In a band or songwriting partnership? Musicians' Union offer advice on protecting yourself

Blog by Musicians' Union under Artist Managers

Like any relationship, working with other musicians can get complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a band, or one part of a songwriting or production team, a Partnership Agreement is essential. 

Are you 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’. So, if you are sharing the money you earn in your band, then you’re probably in a partnership.  The law is old and not written with musicians in mind. So where there is no written agreement, and sometimes even where there is, the Partnership Act could affect you. 

Protect yourself

Partnership Agreements should set out:

who owns any rights created in the process (in songs, recordings, videos, etc), 

who owns the band name, website and other assets including instruments and gear,

what are the financial arrangements (does every member of the band get an equal
        share?), and 

what happens when a member leaves. 

Partnership Agreements should also set out how key decisions, like the appointment of a manager, are to be made. Are those decisions unanimous or by majority?  

That’s not all, and we strongly recommend you seek expert advice on it – get in touch with your Regional Office. 

It makes sense
A Partnership Agreement gives you control over your destiny. It gives you a say in your future that a 19th century law could take from you. 

It can protect you from debts that another member of the band can legally tie you to under the Act, and protect your instruments and gear from becoming the property of all band members. 

An Agreement can also protect your income. If you earn money from musical activities outside the band, that money may be treated as band income under the Act and be liable to be shared with other band members. You can stop that with a Partnership Agreement. 

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 without spending money you may not have on legal fees. So it’s worth having one. 

Don't Panic! 
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. And students can join for just £20 a year. For details, contact your Regional Office.


musicians union, partnership agreements, unsigned bands, unsigned artists, emerging bands, emerging musicians, songwriting duo, songwriting partnership


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