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Musical Performance Contract basics

Band Contracts are simple to make. The few minutes it takes to create a Musical Performance Contract eliminates frustrating payment disagreements and helps the stage run more smoothly.

Use the Musical Performance Contract document if:

  • You are a musician who wants the security of a contract.
  • You are hiring musical talent and want a professional agreement.

It only takes one no-show or one venue not paying your band for both parties to learn that performance contracts are a smart idea. A Band Contract clearly outlines the details of the performance agreement such as time and location, performance expectations, payment and deposits, cancellation policies and force majeures (we'll tell you what that means below).

Other names for this document:

Artist Performance Contract, Live Performance Contract, Music Performance Agreement, Band Contract

What is included in most Musical Performance Contracts?

Band or gig contracts are often short and easy to understand. However, they can be as complicated as you want them to be depending on the event. Most will be short, but if you are managing a large, expensive event, expectations may be more extensive on both sides.

Basic information included in Music Performance Contracts:

Name and contact information of both parties

Most often full, real names (rather than stage names) are included as well as contact information such as addresses and phone numbers.

Description of services

This includes the location and name of the venue as well as the date and time of the performance.

Performance of services

This covers the details such as set up and sound check times. It can also include information such as music type, how long the band is to play per set, the variety of music (limitation of repeats) and etiquette expectations (such as if swearing needs to be limited). Some also include in this section the sound equipment and expertise the band is expected to bring.


How much is to be paid for the performance, when it will be paid, and how it will be paid.


This is not common for small venues, but popular bands with busy schedules may require a deposit to guarantee their services. Most often the deposit is non-refundable but subtracted from the total after the performance.

Cancellation policy

This section outlines the minimum time required for giving notice of cancellation. If the band needs to cancel, it should be within enough time to book another similar act. If the venue or event organizer cancels within a certain period, often the contract will require that the band still be paid in full.


Usually, performances are singular and just list one date, but if you have a contract for repeated performances such as once per week, you can create a contract with terms and options for renewal.

Relationship of parties

This indicates, in most cases, that the band or musician is not an employee of the individual, venue or event organizer. This helps relieve liability issues.

Force Majeure

This simply means something like “superior force.” This section outlines rules about what things could happen that would release both parties from the agreement without consequences. These are often “act of god” events such as floods or earthquakes.

Other information often included along with the basic contract

Equipment and layout

It is helpful if the bands know in advance things like what kind of power is available, lighting provided, sound equipment details, drum riser specs and so on. Details should be specific, for example, exact brand and tech specifics should be provided for PA equipment.

Riders or backstage perks

Most bands do not have the influence to request complicated, expensive backstage accommodations, but many ask the bands if they can provide a few hospitality items. Common requests include bottled water, tea, energy drinks, alcohol, coffee and food. Often the venue can save money by providing catering services backstage and limit requests to dietary restrictions.

Merchandise sales

Bands should know if they can sell merchandise, and if so, if there is a designated area for sales and tables available. If the band needs their salespeople to be allowed into the event without a ticket, that should be arranged in advance as well. If the venue takes a part of the sale, that should be clearly communicated.

Video and audio records

If the performance is recorded, how those recordings are planned to be used should be discussed. If the band or performer wants a copy of the recording for promotional reasons, how that will be shared should be arranged in advance.

Performance expectations

The drunken musician cliche was not fabricated out of thin air. Both parties should set expectations around intoxication and performance. If a band member cannot make a performance, the band should have a backup player willing and ready to perform.

Parking and load / unload

Bands should know in advance where they can park and load and unload their gear. Some venues will put out signage directing the bands where to go. If they need to park their vehicle and gear overnight, the organizer or booking person should have suggestions for safe places to park.

Lodging and transportation

Some events pay for musicians to have pre-event or post-event accommodations and may help with transportation costs. Location and access information to hotels, homestays, or campsites should be communicated in advance as possible. Transportation costs such as gas or airfare (including airport shuttles) should be agreed upon before the day of.

What if your band doesn't get paid?

First, you'll want to contact the person you made the agreement with and see what can be worked out politely. If your contract says you need to mediate before arbitration you may need to start that process. If you have a contract and cannot reach an amicable solution quickly, you may need to send a Breach of Contract Notice. This notice basically says that one side didn't hold up their end of the contract and describes how. If the contract is large, you may need to ask a lawyer for further advice. If the venue is small and the pay was minimal, you may be able to make up the compensation creatively, such as free meals, advertising or additional (more profitable) gigs.

How to increase your chances of success

Things can go wrong and do go wrong. Bands don't show up. Venues refuse to pay. Band gear goes missing. Sound equipment fails. While every issue cannot be avoided, there are a few things bands and event planners can do in advance to avoid common problems.


Many agreements, especially in the beginning, may be verbal. This is normal and often part of the business. But keep as many communications as possible saved in emails. If you have a phone conversation with someone, send an email follow-up outlining what was discussed verbally to keep a record. You may ultimately want to include verbal agreements in your signed contract for your protection.


Most events that bands perform at are meant to be fun—weddings, music festivals, bar events or company parties. The patrons should be having fun, but both parties should set clear expectations about the band's performance and access to the bar. It can help to limit gratuitous backstage liquor before the band performs if possible.

Part of the door

If the contract states that the band will be paid (all or in part) by door fees, there should be a way for the band to clearly see what the fair pay is. Any deductions, such as bar tabs, should be clearly explained in advance.

Free passes and backstage passes

If the bands are to be supplied with free event passes, plus-ones or backstage passes for non-band members, this should be discussed in advance. The names of backstage pass holders should be logged beforehand, as well. It is difficult for security or volunteers to manage extra attendees if they do not know in advance what to expect.

Equipment failure

Backup equipment and power sources should be available if possible. This could include backline band equipment, backup generators (and fuel), microphone stands and extra microphones.


If the event is outdoors some planning can help band members and guests enjoy themselves if the weather turns. Some provisions could be things such as covered stages, stage and backstage heaters, ice water and fans, tie downs for equipment and more, depending on the weather.

Stage plots and equipment lists

Stage plots outline where each member of the band stands and the equipment to be used. This helps the stage manager to ensure that the proper placement of power and lights happens before the performance. Most small events don't need these. But if there is a large stage and numerous performances, these details can be helpful.

Equipment inventory lists and images

If equipment should go missing or become damaged, it helps to have an organized equipment list with images. This can help solve disputes between bands and venues. This documentation can also help with insurance claims and police reports, as well.

Rocket Lawyer provides numerous contracts to help with event planning such as service contracts for a wide range of vendors. The marriage section includes contracts for popular wedding vendor contracts such as venue rentals and limousine services.

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Sample Musical Performance Contract

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