4 Important Details That Should Never Be Left Out of Your Performance Contract


As a performing artist, you may have come across the term, ‘performance agreement/contract’. A performance contract is a written agreement that you sign with a venue owner or promoter for your live musical performance. This agreement (either on paper or email) highlights the most important terms that will help avoid unnecessary conflict. 

Here are 4 important terms that should always be addressed in a live performance contract.


1. What Are the Basic Parameters of the Show?

You need to confirm certain details about the show. This includes the location, venue, and particular stage/room that you’ll be performing in.

Ask questions pertaining to the date, time, and length of your performance. Are you required to play multiple sets? If so, how many? Are there more acts performing on the day? What is the performance order and where will you be placed on the list? Will there be a soundcheck, and what time will it be?

One of the restrictions that are helpful to look out for in the agreement is if the venue is exercising some exclusivity over the specific performance. Exclusivity refers to whether or not the venue will restrict you from playing within a certain area over a certain period of time.

Addressing these issues and putting them in writing (even if in just an email), will help avoid arguments, conflicts and disagreements that can hinder a relationship with the live music venues that are crucial to your development. Failure to know or understand load-in or soundcheck requirements can cause a conflict that club owners may not be tolerant of. Plus, by having a written record of these requirements can help you smooth over a problem by simply showing the other party with neither having to rely upon their hazy memory.


2. What are the Payment Terms?

Laying the groundwork on payment is important because of how sensitive money is. Countries have gone to war because of money. To avoid messy money-related conflicts, make sure you clarify these key points:

Are you getting a flat fee regardless of how many people show up or is it a percentage of ticket sales?

When will you get paid? Is it before or after the show? If after, when exactly should you expect the payment? Do you require a deposit before the show? Articulate these points clearly.

How will the money be transferred to you? Cash, check, electronic transfer?

If your agreement involves ticket sales, then you need to know what percentage you’ll receive and whether or not there are any deductions. You should also have the right to access or count the final ticket sales to ensure proper payment.


3. What Do Both Artist and Promoter Provide?

Most club venues where you’re first starting out will provide basic sound systems and equipment. However, if you play private parties or larger venues, then you may be required to bring your own sound and lighting system while others provide that for you. Generally, a sound system includes a mixing board, microphones, PA speakers, and stage monitor speakers. It will also be important to address who’ll be responsible for operating the mixing board and lights.

Depending on how much leverage you have, or your entourage has grown, you can negotiate terms such as meals and drinks for yourself, group members and the crew. And if it’s a big show, find out if you’re getting hotel rooms, complimentary tickets, or a guest list.


4. Merchandise

If you have merchandise, find out if you can sell it and whether or not the venue will receive a commission from the proceeds. Commissions generally range from 10 – 30% of the gross sales. Some venues charge a lower percentage on recorded material such as hard goods (DVDs and CDs) and a higher percentage on soft goods such as baseball caps, t-shirts, posters, caps, etc.

Some venues will even offer the option of you selling your own merchandise while others have trained personnel on-site to do this for you but that you may have to pay to sell.


Final Thoughts

Performance contracts vary in terms based on how successful you are as an artist-the more successful the better the terms. However, those agreements should always include the four basic terms highlighted above. Performing in shows is still the best way to develop your music, make money and gain fans. Even if you’re just starting out, addressing these points in the performance agreement will help ensure that the relationship with the person hiring you and performance experience is handled in the most professional way possible.


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