Music is an art – a craft, and a form of expression. But for those of you who are trying to make a career out of it, it’s also a business. Last week we talked about collaborating respectfully throughout the creative process, but this week it’s all business, baby.
As artists, the business aspect is always the least fun thing to deal with, but you’d be doing yourself and your project a disservice if you neglect the business side of art.
Not to get too philosophical, but does a tree falling in the woods actually make a sound if there’s no one to hear it? What about your music? Any hard costs that go towards engineering, touring gear, marketing and promotion, and other services like that are a part of the business side, and if you’re a core part of a band then you most likely also need to be involved in making many of those decisions, so you should be prepared to have those kinds of conversations with your working partners.
When to Bring it Up
Honestly, you should probably talk about business around when you first start or join the band. Now, I’m not saying that you should go all out and write up contracts and work out the decision making process at your very first meet up, but the fact of the matter is that people who work well together creatively won’t necessarily work well together in a business context, so it’s worth exploring early in the game.
For example, when you’re at that first meeting and you ask what their musical goals are, if the answer is “to make a career” then that’s a pretty clear sign that the project will have a lot of business decisions to be made down the road, and you’ll want to make sure that everyone’s goals are on the same line of thought.
What to Bring Up
Once you’ve reached a point in your creative efforts where it makes sense to start actualizing the business aspects of the project, you can start to get more specific about how to best split the financial responsibilities and income. This could be when you’re ready for your first show, or when you have enough songs to release an EP.
This is a huge topic so obviously I don’t have time in this video to go through everything you’ll ever need to work out, but here are some general questions which should help get you started:
- Who’s responsible for buying, renting, or maintaining what gear? Will you pool your resources and evenly split the cost of everything or are you solely financially responsible for whatever you need to do your thing?
- Will you go DIY and delegate tasks amongst group members like making posters and coordinating gigs? If not, who is responsible for finding (and paying for) hired services?
- Branding and image is important: Is there a spokesperson for the group? What are some core beliefs, images, and statements that the band members can use to stay consistent and united as a team when being asked about the project?
- Ownership and rights can be a touchy subject, but it needs to be talked about honestly. Who will own the copyrights to what, and how will income streams be split up?
You don’t have to get super legal and get a lawyer involved to write everything out into a contract and all that – at least until things get really serious – though I definitely do recommend some sort of written agreement over verbal or otherwise generally speaking. All that said, even just having an open and honest conversation about some of these things will really help when these decisions do start to pop up over the progression of your project – because trust me, they will pop up.
The other benefit of keeping a dialogue like this open will help prevent the possibility of people feeling shafted or blind-sighted down the line by ensuring everyone feels involved in the growth of the band.
I’m sure by now you’ve sensed the running theme in this series – success in collaborating creatively and professionally is all about being respectful with the people you’re working with!