The Brow Horn Orchestra (http://www.facebook.com/thebrowhornorchestra) is a six piece afro-electro funk band based in Perth, Western Australia. The band has garnered a cult following since winning Best Funk Act at the 2010 Western Australian Music Industry Awards and Best Live Act at the Perth Dance Music Awards. In light of the band’s growing profile, founding members Nic Owen and Karri Harper-Meredith (who started out ‘The Brow’ as a street performing duo back in 2007) sat down with Arts Law Senior Solicitor Delwyn Everard at the 2011 WAMi Festival to get some general legal advice around band management.
Nic and Karri described themselves as the ‘owners’ of the band and thought of the band as their ‘company’. They wondered whether they needed some formal agreements in place. After chatting about how the band was run, Arts Law advised that they appeared to be operating a legal partnership. The Brow Horn Orchestra was not a company – it was not registered with ASIC, didn’t file its own tax return or have directors (all of which could indicate an incorporation). A partnership existed whether or not Nic and Karri had thought of themselves that way and even though they had no written agreement. However, Arts Law strongly recommended that they did draft a partnership agreement setting out how they agreed to manage the band business – particularly now that they were becoming so successful!
Arts Law also suggested that the partnership should have songwriting agreements with each of the band members who performed with it. Such an agreement would clearly state what each member was expected to do (attend practice sessions, turn up to gigs, payment, etc) as well as clarify ownership and performance rights in the band’s original songs, many of which were collaborative. If a performer left the band, it would be important to have a clear right to continue performing any songs which that person might have contributed to.
Finally, Arts Law recommended that the band enter a contract with its manager and suggested Nic and Karri look at Arts Law’s ‘sample agreements’ such as the ‘Band Partnership Agreement’ and the ‘Contractor Agreement’.
Bands can shoot to stardom in short periods of time. When your band catches that lucky break, it’s so much easier if your ‘house is in order’. It might seem boring to have to get all these agreements but when questions arise, it’s comforting to know that you have a document to consult.
We wish The Brown Horn Orchestra all the best in the future. Watch their hit song Goliath on YouTube here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-CGZ_ZO5XE)
Further resources you might find useful:
- Arts Law’s publication: Business Structures and Governance
- Business partnership checklist
- Agency agreements
- Contracts: an introduction
- Contracts: a glossary of jargon
- Performers’ rights
- Band Partnership Deed
- Music Studio Recording Agreement for Unsigned Artists
- Venue Hire Agreement
- Breaking up is hard to do … what happens when a band member leaves.