Does God Serve On Their Board?

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.

Dear Law and Disorder:

We booked one of our artists to perform at a non-profit venue. The booking agreement was signed by all parties. We just received a phone call from the venue that their board met last night and decided unanimously to cancel the engagement due to poor ticket sales. The contract states that our artist is to be paid a cancellation fee if the date is cancelled for any reason except an act of God. However, the venue is claiming that this is an act of god and they do not have to pay. Any suggestions?

While I am familiar with many board chairs and presidents who erroneously believe they rule with omnipotent powers, their decisions do not constitute “Acts of God.” Moreover, unless there is a specific definition of “Acts of God” in a booking contract that expressly states that ticket sales are subject to divine will and authority or that a recognized deity from an established pantheon is in charge of marketing and sales, poor ticket sales are also not “Acts of God.”

Contrary to myth, non-profits are not exempt from the laws and legal obligations which govern all businesses, for-profit or otherwise. They must license copyrighted materials, pay their employees and independent contractors, and honor contractual obligations just like everyone else. In this case, you would appear to have a fairly straightforward breach of contract situation whereby the venue is contractually obligated to pay your artist the agreed upon cancellation fee.

Regardless of the legal merits of your claim, your first course of action should not be threats or demands. Instead, explore every possibility of a creative and mutually reasonable solution. Non-profits are under a considerable amount of pressure and, more often than not, in situations such as these, they are acting out of fear and self-survival rather than any nefarious intent. Can you reschedule the date? Can you offer to provide additional marketing materials or suggestions? Are there any expenses or costs which can be reduced? Are there any other presenters in the area who might be willing to partner with the venue and share expenses? Assuming your venue is unwilling to budge or consider alternatives, then stating the legal merits of the situation and suggesting mediation or arbitration would certainly be appropriate.

Ultimately, this may be one of those rare instances when filing legal action may be warranted. If your booking agreement does not provide for attorneys fees and costs in the event of a lawsuit, and if the engagement fee is not substantial enough to warrant the time and aggravation, you may be able to file a small claims action in lieu of a more formal trial. Sometimes, merely filing a lawsuit or claim is enough to bring them to the bargaining table. However, always remember that winning a lawsuit doesn’t mean you or your artist will ever see a dime. If the venue refuses to pay, you’ll have to pursue them further with bank liens and property attachments until they either pay or file bankruptcy or close entirely. While not resulting in any damages for you or your artist, this can often be its own form of divine retribution upon the venue.

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For additional information and resources on this and other legal and business issues for the performing arts, visit ggartslaw.com

To ask your own question, write to lawanddisorder@musicalamerica.org.

All questions on any topic related to legal 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.

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THE OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER:

THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE!

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!

Tags: acts of god, board chairs, booking agreement, breach, breach of contract, Brian Taylor, cancellation, cancellation fee, contract, contract situation, contract states, contractual obligations, damages, Goldstein, lawsuit, legal obligations, Non-Profits, poor ticket sales, presenter, reasonable solution

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