Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

What Are Contracts for?; Non-Profit By-Laws Made Simple; Are Union Strikes Force Majeure events?; Artist Visa Updates

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023


Performing Arts Division

June 7, 2023 


• What Are Contracts For? 

• Non-Profit Laws Made Simple 

• Are Union Strikes Force Majeure Events? 

• Artist Visa Updates


Legal Issue of the Month:

What Are Contracts For??? 

It’s no secret that a vast expanses of artists, venues, managers, presenters, and agents prefer to have engagement contracts with all the “fun stuff” (dates, fees, travel, repertoire, etc) confirmed and signed on the front and the “terms and conditions” left alone, shunned, cold, abandoned, and forsaken on the back. Such “terms and conditions” are often dismissed as “just all the legal stuff” or “the legalese” or “stuff we had a lawyer draft for us years ago and we have no idea what it means, but we can’t change it.”

First, whether it’s the time of the sound check, 4 bags of raspberry Haribo gummy bears the Artist wants in the dressing room, or the number of comp ticket, everything put in a contract becomes “legal stuff.” Second, though, indeed, boring (even for me), the “legalese” typically addresses important issues such as whether or not the venue can make an archival recording and what they can do with it, rights and licenses, cancellation terms and conditions, who’s responsible if someone gets injured, what constitutes force majeure/Acts of God (remember how everyone suddenly started reading those for the first time during COVID?), and other issues that everyone ignores until something goes horribly wrong, at which point they all start arguing over what they assumed these terms meant.
A contract in and of itself will not protect you. Contracts are not self-enforcing. There is no scenario in which a signed paper talisman with the right magic words will allow you to sleep embraced in the amble bosom of self-delusion that everyone will do what they are supposed to do, people will not act in their own self-interest and still claim the moral high-ground, and nothing can go wrong. Signatures do not guarantee that dates will not get cancelled even if the contract specifically says it is non-cancellable or even that you will get the fee everyone agreed upon.
If a date gets cancelled or you do not get paid, your signed contract merely becomes a coupon redeemable for a lawsuit to enforce it. However, are you really going to sue anyone? Is there such a significant amount of money at stake that it’s worth the cost and time, financially as well as emotionally? Are you willing to subsidize a trial lawyer’s $11,000 Japanese NEOREST toilet just for the self-satisfaction of proving a point? Do you ever want to work with that venue or artist again?
So why bother? What are contracts for?
Contracts are for managing expectations, both your own and the other party’s, by spelling out ALL of your concerns and requirements (not just the “fun stuff”) before music is composed, airline tickets are purchased, or recordings made. Contracts are for discovering and discussing unexpressed assumptions. Contracts are for planning and assessment. Contracts are for reading and discussion. Contracts are for knowing what the other party is and is not willing or able to do, and then deciding whether you can compromise or whether you are willing to proceed and accept the risks. Contracts are for starting a conversation and ending in a relationship.
If you’re just tossing unread papers back and forth through Docusign so you or your contract administrator can tick that box off the list, don’t complain when the artist trashes the dressing room and refuses to perform upon failing to find their gummy bears. 

Dear Law and Disorder:

Actual questions we get asked and the answers people actually don’t want

“Non-Profit By-Laws Made Simple” 

Dear Law & Disorder:
We are forming a non-profit. Can you recommend a good template for by-laws? We just want to keep it simple so we can get it set up right away and get started. We’ve already got some people willing to donate as well as serve on our board.
Aside from an outhouse erected on a popsicle stick over a tidal bore, non-profit institutions are, perhaps, the most precarious and dysfunctional of all structures ever conceived within which to conduct business. Without a strong set of by-laws, carefully and thoughtfully crafted to address your unique mission, stakeholders, goals, and challenges, your non-profit is likely to perish from such commonly fatal non-profit diseases as Foundersitis, Administrative Staff Infection, Systemic Committee Infarction, Micromanageitis, Consultant Dependency, Strategic Streptococcus, and Gangrenous Board Members.
Your by-laws are the foundation upon which your organization will be built. They determine how your non-profit is structured and managed. They will describe the roles, expectations, duties, and responsibilities of board members. It will set forth how decisions are made and conflicts resolved. At the same time, like strategic plans and business plans, by-laws are not commandments fixed in stone. They will provide a steady hand of direction within a flexible mechanism for addressing growth, challenges, and situations as they arise. In other words, whilst by-laws do not require a constitutional convention, they are also not something to be crafted with speed and indifference.
Assuming you are serious about forming a sustainable business and not merely hoping to circumvent having a viable business plan by hoping to supplement your income through a quick influx of donations and grants, you should gather as many different samples of by-laws from as many different organizations that have similar missions as yours. Analyse them to see how the successes, failures, and experiences of other organizations may apply to your own. Remember, when forming a non-profit, it is the board members who will ultimately control and run the organization, not you. So, just because someone wants to donate money does not mean they should also serve on the board. Ideally, those persons who are already willing to serve as your initial, founding board members should also be interested and committed enough to assist you in the process of crafting the by-laws.
Whether you are forming a Children’s Vuvuzela Choir or the Wilma Schiddy Centre for the Arts, simplicity kills the soul—or, in this case, a non-profit. 


