Getting Started in the Music Business

A Joint Production of the Texas Music Office and Artists' Legal and Accounting Assistance of Austin

Welcome. The materials in this guide are organized to provide a short-answer reference to the basic legal and business practices associated with the music industry. Click on each section to view an outline of frequently asked questions. Each page has a "to continue" link at the bottom that will lead you through the entire guide.

Table of Contents

Introductory words of advice

Make Your Band Your Business

This section is an introduction to the business aspects of the music industry. Use the information here to:

  • Learn about the types of business entities available to Texas musicians
  • Visit the IRS webpages and download business taxation pamphlets and forms
  • Learn about trademark rights and visit the Patent and Trademark Office website to download registration forms
  • Find out about the musicians' unions in Texas
  • Learn how to find a manager and low-cost legal assistance

The Songs

This section guides you through the basics of copyright law and music publishing. Look here to:

  • Learn about copyrights and visit the Library of Congress website to download copyright registration forms and information
  • Seek clearances to cover or sample songs
  • Affiliate with a performing rights society
  • Set up your own publishing company
  • Start marketing your songs for films, television and computer games

The Recording Process

Whether you plan to start you own label or sign with an established label, this section discusses:

  • Making a demo and getting it to the right people
  • The basic elements of standard industry recording contracts
  • How to set up your own label
  • How to finance the recording

Exclusive Artist Recording Agreement: A Brief Outline and Explanation of Key Concepts


The appendix includes suggested reading materials and informational resources on the world wide web. Use these additional materials for a more thorough study of music business topics.


Written by Kate Hayman, Texas Law Fellow, with revisions and expansions by Casey Monahan (Texas Music Office), Marc Fort (Texas Music Office), Andrew Leeper (Texas Music Office), Anna Bobkowska (TMO Intern), Mary Ermel (UT Austin law student/TMO Legal Intern) Austin Hegarty (UT Austin law student/TMO Legal Intern), Emily Burrows (UT Austin law student/TMO Legal Intern) and Jacquelyn Sorcic (UT Austin law student/TMO Legal Intern). Special thanks to Michael Bryant, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the Governor; David S. Sokolow, Professor, The University of Texas School of Law; Craig Barker, Attorney; Ed Fair, Attorney; and to the Texas Law Fellowships.

Disclaimer: The Texas Music Office does not intend for this advice to provide or replace professional legal advice in any way. These suggestions are only intended to provide a short-answer reference guide to the basic legal and business practices associated with the music industry. In your own interest, consult with an attorney before entering into any contractual agreement or taking any action against copyright infringement.