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Email as a binding contract for bookings

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by notdavey, May 18, 2011.

  1. notdavey


    Nov 2, 2006
    Seattle WA
    So I have been booking bands for over 10 years. One of my groups has had a steady monthly gig at a Seattle club for almost 3 years. Every date confirmation is via email with no signed or printed contract. In early March I booked dates through September with the booker which was confirmed via email like all previous gigs at this venue for the last 3 years. In mid Mach she left the venue and I sent an email to the new booker reconfirming we were booked through September and to contact me if there were any problems. I received no replies.

    Yesterday I notice our June date is not on their calendar. I contacted the new booker and he then informs me that not only has the June date been double booked but that only the July date is listed as pending and that he will not honor the dates previously confirmed by their former employee. When I forwarded a copy of the confirmation and even an email to the new booker, I was told to not "push" him as he is also the General Manager of the venue.

    If their previous practice is to confirm dates via email, doesn't the confirmation imply a binding contract?

    We are scheduled to play there this weekend and I honestly feel like telling them to go F*** themselves. I really despise how clubs just expect bands to bend over when they screw up.

  2. grue


    Apr 13, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Ugh. I've been there so many times. I feel your pain. Unfortunately, I think you have to suck it up and play along. Unless your band has a huge following or some kind of established label or management behind you, there's not much you can do. Antagonizing this guy (who, yes, sounds unprofessional and incompetent) can only make your life more difficult.
  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    This is business... not personal. Crappy words, but they've served me well to put a situation in perspective. I think the club is not doing great by you guys, but then again, do you know the circumstances behind the original booker no longer being used by the club? There might be a whole back story. That said, if you want to play this club in the future, well, I'd probably be polite and business like. Tell them this snafu puts your band in a bad spot, not handled well sort of thing, and then get down to discussing what future dates can you book there. Honestly, in this situation I believe that a simple email, with no signature, is not a legal-will-hold-up-in-court document. And you know that if you take that route you'll never play that club again... not a good/bad thing, just the reality. Good luck with this...
  4. Syco_bass

    Syco_bass Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    Tucson, Arizona
    Custom builder - Arizona Bass Company/Curcio Custom Basses
    Yes, an e-mail, in some states, can bind them to an agreement; however, I would also get it in writing.

    I am not an attorney, but If it is not addressed in the contract, I am pretty sure that the owner/GM of the club has the right to honor or not honor contracts bound by the former employee.

    I see a new addendum being added to my contracts.

    I would take Grue's advice. Don't push it and hopefully you'll stay in their good graces. However, If you do have a good following, you might want to look for another venue who'd like to have you and actually treat you with respect.

    Good luck
  5. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    So...... Did the price of booking your band just go up for that venue???
  6. notdavey


    Nov 2, 2006
    Seattle WA

    I would expect in their mind it just went down.
  7. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Without a contract, and even with one, there's not much you can do unless you're willing to risk killing the golden goose.

    Talent buyers are fickle by nature, and the process is entirely subjective.

    You may want to focus your efforts on drafting contract boilerplate you can use for future engagements.
  8. this bears repeating...
  9. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    I had this happen one time. We had a date scheduled, but I guess the previous booker was let go and someone new was doing the job. The previous booker sent an email saying all booked comittments would still be obliged. I noticed on their calader that we were not on the schedule and immediately tried getting ahold of someone at the venue. No go, couldnt get ahold of anyone. So, our guitarist gets there early, as we start heading on our way. We're not booked. Luckily, he managed to talk to the booker who had by then showed up. Turns out the new booker never filled our slot, but he did not have us booked. We were able to get our original spot back, and we continued to the gig.
  10. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    E-mail as a "binding contract": No.

    However, as evidence of intent in the minds of the parties, should it come down to some third party to resolve, it definitely can be a factor.

    You may win the battle, but lose the war. Several months after the event, you may win a token amount of cash. However, you can probably kiss goodbye any chance of ever playing that club again. It's up to you to choose which path is in your best interests.
  11. if they will not honor previous bookings then who's to say they will honor future ones? Or even pay you when they say they will? Or pad the bar tab? When they get wiggly like that, it's time to get cut and dried. My advice, if you want to play there - forget about the lost bookings. Chalk it up to another lesson in life, but, from now on with this venue, get it in writing. What I do especially with venues that I can't get to, is to work out the details by email or phone, write a contract and send 2 copies to them, along with a stamped return envelope for the return of one. Then when I get it, I sign it, scan it, and email them the scan.

