Your Move or Mine?

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq. Dear Law and Disorder: If I am booking an artist, whose job is it to draft the contract? Some venues ask me to send them my contract, but other venues seem to have their own. What’s the normal practice? Since you asked for the “normal” practice, I shall tell you: the normal practice is that some venues will ask you to send them your contract and other venues will have their own. It all depends on the circumstances and the venue. You should always have a basic engagement contract that you can tailor for each artist and send to a venue who wants your contract. However, you should expect larger venues to prefer to use their own contracts just as most venues understand and expect that major artists will insist on using the artist’s contract. It really doesn’t matter as both parties will need to review the proposed contract and, if necessary, proposed changes, additions, and amendments. Its unrealistic to presume that the venue’s contract will address all the issues important to the artist and that artist’s contract will address all the issues important to the venue. Negotiation is not just about date, time, and fee. Negotiations include ALL of the terms which will be in the final contract. What you want to avoid at all costs is a situation where, in lieu of taking the time to review and negotiate a single contract, the manger or agent just attaches the artist’s contract as a rider to the venue’s contract (or visa versa) and the parties proceed. Almost always the two contracts will have conflicting terms which will operate to negate the entire contract, making neither one legally enforceable. (And, no, it doesn’t help to use a rubber stamp that says “in the event of a conflict, mine governs.” That only benefits the folks who sell rubber stamps.) Even more important, regardless of who goes first, is to never ever ever ever ever send anyone a signed contract at the outset. The contract should be signed only after all parties have had a chance to review, make comments, propose changes, attach riders, and agree upon a final version. Otherwise, the party receiving the signed contract will simply strike out or amend the language they don’t like…or, worse, attach a rider…sign it, and return it…which, legally, constitutes a counter-offer and not an enforceable contract. (Actually, it “could” be enforceable, but this gets into complex legal issues which could all be avoided if everyone just sent one another blank contracts and waited until all issues had been resolved before anyone signed anything!) I realize that it takes time to review, negotiate, and amend every contract. However, that’s what contracts are for. It gives each party a chance to make sure that all important issues have been addressed and that there will be no unstated expectations or assumptions. Contracts are not about enforcement…they are about avoiding conflicts and disappointment. Without question, life would be easier if there were standard contracts and terms that worked for every engagement. However, we work in the arts. Nothing is normal and nothing is customary. If you are looking for consistency, go work in a bank. Otherwise, learn to embrace the chaos. __________________________________________________________________ For additional information and resources on this and other legal and business issues for the performing arts, visit To ask your own question, write to 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. __________________________________________________________________ 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!

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