May 23, 2021

Contracts must create clarity not confusion

King JohnBefore we get deep into the content of our contracts, firstly, it’s worth discussing the language we use to write them. It’s very important that the contents of a contract are precise and can’t be misconstrued. This means that the language is always detailed and clear as it attempts to cover each part with no possible ambiguity.

As a consequence, many show contracts are written in impenetrable legalese. This in my opinion, is a massive mistake on the part of the agency.

Keep it clear…

People are more likely to be happy with the contents of a contract and more likely to sign it if they understand it. And they are less likely to sign it if it is full of words like hitherto or notwithstanding, let alone Latin phrases like de facto or In pari delicto.

Neither the purchaser nor the artist is a lawyer, and in the main, they don’t have access to lawyers. So show contracts need to be written in plain language that can be clearly understood by both parties. It’s not gonna be laugh-a-minute street talk, but at the same time, it shouldn’t hide behind arcane words and convoluted sentences.

Keep it plain…

The contract is definitely not there to befuddle the signatories. In fact, it is there to clarify the agreement. I have seen contracts from some agencies where it’s pretty clear they are trying to wrap the purchaser up in language. This ultimately has the effect of reducing trust, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with a contract.

So language is really important. It needs to be precise and clear, but also understandable to the people who are reading and signing it.

Keep it relevant…

It seems likely, that were the Archbishop of Canterbury writing the Magna Carter today and not in 1215, it would not only be written with different language, it would also have different content. It would likely refer to modern inventions and conventions.

Much has happened since King John met the rebel barons at Runnymede. As time passes, the landscape of the music industry also changes. New technologies develop, such as the advent of smart phone cameras and the invention of streaming platforms. New laws are introduced such as those addressing data protection, equality and modern slavery. All of these will need to be considered and possibly incorporated into show contracts.

I don’t think there is ever a perfect contract, we are constantly tweaking and improving our contract templates. We also recognise that some contracts need to be bespoke depending on the performance, where it is and who it is for.

Further reading

Our contract templates are available on request

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