What is an entertainment contract?
If you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity in your chosen artistic field the first thing you should do is have your contract reviewed. This can be for your services as an artist or performer, or for other types of services such as music production or marketing. Entertainment contracts include modeling agreements and other types of contracts where you lend your image, photo or voice to a finished work. There are a number of key considerations in considering an artist contract. Neglecting to consider any one factor can mean the difference between artistic freedom and success on one hand and a ceiling on your career on the other.
What do I need to know before negotiating my entertainment contract?
The first key consideration is the term of the contract. Know specifically how long you will be obligated to perform for the other party. In some cases the other party may be your “employer” hiring you to create something within the scope of that employment relationship. Alternatively you may be creating a client / independent contractor relationship. That difference by itself is very important. An employer typically pays you a salary or commission, and may provide certain benefits such as health or disability insurance benefits. Know that your work during this employment relationship belongs to that employer. You receive a W-2 for your wages and your employer pays part of your employment taxes. As an independent contractor, in contrast, you may be producing a “work for hire”, that is, your performance, work of art or sound recording is essentially a product that will belong to the other party. You will receive a form 1099 and will be responsible for paying your own self-employment taxes.
A second key consideration is how much you must produce. Know in advance whether what the other party is asking for is realistic or not realistic. Can you perform five performances in five cities five straight nights for five months? Can you produce an entire album in a month? Can you finish your painting or sculpture in the time allotted? Be prepared to answer these questions to yourself before you begin negotiations.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, is the question of who owns the copyrights and other intellectual property in your work. A copyright is not a single right but rather a “bundle” of different rights that can include the right to reproduce your work, the right to perform it, to modify it, to use it for merchandise or over social media. Who owns the copyright is just the beginning of this analysis. Time is a factor. In some cases the other party may own some or all of the rights to your work but those rights may “revert” back to you at some point in the future. Is this something that is important to you?
How can I get help?
Carefully reviewing your entertainment contract is the smartest first step you can make. Contact me so I can help you negotiate the best, mutually beneficial deal in your artistic endeavors.
Ari Good, Esq.