Contract cancellation clause: What to do when the concert is canceled?
So far we have been concerned about getting the concert. But what if you or the promoter have to cancel the date? The first element of business is making sure you have a good cancellation clause in your contract.
Let’s establish some basics. The first, and most important, is that you have an entertainment attorney help you create your performance contract or at least review it for the proper inclusion of clauses relevant to the state you operate from. Each state may have specific legal elements that you should be aware of and an entertainment attorney licensed to practice in your state will be able to inform you with knowledge. Second, I am not a lawyer. All of my contracts were reviewed by attorneys while I was booking my acts and the ones I offer in my book have been reviewed by various entertainment attorneys. With that established, I want to discuss cancellation clauses because they are an important tool to help protect you when special circumstances arise for you or the promoter.
I have always included a cancellation clause in my contracts that details under what circumstances my artist can cancel his contract to perform. I also include a clause that describes the penalties in case the promoter cancels the contract.
We are not talking about cancellations due to acts of God, such as disasters, accidents, death, illness, union strikes, etc. These are covered in another clause called Force Majeure. In this case, we are concerned about cancellation for reasons other than the above.
The artist’s reasons for canceling fall into the category of career advancement. The promoter’s reasons for canceling fall into the category of insufficient funds. As we examine each one, think about times when you might have faced similar situations and if you had included a comprehensive cancellation clause in your contract, things might have worked out differently.
Artist Career Advancement:
It is important to understand that you should use this clause with integrity, honesty, and a sense of concern for the promoter’s situation, while remaining faithful to the career opportunities presented to you. Your integrity in the business will be called into question if you start using your cancellation clause to cancel one date and accept another on a regular basis, just because the new gig pays a little better. That is not the way to use this clause. The following examples should give you some understanding.
1. Act to support a tour – You are lucky enough to get a space as an act of support for an important artist or at least an artist whose reputation is much greater than yours. This opportunity is rare and has the potential to take you professionally to a new level in your market. Any promoter or club booker understands this and also realizes that a tour like that can increase demand for your act, making you more valuable to them at a later date. When you approach the promoter about the cancellation, offer them a future date. To sweeten the pot, perhaps offer it with the same guarantee, but increase the percentage or the price of the entry. After your support tour, hopefully having a better entry price and / or higher percentage will pay off for both of you. The biggest drawback to opening for a full tour is that you will have to cancel more than one date if you have many dates booked in the future. Here, it is important to weigh the benefits of taking the support tour with the tour that you have already booked. If you have very good dates booked, with good fees, in areas that you normally do very well, make sure that the tour you will be supporting really has the potential to make a difference in your future career.
2. Main opportunities for dissemination in the media – There are many syndicated radio shows, network and cable TV shows and movies that could help create national or international recognition for your act. Most of these shows schedule their guests well in advance. Canceling an appointment to perform at one of these media opportunities will leave the promoter with enough time to find someone who will complete their appointment without too much trouble. Again, media promotion can generate greater demand for your act, benefiting both you and the promoter in the future.
3. Unique opening act for a major artist – Consider this carefully and re-weigh the benefits of making this date over which you have to cancel. How much career boost could this generate? Is it really worth it to cancel your appointment with this unique opportunity in the main artist’s audience? Think of ways you can take advantage of this opportunity to make it worthwhile and worth the hassle of canceling.
Most club promoters and bookers have faced these situations many times. My experience has been that, given enough notice, they are happy for the act and adjust to the situation. To make the need to cancel as easy as possible, I will offer you the following clause to use or manipulate as your situation requires or your attorney deems necessary.
The Buyer agrees that the Artist shall have the right to cancel this commitment without liability prior written notice to the Buyer no later than (30) days prior to the filing date, in the event that the Artist is requested to render his services for an appearance in radio or television. , movie, or any career advancement opportunities. The Artist will try to reschedule the date with the Buyer for a time convenient for both of them.
Thirty days is a standard number of days of use. You can increase or decrease the number of days as you see fit or as your situation requires. Thirty days gives the promoter time to find another act and do a suitable promotion. Many promoters will sign the contract leaving this clause as is. Some may cross it out entirely or change the number of days. Be prepared for those discussions. I’ve only had to put the clause into practice a few times during my 20 years as a booking agent, but thank goodness it was on my contract when I needed it.
Insufficient developer funds:
The promoter or owner of the club may, at times, have the need to cancel. The situations they may face are as follows.
1. Bad ticket sales – Most promoters do not cancel a program for this reason, although if a promoter is inexperienced or has not adequately planned for backup funds, they can cancel. I have known festival promoters who cancel an entire festival when advance ticket sales were below expectations based on previous year’s sales.
2. Lack of funding through sponsorship – When a promoter plans an event and the expected sponsorship does not arrive or a major sponsor unexpectedly withdraws its support, the promoter can cancel.
3. Denial of grant funding – In the nonprofit world, many performing arts centers and government agencies rely on grants to run programming. These promoters often write specific clauses in their contracts that protect them against liability in the event that they are denied financing.
Protecting yourself in these situations is a matter of planning and anticipation. You must include the following clause or something similar in your contracts for such an occasion.
If the Buyer has reason to cancel this Agreement, the Artist must be notified in writing no later than thirty (30) days prior to this commitment. Any notice given in less than thirty (30) days will require full payment by the Buyer to the Artist as described in the Contract paragraph (insert paragraph numbers describing your compensation), unless the Artist agrees to waive any part of that payment or the Buyer and the Artist agree to reschedule the commitment for another convenient time for both.
Certainly, there are other possible ways to write this clause and it is advisable to consult with your lawyer. I have met many artists who faced cancellation and had no recourse. They were not owed anything of the contracted rate because they did not include any type of cancellation clause in their contract. Discuss this with your attorney and your group and be prepared for the variety of situations that often arise. It’s smart business and even smarter planning.