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Commission Contract Template/Boilerplate

Does someone out there have a commission contract that he/she is willing to share with me? I have never commissioned a work from a composer before, and am in the process of doing so. I want to make sure that I am dotting all my Ts and crossing all my Is. Thank you
Russell Thorngate
rthorngate (a)
on September 11, 2013 3:24am
Hi Russell,

Here's an example that I drew up - the commissioner seems happy with it. I hadn't considered recordings until I drew this bit up. If applicable, you may also want to specify what happens with income from online recordings, but realistically this is likely to be a few dollars at best. Hope this is helpful - other people may have things they wish to add:
I, COMPOSER, agree to compose WORK for CHOIR, due by DATE, to be premiered (provisionally) at EVENT (if applicable).
Specify FORCES TO BE USED (e.g. SSAATTBB choir with soli), LENGTH (approximate), TEXT (if known).
X copies will be provided. The piece will also be provided in PDF format to print. Unlimited copies may be printed for the choir’s sole use, and they will have the right to perform it in perpetuity.
If a recording is made for commercial purposes, a separate fee will be negotiated depending on the amount and format to be sold. Following the premiere, COMPOSER may sell the piece or parts thereof to other choirs, but CHOIR will have the first option on any commercial recording (this will revert to the composer if no recording is made in the year following the premiere, or earlier if CHOIR agree). Copyright of the piece will remain with COMPOSER. Any future editions of the piece will acknowledge this commission.
Total amount to be paid: X (in instalments, specify dates - I usually ask for half to start with and half on delivery of the final piece. Also specify payment method - check, bank transfer, cash?)
Names and signatures (composer and commissioner)
on September 11, 2013 10:33am
Hi Russell,
Here is one version of my standard contract (very similar to Chris's, but with a few other details):
This Agreement, made [Date], by and between [Name of Composer] (hereinafter referred to as COMPOSER) and [Name of Commissioner] (hereinafter referred to as COMMISSIONER) witnesses that the COMPOSER and the COMMISSIONER agree to the following terms:
  1. The COMPOSER will prepare an original composition (hereinafter referred to as the WORK), approximately [X-X] minutes in duration, to be scored for [Chorus / instrumentation].

  2. It is agreed that the total payment for the WORK is $[X]. Payment will be as follows: one half of the total commissioning fee upon signing of this contract; on half upon receipt of the final approved score.

  3. The text will be [Poem] by [Poet].

  4. The COMPOSER is responsible for providing the COMMISSIONER with performance-ready scores on or before [Due date for scores]. If for some unforeseen emergency this deadline cannot be met, mutually agreeable alternate plans must be made, or the agreement terminated and no fees will be paid. [Note: Occasionally there is another deadline here for providing a draft of the piece for review a month or so before the official due date. You may also specify the amount of scores to be delivered, or whether a PDF score will be sent and the Commissioning Party will assume the costs of reproducing the scores.] 

  5. The COMMISSIONER will premiere the WORK on [Date(s)] at [Location(s), if known at the time of commissioning]. The COMMISSIONER will be responsible for the hiring of all soloists and performers. 

  6. The COMMISSIONER has exclusive rights to give the world premiere performances of the WORK within [X amount of time, e.g., a year] after delivery of score and parts. The COMMISSIONER will not pay rental fees for the world premiere performances or any other performances within [Amount of time, e.g., 1 year] following the delivery of parts.  The COMPOSER retains copyright to the WORK.

  7. [When applicable:] The COMMISSIONER has exclusive rights to commercially record the WORK for a period of one year from the date of the premiere, unless alternate permission is granted.

  8. The COMPOSER will be furnished with one audio recording of the premiere performance, which may be used exclusively for promotional purposes by the COMPOSER.

  9. All published scores should state: “[Dedication: e.g., "Commissioned by X choir, X director, in honor of X]."

  10. [When applicable:] The COMPOSER agrees to participate in public relations activities surrounding premiere performances, which may include pre-concert discussions, rehearsals, or workshops prior to the premiere of the WORK, provided travel and lodging are covered by the COMMISSIONER.

  11. No waiver, change or modification in this agreement is valid or binding unless agreed to in writing and signed by both parties.

​[Spaces for signatures and dates.]

Good luck with your commission!
Best wishes,
Dale Trumbore, composer
on September 13, 2013 1:17pm
Hello, Colleagues,
  My heart nearly leapt out of my ample chest when I saw this subject line.
  Russell, bless your heart for even considering commissioning a work.
  In my view, you are embarking upon a journey that has almost no 'down' sides for through it you'll learn more than you could ever have imagined...about yourself, your vision and your standards.  It is destined to be a life changing experience.
  The process for the composer is equally life changing.
  The resulting relationship is considerably more than having each 'i' dotted and/or 't' crossed.  It's often the spirit in which one enters any contractual process that determines the experience.  And I'm thrilled you're making a commission your choice.
  I'd appreciate being kept abreast of the process as it unfolds.
  As always, I wish you and the composer every good and wonderful thing.
Louise Rose
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