HomeAsk Deke: How do you handle handshake and verbal agreements that are broken or unfulfilled?

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Q: How do you handle handshake and verbal agreements that are broken or unfulfilled? For instance, suppose I was offered a gig and accepted it. Following that, there was much merriment and celebration. But then, when it came time for the gig, someone else publicly posted that they were doing the exact gig that was originally offered to (and accepted by) me.
~ BrokenlHearted in Maryland

A: BHIM,

Well, the good news is that this rarely happens in a cappella. Good will is prevalent and the kind of people who hire an a cappella group tend to be the kind of people who follow through on their word. The bad news is that without lots of money in a cappella except for full-time professional groups, there generally isn’t enough money to warrant having lawyers draw up thorough contracts.

At bare minimum I would recommend you conduct business via email in the future, once your phone or in-person communications are complete, or in place of them. Having a “paper trail” makes it easy for both parties to refer back to what was said. Without a specific 60 day (or whatever) escape clause you may not have been paid anyway, but you likely would have been contacted once there was a change of heart.

You can also have a simple one page contract that you use, filling in details as necessary and sending for a signature once you have a confirmed gig. In the case of a promoter who cancels on you at the last minute, or any other permutation, if it’s not in the contract you can still fall back on local and state laws… although let’s be honest, you’re likely not going to follow through with the hassle of going to court over a single gig fee.

However that signed contract, along with a brief note explaining the circumstances, could be posted to the CASA facebook group and sent to other a cappella groups so that they will not find themselves in the same situation next year. As our word spreads quickly in our tight-knit and supportive community and other groups refuse to perform for this person in the future, this action more than any will likely result in some satisfaction from the booker, if only as a fully confirmed invitation for the following year.

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