A performance contract is used when booking a performance by a musician, artist, band, or another performer. It's simple to create a contract for such a purpose and helps prevent misunderstandings and disagreements from occurring. 

Performance contracts may be initiated by either the performer or by the individual or organization hiring the performer, and they provide security. Contracts ensure that the performer shows up for the performance as promised, and also ensure that the venue pays the performers. 

Performers' contracts should include policies regarding cancellations and unforeseen circumstances, expectations for the performance, and payment amounts, including deposits. They should also include details such as the time and location.

Components of a Performers' Contract

Contracts for performers do not usually need to be complicated, but they can be if needed. Large, expensive events may require extensive provisions and expectations. The basic information in a performer's contract includes:

  • Name, phone number, and addresses of both parties, including the performers' real names instead of stage names.
  • A full description of the services to be provided, including the location and name of the venue and the date and time when the performance will take place.
  • Details of the performance such as setup, type of music, number and length of sets, and any other expectations such as prohibiting foul language.
  • What equipment the performer will be bringing, and what equipment is to be provided by the venue.
  • Payment expectations including amounts and when payment is due.
  • Deposits, if necessary to guarantee services. These are usually non-refundable.
  • Policy for cancellation, including how much time is needed to give notice by either party. This should specify enough time so that the venue can book another performer if needed. If the venue cancels, the band may require that payment in full will still be given.
  • Terms of the performance, such as repeat performances and contract renewal options.
  • Parties' relationship, such as specifying that the performer is not an employee of the organizer or venue.
  • Policies regarding unforeseen circumstances. 

Less Common Contract Information

Performance contracts can be extremely complicated and specific. Here are a few other items that performers and venues or organizers can choose to include:

  • Details about the equipment and layout of the venue, such as what types of electrical connections and lighting will be available, including brands and technical specifications.
  • Backstage perks, such as catering and other hospitality items. These may include bottles of water, alcohol, coffee, and snacks. They may also include any dietary restrictions.
  • Merchandise sales, if permitted. Performers may request a designated area for this purpose.
  • Guest list of people who will be admitted without a ticket.
  • Permission for recording the performance, or prohibiting it.
  • Parking, and an area to be provided for loading and unloading equipment.
  • Hotels and transportation, if needed. 

Preventing Problems With a Performance Contract

There are several common problems that occur with performance contracts. Here are a few, and suggestions for preventing them:

  • Verbal contracts: These are an accepted part of the business. However, make sure you keep as much of the communications process as possible saved in emails so you can refer to them later. If the contract is discussed verbally, send an e-mail containing the details of the discussion right away as a follow-up. 
  • Alcohol consumption: This is mostly due to the type of venue where such performances take place, such as weddings, bars, parties, and music festivals, where there is alcohol available, and the audience is drinking too. There should be clear expectations set about the performers' access to alcohol and limits to its consumption.
  • Payment issues: There may be disagreements about door fees and bar tabs when it comes to what is considered fair pay. These should be explained in advance.
  • Free admission: Discuss in advance how many free passes will be given out to bands' friends and family.
  • Backstage access: Get a written list of everyone who will be given backstage passes, so that security can manage access.
  • Failure of equipment: Make sure backup equipment including power sources is available, including generators, stands, cables, and other items.
  • Weather: Outdoor events need extra planning such as tents, covered stages, heat sources for cold weather and fans for hot weather, and tie-downs for wind.
  • Equipment lists and stage planning: Stage managers need to plan in advance where to place equipment, lights, and power sources, especially for large events.

If you need more information or help with a performance contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.