    And include in the contract when and how you get paid - leave no details out. They broke your trust, so write a tight contract, until they have earned your trust. If they squawk, it's "just business" and tell them that you want to make sure that everything is spelled out on paper.. If they refuse to sign a booking contract then you do not want to play there.
  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    This happens allot and there is little you can do about it. My band has had its share of woe's kind of like yours this year and trust me ..it sucks. We have a festival that would of been our third year in a row playing that we just heard from the promoter that she wont be having us back this year? Why I asked? We need new talent nothing against you guys..your great! But there are many bands that play this festival year after year..its who you know yadda ,yada.We always get great reviews at that festival even have had people blog about us on it. Another festival we lost the regular person who booked us again for this years event as soon as we walked off the stage last year. It's another festival that would of been out 3rd year. After allot of hassles and phone calls to the new folks handling the show we got re-booked but it was a hassle. We also might lose another big gig we did in the past since the management comapany we use in that city got fired from booking the schedule and they are doing it in house this year.

    This is part of the buisness I hate. I love playing music but the booking politics I hate. It's enough to make me want to quit sometimes.
  13. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    As a general matter, e-mails can certainly be a binding contract. Why do you say that they are not?
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    in most states, oral and email contracts hold up in court unless it's for real estate deals. but you have to decide what's more important...being right or work yourself back in. if you sue or otherwise hold their feet to the fire, they will never book you again after that. otoh, you have a great opportunity to prove yourselves this weekend. why cut off your nose to spite your face?
  15. First hint of problems to come was when they didn't answer your emails after the personnel change. If you don't get an answer to your emails, pick up a phone and call them!
  16. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Banned Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice. This is advice I share based on my own personal experience.

    If the money is worth it, you could take them to court. I believe in NJ it would be small claims, and you could sue for up to $5000 or specific performance. So, if you want, I'd file a small claims action and let the club GM sweat it. Emails from a former employee or a company hired by the venue to book are binding in court. Any allegation by the manager to say that he doesn't have to honor the commitments made by previous employees or agents immediately becomes moot. Unless your booking was illegal, nothing the venue can do other then let you play or wind up paying you and your attorney later.

    I wouldn't tell the booker to go screw, but I wouldn't care about poisoning the venue, as they already poisoned you and have basically told you tough crap. Doesn't even seem like the GM is offerering you another slot or a booking like you had.

    In the future, I suggest after getting bookings from a venue you go to that venue with a contract that has all the dates in it. Put in the contract specific wording that says any booking made with that venue not on the contract, but confirmed by the venue/agent of the venue via email is also covered by the terms of the contract. Also put in the contract that any change or cancellation by the venue or agent without approval of the band is subject to full payment unless by act of god.

    Also the contract should state that any agent of the venue is also considered the same as the venue making the contract and that the venue would be responsible for any damages or liabilities from not fulfilling the contract. Make sure the contract also states that changes in venue personnel do not constitute acceptible reasons to change the bookings or cancel them.

    This will not necessarily stop this situation from happening, but it will give you firm footing if this happens again. Then, the GM can yell and scream all he or she wants, you can go to court and they will lose. And you will get paid. Usually, they try and renegotiate. I had this happen once and immediately started the contract thing. The booking agent was leary at first, but after they signed it I was covered. Had one of the venues cancel on me in less then 24 hours because the national act that was coming brought a specific opener the label wanted. I mentioned to them that they still owed me my money. They tried to say no. I filed a small claims suit, they called me. I got three guaranteed bookings for my price in exchange for dropping he suit.

    Again, not legal advice. The truth is that now emails are considered legally binding, however that only matters if you take them to court. And also, if you take them to court, you have to have first suffered damages. So, you can't file suit until the first show on your confirmation that they said no to you on and you didn't get to platy or paid.

    My 2 pennies....
  17. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    As you snipped from my original comment, e-mail can be used as evidence regarding the intent of the parties, if push comes to shove. A lot depends on exactly what is in the e-mail(s) & whether or not the essential elements necessary to establish a contract are included.

    There's also the matter that e-mails can be easily forged & the identities of the parties aren't certain.
  18. rhaegar


    Nov 8, 2010
    Practically speaking, it doesn't matter unless you or the band is willing to go to court. Sadly, a binding contract won't give you Jedi mind meld powers to make the other party perform. I remember sitting in on negotiations between some really rich dude and some moderately rich dude. Moderately rich says, "But, you need to do X! You signed a contract!" Really rich dude chuckles and says, "Son, contracts are just the start of negotiations. Here's what I'm going to do ...." A less genteel sort would have said, "Piss off unless you want to sue me, which I know you don't."

    Let's assume you want to sue. The obvious options are hire a lawyer or go to small claims court yourself. The band members should sue too because it sounds like they're the actual parties to the contract, which you negotiated as an agent. Try local legal aid or a law-school clinic (if you have a law school close by) if you want a lawyer but can't or don't want to pay. Law students would love this. Good luck.

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