ORCID (Links to author’s additional scholarship at ORCID.org)



Artists drive the entertainment industry with their creative work, and in some cases, there are protections for artists when it comes to their work, wealth, and autonomy. However, the area of contracts called “private law,” under which artists’ contracts fall, is lightly regulated in comparison to other employment agreements. Artists, often at the beginning of their careers, are signed to long-term contracts that take advantage of them and do not provide adequate compensation. Artists might be locked into contractual arrangements that they cannot free themselves from. Sometimes, they are directly cheated. And much of this comes from people they trust, including their managers, agents, and even family members and friends. Artists have complained publicly for years and have taken what actions they could to improve their situations. This article examines various forms of contractual “artist abuse” in the entertainment industry. Next, this article looks at the lifecycle of these arrangements and artists’ means of working to free themselves, including self-help practices and the use of applicable law. Finally, in light of the risks of bad contracts, this article visits current discussions for reform and suggests practical revisions to the contractual and negotiating processes that could help reduce the conflict and human suffering caused by over-reach, power differences, and entrenched practices in any industry where personal services contracts are used.


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)