When Someone Defaults on a Contract

What do you do should someone default on a contract or refuse to pay for the services provided?  Say your band played at a club and the owner promised to pay you $300 but at the end of the night, the owner said they had a bad night and only paid you $50.  He still owes you $250.  First, was there a written agreement signed by both you and the owner that he was going to pay your band for performing on a certain night for a certain amount?  Oral agreements are often unenforceable therefore it is always recommended to get something in writing signed by both parties agreeing to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Assuming you don't have anything in writing, are you out of luck? The answer depends on what you want to do about it. First, be insistent about getting paid the agreed upon amount. Make a nuisance of yourself. After getting stiffed, it is unlikely you are going to play that club again, so there is no need to stay on the good side of the person. Next, tell everyone you know and other musicians that the club refused to pay you. Clubs quickly gain reputations to where they will have difficulty getting bands in the future, especially if their business depends on them.  The idea is to put pressure on the club to pay you for the agreed upon amount.
If this doesn't work, there is always the legal route by contacting an attorney but be prepared for the fees that is charged for their services.  Will it cost more to hire an attorney than the fees that are owed?  If there is no written contract you will not be able to recover attorney fees from the club owner unless you have a written contract. It makes no sense to pay a lawyer $500 to collect $300. If the amount you are owed is significant, a private attorney may be advisable.
Or you can pursue the case yourself in small claims court by going down to your local courthouse and filing a complaint at the Clerk’s Office. This involves writing down why you are suing the club. This need only be a few lines. "Band played Club on [date] and Club promised to pay Band $300 and Club refused to pay therefore Band demands the sum of $300." After you file the complaint you will then have to serve the lawsuit on the club by the procedure recommended at your local Clerk’s office. Most small claims procedures allow you to send the lawsuit via certified mail. In some jurisdictions you must use the Sheriff, but all localities will require you serve the lawsuit to the defendant, the club.
After filing the lawsuit and serving the club, you will get a court date. If you have any written documentation, bring it to court. If you have any witnesses, bring them to court. In small claims court, the rules of evidence are relaxed and the judges are accustomed to dealing cases that have no attorney.  Explain your case to the judge and he or she will make a ruling.
Having a written agreement doesn’t always necessarily mean that you will avoid having people who promise payment to you for your band’s services and don’t.  By having a written agreement will reduce the chances of a person or company from stiffing you as more often than not should you have to bring in an attorney or take them to small claims court they will not have a case and be required to pay you anyways.  Having a written contract helps ensure that both parties know what is expected of them and their signatures on that agreement says that they agreed to the terms and more than likely they will follow those terms.  So having a written agreement is vital when it comes to the music business and your band should always have one drawn up when rendering your services.

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