Free Trial

Safari Books Online is a digital library providing on-demand subscription access to thousands of learning resources.

  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

3 Contracts and Riders > The Contract

The Contract

There is a lot of money, prestige, and ego involved when performing a show or tour. Things can and do go wrong; organizers can misunderstand their responsibilities, arrangements can be misinterpreted, and people get greedy. If this happens and things get sticky between the various parties (artist, promoter, agent, venue, and so on), then it will always help you to have a legally binding bit of paper to wave around to prove your point.

Always Seek Advice from a Legally Qualified Person! This section is meant as an overview of the process of issuing contracts for live performance. You are encouraged to always seek qualified legal counsel when writing or administering any legal documents, including live performance contracts.

With the majority of contemporary music shows, everything runs smoothly, and the issuing of a contract is a formality—but a formality that is strictly adhered to.

You have seen how a show is booked, with the artist/agent hassling the promoter (or vice versa) to book a show or tour at a certain time. When the agent and promoter have agreed to the show and the terms in principle, the agent will then produce a contract for each show (or set of shows) and send the contract to the promoter. This contract sets out the terms under which the artist agrees to perform and lists any special technical or production stipulations specific to that engagement.

An example contract is reproduced in Figure 3.1. Take time to study it; explanations of the various clauses follow.

Figure 3.1 A contract between the promoter and the artist.


This is obviously an example; concert contracts take many different forms and are specific to one show. A decent contract should, at the very least, contain the points and clauses discussed in the following sections.

Date of Agreement

“An Agreement between x and y”—who is the agreement between? The parties could be artist and promoter, or artist manager and promoter, or agent and promoter. All parties involved need to be named, and contract terms must be applied. The promoter will usually be referred to as “the promoter,” “the purchaser,” or “the buyer” for the rest of the contract. The artist or artist manager will be referred to as “the producer,” “the artist,” or “the management.” In this case, P. Romoter is the promoter/purchaser, and Mr. Ron Decline is the manager who is signing this contract on behalf of his client, the band called Millions of Americans. It is very rare for the agent to be named as a contracting party. After all, the agent acts to bring the two contractors together and is not involved in the financial transaction.

Description of Services Supplied

Who is performing and under what name? It may be obvious that Millions of Americans is the band performing, but many solo performers play under different names. DJs have pseudonyms and also perform under their real names. For instance, Soulwax (a Belgian rock band) also performs as 2manydjs (a hip DJ team). Soulwax/2manydjs regularly performs in both incarnations at festivals and will probably issue separate contracts.

Where and When Will the Concert Take Place?

This is the venue, street address, and show date. This should be obvious, I know, but I have seen more than one contract issued with the wrong show date!


This information will give you and the tour manager (if applicable) an insight into the physical size of the venue. You will also be able to work out whether the promoter’s costs are reasonable, after you have read Chapter 8, “How to Get the Shows!”

Ticket Price

This is the price of the ticket set by the promoter. This ticket price will have been derived from the promoter’s show cost calculations. In some cases, the band or artist management may question a very high ticket price; it is very important to peg the correct ticket price for an act, especially in the early stages of their career. Charge too much for the tickets, and you will deter your prospective audience; charge too little, and neither band nor promoter will make any money!


The fee payment schedule is the most important schedule, so I am going to go over it thoroughly.

The fee payment schedule usually stipulates the following:

image The amount

image The currency

image The payment schedule

In our example, the fee is $300. (To keep things simple, I have not included any sales tax. In the UK, for instance, there is a sales tax called VAT, which is added on to all goods and services—including the fees charged by musicians. For the sake of simplicity, I have not included such tax here.) Don’t worry about the “or 80% of door receipts after costs, whichever is greater” part for now. I will explain that in Chapter 9, “Getting Paid.”

You should always get your fee paid in your home currency if you are performing abroad. This will help you avoid currency exchange fluctuations.

Also, always negotiate that your fee is “net and free of all local taxes.” All countries (with the odd exception—Denmark, the Netherlands) levy income taxation on their visiting workers, and music groups are no different. This taxation is administered by the relevant government department in each country. This means that any income you make in a country can be taxed, leaving you with very little left of your performance fee. Most countries require that the promoter deduct the taxation from your fee as soon as you earn that fee (that is, on the day you play); you cannot pay it retroactively. If a gross figure is offered for a performance, then do the math quickly to determine whether you will make any money off the show at all. Stipulate that all hotel, transportation, and per diems (if paid by the promoter) are also net and free of taxes.

Each country sets its own rate of taxation for foreign artists. In Europe, this is currently between 15 and 30 percent, depending on the individual country; in Australia, it’s between 15 and 45 percent; and in the U.S. it’s 30 percent.2

The fee schedule should also include any other non-cash compensation—such as hotels, flights, and other travel—that are to be paid for by the promoter/buyer.

As I mentioned, always try to get paid in your local currency. Obviously, this is not a problem if you are performing in a bar down the street, but once you start to travel you will be earning different currencies. You may also want to specify a deposit to be paid before the performance. This is standard practice, especially if the fee is greater than £1,000 ($1,500). If you do want a deposit, then indicate this in the fee schedule with the amount required—for example, 50 percent and a bank account for the money to be paid into. Most established booking agents will collect deposits on their client’s behalf; the money is held in “client accounts,” and the funds are disbursed upon request. This practice also allows the agents to deduct their commissions first!

