Breaking up is hard to do: get help from the Union's Partnership Advisory Service

Breaking up is hard to do: get help from the Union's Partnership Advisory Service

Being in a group or any kind of musical partnership can be a highly fulfilling career choice. But what happens if one of you leaves or the group splits up? Happily, the MU’s free Partnership Advisory Service (PAS) could save you both expense and legal headache. In law, the Partnership Act 1890 defines a partnership as ‘two or more individuals carrying on a business in common with a view of profit’. Consequently, if you are in anything from a duo to a full-size group or songwriting team and intend to make money from the venture, then you are in a partnership, so you need to think about how that will work on a business level.

‘The key phrase here is “with a view of profit”,’ explains Steven Fisher from Northrop McNaughtan Deller, the law firm who administer PAS for the MU. ‘So even if you haven’t made any money yet, you should still get a partnership agreement drawn up now, if you intend to make a profit.’ The MU partnership agreement document is pretty easy to negotiate. ‘It is one standard form,’ says Steven, ‘with subsections that allow it to be tailored to the particular needs of your partnership.

‘MU members commonly want to know who gets the right to the band name if they split up,’ he adds, ‘how the profits will be shared, who is liable for any debts the band incurs, and whether new members can join the agreement. All of these things can be established in the legal document.’ Steven cites the cautionary tale of two members of the boy band Busted: ‘When they left the band very early on, there was a dispute about whether they had been in a partnership with the other members and were entitled to a share of the profits. The court decided they had left the band too early to be considered partners and did not award them any money. Had they had a partnership agreement in place, the outcome may well have been different.’

In order to sign up to PAS, every member of your partnership needs to be a card carrying MU member, but the service itself is free. ‘It would typically cost over £1,000 to have such an agreement drawn up,’ explains MU in-house Solicitor David Fenton, ‘and it could save you a fortune in litigation later on. A real divorce only has two protagonists, but a partnership divorce could have several, only with more legal issues and at least as much acrimony.’ Steven Fisher also believes that this free service could prove incredibly valuable if you are in any kind of musical partnership: ‘Joining the scheme is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to take up such a valuable benefit for nothing when not doing so could cost you dearly?’

To learn more about PAS, or to apply to draw up an agreement, please contact your MU Regional Office.

Posted: February 8, 2013