Don’t Be Late For Dinner

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.   

Dear Law and Disorder,

About six months ago, a venue booked one of my artists and then sent me a signed contract with language requiring the artist to arrive the day before the concert rather than the morning of the concert. The venue was not willing to pay for an extra night of hotel and the artist already has a concert booked the night before, so I struck the language, signed it, and sent it back. The presenter never said anything, but now they are claiming that they never read the contract after I sent it back and are insisting that either the artist arrive the day before or else they will cancel. They claim that this policy is necessary to protect them from a cancellation in case it snows and the artist can’t arrive. The concert is in one month. Are they correct? Do they have the right to cancel?

You had every reason to object to this the language. There are many reasons for an artist to arrive the day before a concert—such as rehearsals, flight schedules, or travel time—but merely allaying the venue’s fears of a weather-related cancellation are not among them. Even if the artist didn’t already have a concert booked for the prior evening, he is being asked to give up what could otherwise be a bookable performance date as well as to incur his own hotel expenses. That’s unreasonable. It’s like inviting someone to dinner, but insisting that they arrive five hours early and wait outside while you cook. However, when you crossed out the language, signed the contract, and sent it back, your actions constituted a counter-offer, potentially rendering the contract null and void.

To make a binding, enforceable contract, all the parties must agree to the same terms at the same time. If one party changes anything in the contract and the other party does not expressly agree to such changes, then the contract is void. This is why, as a general rule, it is unadvisable for one party to send another a signed contract until after all parties have had a chance to discuss and negotiate all the terms. Instead, whoever is drafting or initiating the contract should send an unexecuted draft of the “proposed” contract to the other party. The contract should then be executed only after all discussions, negotiations, and final changes (if any) have been agreed upon.

In this case, you should have contacted the venue and discussed your objections before unilaterally editing the contract or striking the objectionable language. Nonetheless, by not objecting to your changes, by relying on the fact that your artist had scheduled their concert on his calendar, by waiting six months, and, presumably, by advertising and selling tickets to the concert, the venue accepted your counter-offer and the contract became legally binding. As far as their claim that they didn’t notice your changes and just assumed you had signed the contract, that’s their problem. Never assume. Consequently, under the terms of the contract, the artist is not required to arrive the day before, so the presenter has no right to demand that he do so. If the presenter were to cancel at this stage, it would constitute a breach of contract.

While a legal analysis is always only half the analysis, and all reasonable solutions should first be explored, should the venue cancel the engagement, it would be liable for the artist’s full engagement fee. Cancellation insurance would probably have been a simpler and more cost effective alternative.


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