Nobody likes dealing with small print and legal affairs, but unfortunately, this is an area which you can’t afford to overlook. Luckily, there are specialist legal advisors who offer services to artists, performers and professionals from the performing arts industries.
Business is business
When you’re just starting out, perhaps the last thing on your mind is sorting out a contract with your clients, manager or the rest of your band members, but ultimately if your band or service is run as a business and not just a hobby, you need to give it some serious thought.
It’s not just performers operating in the traditional sense who can benefit from the protection which contracts and agreements can provide. If you are supplying any kind of service, you would do well to consider having a professional contract drawn up to cover the terms and conditions that you wish to do business under. You might feel that it’s a bit over the top, but if you think about any of the companies you do business with in your day-to-day life, chances are you’ll have signed a contract with most of them.
You may have been getting along just fine without any sort of formal contract or agreement so far, so why would you want to start with one now? It is far easier to get things written down and reach an agreement on who’s responsible for what at the start of project than later down the line.
One of the major benefits of having a contract is so that you can establish who’s responsible for what and to limit your liability if things go wrong. For example; you’ve been hired to choreograph a performance for a client and they supply you with the music and some t-shirts to wear. It later turns out that the music wasn’t licensed and the logos on the t-shirts infringe on someone’s trademarks. Now, common sense might dictate that it’s the client’s duty to make sure all that stuff is above board, but without an agreement on the matter, they could well try and pass the blame on to you.
Here are some other examples of how a contract or agreement can be helpful:
- Your band splits up. How is the equipment you’ve purchased jointly distributed?
- A photograph you take for a client wins a competition. Can they ask for a cut of the prize?
- Your band becomes successful. How are the profits to be shared out?
- You teach dance classes and one of your student’s property is damaged or stolen. Are you liable?
- A founding band member leaves. Are they entitled to a share of the band’s future earnings?
No doubt you can think of other examples which apply to your industry and circumstances.
Don’t take my word for it
Seeing as we are talking about legal affairs and liability, it only seems right that I should state that I’m not a lawyer and nothing in this article is meant to be taken as legal advice. Avenant Law on the other hand are indeed experts at this sort of thing and have a whole host of offerings which I’ll delve in to below.
Meet the experts
Based in London, Avenant Law are a legal consultancy who work with bands, solo artists, producers, musicians and other industry professionals. Their aim is to make legal advice accessible so that performers and creative individuals can make the best decisions in relation to their professional activities.
You might be thinking that getting a legal team involved will be a costly affair, but I did say that Avenant Law aim to make their service accessible. One of the ways they do this is by being affordable and fairly priced. Some of the topics they can help with are:
- Band agreements
- Assistance with contracts and negotiations
- Management agreements
- Advice on protecting your brand and trademarks
Their complete range of services is far more comprehensive than I could possibly list here, so I encourage you to check out their website and get in touch with them directly. They’re a professional and friendly bunch, always willing to help.
Need something more personal?
You might get the impression from Avenant’s website that they only deal with musicians, but they routinely assist professionals from all kinds of creative backgrounds. They even have a new service where you can ask them to draft a custom contract if any of their off-the-shelf offerings don’t quite fit your needs.
Prevention is better than cure
Sometimes, when the topic of contracts comes up in discussion, people feel put-off or think that it’s all a bit too formal and might get in the way of the creative process. My experience is that having a contract can often allow you to be more creative. If you enter in to a project with colleagues or a client and have an agreement up-front about what can be expected from whom, what is and what isn’t included; everyone knows where they stand and you can focus on getting the task done. Often, countless hours on phone calls and emails back and forth can be avoided because your agreement has already spelt out some of those finer details.
On some occasions merely having a contract is enough to help separate serious clients from ones which might become problematic later on and take up even more of your time. I’ve had experiences in the past where people who have approached me to work on a project simply disappear once I’ve suggested that I send them a contract for review. You might think that I’d just lost a potential client, but do I really want to work with someone whom has issue with formalising what I’ll be doing and the terms for payment etc? On the contrary, in my mind that’s the best contract you can have – one which you’ll never have to enforce.