Even Band Partnerships Are Bad

Chuck and some buddies put together a band. They started making some money from their gigs. Now Chuck needs to start treating this like a business. What's the best way to do that?

QUESTION: Chuck in St. Louis and some buddies put together a band. They started making some money from their gigs. Now Chuck needs to start treating this like a business. What’s the best way to do that? Dave says he wouldn’t treat the band as a partnership.

ANSWER: The first recommendation I have for you may be a little bit uncomfortable with your buddies, but I would not be in a band that was a partnership. There are very few of those that work. Most of the bands that work, someone owns the band. The other people are employees of the band. You can pay an employee per gig or you can even pay them a percentage of the net that the band is making. You can do a lot of those things, but at the end of the day, who owns the name? And if George the Drummer quits, does he get to take stuff with him or something? We’re not getting into all of that because then all you end up with is a bunch of freaking drama. Making decisions by committee doesn’t work. Just ask the government.

Leave the money the same way and decide who owns it and opens a checking account in the name of the band, and they’re the owner of the band. We can still split the money three ways for now.

Here’s what you run into if you don’t. Literally, the guy stays with you three years, and he shows up half the time late, half the time drunk. Then finally he quits, and four months later, you get a $2 million record contract, and he wants a piece of that. That’s the drama. I live in Nashville. I’ve been around this my whole life. It’s drama. You just don’t need that on the business aspects. The bands I know that have done the best are the ones that function with a primary owner—a controlling owner.

If there needs to be money going back into the business, that’d be fine. You can talk to the band about that. You can say you’re going to hold back 20% for growing the band and split everything three ways after that. You can come up with formulas like that. I don’t recommend partnerships ever. I really don’t recommend them in bands. It’s like the worst possible combination of things.