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7 Legal Tips for Hosting Live Bands at Your Business

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Adding live music can be a great way to liven up the atmosphere at your bar, restaurant, or any other place of business.

Differing musical tastes aside, sometimes even the most talented band can lead to major headaches -- legal and otherwise -- for those fail to properly prepare. Add a raucous audience to the mix, and you could have a recipe for disaster.

To help you avoid any potential problems, here are seven legal tips for hosting live bands at your business:

  1. Make sure you have a written agreement. In any business arrangement, a signed contract ensures that both parties know exactly what they're getting out of the deal. A properly drafted agreement will give you some sort of recourse if the band fails to live up to its end of the bargain.
  2. You'll still probably have to pay, even if the band sucks. What if you agree to have a band come play and they're terrible? Do you still have to pay? The answer is typically yes. Even if your contract contains a so-called "satisfaction clause," as long as the band didn't purposely perform exceptionally terribly, you can't refuse to pay just because they weren't "good."
  3. You may need a music license. Performing rights organizations represent the artists or record labels who own the publishing rights to musical compositions. Whether you are playing recorded music in your business or having cover bands play some oldies-but-goodies, you may need to secure a license from one or more of the performance rights organizations to avoid becoming part of a costly lawsuit.
  4. Watch the noise (and watch out for angry neighbors). Never underestimate the power of an angry neighbor armed with a local noise ordinance. Excessive noise can get you cited for violating the ordinance or even deemed a public nuisance.
  5. An injured audience member can potentially sue. People do crazy stuff at concerts, but as the owner of the business, you may be on the hook if someone is injured at a concert or show that you're hosting. Make sure to make repairs to anything that could be dangerous, and adequately staff your business (and perhaps hire some security guards) to help avoid any problems.
  6. Check your insurance. With potential liability in mind, check your business insurance policy to see if you're covered in the event that an unfortunate accident does occur.
  7. Determine whether you need to issue a 1099 Form. If you are paying a band more than $600, you may be required to issue them a 1099 Form for tax purposes. Check with your accountant if you have questions to prevent making a tax mistake that could haunt you.

If you're considering adding live music to the mix at your place of business, consider talking to an experienced contract attorney to help make sure you get what you bargain for and cover all of your bases.

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