Get it in writing: why your band should have a contract for bookings

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Music ContractWhen you’re booking a gig, you can negotiate anything you want over the phone or face-to-face, but you or the other person might easily forget something that was promised or discussed.

A contract will outline in detail everything that is expected from the band and the person hiring the band — plus it will have signatures from both parties promising to fulfill those obligations.

Of course you won’t be able to use a contract for every show. Many bars don’t use them. A show at a coffee shop might not warrant one. But bigger events like festivals and corporate parties usually do use contracts, so it’s helpful to have one ready (on file) at all times to keep things simple.

So, let’s talk about items that are essential to a contract.

Getting Paid

This is kind of important. You can’t have fame and fortune without the fortune.

You should determine the total amount you will be paid for the performance. I’ve played events where the hiring person had sudden amnesia and thought he promised much less than we discussed. A contract has a way of bringing memories back.

Also determine how much of a deposit you expect and when you expect it. I require a 50% deposit at the signing of the contract with the remaining money due just before we play the event.

Place in the contract whom the check should be made out to. Make sure the name is spelled correctly. If you don’t have a bank account in the band’s name and the check is made out to the band, getting it deposited or cashed can be difficult.

I try to get the check for the final amount in my hand within 30 minutes of showtime. This allows for working through any discrepancies like the check being in the wrong amount or made out to the wrong person.

Put in writing the type of payment you expect. Will you want a check or cash or a combination?

How long you are expected to play

Not every show will be the same length. You may only be requested to play one hour or you may have to play four hours.

List the time you will start and the time you are expected to be done. You may be required to play 45 minutes, but have an hour window in which to play it.

Definitely list how many sets you will play. The show may be four hours long and the event organizer may think that you will play for four solid hours. If you don’t want to play that long, put in the contract how many sets you will be playing.

If you’re playing multiple sets, you will need to take breaks. List those out and how long each break will be.

So your contract may say something like “Band is required to play 2 sets of 45 minutes each with one break of 15 minutes between the two sets”.

Additional requirements like water, food and hotel rooms and tickets.

If you’re playing four hours in a festival in the summer, you’re going to need water. If you will be there for most of the day, you’re going to get hungry.

It’s not unheard of to request food and drinks. You need to list out what you require to do your show. Will each member need four bottles of water? Will you want a deli tray before you play?

If you’re asked to travel overnight for a show you will need hotel accommodations. If you’re a solo act traveling alone, one room will work. If there are 10 of you in the band, you’ll need more (unless you’re very friendly and like to cuddle).

List how many rooms you’ll need with how many beds per room.

Also at the festival you may have friends or family that will want to attend. List in the contract how many tickets you’ll need.

What happens if either party cancels

My first rule is to never cancel unless you physically are unable to do the show. If you have to cancel, you should outline in your contract what will happen.

Determine how long out each party has to cancel before they will get refunded any money.

My contract lists that they will lose their deposit if they cancel within 60 days of the show. I used to have it set at 30, but I realistically can’t replace a show in that short amount of time.

The second part of that is if they cancel within 5 days of the show they will owe me the remainder of the money due. I have yet to need this provision.

There are going to be times when neither party has control over the cancellation of an event. Outdoor shows get rained out. Auto accidents can put a band member in the hospital. It’s called “Force Majeure” in the contract, so write out what is to happen in these events.

Conclusion

There are many sample contracts online. Go out and look at a few and find one that covers everything you need. If at all possible, have a lawyer review it to make sure it covers you adequately.

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Author bio: Rus Anderson started playing in clubs over 25 years ago learning how bands work, and more importantly, how bands get hired. He’s played small clubs, big clubs, weddings, corporate gigs, private gigs, 2,000 seat venues, college campuses, arenas and together with his band(s) has opened for national acts, played for free and booked gigs paying thousands. You can read more tips in his guide, How to Book My Band. You can find the website at www.howtobookmyband.com!

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