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Artist Contracts and Agreements for Events.

Andy Robertson

You have negotiated with artists and their managers or agents and they agree to perform at your event for an agreed sum. Once you get agreement in principle from all parties involved you should nail everything in place with a signed contract or agreement. Having a contract in place with all parties will let you concentrate on other aspects of your event.

Perhaps you are a regular event organiser and so used to booking artists and getting signed contracts or agreements. From a legal perspective any contract will be covered by contract law, this will vary from country to country but by and large the principles are similar. You may think of a contract as the document that all parties sign, however, in contract law a verbal contract is as good as a written contract. The document, often called a contract, is usually referred to as an agreement and can be just confirmation of the agreed verbal contract. For this reason, you need to be especially careful in agreeing something verbally as in law this can form a contract and will be considered in line with the written agreement.        

What are the Key Clauses Typically in an Artist's Agreement? 

  • An agreement should specify the obligations of each party and most importantly will cover the terms of payment, how much will be paid, in in what currency and the dates of transfer. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for payment of any taxes that may be due.
  • Specify the dates and times of any performance along with schedules for sound checks and when the artist is expected to be on site.
  • There is almost always a clause for the prevention of recording, reproduction and transmission of performances, the onus is usually on the event organiser to control and prevent this.
  • Always include exceptions that may negate the agreement like sickness, riots and acts of God for example. Note that in the current Covid-19 pandemic is likely included in this as it is out of the control of both the artist and event organisers.
  • Event organisers should ensure they retain the right to promote and advertise the artist in relation the specific event they are booked for.
  • There will be an obligation of the event organisers to ensure that there is sufficient security to protect the artist and their possessions, i.e. provide a safe environment for them to perform in. This may include details of the provision of dressing rooms and access to the backstage area. 
  • Running an event with multiple artists will mean that you have already organised stage equipment, (sound and lights) but this clause should specify what each party is to provide.
  • Riders are the details of exactly what will be provided by the organisers specifically meals, food and drinks etc. along with dietary requirements.  

For UK events also check the resources at the Musicians Union and Association of Independent Festivals who provide guidance on performance agreements. This is a really helpful guide on what to cover in any verbal and written agreements you make with each artist.    

Whenever making verbal or written agreements ensure you employ the services of a fully qualified contract lawyer to review everything. In the long term this is going to potentially save you many headaches should anything go wrong.  

If you use an event software solution like FestivalPro it provides artist specific functionality for recording all agreements between artists and event organisers. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and are performance artists themselves. Using FestivalPro provides you with a ready-made checklist for artist agreements, saving you time and effort.    

Ensure you seek advice from a qualified lawyer in respect to contract law. This article is for reference only and does not constitute legal advice.

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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