Music is as much an industry as an art. Your band becomes a business when it starts playing onstage for money or when any of the band members start selling the band’s music and merchandise. Take a day or two with your band members and register your band as a business. Legal registration can protect you from potential conflicts down the road as your band navigates through the music industry and your songs climb the charts.
Register your band as a limited liability company (LLC). Becoming an LLC makes your band a legal entity separate from the band members, and this can protect you and the others from lawsuits that could put everyone's personal assets at risk. According to Leon Bass, an Ohio-based entertainment attorney, "You should consult an entertainment attorney to help you decide what is best for you, but in most cases an LLC is ideal for bands." As of 2011, depending on your state, fees to form an LLC cost between $100 and $800, not counting attorney's fees. Contact an attorney or your state's corporations division directly.
Apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. With an LLC, you’re required to apply for an EIN. The EIN is like a Social Security number a company uses when filing taxes each year. Vote, as a band, to elect one band member to be the IRS’s main contact person or “responsible party,” and let this person apply for your band’s EIN. According to the IRS, applying online is the preferred method for getting an EIN.” Alternatively, you can apply over the phone by calling 800-829-4983.
Register your band as a writer and publisher with a performance rights organization. All three performance rights organizations in the United States serve the same purpose by representing songwriters' rights and collecting royalties for your band whenever any of your songs are played in public. Join the American Society of Composers, Authors and Performers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) or SESAC Inc. As of 2011, ASCAP charges a $35 one-time fee per application. BMI and SESAC are free to join (see Resources). Membership applications are available at each organization’s website.
A writer since 1995, Christian Fisher is an author specializing in personal empowerment and professional success. From 2000 to 2005, he wrote true stories of human triumph for "Woman's World" magazine. Since 2004, he has also helped launch businesses including a music licensing company and a music school.