Throughout history, musical groups have formed, broken up for various reasons, sometimes reformed (in various incarnations), and frequently broken up again. It happens at all levels of the music industry, from your brother's garage band to the Beatles, Sonny and Cher, and the Eagles (multiple times). I'm neither a divorce lawyer, nor a marriage counselor, so don't ask me why it happens, it just does.
Fortunately, not all disputes lead to a breakup and many issues that groups frequently encounter can be resolved through good faith discussion. However, should the members reach an impasse, the suggestions discussed in this series can help move the members toward resolution, even if the ultimate "resolution" is dissolving the group.
Above all, the members should not ignore the issue, particularly if it is time-sensitive or affects the rights of outside parties (e.g., existing contracts for future services). Even issues that are not specifically time-sensitive deserve timely consideration. Aside from the potential negative impact on the group's business, leaving an issue open for an extended period can foster suspicion and animosity among members. Also, issues that might seem insignificant to certain members might be extremely important to others. Members should keep the lines of communication open and strive to maintain civility.
Assuming one exists, members should carefully review the band partnership agreement (or, if the group is formally organized as a limited liability company (a/k/a an "LLC") or corporation, the operating agreement or bylaws, respectively) for guidance on the specific issues in dispute, as well as the procedure for dispute resolution. Please see my previous article on band agreements for more information. It might also be necessary to consult applicable state statutes to fill any gaps not provided for in a written agreement or if there is no agreement.
In the next installment, I'll discuss some more formal steps for dispute resolution.
L. Kevin Levine is the founder of L. Kevin Levine, PLLC (go figure), a boutique entertainment, copyright, trademark, and business law firm in Nashville, Tennessee. A lifelong musician who grew up in his family's music store, it was inevitable that Kevin would build his legal career in entertainment and business.