The Basics of Legal Contracts
In the Music Business a "handshake" or verbal agreement is quite acceptable, not to mention it can even be used in the court of law. However when things donít go as planned, Iíve seen the golden handshake turn into bad situations in a hurry, especially when things don't go as planned, and especially when it's involving money. People who think they don't need legal contracts in the Music Business are either inexperienced, naive about the people in Music Business, or have such a solid reputation that people donít dare cross them. True - itís all about trust, but a Legal Contract eliminates any possibility of a mis-communications happening, or those instances when things don't go according to plan, It also protects both parties.
I heard of a reggae band from
New York who got invited to play at a major Political Rally a few years back in
Washington D.C. The band got the informal invite, spent thousands of dollars
getting everything together for the event, which was televised on National TV.
The exposure was going to be huge for them. When they showed up they got bumped
at the last minute fill by a huge recording artist, and as a result got bumped
out of their prime time slot without hesitation. The Bottom line Ė there was no
legal contract to make sure they got what they were paid alot of money for. Of
course, the more money that's involved, the more the need a contract. If being a
Rick star is more like a hobby to you, then you probably don't need one. But if
you want to make a living at this, or act like a paid professional you need one.
I also recommend you hire a Legal Consultant, or Legal go to guy if youíre
serious about making this a career. Contracts can be very intimidating, and
should not be drafted up by amateurs. Besides it makes you look professional
when you say Ė ďSend it to my Music Lawyer.Ē
There is no perfect contract for any situation, and there are too many clauses to touch on in this article. You could write a book on Music Contracts. I've seen record contracts as thick as a phone book. A common practice is to make a brief standard contract, and attach a rider for specific situations. Remember it's nice when things go according to plan, it's also nice to know your covered when they don't.
Here's some important
considerations Iíve seen bands get burned on over the years.
- Date, time, compensation, and signature by BOTH parties.
- Definition of performance
- Location, date and time.
- Recording, reproduction, transmission, photography.
- Right to sell merchandise on premises
- Meals, transportation, lodging.
- Sound and production
- Permits, licenses, and taxes.
- Acts of God.
- Royalties and licensing
- Specific requirements/restrictions for performer.
- Agent terms
- Insurance & Security.