Breaking the News!

Are Union Strikes Force Majeure Events? 

When concerts and performances started falling during COVID, it sent everyone into a delirium over whether, how, when, why, if a pandemic constituted a Force Majeure event allowing an engagement contract to be cancelled without penalty. As no one was happy with answers, everyone began re-drafting their contracts to deal with future pandemics.

Hollywood’s current Writers Guild of America strike has spotlighted yet another hidden Act of God: labour strikes. Many “standard terms and conditions” give a party the right to cancel a contract in the event of a labour strike. This means that if you are engaged to perform as a soloist with an orchestra and the orchestra goes on strike, the orchestra can terminate your engagement contract without penalty. This can apply to any situation where a union strike might impact the resources needed to fulfil a contract—such as booking an event at a university-based venue and the teacher’s union goes on strike or being booked to perform and your sets and props cannot be delivered due to a trucker’s strike. Imagine my own surprise when, as a person whose wife had to show him how to change the windshield wiper fluid in my car, I woke up one day as a member of an adjunct faculty and also found myself a member of United Auto Workers…which then went on strike!

You can read more about this issue HERE


Artist Visa News & Nausea 

• The Status of Proposed Petition Fee Increases.
There have been no new updates from USCIS regarding its proposed fee increases and other changes. Whilst our crystal ball remains cloudy, the runes tell us to expect “some” changes, we just don’t know when or to what degree. In the meantime, all fees remain the same and there remain no limits to the number of beneficiaries that can be listed on O-2 or P petitions.
• COVID Vaccinations Are No Longer Required To Enter The US
Effective May 12, 2023, the Biden administration lifted the requirement that non-US citizens and non-US residents have COVID vaccinations to enter the US. However, ye who enter here will continue to be required to abandon all hopes.
• No More Passport Entry Stamps
Also this month, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) confirmed that it will be implementing “stamp-less entries” for everyone arriving in the US. This means that when you enter the US on a visa, you will no longer receive a physical stamp and handwritten notation in your passport. Instead, your date of entry, your visa status, and the date by which you must leave will hereinafter ONLY be recorded on a digital entry/exit form called an I-94 which will ONLY be available on-line at the CBP I-94 Website .
Whilst CBP has been recording entry/exit information on digital I-94 forms for several years now, CBP officers continued to stamp passports. As it was not at all uncommon for the information on the I-94 to be incorrect, having a physical stamp meant that before you left the airport you could check and confirm that all of your information was correct. Now, for example, if you have a visa that expires on June 30, but the I-94 says May 30, you will need to leave by May 30 regardless—but you won’t know that a mistake has been made in your record unless you dash to the I-94 website as soon as you leave the immigration area and make sure your I-94 is correct. If it is not, you will need to find the CBP officer lurking betwixt the Cinnabon and Chick-Fil-A and ask them to correct it.
• There Is Nothing Graceful About US Visas  
…and speaking of entries and exits, please note that there are no automatic “grace periods”—10 days or otherwise—added before or after the validity dates of a visa. There never have been. This has always been a myth—or, at least, mischaracterized. When an individual enters the US, CBP officers have the discretion to allow them up to 10 extra days to remain in the US as a tourist. However, it is the burden of the visa holder to make the request to a CBP officer upon entry to the US. The extra dates are not automatically given.
If the officer approves (and they usually do), the approved extra days MUST be reflected on the I-94. So, if you want to claim the 10 extra days: (1) You must request the extra time; (2) the CBP officer must approve the request; and (3) the additional days must be reflected on your I-94 entry/exit form. However, as discussed above, as entry/exit information will henceforth only be recorded digitally, you will need to check the I-94 website before you leave the airport to make sure the extra days are reflected on the I-94. Otherwise, even if the officer verbally approved the extra days, you will be required to leave the US by whatever date is listed on the I-94.
The better practice is that if you know you or your artist plan to hang around after your show to attend the Toadlick County Monster Truck Mash-Up and Watermelon Bake-Off, just add those extra days onto the visa petition so your visa will be valid for the full time you want to be in the US. You can always still ask for the extra days on top of that to get even more extra time.
• Current USCIS Service Centre Processing Times:
Vermont Service Centre:      Standard processing: 6 – 8 weeks
                                              Premium processing: 9 – 10 days      
California Service Centre:    Standard Processing 3 – 4 months
                                              Premium Processing 13 – 14 days



