Many people outside the music industry fail to understand that musicians don’t just perform for fun — they perform for a living, and making a career in music requires getting paid. And while weddings might be a blast for guests, it’s still work for you and your wedding music band. Can you imagine putting hours of energy and sweat into a set only to find out at the end of the night that you’ll be paid half of the agreed upon price?
Simply put, if your wedding music band isn’t protected with the proper paperwork, you’re leaving yourself (and your bank account) vulnerable to the whims of party planners and newlyweds.
Save yourself from future headaches with a bit of preparation and documentation. Find out how a sound contract can guard you from potential disputes, and learn the three steps to follow to write your own contract.
A contract will shield you from legal scrutiny
Protecting yourself and your wedding music band with a thought-out independent contractor agreement is essentially a form of insurance. It’s a guarantee that you won’t end up getting hosed by unfair or unforeseen circumstances, should they arise.
In the event of overtime, a work injury or even property damage (instruments are expensive, afterall), a clearly defined contract can ensure you don’t get taken advantage of or end up losing more money on the gig than earned.
No musician should have to pay for the actions of an inebriated guest or be left uncompensated for keeping the party going at the behest of the bride. Not to mention, when combined with the typical 1099 forms used by self-employed contractors during tax season, your contract helps you further document your history of self-employment (in case Big Brother comes knocking).
It will outline exactly what services you’re responsible for providing
A fully hashed-out contract can ensure you are on the same page as the bride and groom. If the bride wants you to play swing covers of popular first-dance wedding songs and your group exclusively plays classical, that’s a big discrepancy.
Also, as you well know, playing music for hours straight is just not feasible. Lay out your schedule, as well as the breaks required to keep your wedding music band fresh, so you’ll be able to avoid conflict with the planners and newlyweds who might expect you to be a constant source of energy throughout the event.
Create a wedding music band contract in 3 steps
Now that you understand the importance of a contract for your wedding music band, let’s go over creating one!
Include the essentials.
Consider additional details.
Personalize a template to save time.
Keep reading for the nitty-gritty details of what to include in your contract.
1. Include the essentials
Regardless of your industry, when putting together a legal contract, it’s critical to include:
In this case, “conditions” are the specific musical services you’ll provide during the wedding. This could be further broken down into the agreed-upon hours, required songs as determined by the bride and groom, break periods, cancellation terms and penalties for being late. If the conditions aren’t met, it could potentially void the contract.
The total cost of your provided services must be put down on paper if you want to ensure fair payment. Simply stating and agreeing upon a price is convenient, but a verbal contract is harder to prove if things get messy. Asking for the money prior to the performance is not uncommon either, so consider including instructions for an early electronic transfer in your contract.
The intention to establish a legally binding relationship with your client
This should be spelled out, and the contract must be signed by both a member of your wedding music band and one of the people paying for your services to make it binding. The following example includes space for representatives to sign as well, but unless you’re represented by an agent, this space could be omitted.
2. Consider additional details
Just because you’ve always been paid extra for transportation doesn’t mean it will always happen. However, outlining this on paper will help ensure such an expense is included when your check arrives. Think about what you might need in writing for the booking so you aren’t left footing the bill for extra costs.
If you’re performing at an outdoor venue, for instance, include stipulations about what you will and will not do in the event of inclement weather.
Getting your amps and instruments wrecked by rain is an expensive prospect — include the need for a proper setup in your contract to ensure you’re covered (literally).
3. Personalize a template to save time
You can create your own contract document if you’re feeling up to it, but for many contractors, it’s easier to modify what others have already done. Finding a passable template is easy with a little bit of Google-fu. Simply type “wedding musician contract” into your Google Images search bar, and download one that best suits your group (and tweak as needed).
For something more concrete, guitarist Brandon Dyke’s personalized contract is a good example of how to cover your bases as a member of a wedding music band.
He clearly outlines all the necessary information (dates, names, contact info) while legally safeguarding himself with contractual stipulations — even ensuring that he gets paid in the event of a date change (something that can cost a musician a lot of money when they’re sacrificing a Saturday night to play a wedding).
Bonus step: Consult a lawyer
When in doubt, it never hurts to get in touch with a lawyer to iron out any kinks in your contract — especially if you plan on using this document in the future. However, having your terms in writing should be fine for the vast majority of scenarios. I confirmed this statement with our lawyer first, I swear.
Succeeding as a wedding music band
An important part of making it as a musician is establishing positive relationships with others and trusting them to treat you fairly when it’s time to collect your paycheck. Life doesn’t always work that way though, so it’s good to have things in writing just in case.
And if you’re still trying to build more of those connections and get the word out about your music, consider writing a blog to drive traffic to your personal site and portfolio. Writing isn’t as sexy as performing, but it helps establish yourself and creates a network that you would have never had otherwise. There are plenty of blog post topics that can help you bolster your website. Maybe you could start by writing about how to put together a thorough contract for a wedding music band?
The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.