a song placed in a big TV show, or you have a breakout hit on internet radio — then you want to be prepared ahead of time to capture the most money possible.
And even if you never have a breakout track that gets tons of plays or high-profile sync placements, you may have a number of songs throughout your career that get modest plays and placements; and the performance royalties of all those songs together can add up to a significant revenue source.

How do PROs pay artists?

As mentioned above, the stations, networks, venues, and music services that benefit from the public performance of your music owe YOU performance royalties for those usages. But they’re not psychic, of course, and they don’t have time to hunt down every single songwriter they owe money to. That’s where Performing Rights Organizations come in.
Each PRO calculates and pays royalties to their members in slightly different ways. Detailed explanations of how they distribute royalties to artists can be found here:

What Performing Rights Organizations do NOT do

So, we know that PROs collect performance royalties. But here’s a list of things they do NOT collect:
* digital performance royalties associated with the creation of a master recording (paid by SoundExchange to labels, session players, etc.)
What is a mechanical royalty? It’s a fee that is owed to the publisher/composer of a piece of music (that’s you! — unless you’ve signed your publishing rights away to a publishing company) any time that song is sold digitally or manufactured in physical form (CD, vinyl, etc.). This fee is owed to you whether you are selling a recording of your own music or if another artist is covering your songs.
In many countries, any time your song is downloaded, you (as the songwriter/publisher) are owed a mechanical royalty. Any time one of your songs is streamed on popular services like Spotify or Rdio, you are owed a mechanical royalty.
Despite the fact that your songs are generating income in the form of mechanical royalties, PROs like ACSCAP and BMI do NOT collect them for artists. (They only collect performance royalties).
This means there is money out there waiting to be collected — money you’ve EARNED. But these mechanical royalties have traditionally been inaccessible to songwriters unless you’re represented by a major label, big publishing house, or had the muscle of an agency like Harry Fox on your side.
[With CD Baby Pro, you’ll be set up to collect all the mechanical royalties you’re owed. No more getting shut out from collecting YOUR OWN money.]
Mechanical royalties and sync licensing fees account for a huge percentage of the total publishing royalty revenues generated each year. That’s why it’s not enough to simply sign up with ASCAP or BMI and call it a day. PROs are helpful — even essential — for capturing performance royalties. But you don’t want to leave those other publishing royalties sitting on the table uncollected.

How do performance royalties get divided up?

For all publishing royalties that are generated from the usage of your music, 50% is paid to the songwriter/s and 50% is paid to the publisher/s.
If you’ve not signed a deal with a publishing company, you are considered both the songwriter AND the publisher. You are owed both shares (50% for the songwriter, and 50% for the publisher) of any mechanical royaltiesperformance royalties, or licenses that your songs generate.

The 2 most common mistakes musicians make regarding performance royalties

Indie artists don’t always get paid giant licensing fees when their songs are used on TV shows; but every dollar counts. If you’re lucky enough to get a song placed on a sitcom, documentary, a local TV news magazine, or any other program, there’s a good chance you’ll end up earning more money in the long run from performance royalties than from the initial licensing royalty.
But all too often musicians miss out on making this money (and any performance royalties they might otherwise be owed for radio plays) because…
#1- They have no PRO-affiliation
No PRO-affiliation, no performance royalties! That money would just end up beneath the giant couch-cushion in the sky.
#2- They didn’t list the actual songs with their PRO
Just like the venues and radio stations I mentioned earlier in this article, Performing Rights Organizations aren’t psychic. When you write, record, and release a new song or album, you actually have to go back into your PRO account and tell them about this new material! Otherwise, they have no idea what songs they should be collecting performance royalties for in the first place.
And to take things one step further, if you’re registered as both a songwriter AND a publisher, be sure the most current data (song titles, writer info, etc.) is listed correctly in both places. If you have co-writers on any new tracks, be sure they enter the info into their accounts too.

So, how do you collect YOUR performance royalties? 

If you’re in the USA, you’ll need affiliate yourself and register your songs with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.
Or… as a CD Baby Pro member, we’ll handle your ASCAP or BMI affiliation and song registration for you — saving you tons of extra paperwork. Plus, we’ll register your songs directly with many other collection societies around the world and make sure you get paid all the royalties you’re owed — not JUST performance royalties, but also mechanical royalties for international downloads and global streaming.
For more information about music publishing, download our FREE guide:
Publishing  Guide: Make More Money From Your Music