Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Indies: Wipe Away Your Crocodile Tears and Get a Contract Next Time

According to,  a CONTRACT is an agreement between two parties that creates an obligation to do or refrain from doing a particular thing. The purpose of a contract is to establish the terms of the agreement by which the parties have fixed their rights and duties. Courts must enforce valid contracts, unless one party has legal grounds to bar enforcement.

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It's good to know you have some recourse if a seemingly beneficial opportunity to perform somewhere turns sour. But unless you have prepared yourself for your future engagement, by making sure your needs will be met, as well as prepared yourself to fulfill the needs of the promoter of the event, or venue manager, all hell may break loose before you have an opportunity to utter in song, "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know". Of course Jesus loves you, but DON'T BE A FOOL!

It's time for me to travel back in time again and recall a situation from my youth. When I was about 16 years old, hanging out in Harlem, some friends of mine introduced me to a gentleman  by the name of DJ Money Mike. At the time, I had my little singing group, and we were determined to get signed and be bigger than any of the hottest girl groups that existed during that time (maybe I'd compare us to idolizing the OMG Girlz of today). Of course there were a lot of false starts, and unfulfilled promises, but this was one of the days I decided to step out on my own, and away from the group. I had the Diana Ross bug in me and said to myself, maybe we can't get a break because they don't have the right look.

That's me on the right with the bright smile and loud striped sweater. LOL!

Well, DJ Money Mike had a situation he needed help with. He had a local access cable television show, and he needed me to sing the hook, "DJ Money Mike Shoooooooooooooooow, DJ Money Mike SHOOOOOOOOOOOOW". The second SHOW was in caps because once he kidnapped me and locked me inside the studio for a couple of hours, he kept demanding I sing the second one in 1st Soprano instead of second. (I've never been a 1st Soprano) IT WAS A DAYUM CIRCUS!!!!! He was a deep baritone, trying to sing my part to train me, so he could get what he took me into the studio for. After two hours, he reluctantly took what I produced and I left the studio without making arrangements for credit, payment, or anything. Heck...DJ Money Mike didn't even give me a cough drop after he wore my vocal chords out. Naive and excited, I immediately hooked up with my friends and told them about our production. We were all in the same age group, so they were excited too.

The way this story ends is, DJ Money Mike had my vocals over an instrumental on the opening and closing of his television show the following week and many weeks, years to follow. My name never showed up in the credits towards the end, and I eventually gave up on reaching his grandmother on the phone after several weeks of morning, noon and night calls.

The moral of the story is, I might have had something to fall back on if I got something in writing. Once I left that studio, whatever he produced with his equipment was his. Sometimes we are so desperate for a break, that we fail to verbalize our true feelings about a situation. However, we are quick to blow up our friends' and church family members' phones hollering about how they need to pray to keep us from going Medieval on the person that wronged us. When you go to the store and make a purchase, you get a receipt. When you sign all the paperwork for your new car payment arrangement, you leave there with an agreement. If one of your loved ones takes sick and needs major surgery, you and your family members gather around to find out who in the family will have POWER OF ATTORNEY. If you have a contract with one of the cell phone companies, you sign off on an agreement stating you will pay their early termination fee if you leave the agreement early. You go to a restaurant and whip out your credit card, and the waiter comes back with a receipt which has "Merchant's Copy" on the bottom of it. Once you sign, you have agreed to pay for the food when  your card company bills you. The list goes on and on about contracts and agreements you may not have viewed as agreements, when in fact, that is exactly what they are;  call some of them mini-agreements if you wish.

Before I close, I will insert part of an email I received from a Christian Artist, and good friend of mine. I'll enter his or/her words, since the person would like to remain Anonymous, and then comment.

"Too many artists are being ripped off by people wanting to take advantage of them by videotaping them illegally and not getting us to fill out a consent form, and then make it hard to request a copy of the footage! Ain’t that a biscuit! Proper protocol is that if you videotape someone, you need to have them sign some kind of talent release form that states that you are not going to sell them for profit. Actually, it’s the law and will hold up in civil court. The law is not going to allow you to make a profit off of someone else’s talent. More Artists need to learn how the law can protect you and learn to make smarter choices. Everybody who comes to you in Jesus Name is not about doing the right thing nor doing right by you all the time. You should not be paying for a copy of video footage from somebody you did not hire as your videographer. You have every right to take them to court so document meetings, phone calls, texts, so if you do have to file, you have your evidence about how you attempted to get the footage."

My response to the Artist: Please understand, Jesus is making a real comeback in these harsh economic times. Apparently, even Snoop Dogg has changed his name to Snoop Lion and is supposed to be singing a Rasta, Conscious type of reggae now. Google that! You, as the person with the talent, have a gift one can capitalize on. You should ask the right questions before you get there. Is someone videotaping, will I get a copy, and if so, when? (Lord knows, some people won't get you a copy until the next year after constant calling and promising to put it in the mail.) Are copies being sold and do I get a percentage? You are right, if you have all of this in writing and signed (by the right person) it will hold up in court. However, consider the caveat. By the same token, if nothing is signed, and everything is implied, you have absolutely nothing to take to court. The court and the person who made the profits, will laugh in your face. Also, consider what position the omission of important considerations may place you in. (You might want to get an attorney, or consult with a paralegal.)

Ask yourself a question: What do you want to get out of it? Fred Hammond is coming to town, and you got selected as one of the opening acts. Fred Hammond left town, you don't have his contact information or his manager's, you don't have a copy of the video of yourself or him, when you post his performance on your page, you get a copyright infringement warning asking you to make sure you have the rights to post it. (We are just using him as an example y'all.) I know many of you recall when some of Kirk Franklin's back up singers claimed they never got paid.  If you don't, take a minute to read it. You can't make up this stuff, however, that suit didn't go anywhere. His paperwork, and that of the record label is what stood up in court. I don't know if the backup singers had a piece of paper at all to present.

From the promoter side, he or she may not feel as though they owe the artist anything, because they consider their participation in their event to be purely promotional. If you talk to a promoter, you will also get to hear them tell you about how much they invested in the event to make it possible. But the bottom line is this----You both need to agree to something and in writing. And in either case, if someone gives you something you don't feel comfortable with, have them modify it and don't sign it until you can agree wholeheartedly with the terms or the person you consult with agrees to it being in order.

As soon as I can get it up, I am going to send out a separate post with some sample forms in it which will allow you to just fill in the blanks. In the meantime, visit my artist's page, Kina Da Prophetic Poet and scroll down below the video to view the questions in the booking form. You can use it verbatim, or use it as a guide to create your own. Also, if you click on the link below for The Annual Texas GAG Conference, you will be able to review their forms for artists interested in participating in the showcases.

As always, aspiring artists, we've got a couple of opportunities we want to share with you taking place in the DFW area.

Yours truly will be speaking at two upcoming artist showcases and seminars:

And the Annual Texas GAG Conference taking place in Dallas November 22-24. Click here for details.

If you have an event you are promoting, please feel free to share the information with us by sending an email to

Within the week, we hope to have Attorney Debra Rainey of DebraRaineyLaw in Pennsylvania and start providing us with audio commentary for our blogs to help you see how things work on the legal side.

Everyone have a Blessed Day!
Arielle a.k.a. Determinator1

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