John Branca Harvard Interview and Common Contract Terms

Very few people on earth enjoy looking through long, complicated contracts, especially not most entertainers. Entertainers would rather be on stage or working on their next great idea. At the same time, it’s incredibly important to have a thorough understanding of a contract before you potentially sign your life away. An entertainment lawyer can help with this, but it is still helpful to know some common terms that may appear in your contract. 

1. Exclusivity

Also known as a talent holding deal, exclusivity in a contract means that you agree not to perform similar services for another agency while you are under contract. Many contracts for actors have geographical restrictions. For example, you may not be able to shoot a television show in Los Angeles while also acting in a movie in New York at the same time. 

This can also apply to musicians who may sign a contract to regularly perform at a venue or open for another musician on tour. Pay close attention to exclusivity terms in your contract, and tread carefully to avoid violating these terms. Violations can lead to a termination of your contract, and it may make it more difficult for you to get work in the future. 

2. Merchandising

If you are acting in a hit new TV show or lending your voice talents to a video game, you may see a merchandising clause in your contract. This means that your face may appear on T-shirts, or your voice might be used in action figures and the like. Merchandising can be a tricky addendum to a contract, so if you spot this anywhere in your contract, it’s important to consult a lawyer. 

3. Back-End Payment

Back-end payments are sometimes slipped into contracts inconspicuously, and it can leave entertainers disappointed and struggling financially. Back-end payments mean that you will be paid after your work is done instead of upfront. This benefits an agency, of course, but it won’t help you in most cases. 

4. Term of Agreement

This refers to how long you are bound to this contract and agree to these terms. Some terms of agreement are as little as a day, while others may be months or years. Take time to understand and think over the term of the agreement in your contract, and make sure that it works for you before proceeding. 

Contracts are sometimes made complex on purpose to trip up entertainers, which is why it’s almost always a good idea to have an entertainment attorney take a look before you sign it.