Friendships + Business = Music Detonation
Let’s face it, you meet a few different people and strike up a friendship due to your similar tastes in music. You can all play instruments, so you decide to start up a band. You have quite a few songs written, musically and lyrically and the jamming begins. Within a week, over 10 songs are down. Its beers, hugs and smiles all round. It’s time for a gig.
A quick two song showcase recording is completed to get the gigs, complete with cover art, lyrics and thank you. The music and lyrics are stated as a band effort. You don’t feel that is correct, however you let it slide just to keep the peace. Because in the end it’s all about the gigs, the music and having fun. Who cares what some CD cover states? Why cause arguments within the band.
The gigs start coming, the shows keep getting better and you bring more and more songs to the table. The audience is getting larger and there is a demand for new recorded music. You engage certain super fans and get them to list their 10 best songs and off to the recording studio the band goes.
By this time, it’s more than just the band in the studio. There is an audience out there, who want the music, who want information. The drummer does a local street rag interview, where he claims that the songs are a band effort, everyone has their input. This doesn’t sit well with you, as you know that is not true.
All the songs have been written by you and only you. If there has been any input it has been minimal with the suggestion of doing the chorus twice instead of once. You confront the drummer at his untrue statements, and he disagrees with you, stating that the songs did have his input. You ask him what input did he have. He answers by saying he gave you the idea on the subject matter for the lyrics. You go to him an idea does not mean that he wrote any music and lyrics. At this point, the singer and the bass player are sitting on the fence. You feel betrayed. It’s all splintering apart. Then the engineer mentions about the performance collection agencies and if the songs are registered. Everyone has dumbfounded looks except you. You tell them that you have registered the songs as 100% yours and that most of these songs date back to before the band was formed. The lawyer friend chimes in with a band agreement, stating that since the songs are written by you, you will get 50% of the mechanical royalties and split the other 50% between the other members. He also suggest that you get 100% of the publishing royalties.
This causes disagreements and resentments and you know that this band is on borrowed time. You tell the members in the band that you are leaving and that you are taking your songs with you. They say nothing. Then you get a call from the collection agencies telling you that your old band mates have just registered your songs in their own name as songwriters and if you agree with their request to amend your registrations. You are angry and you tell the agency that you do not agree. The agency tells you that you need to sort it out with them and until then, the songs are placed in suspension and any monies earned on those songs will be withheld until an agreement is struck. You feel violated, used and angry.
How can this happen? The onus is now on you to prove that you wrote your own songs. After exhausting all the free legal advice you can get, you finally speak to an entertainment lawyer who tells you he will do it cheap and take care of you. So you have email conversations, phone conversations and you request the lawyer to write a letter to your ex band mates. All this is done. You get the bill for the month. $700 for one letter, a couple of email conversations and a couple of phone conferences. And the letter is ignored by your ex band mates and nothing is solved.
More anger and more resentment. You can’t believe this is happening. You have done nothing wrong, except create music, which you loved doing. And now you are paying money to prove what is yours. This goes on for months and the band responds to the letters with different demands and always stating that they had input in the songs creation. The album was finished, and they go about releasing it, without your permission.
Even more anger and even more resentment. They even changed the previously agreed booklet, adding themselves as songwriters.
If anyone thinks the above doesn’t happen, then they are living in a delusional world. This is what happens in bands, as everyone is greedy. This is what happens as everyone wants to trump up their efforts as being more important than what it really is.
Gone are the days, when a drummer was just a drummer, a bass player just a bass player and so on.
If you are the songwriter, then you don’t need a band anymore. You see previously a songwriter needed a band to play live shows. That was how it was done once upon a time. These days, its not like that. Live venues are not what they used to be (has anyone come across gigs where the band needs to guarantee a certain turn up and if that turn up is not there the band has to pay the shortfall.
Write your songs, release them yourself. Don’t waste your time with people who will bring you down. If you are great and your songs are great, great musicians will come knocking.
Until then, keep writing and be great.