A performance contract is a contract between a performer and a venue which sets out the terms of a performance. The contract includes the rights and obligations of all parties involved in the performance and discusses matters such as security, compensation, and scheduling. The goal of a performance contract is to make the expectations of all parties clear so that the performance will go smoothly and to eliminate any causes for legal challenges in the future.
Sometimes venues seek out performers and in other cases performers seek out venues. In either case, both sides may have standard boilerplate contracts which they can use as a starting point for developing a performance contract or attorneys for both sides can draw up a contract. For a small venue and a single artist or small group, the contract is often relatively simple. Large venues and big groups may require extensive negotiations.
Contract negotiations can sometimes take a long time if the parties cannot agree on the terms of the performance contract. Issues such as compensation can sometimes become a sticking point, and special requests on the part of the performer may be challenging for the venue to accommodate. Advocates for the parties involved in the negotiations usually try to work together to reach an agreement which will satisfy everyone.
The written agreement covers a variety of situations which may come up. It states who will be involved in the performance, including not just the performers but also technical support staff, discusses promotion of the event, covers the equipment which will be required by the performance, and states when the performers and their technical crew will be able to enter the venue to set up and test. The performance contract also includes a rider, a list of requests from the performers which must be met. Riders include hospitality requests, such as requests for water in the dressing room, along with technical requests like a specification for qualified local crew to be made available.
Riders are a somewhat infamous component of performance contracts. Some performers have extremely detailed riders which may include humorous or absurd elements, in addition to requests which sometimes seem odd. These inclusions are sometimes attributed to a sense of self importance on the part of the performers, but some performers argue that peculiar requests are actually included to confirm that the venue pays attention to detail. Many performers are very concerned about issues like safety, availability of the right equipment, and comfortable accommodations and they appreciate an attention to detail on the part of the venue.