Questions every performer should ask before they sign a contract

Abbey Road
Recording at Abbey Road

Here, sign this kid and I’ll make you a star!” This golden age of Hollywood cliché still haunts the entertainment industry today. Contracts are the necessary machinery that holds the industry together. Contracts ensure (basically) that producers have the rights that they need to make a show and that the performers get paid.

To safeguard that your contract does what it should and what you need it to do, nothing can replace quality legal advice from an expert entertainment lawyer (I would say that, wouldn’t I). But sometimes things like cost, time frames and excitement to be even offered a deal mean that bringing in the lawyers doesn’t happen – or doesn’t happen soon enough!

If you’re a performer and for whatever the reason can’t get legal help, then here are some simple questions that you should ask yourself about any entertainment deal that you’re offered. It’s not legal advice, but it will help you assess if the deal will work for you.

  1. What do they want me to do? Can I do it and am I OK with it?
  2. How much do they want to pay me and am I OK with that?
  3. How long does this contract last?
  4. To what standard must I deliver my performance?
  5. What do I have to promise them in addition to the performance required?
  6. What do they promise to do with my performance and where do they want to use it?
  7. Do I get additional payments for additional uses of my performance?
  8. Does this contract lead me towards my long term artistic goals?
  9. Can the people offering the contract perform the promises that they’re making to me?
  10. What warranties (promises that can lead to paying damages) and indemnities (promises to cover all costs over and above damages) am I required to give?
  11. Can I check this with an industry representative organisation that helps performers?
  12. Do my performer friends and contacts think that this deal sounds right?
  13. What do my instincts tell me? Does the deal feel wrong?

Don’t stop here – add your own questions and experiences to the comments section so that others can benefit from your tips.

If you get through this and feel that you’re unsure about the deal offered or you’d like to change some things – get some help. You may be surprised at how friendly, affordable and helpful some entertainment lawyers are! Feel free to email me too, I’d be happy to steer you in the right direction for advice.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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