Agreements Between Band Members: Dealing Fairly with Members Who Don’t Write Songs

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By George Howard, courtesy of Artists House


In many bands there is either a single songwriter or a songwriting “team.” This archetype was established early — Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, et al. — and persists to this day. Whether it’s a single songwriter or songwriting team who come up with the necessary elements to create a copyright in a song, there are often others in the band (drummer, bass player, etc.) who have no claim over this copyright.


Only Songwriters are Automatically Granted Rights Associated with Copyright.


As we’ve discussed in prior articles (Control Your Revenue: Transfer Your Rights, Your Public Performance Rights, Your First Asset, The Right To Reproduce, The State of The Music Industry & the Delegitimization of Artists) the owner(s) of the copyright are immediately — upon creation of an original melody and lyric that is “fixed” in a tangible form (i.e., written down or recorded) — granted six exclusive rights. From these rights comes the ability to make money in the music business.


Whether the song is downloaded, streamed, used in a movie, or exploited in numerous other ways, it is the songwriter, and the songwriter only, who is compensated for the use of the exclusive copyright. So, if the guitar player and the singer write a song, and that song gets used in a TV show, it will be the guitar player and the singer who receive the income from the synchronization fee (and its associated royalties; e.g. public performance royalties if the show is broadcast, etc). The drummer, bass player and any other member of the band will see none of this money. Zip.


Band members may not understand the rights around either creation of the copyright of the income generated from the various means of exploitation; too often, they believe that all income the band earns will be divided up.  While they may be correct with respect to money earned from gigs, and potentially money earned from the so-called artist royalty if they are signed to a recording agreement with a label, they are gravely mistaken when it comes to money derived from the exploitation of copyrights of songs they did not write . . . read more at


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