Deep Thoughts

“Try not to focus too much energy on whether you can trust someone else. When a bird lands on a branch, it doesn’t trust that the branch will never break. It trusts its ability to fly away if it does.”





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GG Arts Law provides a comprehensive range of legal services and strategic support for the performing arts, including: Artist Visas, Taxes, and Touring; Rights & Licensing; Negotiations & Representation; Contracts; Business & Non-Profit Organization & Management; Project Management; and Strategic Consulting & Planning.




The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a threatening email, filing a lawsuit, or basically doing anything that may in any way rely upon an assumption that we know what we are talking about or one size fits all!


Thursday, January 28th, 2021


By Brian Taylor Goldstein

Aside from thwarting a clown car coup, 2021 is certainly not off to the auspicious start we all had hoped for. Nonetheless, it is with trepidatious optimism that we find ourselves crawling out from our burrows like traumatized cicadas as we look towards re-establishing and re-building the world of live performing arts.

We have lost treasured venues, ensembles, businesses, and colleagues. Much, if not most, of the scorched earth we find will be attributable to the ravages of COVID. However, much will also be due to old and outdated business models and practices that were just waiting for an unperceivable pufflet of wind to topple them, much less the ravaging hurricane of a global pandemic. As we survey the damage, now is the time to consider rebuilding and reimagining those business models and practices. There’s nothing like the opportunity of a disaster to build a toppled house back on a better and stronger foundation than that on which it was built before.

As such, it was with the greatest enthusiasm and exhilarating gratification that I have of late been asked to weigh-in on numerous proposals from various groups and interests within the performing arts industry wanting to change the way business is done. This has quickly been followed by the resounding despair and blinding dismay of having repeatedly found myself reviewing not imaginative and daring visions of the future, but attempts to re-clothe and re-animate the cadavers of the past. Proposal after proposal has been premised upon the belief that changing the business “model” in the performing arts industry means finding a way in which various parties—presenters, venues, artists, managers, producers, promoters, labels—can come together to agree upon common practices and contractual terms so that we can all go back to “business as usual.” There have been cries of “we need to change the way the business works” and “we need to get everyone together and implement new industry standards and practices to which the vast majority of people would agree to implement.”

 The prevailing thought appears to be that if we can all just agree on “standard” terms for things such as insurance, cancellations, minimum booking fees and formulas, recording rights, and even timing for issuing and returning contracts, then everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to negotiating and focusing only on fees, dates, planning, and repertoire—in other words, the more inspiring and fulfilling parts of the business.  I’ve read proposals that include such suggestions as “all engagements should provide for deposits and rehearsal fees” (I agree) to “there should be standard media terms that would automatically allow for streaming rights and recordings” (I do not agree) to finding new Force Majeure language that would “…make sure future pandemic events are not cause for cancellation” (Seriously?).

None of these proposals focus on the true crisis before us: the exploration of whether or not the business structures, plans, and methodologies upon which venues, presenters, producers, managers, agents, labels, etc. are run and managed need to be re-thought and re-imagined for a new age and new realities. Instead, what I have seen thus far is not unlike neighbors in a beach community finding their homes devastated by a hurricane and deciding not to rebuild on stronger foundations further away from the shore, but to put everything back exactly the way it was before, except, this time, mutually agreeing to paint their shutters all the same colour.

These concept of implementing standards and practices that everyone will agree upon arises from the long-cherished delusion that there exists a legendary grimoire of industry standards and practices that merely needs to be dusted off, amended, and updated for the 21st century. If everyone merely agrees to abide by this book, then peace will be restored to the kingdom. The trouble is…no such book exists…and no such book has ever existed. The only industry standards in the performing arts industry are that there are NO standards! To be sure, there are opinions. Strong opinions. We’ve all encountered comments such as “this is how the opera world does it” and “this is not how we do it in jazz” and “that’s not how commissions work.” However, if you polled a cross section of any segment of the performing arts about any given topic, you will find a significant divergence of opinion as to what is and what is not “standard.” What any one person believes to be standard may simply be based on their own limited experience in their own tiny corner of the industry.

