M U PAGE
THE lOW DOWN
PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS ARE ESSENTIAL WHEN
YOU'RE WORKING WITH OTHER MUSICIANS WITH A
VIEW TO PROfIT, SAY THE MU
Am I in a partnership?
The Partnership Act 1890 defines a partnership as two or more
individuals 'carrying on a business in common with a view of profit'. If
you are sharing income and debts, then the broad view is that you are in
It matters because the law wasn't written with bands in mind. So
where there is no written agreement (and sometimes even where there
is), the Partnership Act could still affect you.
W hat do partnership agreements cover?
Partnership agreements should set out the partnership activities, such
as who owns any rights created in the process (in songs, recordings or
videos, for example), who owns the band name, who owns the website,
what are the financial arrangements (are all partners' shares equal?),
what happens when a member leaves, and what are individual or group
assets, such as the PA, instruments, van and so on. They should also set
out how key decisions, like the appointment of a manager, are to be made.
They can also be used in creative ways to reflect your group wishes.
For example, your group may decide to share publishing income in a
different ratio to the copyright ownership for certain songs, or for the
duration of the group.
That's not all, and we strongly recommend you seek expert advice
on the legal, tax and other implications of any band or other working
arrangements that may be affected.
W hy do you need one?
It makes financial and artistic sense - it could affect your income,
and your control over your own destiny. The Partnership Act means
that any member of the band has the authority to bind the rest of his
or her partners and to incur debts in the name of the partnership.
So having a partnership agreement could protect you from some
You may find your own instrument and any equipment becomes
a band asset when you join, and not yours to take away if you leave.
A partnership agreement can protect your instrument and gear. Any
band name will be treated as one of the assets of the partnership and,
unless there is an agreement to the contrary, it is owned by all of the
members of the partnership equally - so you may not be able to keep
on using it without permission.
It can be helpful to know what happens to these kinds of
assets from the start, and you can set that out definitively in your
Any income earned by members of the band from musical
activities outside the group may be treated as band income under
the Act and be liable to be shared accordingly. You can prevent that
with a partnership agreement, and keep the money you earn as an
individual. And be aware that if the group disbands, you might still
have to play any booked gigs or find yourself in breach of contract if
you cancel them.
Ultimately, not having a partnership agreement could open you
up to potentially massive financial, logistic and artistic issues which
you may not be able to resolve to your satisfaction without expensive
litigation. These is likely to be far more expensive, time-consuming
and stressful than getting an agreement drawn up in the first place.
You can talk to us. Our Partnership Advisory Service can help make
sure you get a fair deal. We can even draft a partnership agreement
for you, free of charge if all members of the partnership belong to the
MU or join. For details, contact your regional office.
MU members get access to a range of career development advice. If
you're considering a change, contact your regional office and book
a one-to-one w ith your MU official for bespoke advice. For general
advice and more information about how to join the Union, please visit
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