Contractual Agreements

What is the importance of having a gig under a written contract? This is the reference that all parties use when there is a dispute, or for when you need to review the specific details (who’s providing what). Without it in writing, you can only go by what you think you may have discussed. Even the best of us can have flaws in our memories. But what should actually be stated IN the contract?

First and foremost, the legal entities involved need to be spelled out – musician(s) name(s), electronic and physical mailing addresses, phone number(s), etc., plus the buyer’s name(s), electronic and physical mailing addresses, and phone number(s). This may or may not include federal tax identification numbers and social security numbers. This information is MOST important so that the buyer knows exactly to whom to write the check or how to pay for the services.

The next and most important components are the details for the gig – date, time, location(s), performance time, setup availability time, dress required, instrumentation, etc. Other details may be spelled out in a rider or other addendum to the agreement. Those “other” details include musical selections, green room requirements, meals, lighting and sound descriptions (including who is providing what), staging, technical setup, specific equipment, recording and photograph restrictions, etc.

The next main component is PAY. How much for how long? What if there is overtime? Who can authorize overtime? Is the band available for overtime? WHEN does the band get paid? In my contracts, there is ALWAYS at least 50% non-refundable deposit to hold a date. I take checks and credit cards. The client is made aware of this prior to signing, and reminded again upon execution of the agreement. Balances are due by no later than 2 weeks prior to the event, otherwise subject to a late fee. We do NOT perform if payment is not received prior to performing. Overtime is to be paid day of event. Again, I accept credit cards onsite (love the iPhone and its technology!)

After the other details are included in almost every contract on the planet (governing law, disputes, termination, etc.), the final item is the signature area. Again, legal entities and names must be used. There should be 2 copies of the fully executed agreement (one for each party).

Once a gig is under a written agreement, then it is up to both parties to be responsible for its fulfillment. The agreement is there to PROTECT BOTH PARTIES. It should not be completely one-sided in favor of only one party. I provide a service and they pay me for it. I expect payment in accordance with the terms outlined, and they expect me to perform as outlined.

Where can I obtain a contract template? This is asked of me often. The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada ( is the musicians’ union, and it is FULL of resources and materials to help EVERY type of musician. They have contracts that are valid throughout the entire US and Canada, and can be upheld almost anywhere in the world. They have templates, riders, and even live human beings as resources. They have a 24/7 toll-free phone number you can call when you need assistance. They also have referrals to free or reduced rate legal services if they cannot assist you with a direct need. This is only one of the many services that they provide to their members. I use their agreements as a basis, and then have added my own additions specific to my services. You don’t have to be an attorney to craft your own agreement, but it is helpful to have one review your draft and provide counsel.

I am always leery of a new client or agency who does not want a written agreement. Until I have established a solid relationship with a repeat client (or agency), I will ask for a written agreement. Even with an established relationship and in absence of a written agreement, it is very important to get the details in writing, if only in a text or e-mail. This way, I can have my reference of what I am supposed to do, and can review it when there is a question about what the client is supposed to provide for me to do my job. After all, this is my career, and I treat it like a business.