survival guide for indie rockers. Catchy idea. I did a lot of preparatory work on the subject but for some reason could not pull it off. After a lot of thought, I have decided to analyze why the concept was flawed.
The reality was that I was trying to promote myself as an attorney to artists in an environment where the traditional record deal and publishing deal was rapidly changing. In essence, I was saying to artists, “even though you’re doing everything on your own, you still need a lawyer.”
It’s a problem of classification. It’s hard to know how to define an independent artist these days. From what I see, artists who are signed to what we once called “independent labels” have the same problems as any artists who signs a record deal – except that the money is smaller these days and the terms more potentially more draconian. . What drove the point home to me was a recent article about the band Grizzly Bear in New York magazine. This piece showed in dry economic terms what the business of being a moderately successful artist in 2012 is like. It’s really worth searching out. So, of course, artists like this need lawyers; the game is the same.
So what about artists who are not tied to one particular company or who are truly releasing everything on their own? What do artists like these need from a legal standpoint. I have come up with several ideas:
1. If you are in a band you need a band partnership agreement. I have said it before and young bands hate to deal with these things – but they are extremely important in avoiding problems and potential lawsuits down the road.
2. You need to register with BMI, ASCAP or SECAC.
3. If you are touring it is a good idea to incorporate (and investigate umbrella insurance).
4. If you’re a band, trademark your name.
5. Don’t sign anything without having a lawyer review it. These days I have seen that even the simplest agreements are taking on crazy unnecessary dimensions. Spend a little money to educate and protect yourself.
6. Register with Sound Exchange
7. If you are working with outside producers and musicians, make sure you get an agreement or at least a release from each of them.
8. Listen to the Rolling Stones (I threw that in but it’s still a good idea).