Make the most of your gig

Arts Law's Live music performance: Booking gigs guide assists musicians with making the most of their live performances. Isobel Ferrier examines some of the issues musicians should consider when doing gigs.

Having a basic understanding of legal concerns when performing can make your live performance work more rewarding, both artistically and professionally: some of the things you might like to consider include:

Join a union

If you haven't already done so, consider joining the Musicians' Union or MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance).  As a union member you are backed by an established organisation that can represent you in industrial disputes.  For further information contact the Musicians Union (03) 9388 8992; or MEAA (02) 9333 0999.

Define the terms

Define basic terms such as venue, date, time and payment arrangements, and more specific requirements, such as set length, equipment needs and venue access.  To ensure you leave nothing out make a checklist of everything you want to include in negotiations.

Put it in writing

Whatever terms you define with the booking agent or venue manager, put them in writing.  This way the terms can be clearly understood.  It doesn't have to be in complicated ‘legal' language, but should clearly state everything that was concluded in verbal negotiations, and be signed by both parties.  If the other party objects to a written agreement you can just send a confirmation letter stating the agreed terms, and request that they check and sign it.

Understand your worker status

Remember that your rights and obligations will differ depending on whether you're classed as an independent contractor or an employee.  If you are unsure of your status, seek legal advice.

Recording the performance

Since changes to the Copyright Act 1968 came into force on 1 January 2005, performers' rights over sound recordings of live performances have changed.  Briefly, you have the right to grant or refuse permission for your live performance to be recorded, but if it is recorded you are co-owner in the copyright of the sound recording with the person who made it.  For a fuller explanation of the recent changes to Copyright legislation and how they affect performers, see the Arts Law information sheet Performer's Rights.

Isobel Ferrier was a legal volunteer at Arts Law in 2005.

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