To be sure, there are ways to structure some deals and transactions that are more common than others, and there is no reason to reinvent wheels where others have already figured out reasonable ways to build them, but there will always be circumstances warranting different arrangements for different organizations, individuals, projects, and budgets. More often than not, the term “industry standard” is thrown about in lieu of admitting “this works for me and I’d rather not change.” Worse, it’s often employed as a form of peer pressure to circumvent negotiation or compromise by making the other party feel that they are either too ill-informed or ill-experienced to realize the absurdity of whatever very reasonable proposal they may have just made.

So, if there are no industry standards, why can’t we all just get together and create some? If enough people agree on common contract terms and procedures, then wouldn’t that compel everyone else to fall in line and do it the same way? If everyone agrees to abide by what we all agree is fair, doesn’t that take away the risk of anything being unfair?

First, there are the practical challenges of defining even sub-segments of an industry as diverse as the performing arts, much less getting them all together and mutually agree upon  common procedures for how anything works: bookings, recordings, commissions, rehearsals, etc. There are large and small venues and presenters. For-profits and non-profits. There are different genres. Different audiences. Different goals and missions. Commercial and non-commercial producers. Etc. Etc.

Second, but by no means least, in most countries this is also illegal.

Let’s say that we all agree amongst ourselves that artists should be paid deposits (which, again for the record, I agree with—if you can’t hire a wedding caterer or a building contractor without a deposit, why are artists expected to be paid only after work is done?) What if a huge, prestigious producer or orchestra offers an engagement, but refuses to pay a deposit? Are you going to walk away and refuse to accept the date? Probably not. The reality, of course, is that unless an artist has enough prestige and clout to demand their own terms, then there are always more artists than there are venues and presenters. This, naturally, gives stronger negotiating power to presenters, producers, and venues. This is also called “Show Business.” But what if all the artists or their representatives get together and agree that they will all demand the same terms for all artists? If all the artists and their representatives stick together, then venues and presenters will be forced to comply, right? Not so fast. If a group within any industry unifies to set standard terms and practices with which all members of the group will be required to abide and with the purpose of coercing or compelling other businesses to agree to such terms and practices or else be excluded, this is called “collective bargaining.” In the United States, at least, only authorized unions or organizations are allowed to do that. In addition, any group of businesses within an industry that teams up or forms a monopoly in order to set the terms and conditions within that industry can be held to be in violation of various anti-monopoly and trade practices laws. In the U.S., for arcane historical reasons, these are called anti-trust laws.

So, does this mean we all just throw our hands up and surrender ourselves to a world of unfettered, Darwinian capitalism where ticket sales and popularity alone determines the future of the performing arts? Absolutely not! It is and will always be critical for the various groups and interests that comprise the performing arts world to come together to discuss mutual concerns and issues and how best to address them collaboratively. However, in any business enterprise, whether it exists within the performing arts or any other business sector, exploring new business models means looking inward to how you currently conduct your own business—not someone else’s. What services do you provide or offer? Is there a demand for those services? What are those services worth? What are your streams of income and revenue? Are you too reliant on either passive or active income? Who is your competition? What is your sustainability? What makes you unique? Are you over staffed or understaffed? Do you need to learn new skills? Are there better ways to fulfill your mission, goals, or creative aspirations?

Exploring a new business model is not a group activity. It is purely an inward journey. An act of self-introspection and challenge that cannot be done by committee. It is done in the depths of the night, alone, often with Slipsmith gin and two olives. Any business facing an existential challenge of survival does not address the problem by reaching out to other businesses with suggestions of what they should be doing to help the field or make your life easier. Rather, what are YOU doing that may need to be changed, rethought, or reimagined and what can YOU do to help yourself? Are there treasured customs, practices, presumptions, and assumptions that you are loathe to give up? Perhaps it is YOU who needs to turn away from industry standards (whatever you believe them to be) and try something different. For example, are the traditional roles and services of agents and managers still relevant? Do we need to continue planning concerts and performances around a fixed “season?” Does an artist really need a label to release and promote a recording? Are there other ways to monetize and promote artistic and creative services to create more diverse streams of income for artists as well as venues, theaters, and producers? Are performing arts unions today advocates or hindrances for their artists? Is there a role for more immersive experiences in theatre and concerts? Does the commission model continue to make sense for artists and their representatives? Is there a continued role for booking conferences? Are you still sending out paper press releases? Are you ignoring the role of social media and other interactive technologies? Are there diverse faces and voices in your audiences or on your stages? Are there more ways for popular and less popular genres to collaborate? Should dysfunctional non-profit organizations continue to be the default business structure for certain artistic genres? Do all classical concert and recital halls have to be an anesthetizing mélange of browns and beiges? Perhaps the time has also come to bridge the ancient abyss between arts and entertainment and explore aspects of entrepreneurialism that can be borrowed to further the sustainability of our highest artistic standards and endeavors.