The sending of a deposit can be used as a contractual milestone—no deposit received equals no show. Always stipulate the date before which the deposit should be received; this date should ideally be two weeks before the actual show date.

The remainder of the fee should always be paid in cash. Make sure that is stipulated in the contract, and, obviously, never take a certified check. Getting cash on the night is a security measure, as you may not be able to track down a promoter who has given you a bad check once you have left town after the show.

In our example, the sending of a certified check for the deposit is acceptable; it is a safer way to send the money than sending cash in the mail, and you can make sure the check has cleared before you perform the show. In practice, most promoters will simply initiate a money transfer for the deposit.

We have also stipulated that, in the event that the promoter cancels the show, we get to keep the deposit. Obviously, a promoter will only cancel a show as a very last resort and would attempt to reschedule the show as soon as possible. In that case, a scrupulous agent would keep the deposit in his account until the show was rescheduled.

Production Requirements

The production requirements clause in the contract will detail sound, light, staging, and catering requirements. This section will usually refer the promoter to the “rider” section of the contract. If these requirements are not detailed in the contract rider, then you may see something similar to this:


The Promoter agrees to provide and pay for a first-class PA (Public Address) System and a First Class Stage Lighting System as well as experienced technician(s) as necessary for use by the Artist for the duration of this Contract. The specifications for such PA and Lighting System will be advised by the Artist not later than fourteen (14) days prior to the performance.

Description of Special Stipulations

Are there any time-specific or financial considerations to this engagement? In our example, we have stipulated that the logo of the band is not to be used in conjunction with any advertising or sponsorship without the artist’s permission. The promoter will obviously want to promote the show and will use the band’s name and logo in all advertising. The main purpose of this clause, however, is to prevent unscrupulous promoters and club owners from using the act’s name to promote other events, such as after-show parties or radio appearances, from which the act themselves will receive no income. It is a very common occurrence for clubs near major concert venues to advertise an after-show event, such as “the official Millions of Americans aftershow party! Half-price entry with your Millions of Americans concert ticket!” Audience members are tricked into going to the club, in the mistaken belief that they will see the band socializing. In reality, the band will be on a sleeper bus and traveling overnight to the next show.

It is difficult to police this kind of exploitation, but a contract clause that highlights this issue and refers to the penalties involved will hopefully prevent the promoter of the show from organizing an event without the band’s permission and using the band’s name and logo to make him extra cash.

We have also included clauses about our right to sell merchandise without having to pay the venue or promoter any commission. Many, many venues will charge you to sell your own merchandise, taking up to 25 percent of your money. (You will learn more about this hideous practice in Chapter 7, “At the Show.”) Although the promoter often has no control over merchandise commissions because he or she is simply hiring the venue, it is worth putting in this clause.

The promoter/buyer should study the contract carefully and sign and date it to signal his or her acceptance of the terms. By signing the contract, the promoter is saying, “Yes, I agree to provide all the conditions necessary for the performance of X on such date at such time for such amount of money.”

If the promoter doesn’t like something or disagrees with the terms, he can either contact the agent to try to renegotiate or simply put a red line through the relevant clause and return the contract. This red line signals the promoter’s refusal to comply with that section of the contract. A good agent would then, on receiving any amended contract, try to renegotiate the deal and get the promoter to accept all terms unconditionally.

When a contract is signed, dated, and returned to the agent, the agent should pass copies on to the manager or artist and to the artist’s tour manager. As a tour manager or artist, you should travel with copies of all the contracts for the tour, and you should have already studied them to pick up on any problems or disputes the promoters may have.

Should you have a contract for every show you do? Yes! As well as being a legally binding document in case of dispute, the contract also serves as a tool to enable promoters to forewarn you/the touring party of special circumstances at any particular venue. For instance, a well thought-out contract should at least try to state what time the promoter wants you to perform. This is especially important if you are performing after midnight on a given date. As an example, you may have two shows booked—one on the 17th of the month in one city (let’s call this Show A) and one on the 18th of the same month in a different city (Show B). You (or your tour manager) arrange all the necessary transportation to get you from Show A to B, based on the dates you have been given by the promoter. You then find out the promoter wants you to perform your set for Show A at 3 o’clock in the morning! You are then effectively playing two shows on the same day and may not physically be able to actually travel from Show A to Show B in time, given the (now) new complications of time and distance.

Will you get a contract for every show you do? Probably not, especially when you are just starting out. But never mind—get in the habit of asking for one or supplying your own anyway. I take it you are serious about your career and about making the best income you can from each performance, right? Then start issuing your own contracts! Study the example printed here; you can download an editable version from Simply amend the relevant details, such as the promoter/buyer name and the show date, time, and fees. Even if you just issue a page that says, “You, Mrs. Bar Manager, agree to pay me in CASH the fee of $x when I perform in your bar on the xxth of x. Sign here,” you will be protecting yourself from potential nonpayment problems.

An exhilarating live show, small or large, is the beating heart of this industry. Playing live is of paramount importance, can earn a considerable proportion of the act’s income, and is a way for performers to develop their art, rather than just knock out carbon copies of their records.

—Matt Willis, CEC Management. Clients include the Eighties
Matchbox B-Line Disaster, the Others, the Rakes, and Ben Folds.

  • Safari Books Online
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint