What is a singer or musician contract?
A singer's contract (sometimes known as an artist management contract) is a legal document between a singer (a music business or independent contractor) and a music agency, promoter, or venue.
The content of a singer contract template can vary, but it usually details issues like copyright infringement, booking and delivery expectations, payment terms, royalties, and other details that are relevant to the two parties. It's usually signed by the singer, agent and record company, or another contracting party.
Artists aren't always business orientated or aware of the business side of the music industry, and documented high-profile feuds between singers and their labels might make a singer hesitant to sign any document presented.
Sometimes the complex legalities of a contract keep singers from using them, but this can negatively affect both parties. Artists might not deliver the services as agreed; agencies or event hosts might refuse to pay royalties owed to the artist. For this reason and to protect both parties, a singer's contract is required.
Since the advent of streaming, the music and entertainment industry has changed dramatically. You can download music on YouTube, social media, and on-demand streaming platforms like Spotify. While these channels are great for promoting the work of talented singers and musicians, it also is vital to protect their creative rights through formal agreements and contracts.
A singer or musician contract protects a singer and agency/hosts against piracy and non-delivery, provides guidelines and standards to collect royalties, defines intellectual property rights, what happens in the event of force majeure, and ensures that all parties are compliant with any existing governing law relevant to the entertainment industry.
Note: Do you need a singer contract template? Sign up to Bonsai and create a singer contract using an easy-to-understand, comprehensive template in minutes.
Why is a singer or musician contract template necessary?
Contracts are essential to protect the performer's rights and the record label, agent, or host. A contract protects the artist's name and other trademarks and streamlines their role and responsibilities for gigs. An agreement between the singer and the relevant music agency, promoter, venue, or individual enables a smooth music business relationship.
Different types of singer contract
Several singer contracts exist, depending on whether the person is a background singer, one of a group of band members, or a solo artist. The content will usually be the same, although rights can be complex when collaborating creatively with other artists. Contracts could include:
Recording artist exclusively
Recording contracts usually occur between the artist and the recording label or recording studio. They deal with the rights of the master recording, its distribution, and how royalties are paid whenever the recordings are publicly released.
Contract for band members
If a singer is part of a band or a musical collaboration, they should have a contract in place for the joint venture. This document will stipulate information about the distribution of income, naming rights, songwriting rights, withdrawal, voting rights, and the possession/handling of equipment if a dispute arises.
If a singer needs to perform on stage, they need a contract between themselves and the promoter. This contract will include the particulars of the gig in question, including the location, payment, and duties.
If a singer performs at an event, they need a musician contract with the event host. This contract should stipulate the act's location, duration, and technical requirements. It should also specify costs, logistics, cancellation clauses, insurances, and other potentially liable fees.
Record company contract
Artists can transfer ownership of their recorded tracks to a music label in exchange for royalties. The record label, in turn, is responsible for production, volume, duration, and certain rights inside the record deal.
Record distribution company contract
The recording company should compile an agreement with the artist and a music distributor. This contract deals with the marketing and distribution of the recorded album made by the artist.
Singers and producers of record labels sometimes form a contract to get remix rights or original recording rights of tracks featuring the singer. This contract conveys information about royalties, exclusive rights transfers, and adaptations.
What to include in the singer or musician contract template
If you are a freelance singer or hiring a freelance singer for an event or musical collaboration, it's essential to include specific details in a contract to ensure that the gig goes as smoothly as possible.
Before you sign a contract or modify a contract template, both parties should familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions and make sure that they understand what each clause means.
Names and contact info
The singer and the hiring party's names must be detailed on the contract, along with a clause covering the cancellation or replacement of a comparable performer if they become unavailable. Similarly, a cancellation clause should state what will happen if the event is canceled. This clause usually allows the singer to retain the deposit, or part of it, to compensate for the lost booking.
Payment terms and schedule
The payment terms should include any deposit amounts required and the terms for settling the balance. The balance is usually due on or several days before the actual show. It's also important to include provisions for overtime rates.
The payment schedule should include how and when payments could be expected, the total fee to use the singer, the payment details (e.g., payment methods, bank account), and the terms of payment. Singers usually charge one price for the show or by the hour.
Travel, accommodation, and meals
If a singer has to travel a long distance to an event, the contract should stipulate who pays transportation, parking, and accommodation costs incurred. Similarly, if it is a private or corporate function or a wedding, the setting up of equipment and the length of the show may overlap with lunch or dinner. The contract should detail whether and when a meal will be served.
Singers at live events should also stipulate that they require a break after a specific interval (usually forty-five minutes). If continuous music is needed, there may be an additional charge. The contract should indicate how long the break will be and whether or not the singer will be responsible for providing background music during the interval.
