Whether you want to play in a band or go solo in your music career, there are a few things you need to take care of in order to earn as many royalties as possible and keep yourself legally protected. You want to make sure your band name isn’t taken, that the band name you decide on is protected, your music is protected, and you’re earning as many royalties as possible.
Unfortunately, many miss these important administrative tasks involved in starting a band – not because they’re lazy, but because they simply don’t know what needs to be done. Hopefully this checklist will help you understand what’s involved if you decide to start a band.
1. Protect your band name with a trademark
The last thing you want is to start a band, find great band members, write an album, and tour only to find that someone else from another city or country has the same name as you, and even worse, has the legal rights to the name.
Before choosing your band name, it’s important to conduct a thorough search to ensure it hasn’t already been taken. To do this, you can search the USPTO’s website for your band name. If you find that your band name isn’t taken yet, trademark it as soon as possible so that you have the legal rights to it.
If you’re unsure about how to trademark a band name, I’d recommend you seek advice from an attorney specializing in entertainment or intellectual property law.
2. Protect your songs – copyright them
The best way to protect your songs from being stolen by other musicians is to copyright them. Technically, music is covered by copyright once it’s made into a tangible form, but you want to have enforceable protection, you need to register the song with the copyright office. Luckily, the cost to copyright a song is relatively low.
3. Affiliate with a performance rights organization
Performance rights organizations (PRO’s) collect fees from music users like restaurants, bars, live music venues, and music streaming services for public performance of a song, and redistribute these royalties to songwriters. If you don’t affiliate with a PRO, you’re missing out on some valuable royalties.
If you’re unsure about which PRO to choose, check out this ASCAP vs. BMI vs. SESAC comparison chart.
4. Add your music to SoundExchange
While the PROs cover music royalties paid out to songwriters, SoundExchange collects royalties from music users in need of master rights (so, the rights to the recording). This includes companies like Pandora and SiriusXM.
To collect these royalties, you need to be registered with SoundExchange. You can register here.
5. Add your music to SoundScan
SoundScan is a tracking system operated by Nielsen that tracks sales of music and music videos in the United States and Canada. You can add your new music here. This can help you see how you compare to other professional level artists, and maybe get you charted on Billboard if you sell enough copies of your music.
6. Distribute your music everywhere
Music distribution is how you get your music in the places fans are looking for it. Luckily, many music fans only search for music online, so physical distribution isn’t as important in today’s music industry. Sign up for a service like TuneCore or CDBaby to get your music to most (but not all) of the digital music stores available online.
Hopefully this checklist provided you with some valuable insights into the administrative tasks involved in starting a band. Once you have these out of the way, you can focus on writing and recording music to put out an awesome album, promoting it, and touring to the cities that love you.