Contracts & Negotiations

As so often happens when I’m preparing an article, an interesting conversation made me set aside what I originally had planned to discuss something entirely different.  A long-term friend and fellow DJ called me to bemoan the weather report.  He’s a long-in-the-tooth veteran DJ who know specializes in doing classic car cruises and oldies parties, and he holds down a weekly gig at a local hangout where between 400 and 600 owners of vintage vehicles show off their rides every week.  Tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain.  I told him about when I worked for a local baseball complex and would often get called off when the weather turned bad and games were canceled.  While it sucks sitting on pins-and-needles waiting for that phone call, I told him how I had added a “pay regardless” clause to my contract, so at least my bills could get paid on time.

To my shock, my friend was also shocked.  Such an idea had never occurred to him.  When I mentioned that the same is true of my mobile contracts, he added another bit of sobering reality: “I never use a contract,” he said.

Color me stunned.  This is a colleague who has been in the business for easily a decade longer than I have, and probably more, with roots in radio and a solid reputation.  And all this time, working on a handshake.

NATURE’S MERCY?

Now I know that there have been a ton of articles that have appeared periodically about contracts, but in today’s litigious marketplace, it was hard to grasp how my friend coped with the uncertainty of weather and how to budget when your income can go in unpredictable (usually negative) directions depending on the whims of nature!  And what about all of the other particulars, such as space and power requirements, access to the venue, parking and on and on?

It dawned on me that my friend had grown up in a day and age when mobile DJs were “hobbyists” and not all that professional.  Due to his association with a local radio station, he was afforded a status that most mobiles couldn’t compete with.  But to him, it was just “a side gig,” and even when he retired from radio, his DJ work was never a “real job” in his way of thinking.

For the rest of us, we need to assure that our clients get what they expect and pay for, and we get what we need to not only do the job, but survive and thrive as a business.  A solid contract helps to keep all parties on the same page, minimizing the possibility of disappointment afterward.  No one can claim that a promise was made or broken if it is not written and agreed to by all parties.  Contracts are simply agreements, made in writing, and are completely flexible and alterable before being signed by all concerned.  And, frankly, it’s dumb not to have one.

BEYOND MY SCOPE OF PRACTICE

At this point, I’m going to do what you’ve seen in other articles on this topic: recommend that you consult an actual attorney to draft a performance contract for your business, or go over the one you already may be using.  Like most DJs, I have another job.  (Actually about six of them.  Long story.)  My main job is as a licensed massage therapist (LMT), in which I also use a contract.  Like my DJ contract, it specifies exactly what the session is for, exactly what is going to happen and when, and any and all compensation that is required or expected.  They also cover “worst case” scenarios and what recourse either party agrees to should things go bad.  All of this needs to be in yours, too.  Whether you get your contract for free from websites like RocketLawyer.com or LawDepot.com, or pay to have one made from scratch by a lawyer that specializes in contract law, I highly suggest you don’t skip having an actual lawyer go over it with you.  While we work hard to avoid a legal fight entirely, you don’t want to find out what shortcomings your contract has in a court room!

And don’t forget that clause about the weather.  Until next time, safe spinnin’!

Stu Chisholm
Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe. He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well. Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine. To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.

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