Over the years, many hosts have asked about contracts, which are sometimes sent by an agent representing the artist.
Artists and agents, as they get more established, find it increasingly worthwhile to have signed contracts to protect their income and to develop standard expectations while on the road. Venues are accustomed to contracts, which often include a “rider” that spells out what the act expects on stage (tech rider) as well as accommodations – lodging, food, transportation and more. These riders can be a single-page, but are often 3-5 pages for a small act, and hundreds of pages for rock stars playing stadium shows.
House concerts rarely involve contracts. As you might expect, contracts and riders could prove intimidating for a house concert host, who is not running a business, but stepping up as a volunteer promoter. In addition, there are important reasons to avoid contracts for house concerts.
If the host signs a contract, it suggests the host is involved in the commercial aspect of the activity, instead of inviting friends over and allowing the artist to collect donations. Local zoning boards, insurance companies, the IRS, and other officials could take issue with a commercial activity in the home.
As covered in our chapter “Confirming the Show,” house concert details are best handled by email, which makes for a sufficient digital handshake. It is important to clearly state the expectations of the host and the artist/agent.
Here is what we tell our hosts at Listening Room Network
- never sign anything that makes you uncomfortable
- never agree to deliver something you “hope” you can make happen
- only agree to a “guarantee” you can cover without missing a car payment
One of our European hosts emailed because she had just received a contract from a booking agent. She hadn’t seen that before, and wanted advice. There is a chapter on this in the upcoming book, but what do you think of my response?
“We do not recommend contracts for house concerts, but it is not unusual for agents to ask for them. My recommendation:
I would say “I don’t sign contracts because I am a volunteer host, not a business. However, I agree to do my best for [artist] according to the emails we have exchanged.”
If you are comfortable offering a guarantee (amount is up to you), I would also say “I do understand you are looking out for your artist, and that there are travel expenses. I can guarantee €100 in donations for this booking – if the collected donations are below €100, I will make up the difference to reach the minimum guarantee.” [You can guarantee less or more, the amount is up to you. Donations/guarantees are not affected by merchandise sales.]
If you like, instead of a contract, it is nice to make a summary email that describes the responsibilities of each person. It can look like a contract, but does not require signatures.
Again, don’t sign anything that makes you uncomfortable.
Are contracts evil? Are they enforceable? Will someone get sued?
(No. Maybe. Probably not.)
House concerts are a personal experience, and these events can cross a lot of territory that wouldn’t ordinarily happen with a traditional venue. If you have 5 roosters in the backyard that start crowing at 4:30am – you’ll want to bring that up, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a reliable tool to remind you.
In this spirit, it is helpful for hosts to have a checklist or fact sheet they can offer to the performers. Skip the signatures and have a simple email like this ready to go when you book an artist for a house concert
If we had to make a house concert contract, it might look something like the next page.
The House Concert “Nontract”
Artist Name: ________________ Agent/Solvent (if any)_____________________
Host with the Most Name:______________________
Both partiers, artist and host, make this agreement in order to create a fantastic, fun time, and to make sure they are aware of their responsibility doodads to make that happen.
________ is the date the house concert will take place ________ is the time the show will start between ______ and _______ is the time the artist should arrive the artist will perform ____ minutes, take a break, and then play ____ minutes more – give or take a few.
Artist (initial all that apply) __ will show up on time, sober, friendly, and ready to entertain. __ will remain at least as sober as the host. __ is comfortable with house hold pets, except _______ and tarantulas. __ will be friendly to the audience/hosts/guests, but may require some alone time and space before the start of the show. __ will respect the home, and not leave wet towels on hardwood floors. __ will honor the smoking policy, and does/does not need a convenient place to shoot up. __ is comfortable with the host’s requirement of a show that would not be rated more than G/PG/R/X in content.
Host (initial all that apply) __ have food for the artist, most likely _______ __ have a bed or room for the artist’s to stay the night. Bed will be free of teddy bears. __ provide an obvious, marked container for guests to place the suggested donation (e.g. suggested donation: $15) __ will/will not allow children to attend. Teenagers untethered to iPhones may attend.
Both parties are aware that brown stuff can hit the fan. That said, both artist and host will do their utmost to uphold this agreement. If the event must be cancelled, both parties will be as accommodating as possible, by doing things like adapting, re-scheduling, buying a few CDs, sending chocolates or whatever it is that a kind person would do. Artist will be aware that the host may have put a lot of time and effort into promoting the show, and the host will remember that an artist may have significant travel expenses as a result of the booking.
This agreement should not be entered into lightly. Therefore, we put on our serious faces and sign below.
Each party (and the NSA) will keep this for reference.