It takes a village to raise a … musician? Well, perhaps not, but finding and sustaining success in the music industry takes a lot of work from a lot of people. Some musicians have a manager, label, publisher, investor, publicist, social media coordinator, side artist(s), producer, co-writer(s), engineer, accountant, business manager and lawyer. Oh, and let’s not forget one more important role-player: a booking agent.
A great booking agent can do great things for you as a musician, like, propel your career by getting you on tour with well-known artists, help you get the gigs you want, and earn you more money than you otherwise would have earned.
But watch out: working with a booking agent that doesn’t prioritize you, or focus on the kind of opportunities that you think are most important, as an artist, can be a very discouraging and frustrating experience. The first step to ensure you get great service form your booking agent is making sure you have a solid booking agency agreement. This will help you determine the key elements of your arrangement and help form a great working relationship.
This blog provides musicians (music artist) with a series of key questions (arranged by topic) to keep in mind when negotiating a booking agency agreement (contract).
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Is there a probation period? How long is the term – a year or two? Does the agreement or contract automatically renew, and, if so, for how long? What stops the agreement from automatically renewing?
Is the booking agent’s scope limited to music? Or is it broader, encompassing other entertainment activities? Is your agent your exclusive agent, or may you have multiple agents? If non-exclusive, are your agents separated by territory or other distinguishing factors? Are there any specific exclusions, such as existing ongoing performance agreements, you have in place?
3. New and Leaving Members
What if new people join your band? Are the new members covered by the booking agent agreement/contract? Alternatively, what if the band breaks up? Is each individual in the band committed to the agent for their solo music career?
4. Agent’s Duties
What is the agent required to do? Must they seek opportunities? Negotiate deals? Promote the artist? Keep the artist updated on opportunities? Do they need to get the artist’s approval of fees, location and logistics, and availability of the artist’s side players before agreeing to performance gigs?
5. Agent’s Entitlements
Does the agent need to be exclusive to you? May they publicly promote that they are your agent?
6. Artist Obligations
Should the artist agree to promptly refer all appearance opportunities to their agent? Is the artist prohibited from engaging other agents? Is this artist obligated to continue being an active artist during the term of the booking agent agreement/contract?
7. Agent’s Compensation
What percentage of gross revenue from performances will the agent earn? Are funds first paid to the agent or to the artist? If the agent receives funds, how soon do they pay the artist? What if the artist receives the payment? Under what circumstances does the agent not get paid? What happens if the agency agreement/contract ends but a gig happens shortly after that was arranged while the agreement was still active?
If there are sub-agents, what is the division between the agent and sub-agent’s roles and obligations? How does that structure impact the overall commission, if any, that the artist must pay to the agent and sub-agent?
9. Signing Parties
Are you signing an agreement with an agency or a specific agent? If it’s an agency, what happens if your direct agent leaves?
10. A Written Formal Agreement
While some booking agents have formal agreements, others do not. Should you request a formal agreement? If your potential agent suggests a handshake, rather than a written contract, it’s important to discuss your and your agent’s expectations, and to get whatever you can about your agreement in writing.
We help artists review and negotiate arrangements and agreements with booking agents. We help booking agents in music as well as in other entertainment practices, such as acting. Whether it’s on the agency side – working with venues, festivals and talent purchaser – or on the side of the venues and festivals, we’re generally familiar with all sides of the booking formula. If you need assistance with agreements surrounding entertainment bookings, please let us know.
© 2022 Edwards Creative Law, LLP
Updated to April 11, 2022
Edwards Creative Law is Canada’s Entertainment Law Boutique™, providing legal services to Canadians, and international clients who partner with Canadians, in the Music, Film & Television, Animation, Interactive Digital Media, Game, Publishing and Software industries.
For more information or to set up a minute Discovery Call with one of our entertainment lawyers please feel free to Contact Us.
* This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.
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