Are You Good to Go?

A bit of advance planning can save your loved ones a whole lot of grief after you sing your final chorus.

By special contributor Amy Pickard, CEO of Good To Go!

What’s the leading cause of death for musicians? Birth. All musicians are going to die. Happy New Year! In the world of rock and roll estate planning, death is not an alternative fact and musicians need to prepare sooner rather than later. We prepare for natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but we don’t think to prepare for the one “natural disaster” that ALL of us are guaranteed to experience: death. You probably put more thought and effort into your set list than you do your own death. At some point in your life, you and your friends will play a gig together for the last time and none of you will know it. You will play your instrument for the last time and you won’t know it. You will kiss a loved one for the last time when you leave to go on the road and you won’t know it. But what you DO know is that you can prepare yourself and your loved ones for when this happens BEFORE it happens!

My mother died unexpectedly in 2012. I was left to take care of all the “death duties,” which didn’t just include body disposition or who gets her car. The duties included searching for information about bills, hunting through online accounts, guessing at passwords for emails and social media, trying to figure out her banking information and a million other questions that proved to be overwhelming and depleting when I was devastated with grief. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and listen to George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” on repeat, but though the music was comforting, I needed answers I didn’t have.

Three Things Music Creators Can Do Right Now to Help Prepare Your ASCAP Legacy

1. PRACTICE - “If you leave here tomorrow” - start the conversation with your family and friends about hypothetical emergency situations and listen to their feedback as well. Continue the conversation until it’s understood so your loved ones won’t have to live with guilt, disagreements or anger over their decisions after you die.

2. SOUNDCHECK - Run through the “great gig in the sky” and imagine your loved ones having to answer questions without your guidance. If you don’t know details about instruments, contracts, royalties or “where the checks come from,” neither will they. Check that these details are current!

3. MEET AND GREET - Every time you hang with your family and friends, let them know how much you love them and let them know that you know how much they love you.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Ahhhhhhhh!”

I wished there was an instruction manual to help me, so I ended up writing one and creating my unconventional advance planning company called Good To Go! During the G2G! “Death Tupperware Parties,” I guide people through their advance planning paperwork with potluck dishes to share, cocktails and, because I’ve been a music freak all my life, a rock and roll death-themed soundtrack. Wouldn’t you rather talk about your end of life wishes while you’re young and healthy, listening to “Another One Bites the Dust” with your close friends and family in a relaxed, party-like atmosphere instead of under duress in an emergency? Or worse: would you prefer not to think about it at all and force your loved ones to guess? I’m here to tell you that you need to plan ahead in order to prevent those you love from going through what I went through. I’m trying to make something most people avoid as easy and smooth as possible. Think of me as the road manager for your end of life tour.

Few musicians die with a plan in place to protect their estate and loved ones. Do you have a plan in place? I’m talking an actual plan in writing on what you want done with your body, your belongings, your assets and even potential future earnings and especially how you want to be remembered? Not just a will and a living will, but what you’d like done with your belongings? Do you want to live stream your funeral? How do you want to be remembered? Unless you’ve lived through the logistical nightmare of the death duties, you won’t know the fresh hell that awaits you, but my mission in life is to help prevent this hell and provide you and your loved ones with peace.

Because I’ve worked in and around the music business since I was 16, I have a lot of friends who are musicians, road crew, managers and songwriters. I was trying to impress the importance of advance planning upon my friend who is a healthy, professional musician in his early forties. He told me he wasn’t going to die for a long time so he didn’t need to sort his advance planning out just yet. I yelled out to his wife in the kitchen, “Hey, what would you do with your husband’s Rickenbacker if he spontaneously combusted right now?” We all laughed and she said, “I have no idea! I guess I’d sell it.” The husband immediately yelled in horror, “Not the Rickenbacker!” So, this is what I’m talking about. Had he died, his wife would be forced to figure everything out on her own and perhaps make choices he would not have wanted her to make.

What do you want done with your musical instruments? The gig posters you’ve saved over the years? The ticket stubs, passes and laminates and other keepsakes of your career? Your vinyl collection? Your photos? All of the cassettes or hard drives with snippets of songs or demos? Do you have any unpublished material? If something happened to you, who is the successor for your published works? Would your loved ones even know who to contact to get information about these things? If you die without giving anyone instructions on what you want done with your unreleased work in your “vault,” it leaves a legal nightmare that could take years to untangle. If something happened to you right now, would your partner or loved one know what to do? Why would you want to force them to figure it all out without your guidance or input?

How many reading this spend a lot of time on the road? Do you have an emergency plan in place if something happens to you on tour? So much pain and chaos can be avoided by simply having the tough, hypothetical conversations with your loved ones and then documenting your wishes.

In 2014, I went to see Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist Ian McLagan play. I had several musician friends who had worked with him but I had never met him personally. Since the rock world is a small world, of course, it turned out that the band members were friends with some of my closest musician pals and a groovy hang was had by all. Tragically, only a few months after I met Mac and his Bump Band, Mac unexpectedly suffered a stroke in his home, fell into a coma and then died a few days later at the age of 69. He had no plan in place and his loved ones were thrown into chaos.

Jon Notarthomas, who was Ian McLagan’s friend, tour manager, bandmate and personal confidant for the last years of his life, said “What people often fail to think about is that the business of life doesn’t die with them.” It keeps pulling on you or the people still in that person’s life. And you find yourself having to navigate a world that you have only small clues to figure out. All the little things that each of us has but we never discuss. I tell all my musician friends, “Take care of your business, because upon death, your business, your mess, your life still has to be dealt with.” Do you really want to put that on the people you love? Because they will have to deal with it. But even more, I let them know that completing my advance planning at Amy’s Good To Go! party really helped me see my life more clearly today. It helps me make what’s left of my own life more valuable. We only have so much time. Mac would often quote his best bud Ronnie Lane who died of complications of MS in 1997: “It’s a short movie.”

Mac was right. Life is a short movie and isn’t it better to leave behind love rather than a mess of logistics?

About Amy Pickard

Amy Pickard is the CEO of the unconventional advance planning company Good To Go! She is based in Los Angeles and travels across the country facilitating G2G! parties and attending as many gigs as possible.

For more information on attending a monthly G2G! workshop in LA or hosting your own G2G! party, visit Amy's website: www.goodtogopeace.org and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @goodtogopeace.

Want to learn more? Here are some other helpful links:

Estate Planning for Music Copyright Owners

Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing Your ASCAP Legacy