Michele Grant: Why artists offended by N.C. transgender law might still play there

How much money would you risk to stand on your principles?

I ask because I’ve seen criticism of some artists who have not canceled scheduled performances in North Carolina. They should cancel, say the critics, to join the boycott of a state whose legislature is anti-transgender persons.

But for many artists, the decision to cancel a gig over politics can be far from simple, or cheap.

Broadly speaking, it takes three parties to make a concert happen: the artist, the promoter, and the venue. When they contemplate putting on a show, they put their agreement down on paper, because each party has its own different risks if the concert fails to take place.

The artist may lose ticket sale income. The promoter may lose money that he or she has spent in advertising. And the venue may lose revenue that it would have received if it could have booked another artist.

One tool the lawyers use to keep any of the three parties from backing out is called a “liquidated damages” clause. This clause will force a party to pay money if he or she fails to do something the person promised to do, without a good reason. The amount someone has to pay can reach the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars – unless the person has a good reason.

So what’s a “good reason” in contract law? Unfortunately for an artist who objects to North Carolina’s anti-transgender law, a court will say that “I find this law objectionable” is not a good reason.

An artist’s illness or injury, or some catastrophe at the venue, are examples of “good reasons.”

Now, some artists are so fabulously wealthy that liquidated damages are peanuts to them. Or they are so successful that they come to contract negotiations in a very powerful bargaining position. For Bruce Springsteen or Ringo Starr, the decision to cancel a gig over politics can be very easy.

For most artists, though, canceling a performance over politics can be a hard question of principle over pocketbook.


Michele Grant is an attorney in Philadelphia. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected].


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