Entertainment contracts can be daunting with legal jargon, unfamiliar terminology, riders filled with technical equipment you’ve never heard of before, and confusing payment terms. Where do you even start? How do you protect yourself and your venue? Although there are very few instances of lawsuits where your contract will come into play, a contract term can save you if a show does not go as planned. Here are some general notes, things to look for and edit, and tips for a successful contract editing process that an artist team will hopefully agree with.

Buyer/Signatory

The first thing to look for is who/what is listed as the buying entity at the very top of the page. The “Buyer” is whomever is legally responsible for the event. If you work at a university, at an organization, corporation, etc. you will want to make sure this is the name of the campus, 501c3 org, or corporation. If it lists a personal name, cross it out so that the liability is not on a single person but on an actual entity. Also, page over to the signature spot. Make sure the person listed as the signatory is the correct name and that they are an authorized signatory for that particular entity listed as the buyer. One last thing to look for at the very top is the Artist’s entity. The Artist’s entity should match the W9 they sent you with the contract. If they do not, make sure to ask what the name of the contracting Artist entity is to update it. For example, you are often contracting with something like “BB Music Touring Inc.” (instead of “Beauford Beats” the Artist.), even if it’s for the performance services of Beauford Beats.

The Basic Deal Points

The first page of the contract, often referred to as “the face page,” contains most of the basic terms. Name of artist, date of show, venue, time of performance, and other basic details of the event are listed. Make sure these are as accurate as possible and make sure all of the deal points the artist agreed to at the time of confirmation are listed – content restrictions, minimum set length, required meet & greet, merch rate, radius clause, etc. If those details aren’t listed within the contract but it was a core part of your offer to the artist, you need to add those details or they will be challenging to enforce on show day.

Terms

The ever-confusing payment terms on a contract can vary greatly depending on which agency you are working with. If you are an entity that can pay deposits, your deposit payment likely gets sent to the agency, where they hold the money in escrow before paying the artist when the date plays. If you do not pay deposits, be sure to cross out anything listing deposit info, and pay attention to where it lists what to do with the “balance.” Balance payment is what is owed after the deposit, or the entire fee if you don’t pay deposits. If it says the balance goes to the artist entity, make the check or payment out to the W9 entity of the artist. If it says the balance gets mailed or wired to the agency, make sure the check/wire note is still written out to the entity you intend, which may still be the artist entity, even though it’s mailed/wired to the agency.

If at all possible, have payment ready for the Artist day of show. If the contract says to pay the artist prior to performance, we always suggest you cross that off and correct it by stating the artist will be paid immediately following performance. However, know your payment terms (i.e. If your college campus has a Net-30 payment policy, you must list that so the artist is not surprised later on when there is no check available to them onsite after their performance). If you DO pay deposits, such as if you are a festival or special event, make sure to indicate when that deposit can be paid and how much it is for (i.e. 50% deposit wired, upon signed contract).

Legal Terms & Conditions

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. How you edit the legal terms & conditions will vary greatly depending on what type of company or organization you represent. If you are a college campus – especially if you are a state institution – you likely have very specific rules to follow and will want to run any edits you make past your legal department. If you are not part of a state institution, the “hot buttons” to pay attention to will always be Cancelation, Force Majeure, Indemnification, and Insurance.

➤ Cancelation

Make sure you are comfortable with what is written. Know that in the end, artists and buyers alike want a show to happen as planned. Artists aren’t in this business to book and then cancel shows for no reason. You shouldn’t be either. This section should protect both sides against canceling a show for no reason.

➤ Force Majeure

This section covers what to do if an unforeseeable, unpreventable “Act of God” occurs that stops the show from happening (i.e. a global pandemic in 2020). Artist teams are, rightfully so, more particular about this clause since 2020. Covid-19 is actually no longer an unforeseeable event. However, a government mandated shut down might be. Typically, Artist contracts will try to get their artists paid in full regardless of whether a cancelation is a breech of contract or a force majeure event.

Every artist, management team, and agency is different, but generally speaking, an artist will agree to only being paid in full if they have begun travel. At that point they are out all of their expenses, so they rightfully want to be paid in full. If the artist has not begun travel, they will likely want all of their “documented and real, unrecoverable expenses” reimbursed, with a promise to reschedule the event at a mutually-agreeable time and date. At the very minimum, a promise to reschedule the show in the case of force majeure is something you should agree to. If your force majeure language makes absolutely no promises and excuses both sides of any obligation, you will want to include that language on your offer so the artist team can assess the risk they are comfortable with before confirming the show.

➤ Indemnification

In entertainment contracts, an indemnification clause serves to protect a party against legal liability for the other party’s or a third party’s actions or failure to act. The intent of an indemnification clause is to shift liability to the indemnifying party, which is why most artists will push to make that mutual where possible. On an artist contract, this usually is written for the Buyer to indemnify the Artist. We suggest making this paragraph mutual or leaving it out altogether. That way both sides agree to indemnify each other, or you’re leaving it ambiguous. Some state or other entities however, require this to be the opposite – meaning the Artist must indemnify the Buyer, but the Buyer does not agree to do the same. This is rare, but again you may want to include that language in the offer so the artist team can determine if this show is the right fit for them.

➤ Insurance

This section is mainly to protect each show from organizations and entities that are not insured. If you are a college campus, you likely have a large insurance policy and require artists to carry a policy as well. It is important to make sure you have the coverage required of you, or that you edit it based on what you DO have. Make sure to add what you are requiring the artist to hold for insurance here as well; but again be sure to include insurance requirements in your offer initially as the policy can be an additional expense for the artist team.

Rider

1. Contradictory Terms

Think of an artist rider as a set of negotiable terms and items that make the show a success. While most of it is going to be production and hospitality needs, occasionally a rider will list terms and conditions that may or may not be the same as the Artist’s contract. In case any of it is contradictory, feel free to cross these off if the terms have been covered already in the contract portion.

2. Tech & Hospitality

Per the above, most rider requests are negotiable, but keep in mind that these requests are all listed to help ensure a successful show, and often are important to the Artist. Try to accommodate as many requests as you can, while also knowing your limitations. For production, show your production company/team the rider before making the offer in case there are immediate concerns or items you know you cannot provide (i.e. the artist requires a 40x40x4 stage but yours is 24x30x4). But remember that often production requests/requirements are also associated with the Artist’s brand and quality of show, so be sure to try your best. Provide comparable equipment if it’s not exactly what they ask for, and make sure your hired production companies can provide equipment lists for the Artist to look over. It’s also important to remember that riders are subject to changes in the show advance – use these as a tool to keep things mostly in line with what you planned for in the offer with the artist (i.e. protecting yourself from massive production bill increases), but adjusting hospitality, backline, or production needs is common in the advance.

Overall, there is no one correct way of editing a contract and there is no guarantee an artist team will agree to every single edit you make. Ultimately both sides should strive for language that you can agree on, protects both sides against major issues, and keeps the show moving forward. Once both parties sign the contract, your deal is binding and can be used in court. However, keep in mind that even before the contract is signed, the entertainment industry considers a confirmed offer more than a handshake. It’s considered a binding placeholder while you work through the contract. Thus, be sure you are ready to fully confirm, contract, and plan your event prior to ever making an offer to an artist. This is key to ensuring a successful and smooth process.

Also, to help you through the contracting process, we recommend you use a middle buyer, such as How To Concerts, to walk you through the process. We often pre-edit or make editing suggestions to our clients for protecting themselves, help our clients and the artists they are contracting with find mutually-agreeable language, and explain terminology and action points to both sides if conflicts arise. Ask us about how we can help you!

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]