Did you have contracts for your cancelled gigs?
Were your contracts written or verbal?
Do you have a standard contract that you use all the time whether it is a long form legal contract or a simple Letter of Agreement or Letter of Confirmation? Do you send that along after every confirming phone call or email with your buyer, booker or presenting organization?
Hmmm, I can’t hear your definitive YES! to all the above questions. A little louder please.
OK, I’m just pushing your buttons and hopefully this Biz Booster will offer some valuable information about a specific contract clause and issues you may be experiencing during this spring of COVID-19 and everything being cancelled.
Let me clear something up right now. No matter how large a venue your gigs were in and hopefully will be again, or how small and intimate or outside the main-stream venue type, you need to issue some form of written agreement.
Here are some reasons:
It provides you and the buyer with an historical written account of what was agreed to at the time. I don’t care if it’s you next door neighbor doing a house concert with you or the buyer at some major performing arts center. It is better to know what you each agreed to do and get it in writing. It is also great to avoid those conversations rehashing the “Oh, I thought you said the 15th not the 14th,” or, “You said you were bringing your sound system, I don’t have one on hand or don’t have the money in the budget to rent one.”
Yeah! You want to avoid that. And when it is written in an agreement, you can pull out that signed agreement and say, “See, here on line 12 or in paragraph 2 you agreed to do that.”
So, this all relates to the olden days of playing live performances, (like 2 months ago).
Now, of course, we are dealing with bigger issues, complete cancellations on a massive scale due to “Acts of God” and Governmental Intervention.
Which leads me to why having a contract that includes a, “Force Majeure Clause,” is so important right about NOW.
Here is an example of what might be included in that clause:
Force Majeure: This agreement by both parties to perform their obligations herein is subject to proven detention by serious illness, accidents, or accidents to means of transportation, labor disputes or walkouts, acts of God, or any act of public authority, material breach of Contract by Purchaser, or any other condition beyond either party’s control. Neither party shall be liable to fulfill the remainder of the Contract nor perform or present any “make-up” date unless expressly agreed to by both parties for a convenient future time.
As you can see here, the highlighted portions cover this unique situation and give both you and the presenting organization an out for cancellation. You’ll also notice that any make-up date or rescheduling of the event is up to both of you agreeing to a new date.
It doesn’t have to spell out Global Pandemic as that is covered in Acts of God.
If you do not have this clause in your contract, I highly recommend you add it. Now I am not a lawyer, but I worked with entertainment lawyers to create my contracts when I was booking my artists. You may have your own lawyer, or you may be a lawyer, or you may have never worked with a lawyer to help you create your own contract.
If you haven’t created and used any sort of contract or agreement letter, then I highly recommend you get one—find a lawyer, use Legal Zoom, check out Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, (this link takes you the NY site, but many major cities have a branch of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts) and create a contract for yourself. Your contract will reflect specifics for where you live and where your business is set up.
If you didn’t issue a contract for any of your cancelled gigs, then the presenter may not be inclined to reschedule. If you had a contract with this clause included, then the option to reschedule is open for discussion. Having a contract at least sets you up to have a respectful conversation about the situation.
Without a contract, given this situation, the booker could simply ignore your gig and possibly you. When they assume that everything is cancelled, then so is your gig. Maybe they don’t feel they have to connect with you to discuss it, reschedule it or anything. So much depends on your relationship with the venue booker. YOU always have the option of starting the conversation even if they do not contact you. I would certainly do that. In last week’s Biz Booster, I gave you some ideas of how to have that conversation. Review Practical Planning for Our New Reality for your talking points.
On last week’s Ask an Expert Webinar, put on by a partnership of arts organizations, Heather Van Dyke, legal counsel for SXSW shared some valuable insights.
When you have a contract, your agreement made at the time of negotiations includes all the details that you might now refer to as you navigate this current situation. First step is to always rely on your relationship with the presenter and approach this as, “we are in this together, how might we proceed?” Reviewing the contract specifics can help point you in a new direction as you renegotiate for these new times.
Building great relationships with those who book you, remains Job One. Documenting your agreements with a signed contract or letter of agreement is Job Two.
I look forward to hearing about many renegotiated events, rescheduled dates, reformatted performances taking place online and a future that sees you playing live, on many fabulous stages for your audiences.
Did you have contracts for your cancelled gigs? Have you reconnected with your contacts to renegotiate for another time or to perform in another way?