Music business contracts and agreements


The following advice is provided as a general guide to contracts and agreements. Always seek legal advice from a trade organisation or music lawyer.

There are several different types of contract that an artist, band or songwriter may encounter on their journey towards a professional career. This includes booking contracts, management agreements, publishing and recording contracts.

A contract is a legally binding document in which both parties state their aims and objectives, including rules for both sides which can be the artist and a manager, publisher, record company or between band members.

An example clause:
Management Commission:
You shall be entitled to charge for your services a commission of 15% (maximum 20%) of the (gross or preferably net) income received by myself in respect of the activities the subject hereof during the Term and Commission Period (excepting that following termination of the Term the commission payable shall reduce to 10% of the (gross/net) income and will be subject to the limitations on the source of such income set out below).

This example indicates how the manager’s wages will be paid. In this case, the manager will take a percentage of the artist’s earnings in return for providing management services with a contingency for termination as agreed in the contract.

Any document that legally binds you to the terms and conditions should be thoroughly examined and understood completely before signing. Various trade organisations like the Musicians Union and Equity provide free legal advice and performance contracts for their members. Always get a professional opinion from someone who specialises in music law like a music business solicitor or lawyer.

Young adults and children under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign their contracts, nothing should be signed without them present!

Avoid long term contracts, always ensure that there are options on both sides for withdrawal and renewal and never let anyone pressure you into signing a contract.

Contracts can range from a simple one-page document to dozens of pages, they can be simple or extremely complicated so if you don’t understand anything or are unhappy with a clause, don’t sign it until it is explained and amended to your complete satisfaction.

Please Note:- The Contracts, Agreements and Submission Letters are examples.  Whilst you are welcome to copy, download and print these examples they are for information and entertainment only.  We are not music lawyers and advise you to use contracts drawn up or checked by a legal expert from your native country. A wide collection of Music Business Contracts can be purchased from A2Z although please note these are US orientated and will need adjusting to reflect your countries requirements.

Free Example Contracts

If you are an M.U. member and have been presented with a management, recording or publishing agreement, you should send a copy of it to the Musicians Union who will offer advice and any amendments they feel might be suitable free of charge for members. A free Live Music Kit is also now available for download on their site which includes contracts for bands and venues plus information on the Music Licensing new guidelines with fee structure.

A2Z Contracts
Easy to use fill in legal forms & contract agreements. USA orientated but you can create your own drafts by inserting or deleting suitable legal jargon sections from various documents using the ‘cut and paste’ method to develop the perfect legal contract for your needs.

British Academy of Songwriters and Composers
have a standard contract which is used by many UK Publishers.

Musicians Assist
have several free printable US contracts online including:
Backing Band Agreement
Performance Agreement (basic & advanced)
Publishing Agreement
Sound Contracting Agreement

The Production Services Association represents the professional interests of both freelance technical production personnel and service companies. Their website contains an explanation of the differences between being self-employed or freelancing with tax liability distinctions and a sample contract for self-employed production workers.

Writers Copyright Association
UK copyright service with prices per registered work ranging from £25 for 5 years to £80 for 20 years. Also contains sample contracts (Life Story, Screenplay option, Standard Release Form, Writers Collaboration, Licensing Rights to an Article).

Music for London
Includes a wide range of sample terms on a variety of contracts including management, publishing, record label, music producer plus online and downloadable example contracts.

For a list of legal resources and music business solicitors visit our Music Lawyers section