Emancipating Artists From Your Roster

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.

Hi everyone! The issue of artists leaving a roster and re-booking themselves at a venue their manager/agent originally found for them is always an ongoing problem. I’ve been asked to re-post a blog we did on this several years ago. Here it is…..

Dear Law and Disorder:

What would be your response to an artist who re-books themselves in venues that an agent previously booked for them? Is that legally allowed? We booked this particular group to a major venue 2 years back and now they have re-booked themselves at this same venue by contacting the presenter directly. I can’t really justify holding the presenter responsible or expect them to remember who they booked an artist through 2 years ago. I have been told by other managers and agents about respecting a “presenter of record”, but what about an artist having to honor the “agent of record”?

If you have (or had) a contract with this group that gives you the exclusive right to re-book them at certain venues for a specific period of time, then my response would be that the group is in breach of your contract. If you have (or had) a contract with this group that entitles you to a commission from any re-bookings at venues where you originally booked them, then my response would be that they owe you a commission. On the other hand, if there is no contractual obligation for the group either to re-book through you or to pay you a commission, then my response to the group would be “well done!”

Other than the fiduciary obligations and duties imposed on agents and managers who represent artists, and the obligation for an artist to pay for services knowingly rendered and accepted, there are no other legal obligations inherent in the relationship. An enforceable obligation for an artist to re-book only through the original agent or to pay a commission for re-bookings must either arise contractually or it does not exist at all. In other words, concepts such as either “presenter of record” or “agent of record” have no legal consequence or validity. While some might argue these are, nonetheless, inherently ethical or professional obligations, the whole idea that someone inherently “owns” either a presenter or an artist is more of a quaint feudal concept than a practical one for today’s cultural marketplace.

I appreciate that it can be incredibly time consuming and laborious to sell an artist to a presenter or introduce an artist to a new venue. However, presumably you received a commission for doing so. That was your fee. Charge more next time or move on. If you want to require an artist to book only through you in the future or require a commission if they re-book at a venue where you first booked them, then you need to have a contract with the artist that spells that out. However, be forewarned that no contracts (not even the ones I craft!) are self-enforcing. If an artist elects to breach your contract anyway, you will still need to weigh the pros and cons of enforcement. In many instances, suing an artist only results in an un-collectable judgment and a waste of time that could have been better spent booking other artists.


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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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