Contracts and Agreements in Arts Presenting

As an arts presenting organization administrator, you will likely be responsible for negotiating music contracts between the many entities involved in your events. This can involve many aspects of event presenting: negotiating artists’ fees, accommodation, hospitality, venue fees (rental or ownership), production costs, revenue and cost sharing breakdown, promotion and marketing, to name a few.

Although these decisions may seem straightforward, preparing for all contingencies, including last-minute decisions and expense adjustments, can be difficult and complex, requiring extensive planning and specific contractual details.

Understanding all the intricacies of presenting an entertainment event can help your event avoid unexpected confusion that may arise throughout the course of event planning and execution. Acquiring a thorough understanding of music contracts by earning a master’s degree in live entertainment, such as a Master of Arts in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management (AP Live), can help future arts presenters plan for all possibilities and successfully administer the many legal and contractual aspects of live entertainment events.

Building Bridges

Arranging all necessary contracts involved with event planning and execution begins with the agreement between the presenter or venue and the artist, artistic group or legal representative. These agreements can stipulate many things, but they generally focus on a fee agreement or percentage breakdown for the artist. Common financial agreements might include a flat fee, a percentage of ticket revenue, a guaranteed minimum fee plus a percentage of ticket revenue, or a percentage-based deal after the event earns back it production costs.

Hospitality Management

These music contracts also generally define hospitality arrangements. Some stipulate that the presenter will provide all hospitality, such as accommodations, food or drink. Yet some include little or no hospitality, leaving the artists to meet their own needs. These arrangements sometimes include a hospitality buy-out, a sum of money provided by the presenter or venue before the performance (in addition to the general performance fee) for the artists to cover their own hospitality.

Arranging Spaces

Although some arts presenting organizations rent or own their performance spaces, many enter into rental or co-presenting agreements with external performance spaces and organizations. This is another area that requires detailed contracts to cover every financial aspect of the agreement. In a rental situation, a flat fee-based contract can be a simple solution, detailing how much the presenting organization must pay to use the space as well as what the performance space’s organization will provide (service and security staff, bar, door people, insurance, etc.).

The Small Stuff

Co-presenting situations can require much more complex contracts, given that all co-presenting organizations divide revenues and expenses for the event. The contract must break down every minute expenditure, from space rental to insurance to artist fees to marketing and promotion. The contract must also account for all potential income, from ticket sales to merchandising, and how the co-presenters will divide it. Basically, these contracts must estimate, monitor and record every possible financial detail from the beginning of the event planning process to the execution of the event itself.

This process leaves a lot of room for miscalculations. In addition, complexities in the income and relative cost sharing arrangements, from theater patrons’ season tickets to artists’ guest lists to promotional ticket giveaways and more can prove difficult to account for properly.

Proper Planning

Meticulous music contracts and business agreements between artists, presenters and other organizations are necessary for live entertainment arts events. As a presenter with a love of the arts, the last thing you want to do at show time is scramble to fix every little issue and financial disagreement. Proper planning can help avoid these unexpected situations.

Studying and modeling such contractual agreements and events while earning a master’s degree in live entertainment offers invaluable experience and expertise that can help aspiring arts presenters avoid such pitfalls in their future careers and put on successful live entertainment events.

Learn about the Frost School of Music’s online master’s degree program in arts presenting and live entertainment management.


Frost School of Music Arts Presenting & Live Entertainment Management Program

The Business of Singing: Contract for Artists’ Services (PDF)

Canada Council for the Arts: The Process — Negotiation to Contract

Arts Presentation Contracts by Linda Rodgers

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