Equipment, amenities, and other requirements
Outside events may require additional equipment to protect the singer and their sound equipment from the weather. They may also need generators, power sources, or specific sound equipment to perform. The singer should state whether or not they will supply their power cables, microphones, backing tracks, or sound system.
The singer and hirer should be clear on what will be provided to the singer, including:
- Which party is responsible for furnishing the stage
- Whether or not dressing rooms are required and would be provided
- Free parking with access to the backstage area
- Security and protection for the singer's property
- Passes or other access forms for the singer and any of their assistants
The contract should include details of the duration of the musician's contract and how long the deal will last. It should contain information on the number of hours/songs the singer will be expected to perform within the stipulated time frame.
Cancellation rights in a contract outline the conditions for terminating or canceling the contract. They protect the singers and the second party's rights.
Recording, reproduction, or transmission of the performance
When singers perform in public, there's always a chance someone will film it. Singers can stipulate that organizers should take every precaution, to the best of their ability, to restrict others from recording the version of the event without written notice. If the event organizers intend to film the performance, there should be a clause dealing with the singer's rights over their image and vocals.
How to write a singer contract template
A singer's contract template is often based on proposals submitted to various clients. Writing a compelling contract can go a long way towards securing a gig in the future. Freelance singers who want to perform at festivals or live music venues may be requested to submit written proposals and contracts before auditioning.
You not only have to provide the correct information, but you also have to wow the promoter or organizer upfront.
Deliver what the client wants
Singers can avoid contract disputes through clear and exact communication with the person wanting to hire them. If you are a singer, find out precisely what the client is looking for and then decide whether they are willing and able to deliver the service required. This information can be found through a simple conversation, either in person or over the phone. Cover all aspects of the performance from genre of music, equipment required, duration, and payment terms. Even if you aren't a good match, it's best to find this out early in the process.
If you believe that you are a good match for the client, your contract should reflect why. It is similar to a cover letter you'd attach to a job application. What is it about you and your type of performance that meets their needs? What can you deliver that others can't? If the terms appeal to the client, they'll be eager to sign the contract.
Highlight what sets you apart
It's often not enough to meet expectations—you should always try to exceed them. Your contract should highlight the many ways you are different from other competing singers. Do you supply your instruments and sound equipment? Do you waive cancellation fees if the event is canceled? Are you classically trained? It's always good to highlight your unique qualities and offers upfront. Artists should market themselves like any other business, so decide what your unique differentiators are upfront and lead with that.
Describe yourself and your program
If you are writing a contract to perform at a concert or festival, you need to describe how many songs you will perform and how long they will be. You can express your ideas for promotion, your qualifications, where you have performed in the past, and any promotional materials you may have to offer on the day.
It's also a good idea to describe your current marketing program—your social media following, your album (if you have one), posters or promotional photos you may have, and how many fans you usually draw to an event. Festival organizers are much more likely to use singers to lure a crowd of their fans to an event.
Creating a singer contract template is simple with Bonsai.
Even with these instructions, it's not a good idea to draft a contract entirely from scratch without help. The Bonsai singer contract template is legally vetted, which means it will hold up if there's a legal dispute (although we don't provide legal advice and we are not a law firm). Just fill in the blanks with your job and personal details, and you're good to go!
Use the auto-fill feature to complete the contract with payment, timing, and scope of work details. You can send, sign and store your legally-binding online contracts on the Bonsai platform and send auto-reminders to your client for their signature. You’ll also receive notifications when it has been signed.
Bonsai offers more services than just contract templates—it will help manage payments, too, so that clients can make a payment as soon as a contract is signed.
Ready to get started on your singer contract? Simply:
- Sign up to Bonsai for free
- Choose the singer contract from our template gallery
- Edit the blank spaces to suit your project
- E-sign and send your contract. Job done
Singer Contracts FAQs
How much can singers charge?
Several variables will determine the price you can charge as a singer. A skilled amateur singer can expect between $50 and $300 per performance, but a professional singer can command between $1,000–$2,500 for the same work. If you belong to a musician's union, they should provide music industry benchmarks to guide you.
How can I avoid common mistakes in a singer contract template?
There are common mistakes made when drawing up a singer contract. Ensure that to avoid these mistakes, adhere to these bullet points.
- Get everything in writing—don't leave out any details
- Don't be ambiguous with terms and boundaries
- Update the contract when things change
- Read the contract thoroughly
- Add a new clause for any additional requested service
What makes a contract legally binding?
Contracts become legally binding when both parties agree to an offer made by one party, and the other party accepts the offer. Both parties must exchange something of value, e.g., a service rendered and payment made for the service. All parties must sign the contract for it to be considered valid. Save money and use Bonsai instead of a costly law firm.