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Without a Partnership Agreement, complications can arise if your band breaks up, or if someone leaves or is sacked from your music collaboration.

It’s important to have an agreement written up in advance to avoid disputes. Otherwise you could end up being liable for your band mates’ debts, not having a claim to your group's identity, or no longer having legal ownership over your instrument. 

That’s where our Partnership Advisory Service comes in. The MU provides members with a tailored written partnership agreement at no extra cost. 

If everyone in your band or group is a member of the MU, and you’d like to set up a partnership agreement get in contact with your Regional MU Office

What counts as a partnership in music business

Provided that the members of your band or group are sharing income and debts, then the broad view is that you are all in partnership. This is legally understood as two or more individuals ‘carrying on a business in common with a view of profit’. 

And it’s not just bands – a song writing team, string quartet, acoustic duo, ensemble, brass band and so on may equally be a partnership. 

Why is a partnership agreement important?

The current UK Partnership Act was not designed with bands in mind. This means that without a Partnership Agreement in place, complications can arise down the road. 

Where there is no written agreement (and sometimes even where there is), the Partnership Act provides that: 

  • Each member of the band is individually liable for all group debts incurred while a partner, and not just for his or her share of the group debts.
  • All equipment will belong to the partnership and not to any member. You may therefore find your own equipment becomes a band asset when you join, and not yours to take away if you leave!
  • 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. Accordingly, it is in every band member’s interest to know what the other members are doing in the band's name and to agree in advance what they can do without telling the others. 
  • Any member can leave the band or be sacked at any time without notice, although sacking a partner is unlawful, unless the partnership agreement permits it. The leaving of a member will automatically dissolve the partnership and the leaving member is entitled to apply to the court to wind up the partnership’s affairs to force a distribution of the assets. This may prove problematic if you’re about to play a tour. 
  • On dissolution, the partners’ authority, rights and obligations continue, so far as may be necessary, to wind up the partnership and complete outstanding partnership contracts. This could mean the leaving member having to (or having the right to) play any booked gigs. 
  • The 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. Consequently, where one member (perhaps the founding member) thought of the name, but is sacked, he or she could lose that name to the continuing partners. Where the band breaks up and all the former members try to use the name for their own new bands, this causes confusion and dispute.  Legally, no single former partner has the right to use it without the majority’s express permission, so if the band splits equally no-one can use the name. 
  • Any income earned by members of the band from musical activities outside the band may be treated as band income and be liable to be shared accordingly. 

Using the service 

All members of your band or group must be members of the MU to be eligible for this scheme. 

Once you’ve all joined up, the next step is to get in contact with your Regional Office who will talk you through the process of getting your music Partnership Agreement written up.