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PREPARING A PROFESSIONAL ENGAGEMENT CONTRACT
by Posted By Les Vogt
Every dollar earned in the entertainment business is the product of a negotiated contract. That contract should clearly reflect the engagement details confirmed through previous discussions with the purchaser...
Posted By Les Vogt
Engagement contracts should be kept as simple as possible... together with a basic contract rider for additional details. In addition, it never hurts to review and improve the contract you've been using for years. The object is clarity rather than bargaining strength on either the Performer or Purchaser's side. The goal is to lay out the deal so everyone is on the same page. The simpler a contract is... the more likely it is that a purchaser will agree to sign it.
In some situations, a handshake or verbal agreement is quite acceptable... it's legal, but difficult to enforce. People who think they don't need contracts must either have a well known reputation or really trust the people they're dealing with. But things change and misunderstandings happen, and a contract protects both parties. Of course, the more money that is involved, the more need for a contract. If you are performing as a hobby, then you may not need a contract, but if it's your business... you should have one. If you haven't prepared your own contract before, it can be intimidating to ask someone to sign it, but the other party will actually respect your professionalism by doing so, and the worst that can happen is they won't sign it. If they don't, it's usually because the contract is too one sided or perhaps even unfair.
There is no perfect contract for every situation, and there are too many clauses to touch on in this article. A common practice is to make a brief standard contract, and attach a rider for specific needs and requirements. Here are some important considerations...
Contract Header Always display your name, address and telephone number clearly at the top of your contract form. It is important that your client knows where to return the signed contract. Be sure all your computerized forms contain the correct address.
Date, Time, Compensation & Signature by BOTH parties In some cases, this is all you'll need... But, more information is always better.
Definition of Performance Both parties should know what is expected for a "perform-ance." Provide a clear and concise description of the nature of the performance, the number of musicians and singers, including set length, set breaks and anything else unique to the performance.
Location, Date & Time This seems like a no-brainer, but I have heard horror stories about performers showing up on the wrong day, two performers booked for the same date... enough said. Length of performance can be described here or in the definition.
Compensation It should be clear whether the fee is a fixed amount (guarantee), or a percentage of door or revenues, or both. Include when payment will be made, to whom, how, and any deposits as well. Be very clear here as to payment method and who specifically receives it. For example, if the deposit goes to the agent, and the remainder to the performer, it should be in the contract. If payment is based on a percentage of the door, both parties should have the right to be present in the box office and have access to box office records or gross receipts. When percentages are involved, the contract should specify ticket prices and how many complimentary tickets are permitted.
Recording, Reproduction, Transmission & Photography This is usually the artist's right to grant specific permission, but press and publicity is a good thing. So, flexibility is the key. It is common for the Purchaser to have the right to use the Performer's name and likeness in advertising and promotion, so always make sure the Purchaser has the appropriate promotional materials. It will benefit you greatly.
Right to sell merchandise on premises For smaller venues and engagements, this right is usually the performer's... because this revenue can often form a large part of the performer's compensation. But for larger venues, there will likely be specific terms for merchandise sales, and the venue may have their own people to sell it.
Meals, Transportation & Lodging This usually depends on the type of performance. Corporate and Promoter gigs usually cover most everything, but for a local public venue gig, the benefits can be less gratuitous. Guest lists, passes, dressing rooms, and other hospitalities will vary or, in some cases, be non-existent.
Sound & Production It should be clarified who supplies sound & lights and specifically what equipment is to be provided. All too often a performance is ruined by improper sound production... so it is always beneficial for the performer to designate their own representative to control sound equipment whenever possible. If the Buyer is providing Lights & Sound, a suggested equipment list should be part of an attached rider.
Acts of God A specific course of action for these eventualities, such as weather or illness, is needed to protect both parties. A definitive clause should be included.
Cancellation There are a number of ways this is handled, and again, it depends on the gig. Usually, if there is enough notice, neither party is penalized. It's not supposed to happen... but, sometimes it does. Again, it helps to be clear and specify what happens if either party cancels or reschedules the engagement.
Permits, Licenses and/or Royalties It is customary for these to be covered by the Purchaser. A simple concert performance only requires that the promoter or venue pay a compulsory (standard) royalty for use of copyrighted material. However, it doesn't hurt to clearly state who is responsible for payment of these fees.
Specific Requirements/Restrictions for Performer Eating, attire, language etc. There may be certain requirements of the Performer or the Purchaser... such as thanking a sponsor, announcing the performer, attire or language at corporate or private gigs, etc., etc.
Agent Terms Often the Agent is the Seller, and the agent may have a separate agreement (as the Purchaser) with the performer. Or the contract is directly between the Performer and the Client, and in this case, the agent's compensation should be clarified in the contract, along with the obligations (if any) of the agent.
Insurance & Security Personal liability insurance and property insurance are usually the responsibility of the Purchaser or the Venue. Although not often included in a contract, the performer should be certain they are held harmless from any public liability and should have their own insurance against damage or theft of personal equipment.
There are numerous other clauses that can (and sometimes should) be included, but the above mentioned are the most common. I would recommend that you look at a variety of contracts and decide which clauses best apply to your situation. I also welcome you to request my sample contract... but only with the awareness that NEITHER the sample contract NOR the opinions in this article constitute legal advice.
Author's site: http://www.members.shaw.ca/lesvogt
Les Vogt is an independent producer, promoter and