What is an Artist Contract?

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An artist's contract is the agreement by which an artist is legally bound to perform.  This contract can be set up in one or more of these ways:

  • Agent/artist contract (secures an artist with a licensed representative who agrees to find work for the artist)
  • Artist management contract (secures an artist with management in a variety of areas)
  • Artist/producer contract (usually in the film & television industry for actors but could also apply to music producers)
  • Label artist contract (only occurs in the music industry for musicians, singers and the like)

Some Common Terms & Provisions in an Artist's Contract

There are different types of artist contracts and different clauses/provisions to be concerned with.  Some of the provisions depend on the artist's standing in the business, the other party's belief in the artist's income potential and the artist's general reputation for dependability.  Creating a work requires long hours and incredible dedication.

While there are different pay scales and terms for film vs. television actors and actors vs. musicians, there are a few common provisions that would appear in any contract. 

Some of them are:

  • Duration of Services: the exact days and times an artist will be working or the agent/manager will provide services
  • Location of Services: where the services will take place
  • Pay Structure: may based on royalties, a flat rate, a percentage, deferred, unpaid, etc.
  • Credit: how the artist will be credited or lists the artist's professional name

What Should I Watch Out For?

An agent/artist contract or an artist management contract are different from an artist/producer contract or a label artist contract.  First, managers and agents have fewer interactions with an artist than a movie/music producer or label representatives currently working with the artist.  Second, managers and agents are usually more concerned with the comfort of an artist than a film/music producer or a label.  The producer or label is trying to create a product; these people do not have the time to “babysit” an artist or be therapists.

Nonetheless, there are particular provisions that aspiring artists should be aware of:

  • Union Status: Many artists belong to unions such as SAG, AFTRA, ASCAP, BMI, etc.  These unions have strict rules for projects and participation by union members.
  • Releases: Artists must agree to allow movie producers, television producers, music labels, etc. to use their name, likeness, voice and so on in the work created.
  • Confidentiality: Artists, like everyone else involved, have to agree not to speak “out of school.”  Companies pay a lot of money to make their product and confidentiality is a standard of the business.


In the event of a breach, the artist is usually replaced or sued for money damages.  Courts will not require artists to perform due to concerns over involuntary servitude.

Getting Legal Help

Any artist preparing to sign a contract should speak to a lawyer before signing.  This guide is not a substitute for legal advice and any professional agent, manager, film/music producer or record label will encourage an artist to seek proper legal counsel.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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