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September 22, 2023 | EntertainmentGeneral

Contracts Between Standup Comics and Venues

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If you’re a standup, you want to get paid for your sets.  And to protect yourself, you’ll want to have contracts that set out the compensation, restrictions on your performance and other details.

Contracts come in many forms

Whether you get booked for a set or multiple gigs, you’re likely forming a contract with the venue.  The venue, often a small nightclub or bar, might not send you a formal document for your approval by signature.  Binding contracts can be formed over email or text message, and they do not have to use legal language.  A binding agreement might look like this text exchange:

>> Venue: Do you want to do 15 minutes on Friday as our 7 pm opener?  The slot pays $30.

>> Comic: Yes, I want the slot.  I’ll be there.

What if this exchange occurred orally?  Not all contracts have to be written to be enforceable.  Read more on the enforceability of oral agreements in NY in our post that dives into the topic.

What are the key terms for a standup performance contract?

The essential terms for any standup gig are:

  • The date, time, location, and length of the set. This may also include specifics about the type of slot, i.e., whether it is for an opener, closer, or somewhere else in a lineup of performers.
  • Most clubs will provide a microphone and PA system for comics, but it is a good idea to confirm what the stage and tech look like at the show.
  • Compensation may be determined a few different ways. Many clubs pay a flat fee for each timed slot.  Some might divide a portion of ticket sales or cover charges among the comics and emcee.  There may be non-monetary compensation too, like food and/or drinks for performers.  Whatever the compensation terms are, they should be clearly stated.

Other terms to look out for

Watch out for other terms that may affect your rights and obligations.  For example, some agreements include exclusivity provisions, which could bar you from performing at other venues for a period of time.  Additionally, if the club records its shows, you should understand your rights with respect to when and where any videos will be shared.  If you would like to record your set, make sure there are no rules preventing you from doing so.  Other terms to look out for include those relevant to promotion of the set, whether you can sell merch, restrictions on the material you can perform, and what happens when either the venue or comic do not fulfill the terms of the engagement.

When to see legal help

A major obstacle to enforcement of either oral or written agreements is the expense.  A lawsuit over a $30 payment wouldn’t be advisable unless there were additional stakes.  However, social pressure under community norms can be an effective safeguard in a tight-knit world like a local standup scene.  Whether you use the legal system or your peer network to seek a remedy, having your deals in writing is valuable evidence and the best protection of your rights.

If you are unsure about the meaning of contract terms, or if you believe someone has not honored the terms of your agreement, you should consult an experienced attorney. Contact us to speak with a member of our team.

 

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
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