The first question in our "Ask A Lawyer" series comes from a reader who wants to know how to keep his concert promotions business on point: 

"I am an event promoter and am in the process of planning a concert featuring major artists and I'd like to know what basic items should be included in my agreements with the performers to guarantee they show up and to protect my interests.  Any help would be greatly appreciated." – R.L. Taylor

Attorney Donald Woodard says: 

Promoting a concert engaging major artists is costly.   In addition to the costs of staging and promoting the concert, you will be required to cover costs that you might not otherwise have to cover for a new or emerging band.  I will address some of these costs later.  Keep in mind that artists (whether major or otherwise) have just as much to lose as you do if they agree to perform, the concert is advertised to their fans, those fans pay for tickets and show up to the venue to see the artist perform and the artist is a fails to appear and perform.  That’s no way for an artist to build fan loyalty.

In any event, a written concert performance agreement outlines the material terms of your engagement with the artist and is the best way to protect both of your interests.  Typically, promoters use a standard contract and attach a rider to address each specific situation.  Your concert performance agreement should at minimum cover the following basic provisions:

1. Definition of Performance:  Both parties should understand what is expected from the performer.   What is the length of the performance or what is the minimum number of songs the artist will perform?

2. Date, Location and Venue:  Make sure everyone is on the same page as to when and where the show is to take place.

3. Compensation:  The agreement should clearly establish the fee you have agreed to pay the artist.  Major artists require a guaranteed fee that is typically paid 50% up front as a deposit to hold the date and the balance at some point before the performer actually steps on the stage (major artists will not share the risk that you did not sell enough tickets to cover their fee). 

4. Travel, Accommodations and Meals:  Whether you have to cover these sorts of costs vary depending on the level of artist you are booking.  Major artists will demand that you cover these costs and often that means first class travel and hotel suites.  You will also have to cover the standard travel and lodging costs of their travel party.

5. Advertising and Marketing:  Artists will grant promoters the limited right to use their likeness to promote their performance.  Make sure you obtain sufficient marketing materials to effectively advertise the concert.  Also, if you will require “radio drops” or other actions such as sending tweets, this should be spelled out in the agreement.

6. Complimentary Tickets, Passes and Hospitality:  For major artists be prepared to provide complimentary tickets and VIP access to a certain number of their guests.  All major artists have hospitality riders which require the promoter to provide the artists and artists guests with various items such as their favorite alcoholic beverages and food.

7. Cancelation or Act of God:  Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee that a performer actually makes the appearance.  Cancelation is handled in various ways.  If there is plenty of notice, neither party is penalized.  Otherwise, if the cancelation is not justifiable, you may have a cause of action against the artist for your damages.  If an act of God (e.g., extreme weather conditions or strike) forces a cancelation, the parties will usually work together to reschedule the date and neither is penalized. 

8.  Insurance: Promoters are usually required to carry personal liability insurance and property insurance.

9. Security:  It is everyone’s best interest to ensure adequate security is provided during the concert.  Providing security is the responsibility of the promoter or venue.  Major artists will demand that the promoter cover the costs of the artist’s personal security.

10.  Recording, Reproduction and Photography:  Promoter’s must request and the artist must expressly grant to the promoter the right to record the artist’s performance.  Make sure this is clearly covered in the agreement.

Finally, a note to “baby bands” and emerging artists.  Your primary goal is to build a fan base who will spend money to see you perform and buy your merchandise.  Flexibility and compromise are key. Early on it might make sense to perform for nothing but the opportunity for the promoter to put you in front of an audience of potential long-term fans.  If your compensation includes a share of ticket sales from the door, make sure you have your own representative on hand to help count the cash. 

DISCLAIMER: This column provides information about the law, but legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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