Live Performance Contracts

What to Include & When to Use Them

I get a fair number of questions from subscribers about performance contracts, so here’s how I handle them…

Educate and Entertain blog - Dave Ruch

Subscriber Dan Walpole asks:

When is correspondence by e-mail or Facebook messaging sufficient to secure a gig? When do you use a contract? 

Live performance contracts - dave ruch

Dan Walpole

Great questions Dan. I’ve mostly made this decision by “feel” over the last thirty years, so I can only tell you what’s worked for me and you can take from this what seems right for your situation.

Bars – I really don’t rely on bar gigs for my living; I do them primarily for fun. Because of that, I just kind of leave it loose in terms of contracts. Usually an email exchange or series of Facebook messages suffices to remind both parties of the agreement, and I think we all learn pretty quickly to just avoid the few characters who aren’t going to abide by the agreed-upon deal.

Community Events, Festivals, Libraries, Historical Societies, and other Public Performances – I do use contracts in this case; two signed copies get sent to the organization that booked me, and they sign one and send back to me. I don’t require a deposit (too much to keep track of, and a hassle for the venue), but I do have a cancellation policy (see below).

Schools – I never use a contract for the gigs in schools that I do – I simply send a confirmation and invoice and I don’t require anything to be returned. After 2,000+ school bookings, I’ve never once been stiffed. They’re pretty reliable.

What do you put in your standard performing contract? 

I can tell you exactly what I put in my contract. In fact, I’ll copy and paste the full text below.

To my mind, the most important thing in there is the cancellation policy, which protects me from a rogue cancellation on the venue’s part, and reassures the buyer that I’m not going to back out on them.

Live Performance Contract

Here’s the language I’m using in my contract, which I always print on my letterhead.

Feel free to swipe any – or all – of this:


Today’s Date
Name & Address of Place of Engagement
Date(s) of Engagement
Type of Engagement (Here I would indicate what type of concert I’m doing, for approximately how many people, and the expected age range of the audience)
Hours of Engagement
Purchaser Will Make Payments as Follows: 100% due on day of performance or before, payable to (your name)


Full Name
Business Name
Mailing Address
City, State & Zip Code

Same info as under “PURCHASER”

SPECIAL NOTES: Confirmed with (name) on (date) – thank you (name)! Please sign one copy and return to me to hold the date. Concert posters, performer photos, press release and other promotional materials available for download at (I’ll also put any other notes here that I’ll need on gig day, such as information on who is providing sound system, indoors vs. outdoors, “venue is celebrating 100th anniversary,” or “funding is from XYZ Local Corporation.”)

ADDITIONAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS this is printed on the reverse side of the contract

1. The purchaser, in signing this contract himself, or having same signed by a representative, acknowledges his (her or their) authority to do so and hereby assumes liability for the amount stated herein.

2. Cancellation by the purchaser after (fill in the date of your choice, usually 1-2 weeks after the date you’re sending the contract) of any engagements listed in this contract will require compensation of 50% of the total agreed upon compensation as a cancellation fee ($XYZ in this case – print the exact amount they’ll owe).

3. The performer may not cancel this contract except for proven inability to perform due to sickness, accident, acts of war, acts of God or other legitimate causes beyond their control.

4. The purchaser shall be responsible for all musical equipment and sound equipment used by the performer in his performance in the event of fire, proven theft, riot, or any damaging occurrence other than normal wear and tear or damage caused by the performer.

5. Any and all conditions are to be made prior to signing this agreement and shall be stated herein. This contract and the terms and conditions contained herein may be enforced by the purchaser or by the performer.

6. It is agreed that this contract shall not be binding unless signed by both parties.

That’s Pretty Much It!

Not the sexiest topic, but definitely an important one. I’d love to hear how everyone else is doing it – the “Comments” section is below.

Got a Question?

I answer subscriber questions all throughout the year. Just give me a shout.

About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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