Get A Band Prenup

Guns-N-Roses Before Things Went Horribly Wrong

   Okay there’s not really such a thing as a band prenup so I’ll explain what I’m talking about with a couple stories. One of my good friends was in a band and that band needed a P.A. System. No single person in the band had enough money to pay for the P.A. so everybody in the band decided to chip in some money to pay for the P.A. system. Everyone couldn’t chip in the same amount so a couple of the guys put in more money than the rest of the band. After the P.A. was bought and paid for, the only person in the band that could store, transport and setup the P.A. was the person that had contributed the least amount of money in the band. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, the band eventually broke up and they were left with the dilemma of “who owns the P.A.?” The way it ended up, was the guy that was storing and hauling the P.A. just kept it and moved to a different state, never to be heard from again. So everyone else that had contributed to the P.A. was out everything they had put into it.

   Story number 2: Mike the guitar player had been practicing and playing gigs with the band for about 2 years. The band had just scheduled several gigs over the course of the summer when Mike suddenly quit the band with no advance notice. The band was left in a lurch and had to cancel several gigs because of Mike’s sudden departure.

   So how can these problems be avoided in your band? You need a written band prenup! I guess you could call it a business contract but it amounts to the same thing. In the case of the P.A. System, the band should have put down in writing a plan for paying for the P.A. as well as what would happen should the band break up. For example, the band should have written down how much each person had paid and then decided how much the P.A. would depreciate each year.  After that, buyout amounts for the P.A. for the next several years with a final depreciated buyout value should have been calculated. With that information the P.A. could have been bought by any individual member with payouts based on the value of the P.A. made to each contributing member. Yes it’s complicated and time consuming but it can save years of hurt feelings over stupid things like this.

   In the case of quitting band members, it’s a fact of band life and I guarantee it will happen to you. Again, there should be some sort of prenup agreement, preferably written, detailing how a member should quit the band. For example, you could state that if the band has no upcoming gigs within a 3 month period that the band member can leave with no notice. But, if there are gigs scheduled within a 3 month window, the band member is obligated to play them. If you state this in advance, then it’s a lot easier to address later when somebody wants to quit.

   These are very basic types of problems you will face in your band and there are many more. It’s such a great idea to put them down in writing in advance and have everyone in the band agree to the terms for resolving these problems.

Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

6 thoughts on “Get A Band Prenup”

  1. Why’d Mike have to go and do that? Cuz he got no class!!!

  2. Umm…This is NOT Mike. But maybe Mike had some sheeeiiza going on. Mayhaps he needed some Mike Time.
    Certainly Mike had Class. Cause everyone likes Mike.
    Did I happen to say this was NOT Mike….

  3. I got a sneaking feeling that Not Mike really is MIKE!!! You gotta give notice Mike, you can’t just quit like that!

  4. Good luck getting band members to sign anything like this. I say rent or borrow PA if no one in the band owns one. Most bands I’ve been in – one guy owns the PA and the band pays him extra each gig for using it. You’ve been very lucky Matt, keeping guys in your band as long as you have. I usualy have guys cycling in and out every years or so for various reasons.

  5. Hey Rob, people have come and gone in the band over the years but I’ve been lucky to have a very stable core group of musicians. You’ve got a good point about the P.A. and usually, someone in my band owns it or at least parts of it. We don’t usually pay more to the owner of the P.A. but it would be good to have something like that in writing.

    The band members may or may not sign it, but the idea is solid and even having an unsigned band ‘code of conduct’ there would at least be a written reference of band procedures. The reality is, most bands wing it and I’m just as guilty as anyone in that arena.

    Thanks for the comment Rob!

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