Are All Band Members Treated Equally?

Jeremy Davis officially departed from Paramore in December 2015. He is now in a legal battle with Paramore regarding whether he is an equal business partner or an employee of the band.

In 2003, Hayley Williams was signed to Atlantic Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. The label signed Hayley as a solo pop artist, but she insisted that she wanted to play alternative rock music with a band, whom she had been performing with in their basements since 2002. The band, Paramore, officially formed in 2004 with four founding members: Hayley Williams (vocals), Josh Farro (lead guitar), Zac Farro (percussion), and Jeremy Davis (bass). The band decided to release their music through Fueled By Ramen, an indie record label that is another subsidiary of WMG.

In December 2010, brothers Josh and Zac Farro departed from Paramore. Josh and Zac wanted to be the ones to release a statement, but Hayley blindsided them and released her own version of the truth. This infuriated the brothers, which led to Josh slamming Hayley and calling Paramore, “a manufactured product of a major label.” The band was never truly treated as a band. Although the band members contributed on both a creative and technical level, they were left in the dark regarding important business decisions and were treated as employees, rather than partners. Josh himself stated that Hayley was the only member truly signed to Atlantic Records, and the rest of them were stuck “riding on the coattails of Hayley’s dream.”

The biggest issue was how young the band members were at the band’s formation. Their ages spanned from 12 to 16, which is far too young to understand the business aspect of music. At the time, the band was simply focused on making music. Their roles were not clearly defined. They rushed into a recording contract, and the label took advantage. A massive error that many bands make is pursuing managerial representation after being offered a recording contract. The first step any bands should take if they want to make it big is to find a manager. An effective band manager can set a contract defining the roles of each member and they way the band’s revenue from other contracts (such as recording contracts and booking contracts) will be divided amongst band members.

Upon Jeremy’s departure, he asserted that he was a partner in the company, therefore he deserved an equal share in all income earned by the band. The band had an informal agreement that Hayley would distribute a portion of her earnings to be included in the band members’ salaries, in order to create a feeling of “camaraderie” within the band. In the music industry, no agreements should be informal. It is imperative that everything is in writing, so it can be used effectively in a court of law.

I anticipate that Jeremy will lose this lawsuit, which I find highly disappointing. Jeremy should have been treated as an equal partner from day one. However, Hayley’s name has always been the only name on the recording contract with Warner Music Group and its subsidiaries: Atlantic Records and Fueled By Ramen. Jeremy should have fought to amend the contract much earlier in order to have a successful outcome. The sad truth is, in the corporate world, what is legal is not always what is fair.

 

 

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