Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Part of a series of columns on music law

Other than a few twisted people out there (probably the same people busily inventing Celtic death ska or something of the ilk), no one gets into music because they enjoy profit statements, business plans, or long-range budgeting. Even the most casual musician, however, can benefit from some basic planning and business advice. The following isn’t intended to be legal advice, but just as a way to get you thinking about these issues. If you have questions, please seek out a reputable attorney who can deal with the specifics of your situation.


A “contract” is just a legal word for a legally-enforceable promise, where the parties involved promise to act in certain ways in reliance of the other party acting in certain ways. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as that sentence sounds. If your band and the manager of CBGBs agree that you’ll play two hour-long sets for $1,000 total, then you’ve got the basics of a contract. You are promising to play and they are promising to pay, and that’s basically the simplest form of contract.


A contract can be oral or written, but of course oral is harder to prove after the fact. Forming a contract requires a “meeting of the minds” as to all the issues involved. Since miscommunication is a more common problem than outright bad faith dealings, a contract is a great way to avoid trouble on this front. Contract formation also involves another legal concept, called “consideration”, which can be a little more complicated. It means (and my Contracts professor would curl up in a ball and cry at this crude definition) that each party brings something to the deal in order to get something. That’s a more complicated area than I want to get into here, but it’s important to note. For example, you give your time and band reputation to Club X, and the venue gives you a place to play and cash. It can be that simple, but without consideration, it’s not a contract.


The remedy for a breach is, quite often, a lawsuit. Understandably, most bands don’t want a reputation as being difficult. I believe, though, that putting everyone’s obligations in print actually cuts down on the bad situations that occur in handshake deals. A written contract shows that you’re not only talented but a professional and you take business seriously, just like the club owner who is trying to make a buck. That’s a first step in succeeding in the music business.

2 Comments:

Blogger jackbear said...

..but what about my green m&ms!!!

2:00 PM  
Blogger TMT said...

Dude, I've heard you rap. I don't think you're getting booked anywhere soon.

4:42 PM  

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