What’s Hanging up Entertainment at Your Tribal Property

Let’s end the back and forth volley of legalese

Entertainment of any kind, as long as it’s quality and consistent, is still and will always be the X-Factor at your property. Yes, we are in the gaming business, but the incremental value of good entertainment is much more valuable than a lot of properties seem to think.

The biggest challenge today with entertainment is not so much the entertainment itself, but the piles of paperwork that are now required to contract and confirm said entertainment.

For nationally recognized artists, they are always represented by one of the major agencies, such as WME, CAA, UTA, Paradigm, APA, ICM and so forth. These agencies have been in business for much longer than Tribal casinos and they have a standard contract with standard provisions that have been worked out over time to best protect their client, the artist. When Tribal gaming initially started out, it was a pretty loose business and whatever was written in the artist contracts was just accepted. Not so today; there is tremendous pushback from Tribal gaming to protect their rights and their best interests. So, we find ourselves in a learning curve, between a rock and a hard place. Today it’s a back and forth volley of legalese that clogs up the entire process. Artist management and agencies are unwilling to compromise, and the same goes for Tribal casinos.

The irony here is that most of the time, it comes down most to how the same provision/wording is spelled out and interpreted. It’s like how something is stated. Much of the time, it’s attorneys versus attorneys, which creates a cluster of confusion and bad energy.

All the artists want to do is play for their fans, build their careers and make a living. All the casinos want to do is have their brand shine and create a great event for their guests. What ends up happening is a lot of stress and threats back and forth that are totally counterproductive for both the casino and the agency.

For the past few years, we have been struggling with this issue. Some Tribal casinos are putting together user-friendly addendums that have been accepted by major agencies. We have been working closely with both Tribal attorneys and agency attorneys to find that middle ground. One of the challenges is that each Tribal entity is sovereign. No two Tribal business processes work the same way. So hence the issue. On the other hand, the agencies vary to some degree between each company, but they are pretty uniform in their contract provisions. Each artist has their own personal rider with their specific needs and requests. This will include their production needs, hospitality needs and some of the redundant terms and conditions in the agency template.

So, the question here is, how do we simplify this process and keep everyone happy? If your property uses their own addendum, it would be wise to really review all the terminology and break it down to what is absolutely necessary. Help your Tribal attorney understand that the entertainment business is a lot more fluid and flexible than other types of businesses. Changes to contracts and riders are done in cross-outs and mark-ups, not in whole new separate addendums to addendums. All that is necessary is an initial by each change. Make it clear in your initial offer to the artist that your Tribal addendum is mandatory and has to be signed off on by the artist. My approach has always been that there will be no deposit or final payment issued without a fully signed contract and addendum. The agencies want their money and when you spell out your terms very clearly, there is no room for misunderstanding

Don’t be afraid to say “no” and pull your offer. Keep tight timelines and expirations. The agencies need the business, and things will get easier once they understand your property. Their attorneys are very much aware of these issues. We have been in talks with them for a couple of years.

Let’s get back to putting together great shows and concerts. We need to get this paperwork mess cleaned up so we can all do good business.


Review all terminology and break it down to what’s absolutely necessary

Make changes to contracts and riders in cross-outs and mark-ups, not new separate addendums

Clarify that your Tribal addendum is mandatory

Hold a deposit for a fully signed contract and addendum


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