Important Legal Issues To Address As An Indie Artist


© 2015 Vinny Ribas

 Disclaimer: I am not attorney, and this article is not meant as legal advice in any way. It is written and provided here for information purposes only. Please consult an attorney regarding all contracts and legal matters that affect or involve you, your act and/or your music.

  1. Ask your attorney if it would be wise to trademark the name of your act. This will depend on the name itself and the level at which you want your career to reach.
  2.  Decide who owners the name of the band. In other words, if one person quits, can they start another band under the same name? Does the rest of the original band need to change their name? Have an attorney draw up a simple document that outlines your agreement and have everyone sign it.
  3. Be sure you are properly registering the copyrights of your songs.
  4. Be sure you register the copyright for your recordings as well.
  5. Decide on a business structure. Are you a sole proprietor? A corporation? An LLC? Ask your accountant and attorney for advice in this area.
  6. If you are co-writing songs with other, be sure you have a songwriter collaboration agreement outlining who owns what percentage of the copyright and exactly what rights each writer has regarding publishing, licensing etc. It’s better to have everything in writing!
  7. Do you or your band need to have a business license? Be aware that you may need more than one – city or town, county and even state.
  8. Who in the act can legally represent the act and sign a contract? Be sure to have an entertainment attorney review any and all contracts before you sign them.
  9. If you are raising capital, you may have to register your offering with the securities office in your state as well as the US Securities and Exchange Commission. You may also need very specific legal documents in order to protect yourself and your investors (promissory note, term sheet, subscription agreement, private placement memorandum etc.). Be sure to ask a securities attorney what kind of legal instrument you should use based on the amount of capital you are raising and the terms of the offering.
  10. Be sure you know and adhere to the legalities of fan funding as well. Check with your attorney.
  11. Does anyone in the act have the legal authority to bind everyone else by applying for a loan? Be sure that everyone is very clear about who is personally responsible for repaying the debts if the band borrows money.
  12. Are the people in your band (including you), your soundman, stage crew etc. employee vs. or independent contractors? Check with an attorney who knows employment law to insure that you are doing things legally. Your accountant would also be able to answer this question. Then be sure that you have all of the proper documentation regarding their status. Failure to do this can land you in tremendous legal and tax trouble.
  13. Who is responsible for the income taxes for the act and for everyone individually?  What about disseminating the 1099s at the end of the year (for independent contractors). Are taxes being deducted fro paychecks? Who pays the Medicare and FICA? Be sure that your bookkeeper and accountant have a handle on this and that everyone is clear how this is being handled.
  14. If you are selling CDs and merchandise you may legally obligated for collecting sales tax and turning it in to the county and/or state. Check with the applicable local tax departments.
  15. Be sure that you have a solid and legal engagement contract that you use to book gigs. If someone else wants to use their contract to hire you, and you’re not familiar with the ramifications of every term and condition in it, be sure to run it past your attorney before signing it.
  16. Who can sign a management contract on behalf of the act? Be sure that your attorney reviews any contract that you are considering signing. Know it inside and out before agreeing to it so that nothing comes back to hurt you down the road.
  17. If the band records a CD, who owns the master? Who is allowed to license the master recording for use in a TV show or film? What is the songwriter’s share of the licensing agreement?

There are hundreds more issues that should be dealt with, especially if your act is starting to make decent money. There is nothing worse that constantly looking over your shoulder because you are trying to get away with something! Get everyone on the same page from the start. Stay legal. Use an entertainment attorney for all contracts and agreements. It’s the only way you’ll be able to put 100% of your efforts into making the act better!

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.