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This section has been written by William Kelly (wkelley@galaxy.galstar.com) Minor editing by Steve Shah (sshah@cs.ucr.edu) Additions provided by Al Weltha (alsmusic@netins.net) [Ed. note: This contract is meant mostly for mobile DJs, although I'm sure a club DJ can learn a thing or two to help protect themselves.] 

DON'T LEAVE ROOM FOR LOOPHOLES. If you are lax on the exact rules, then you could leave spots wide open for your customers to bring up in case of problems. Check and re-check your contract. Think of worst-case scenarios, and would the customer be able to weasel out of the contract in those cases? My main generic suggestions for a good contract are: 

1) The date that you are scheduled to perform. 

2) The time at which you are scheduled to begin and to end. 

3) The place that it will be held. With these three, they can't say, "Well, we need you to start an hour earlier, play an hour later, move it up to next Saturday, and do it 100 miles away from where we first told you." That's all covered. 

4) The price that you will pay for this time, and how much it will be if your crowd chooses to go into overtime. Once again, be very thorough. If you charge extra for the drive over or the setup fees, be sure and include them in the contract. ANY money that you want to be paid, include in the contract. Seal any of those gaps. 

5) The deposit you must (or may) pay to reserve the date is: You can require a deposit, but I personally don't. HOWEVER... 

6) If you cancel the event, we keep the deposit (if one was placed) OR we charge a cancelation fee (if one wasn't). I charge a $50 cancelation fee, but think I might raise it. 

7) The deadline for the payment is this date... This way they can't keep saying "Well, we're working on it." I give them 2 weeks after the event, normally. Even the longest of paperwork should be done by that time. In special circumstances, I'll change this area of a contract. 

8) If we do not receive payment by that date, we charge $X per DAY past the due date. Put this in big, bold print. I threaten $15 per day late fees, but I only really charge it if the customer is EXTREMELY late and/or if the customer is just someone really annoying. I've only charged a customer ONCE. If they see this on the contract, they'll usually get the payment to you on time... 

9) Your company/establishment will be held responsible for damage/theft of equipment or damage to DJ company employees caused by crowd members, faulty wiring, etc... [This should take several sentences.] Also, put in something about how they must provide "adequate security" for the event. This will make the customer know that you're serious about the state of your equipment, and that they'd better keep a grip on the situation and be prepared to take responsibility for their crowd's actions. This is really useful if one or a handful of people cause some problems, because the company will have to make a choice between "hiding" who really did it and paying for the cost themselves, or actually making the effort to find those who were responsible and making THEM pay the costs. By experience (where a drunken college girl knocked down our mirrored ball at a college-sponsored dance), I can tell you they'll normally go for the latter. Note that the tough part of that rule is the "theft" part; it's hard to prove that you "brought" a record or CD and that it was "gone" when you left. Thankfully, I've never had that happen. Also, I learned from the earlier damage experience to put tape around the hook on my mirrored ball!! 

10) We won't be responsible for damage to your facilities from OUR equipment. This is pretty much covering your butt, and if you DO know of something that you have damaged that could have been avoided, it's a good idea to go ahead and pay for it so that you don't get the reputation of being a troublemaker. However, if they have bad wiring and your stuff blows something out, they can't say "Well, it was bad, but your equipment threw it over the edge and thus you have to pay for rewiring the whole building." Do NOT assume that just because you put a "not liable" clause in your contract that you are protected from your own mistakes. You CANNOT disclaim your own mistakes and be protected from lawsuit. Acts of negligence CANNOT be written out of a legal agreement. The only way you are truly covered is to outline the what-ifs in cases where YOU don't perform as promised. For example: No-shows, equipment failure, illness, etc. should be dealt with. "I forgot" is negligence and *could* get you sued for the entire cost of the reception REGARDLESS of the language you put in your contract.

I'll give you one more piece of advice: ALWAYS be honest with the customer. Make your contracts very clear, and to the point. Make sure you give it NECESSARY detail, but don't try to be deceptive. Plus, make thorough checks for grammar and spelling errors. They can really hurt the customer's respect for you, especially when they're in a legal document. 

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