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9 Tips for Emerging Artists from Musicians' Union

13 January 20 words: Musicians Union

Aiming for a career as a working musician? Forget what your parents, no-good friends or washed-up X Factor stars say – it’s possible. We had a chat with the Musicians’ Union and asked for their top tips on making your dreams come true in a realistic manner...

Understand and protect copyright

Make sure you know your worth. If you write music and lyrics, or record your own music, you automatically own the copyright to them. Copyright in compositions is currently the life of the author plus seventy years, and is awarded to the longest-surviving author where compositions are co-written. 

Get a tailored partnership agreement

If you are working in a band or group and sharing income and debts, the broad legal view is that you are in a partnership. It’s important you seek a legal partnership agreement service to help prevent disputes down the road. Sort of like a marriage. Kinda.

Use a song-share agreement to formalise any co-writing credits

Just like any other contract you require for a job, when co-writing a song it’s crucial to formalise any verbal agreements on ‘song splits’ in a written document, so no party runs the risk of getting screwed over. Get it in writing!

Songwriters – join PRS for Music

Did you know that you can collect royalties for performing your own original material? Join PRS for Music and register your original works to ensure that any live performance royalties are collected and distributed correctly.

Performers and recording artists – join PPL

Have you performed on a commercially-available recording? Make sure that you are registered with PPL as a performer to ensure you receive any performer royalties due. If you record your own music, you are your own master rights holder. Open a rights holder account with PPL to register ownership of your own masters and ensure the correct distribution of PPL royalties.

Get insurance cover for your equipment and public liability insurance

Sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many musicians lose their tools of the trade after falling victim to thieves, when it’s dead easy to prevent. For example, members of the MU benefit from £2000 of inclusive instrument and equipment insurance, and £10 million public liability insurance – all included with their membership subscription.

Use the right session form agreements when working as a session musician

If you are engaged as a session musician, ensure you use the right session form agreement, to avoid signing-away any future performer royalties.

Always seek independent qualified legal advice on contracts offered before signing

MU members benefit from one hour of qualified legal advice on music-related contracts. Make sure you don’t get ripped-off and get that contract checked before signing your life away unknowingly. There’s also plenty of ways you can access free legal advice and assistance regarding employment/engagement as a musician, and intellectual property.

Finally… Join the Musicians’ Union.

Join a bigger band. The Musicians’ Union now have over 31,000 members, and work for you by negotiating with all the major employers in the industry, as well as offering all of the services mentioned above, to musicians at any stage of their career. New members can currently join for just £1 for the first six months of their membership – it’s a no brainer. 

Join the Musicians' Union