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. In fact, these are all questions that have long been proposed, discussed, tossed about, disputed, debated, and then dismissed into the rubbish bin to be addressed another day. However, that day has come. This is it. The tide of COVID has swept our businesses off their foundation. Do we build them back better and stronger than before, or build them back the same, but with colour-coordinated shutters?


GG Arts Law provides a comprehensive range of legal services and strategic support for the performing arts, including: Artist Visas, Taxes, and Touring; Rights & Licensing; Negotiations & Representation; Contracts; Business & Non-Profit Organization & Management; Project Management; and Strategic Consulting & Planning.







The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty or threatening email to someone, filing a lawsuit, or basically doing anything that may in any way rely upon an assumption that we know what we are talking about.


Can A Union Walk Away With My Contract?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.    

Dear Law and Disorder: 

Is it legal that a presenter can put “strike, lock-out or other labor controversy (including, without limitation, the picketing on the theater by representatives of any labor union having or claiming to have jurisdiction over theater’s employees” into a force majeure clause? I mean, it doesn’t seem fair that an artist that is ready, willing and able to perform should be held “hostage” to a theatre who cannot strike a deal with its stagehands, right? I can’t believe this is a commonly accepted practice. Surely, holding out for a better contract (on either side) is a willful action and the responsibility of those parties to solve so they can fulfil their commitment to the artist, yes?

When you ask “is it legal” do you mean “is it a crime?” No. Assuming you’re not taking out a contract on someone’s life, then anything two parties negotiate and agree to in a contract is perfectly “legal”

Is it common? Absolutely, particularly with professional theaters or any large presenters or theaters who have collective bargaining agreements with various performing arts unions—such as most major orchestras and large concert halls and performing arts centers. In fact, I’ve never seen an engagement contract with a major orchestra or presenter that didn’t have such a clause.

It is appropriate? In my mind, yes. If union stagehands or artists make unreasonable demands and walk out, that’s not always the theater’s or orchestra’s fault. On the other hand, compromise on the party of either party is not always a reasonable possibility at the outset. Neither party should be held “hostage” to the threat of a breach of contract to compel one side or the other to agree hastily to an ill-advised collective bargaining agreement. Regardless, a union or labor issue is almost always a force majeure event. I even include that in my own contracts.

Another consideration is that if the artists you represent are themselves a member of a union—such as a musician who is a member of AFM—then, as a union member, they will be prohibited from crossing the picket line regardless of what the engagement contract says. Indeed, I had a group that had been hired to perform with a major orchestra last year and tried the same approach you a posited—they presented themselves at the stage door claiming that they were ready, willing, and able to perform. However, it turned out they were also AFM members and AFM said that they may be ready and willing, but were not “able.”

Is it fair? That depends on how you feel about the role of unions in the performing arts. I will say this: I have seen just as many artists shoot themselves in the foot as I have presenters try to pass off the losses of their own mismanagement and poor business planning onto their artists. And I know from my own experience that artists are not always their own best representatives in the marketplace. Nonetheless, I, for one, have never believed that the Arts are well served by the same “winner take all” approach that one finds in other industries.

Do you have to agree to it? No. You never have to agree to anything you think is unfair or unreasonable. If the issue is important enough to you and your artist, you can always either walk away or try and negotiate something all parties can accept. Just like a union.


For additional information and resources on this and other legal, project management, and business issues for the performing arts, visit

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All questions on any topic related to legal, management, and business issues will be welcome. However, please post only general questions or hypotheticals. GG Arts Law reserves the right to alter, edit or, amend questions to focus on specific issues or to avoid names, circumstances, or any information that could be used to identify or embarrass a specific individual or organization. All questions will be posted anonymously and/or posthumously.




The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, filing a lawsuit, or doing anything rash!