Here’s the video transcript:
Should your Christian band use contracts? Contracts are intimidating. We have been led to believe that a contract must be drawn up by an attorney and is written in stone so to speak. But, neither of those is true. A contract is simply the written form of an agreement between two or more people or parties (groups of people). They can be negotiated by either party. A contract does not have to be signed as is just because it is presented by one of the parties in writing. Most often details are crossed out and added until both parties have come to an agreement, and then the contract is rewritten with the changes. Contracts written by attorneys are not more or less legally binding than contracts drawn up by any two parties. People choose to use attorneys in the hope that they will do a more thorough job of covering all the bases and negotiate a more favorable deal.
Band contracts are the details about a gig that the band and the venue or promoters have agreed will happen. These contracts can include anything both parties agree to do. We have all heard the stories about crazy food in the green room or contracts that are a hundred pages long. But most of the time contracts are somewhat basic. They generally cover topics like time of the show, length of the set, payment, and who provides the sound system. Most band contracts are 2-5 pages long with blank lines that can be filled in with the details. They end with representatives from both parties signing on the bottom of the last page.
The Advantages of Using Contracts:
● Both parties have a copy of what they agreed to do in writing, so there is less confusion about who agreed to do what.
● The agreement is legally binding, so if one party does not live up to their agreement the other party can enforce the agreement in court.
● Because of the legal implications, written contracts tend to be taken more seriously than verbal agreements.
The Disadvantages of Using Contracts:
Extra paperwork must be consistently managed by a band representative (usually a band member)—such a short little statement that involves many hours of work. Negotiating and keeping track of your band’s contracts is not the job of the venue or promoter, it is the job of the band. You can hire a booking agent to do the negotiating and some of the paperwork, but the band is ultimately responsible to make sure everything is correct.
The perception of many Christians about Christian bands that insist on using contracts is that they are “all about the money.” Honestly, I have been taken aback at how often this comes up with Christian venues and promoters. To me, contracts just make sense to avoid confusion. But many well-intentioned Christians simply cannot wrap their minds around the fact that the money we get from shows is for keeping the band on the road and the ministry up and running. A band that expects to be guaranteed a set amount for payment for their services and then asks the promoter to sign a contract concerning the payment seems wrong to some Christians because of the intimidation factor of the contract. But, for some reason national acts who have contracts and ask for thousands of dollars are OK. I do not understand it, so I will not attempt to explain the phenomenon any further. All I can do is to tell you that this mindset is there and seems to be somewhat pervasive in the Christian market but not as much in the secular market.
If the promoter or venue does not live up to their end of the agreement, the band is probably not going to take them to court. No one goes to court over $50 and very few people go to court over even $100. Even small claims court has court fees so it is just not worth the time and hassle. Add to this that courts do not have the ability to enforce payment easily, and the whole idea seems somewhat pointless. Most Christians also believe that it is unscriptural to take another Christian or Christian organization to court. If there are really savvy promoters bent on cheating the band, they already know this—a contract will not mean anything to them. So, going to court over lack of payment to your band is pretty much out of the question, even if you have a signed contract.
When your Christian band is first starting out, do not bother with contracts at all. Focus your time on the myriad of other tasks you have to do to develop your band’s fan base and ministry. The band probably is not going to be paid much, if anything, for the first year or so. If someone does not live up to what you agreed upon try to work it out, but in the end it is easier to simply move on. Realize that promoters or venues that are not honorable do not make good ministry partners anyway.
When your band is consistently getting paid hundreds of dollars for gigs, make a contract available but do not insist on using it for everyone. Use it for shows that pay more and have more band expenses because of longer driving distances. You may also want to try implementing the contracts use with promoters that have previously not lived up to their agreements or who have a sketchy reputation. Including a sample contract in your EPK and physical press kit is optional at this point. But remember that if you do, you may scare away some promoters or venues. It may be better to talk about contracts on the phone only with the promoters and venues you want to sign one.
By the time your band is usually getting paid thousands for gigs, you will absolutely want to use contracts. Of course, by then the band will probably have a national booking agent and they will insist on using their contracts.
A Better Option for Most Christian Bands: Confirmation Letters
In the Christian market, for local and regional bands, requiring the use of contracts is tricky at best. The Christian aversion to contracts is not logical, nor is it expedient, but it does seem to be reality. Rather than try to change people’s minds or beliefs, a better way is to use confirmation letters.
Immediately after talking to the promoter or venue booker on the phone and agreeing to all the details of the show, put all those details in a letter and send them a hard copy “old school” letter via USPS. No one is required to sign the letter except a representative from your band. Politely word the letter to say that you are confirming the details to make sure that everyone is on the same page so the concert will run smoothly and be as awesome as possible. Then ask that the promoter contact you right away if any of the details are wrong.
Notice how you must approach this from a place of wanting to serve the promoter by making sure their show is great! This kind of letter never gets a poor response and can save some big mistakes from being made. It’s all in the attitude.
This article is an excerpt from The Christian Band Handbook.
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