Mucca Pazza is a 30-person punk circus marching band based out of Chicago, Illinois. When it was founded in 2004, the band was one of a handful of renegade marching bands in the country. Now it is performing in Chicago and touring nationally.
The band members were unsure how ownership of the band would work, as well as how to begin the budgeting process and create rules to govern the new business. “We didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, but we wanted to use business ideas that would reflect our values and still make it all a functional, viable system,” Meghan said.
The band also was renting vans to transport its members to shows and concerts but was strongly considering buying a bus. They weren’t sure, however, of the financial implications of such a purchase.
The members of Mucca Pazza consulted with Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors to determine how to formalize their informal and fun business venture. One of the first issues they addressed was ownership. Brad advised all the members should have a stake in the band, thus giving 30 people ownership of the group. “We’re not a one-man band. We talked about ways for 30 of us to make decisions without hog-tying ourselves” Meghan said.
Once everyone had an investment in the band, bylaws were formed to give members flexibility in their commitment to the band. “One thing that was really important to us was flexibility,” Meghan said. “It’s a big time commitment to be part of the band, and a lot of our members have other bands, jobs and families. Brad explained that we could have more than one type of ‘stock’ – active and inactive – so that we don’t have to kick people out when they become unavailable.” They also created a point system to track participation and reward those members who participated more, with more ownership. “Brad helped us determine how much income to set aside so we can pay artists.”
Brad also recommended renting vans to transport the band as opposed to purchasing a bus. Because the purchase would be a capital investment it would impact their corporate taxes. Furthermore there were other financial issues, such as maintenance and gas costs. “He said we were better off renting for now,” Meghan said. “Until speaking with Brad, we thought not buying a van was a financial misake, but it was the other way around.”
Creating bylaws was a new process for Mucca Pazza, but they are pleased to have structure in their business, thanks largely to the guidance provided by Anchor Advisors.
“Even though we put down on paper how to solve certain problems and issues, Brad told us there would still be uncomfortable or tricky situations ahead. He was very good about encouraging communication and making clear it was a key to success – you still have to talk about things,” Meghan said.
After careful consideration and encouragement from Brad, Mucca Pazza decided to incorporate as a C-corp and has no regrets about the decision.
“Incorporating the band and writing bylaws has made us stronger and more stable,” Meghan said. “Morale is high.”
Brad put realistic expectations on the table for the band members to ponder and discuss. Meeting and surpassing these expectations has brought a great deal of responsibility to the members of Mucca Pazza.
“We’re all now legally responsible and feel we have a vested interest to grow the band,” Meghan said. “We felt so much better after talking to Brad; he gave us the confidence and guidance we needed to begin.”Mark Messing, Elanor Leskiw, and Meghan Strell talked to AREA Chicago about their experience with this structure. Read the interview.
Photo credit: Pivot Arts