Skip to Main Content

Legal issues when forming a band

Whether you decide to form a professional or semi-professional band, there will always be many legal issues to consider.

First, you should start with considering the legal business structure of your band. Your band will be able to enter into contracts, pay bills, and buy equipment. As such, your band or group can be a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. You may need a lawyer to draft the terms of your legal structure.

Your band agreement, which may be different than your structure documents, should also determine how the expenses will be shared, how the profits will be divided, and how your writing and/or song ownership credits will be organized.

Your band will also have to take into consideration obtaining insurance. For example, suppose a bar patron trips on one of your equipment cords and shatters his arm? Who will be liable for paying the costs award if your band is sued?

Next, your band will have to determine who has legal ownership of the band name. Should it be the band’s founders, the band’s members, or even the band’s corporation? These decisions are important, especially if the band breaks up or if a new member joins the group. Making these decisions now will help you ensure that departing band members are not able to use the name of your band for a new group later down the road.

Once this has been decided, register the band's name at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office or as a business under the Business Names Act in Ontario. Your band's name is then protected from being used by another band in Ontario.

In terms of the songs your band plays, you will need to ensure that you have the legal rights to use each song played, especially if you are a “cover” band that uses other creators’ material. If this is the case, you will need to obtain written permission to perform these songs from a copyright collective such as the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (aka SOCAN).

Once your band becomes serious and starts performing in public, you should immediately consult with an entertainment lawyer to ensure your legal interests are protected.

Read more:

SOCAN FAQ Copyright

Legal Implications of Being in a Band Ontario