Colorado is well-known for its love of music. The Rocky Mountain state served as a muse for musical greats like John Denver, and hosts one of the world’s most iconic venues: Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Colorado is prime real estate for massive music festivals, from Telluride to Fort Collins (and everywhere in-between). In fact, the Front Range is one of the best markets for ticket sellers in the country by overall numbers, across genres, and in per capita sales.

If you’ve got an idea for the next big music festival, Colorado is a promising place for your idea to take flight.

But beyond nailing down the lineup, figuring out your marketing strategy and finding the capital to get the festival off the ground, there are many important legal considerations that can make or break your event.

Make sure your music festival is a smash instead of a crash by following this legal to-do list:

Business Structure

Starting a festival isn’t much different from starting any other business, which means the first thing you should think about is the business structure of your festival’s organizing body.

To start, you’ll need to decide whether or not the festival will be a for-profit or non-profit event. This decision will affect how you can raise money, how you’re taxed, and how the organization will be run, whether that be by a board, a sole president, or otherwise.

Next, you’ll want to research and compare the different structure options available to you, such as a co-operative, an incorporated association, or a propriety limited company. These decisions will determine who carries financial liability if the festival goes under.

It’s important to understand how the business structure will affect you personally in the case of bankruptcy or if the company has a lawsuit brought against it. Get advice from an attorney if you need help deciphering any of these details.

Permits

Your music festival will more than likely require at least one or more city permits. These permits cover everything from noise to use of parks and street closures.

There may be additional considerations if you’re using alternative spaces that are zoned as industrial or retail.

Head to your city’s permit office to find out about the requirements for attaining the right permits for your festival. Usually you’ll just need to fill out some paperwork and pay a required fee.

It won’t hurt to foster a good relationship with city officials and neighboring businesses during the planning of your festival. Even if your event is a hit, you’ll struggle to continue growing the festival if you don’t have the support of the community.

Insurance

Once you’ve got your permits secured, you’ll need to figure out an insurance plan for the festival.

Talk to an attorney to figure out what you should be covering in your plan. Be sure to consider insurance for a storm or other act of god that could make a serious dent in the fun.

Imagine if you plan your festival for 6 months, then on the weekend of the show it pours nonstop. Ticket sales could take a big hit.

Your insurance plan should also cover anyone getting hurt during the festival. There is a long list of festivals who have met financial ruin because they didn’t cover all their bases — don’t be one of them!

Artist Contract

The artist contract may be one of the most important aspects of planning your music festival.

Many artists ask for exceptionally high fees, with a lot of particulars in the fine print, especially for one-off performances at festivals.

You could be on the line for a lot of money when you sign an artist contract, so make sure it covers all your bases:

  • Radius clause: A radius clause tells the artist they can’t play within a certain distance from your festival within a specified timespan. (It wouldn’t be so great for ticket sales if your headline act played down the street the night before your gates open!)
  • Provision for cancellation: Weather, sickness, poor ticket sales: you never know what could come up. Give yourself an out with a provision for cancellation, but also be sure it respects the artist and gives them options to cancel if needed. If an artist has committed a date to your event, it means they may be turning down other work. If you cancel, then they are out of work for that date. So they may require a deposit on the order of 50% that will be held if you cancel, but given the high fees some artists require, this may be more financially sound for you if the alternative is paying them the full amount without the income to cover it.
  • Artist rights: The artist has rights that you’ll need to acquire, including the ability to promote their name and brand, the right to use their music and videos in the promotion and/or production of the event, and the right to associate the artist with your sponsors.
  • Taxes: You may need to withhold a percentage of the artist’s payment, especially if they are a foreign artist. Ask the artist’s booking agent regarding their U.S. tax requirements.

Checked all these bullets off your list? Make sure you’ve covered all your bases before you sign that contract >

Ticketing and Partner Agreements

Your festival is all about the music and the fans. But it takes a lot more than just musicians and music lovers to make your event successful.

You’ve still got to figure out ticketing, food and drink, lights and staging, toilets and trash, sponsors, security and more before the big day.

Most of these responsibilities can be handled by third-party companies and contractors. When forging new partner relationships, you should outline the expectations of each party with a partnership agreement.

This is especially important with your ticketing partner, as a large portion of your revenue will be passing through their hands — and they’ll be taking a cut.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. The agreement should detail:

  • Exact percentages the ticketing agent will receive
  • Any additional fees that will be added to ticket prices
  • How the agent can distribute the tickets (physical tickets at a box office, online, etc.)
  • The agent’s rights to use tickets to generate additional income — are there ads printed right on the back of the tickets themselves, or on the webpage where customers purchase tickets for your events? If so, are you privy to any related revenue?

Protecting Your Brand

Once the contracts are signed, the artists are booked, the posters are made and the tickets are flying off the shelves, there’s just one last item on your legal check-list: Protecting your brand.

After you’ve done all the work to organize an amazing music festival, the last thing you want is someone stealing your idea, copying your branding, or bootlegging your merch.

Follow these 5 steps to protect your festival brand:

  • Establish your brand: Being first is key. Develop your marketing plan and get your idea and name out there before anyone else does.
  • Understand brand theft: If someone else in town decides to organize a music festival after you’ve announced yours, that’s probably not brand theft. On the other hand, if the name, logo, or marketing materials seem eerily similar to yours, you may be experiencing brand theft, in which case it would be wise to get legal counsel.
  • Put basic safeguards in place: If you have a business plan or marketing strategy, it may be best to not share it with people outside of your company. Your approach could be copied under a different name, with little legal protection for you.
  • Add a layer of legal protection: Copyrighting and trademarking your festival’s name and related marketing materials such as a logo or slogan is a good way to make sure your brand stays protected. You may also ask employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep your business strategies in-house.
  • Keep documentation: Preserve dated records of logo use and all legal filings related to brand protection. This documentation can help prove that your business has developed a unique brand and launched specific ideas over a well-established timeline.

Don’t let legal hang-ups get in the way of your music festival finding the success it deserves.Discover more about how to establish and protect your brand before your festival >

Contact Rogers & Moss for your free, no-risk, consultation.