But I Don’t Want To Be A Producer!

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.   

Dear Law and Disorder:

We have booked one of our artists to perform at a venue. As we are the agent, our booking agreements are always between the venue and the artist, and we sign on the artist’s behalf. However, the presenter is insisting that, if we want to sign the contract and receive the engagement fee, as we do, then the contract must be between them and us. Is this correct?

If you are “producing” the artist—that is, you are being paid a fee by a presenter or venue to hire the artist and produce the performance—then, yes, the presenter is correct. However, if, as you say, you are the artist’s agent, then you are absolutely correct and the presenter is…well, confused.

Producers are paid a fee to provide the services of an artist. Typically, the producer will either accept a fee, use a portion of that fee to pay the artist, and pocket the difference; or invest his or her own money to hire the artist, and then keep the box office or other profits from the performance. Either way, a producer accepts a substantial amount of risk in exchange for a greater return. However, merely accepting payment on behalf of an artist, deducting your commission, and then paying the balance to the artist does not make you a producer. It doesn’t matter whether or not you use the word agent or producer in the contract. Rather, it all comes down to how the booking contract is phrased:

X is a Producer:

“Venue X enters into this Agreement with Agent Y to produce and provide the services of Artist Z”

X is an Agent:

“Venue X enters into this Agreement with Artist Z for Artist’s services, by and through Artist’s Agent Y”

Anyone who books a date on behalf of an artist, whether as a manager or as a booking agent, is working for the artist. The artist is your client. In legal parlance, the artist would be referred to as the “Principal” and the agent would be referred to as…get ready for it…the “Agent.” Under the Law of Agency (not to be confused with various state licensing requirements for booking agents—that’s something completely different), agents (ie: someone who acts for and on behalf of someone else) owe a variety of duties to their principals, including duties of loyalty, duties of care, and fiduciary duties. In exchange, agents are not liable for the contractual breaches of their principals, even if the agent negotiated the contract on behalf of the principal. This is important. If the artist decides to cancel at the last minute or otherwise causes damages to the venue or presenter, the agent is not liable whereas a producer would be liable…provided, however, that the agent did not inadvertently make themselves a party to the contract and agree to “present or produce” the artist. A booking contract, then, should always be between the presenter/venue and the artist. As the artist’s agent and representative, you can absolutely sign on behalf of the artist as well as accept money on behalf of the artist. However, the contract is between the presenter/venue and the artist.

I suspect your presenter is either suffering from the “That’s the way we have always done it” disease or the more common affliction of “I don’t know what I am talking about but will insist I am right.” It also could be a fatal case of “We are affiliated with a large university and must abide by arbitrary and inflexible rules that do not apply and no one understands.” Regardless, if they insist on having the artist sign the contract, I really don’t have a problem with that. In fact, in many ways, I actually prefer it as it eliminates the ability of an artist to come back to you later and claim they never approved the terms of the engagement. However, even if the contract is between the venue and the artist, the contract can still provide for you to receive all of the payments on behalf of the artist. Some battles aren’t worth fighting.


For additional information and resources on this and otherGG_logo_for-facebook 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 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!



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