Everyone is excited that life is returning to normal as more and more of the population gets vaccinated. Restaurants and bars are increasing their capacity, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has even announced that Chicago Police should be prepared to work during summer music festivals such as Lollapalooza. If you’re in the music and event promotion business, these are all great signals that opportunities to make money on concerts, afterparties, and the like may be afoot. However here are a few things to watch out for so you don’t get burned.
- Know who you are doing business with!
Many artists and performers use booking agencies to handle their event management. Some artists may even use multiple booking agencies. Most concert promoters sign contracts with the booking agency, and it’s important to understand that you are not signing a contract with the artist him/herself. In the event of a no-show, it’s necessary to know who is contractually obligated to answer for the absence and how to contact the responsible party. You may end up chasing your own tail if you don’t know who is responsible.
- Front-End Deposits vs. Front-End Advances
Many artists booking contracts may require that an event producer pay the artist some percentage of the entire performance fee upon signing a contact, with the balance being due shortly before the actual event takes place. The devil in these provisions is in the details. If you are advancing payment for the artist to perform then the contract may state that the front-end payment is non-refundable. However, if the front-end is just a deposit then you may be entitled to be refunded if the performance does not take place.
- Forum and Venue Clauses
Even if you decide that you want to pursue litigation against an artist for not holding up his/her end of the bargain, the contract may have other clauses that will deter you from doing so, such as a clause that dictates in what state or city any enforcement action must take place (also known as a venue clause), or what type of legal proceeding can commence, whether it be binding arbitration or pre-litigation mediation (also referred to as a forum clause). The time and cost of dealing with filing a legal proceeding in a different state, plus the cost to initiate arbitration or mediation may outweigh the amount of damages that you are pursuing, and in most instances you may not be able to recoup the costs of doing so even if you win!
Concert and event promoters can protect themselves by redlining these provisions from the onset- as many artists and booking agents use template contracts, and doing so will allow the promoter to act efficiently when deciding to collect what they are due if an artist does not hold up to their end of the bargain.
Artists will typically offer a make-up session if a concert is cancelled for some reason, in lieu of returning the deposits received. However, artists who were offering performances and appearances at reduced rates in 2020 are now requiring that promoters pay increased 2021 rates for makeup dates that were based on their 2020 rate. The general rule is that this is not allowed, but the hoops and hurdles required under standard contracts can make the path towards enforcing what you’re entitled to very murky, unless you clearly understand your rights.
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