A Discussion Guide to encourage necessary pre-contract conversations between artistic parties

Ever wonder what questions you should be bringing to the table in the early stages of the commissioning process?

Our Anatomy of Commission Discussion Guide is a resource for composers and commissioners that can function as a checklist during these initial conversations about the creation and funding of new works. The document suggests talking points about artistic objectives and social impact goals, offers information about composers’ rights to their work, and provides sample language for documenting different facets of a commissioning agreement.

American Composers Forum led the process of creating this Discussion Guide with
input from music lawyer Ari Solotoff in consultation with ACF staff, our partners, and
an initial cohort of composers, publishers, and industry leaders.

Discussion Guide Webinar

In this on-demand webinar, Ari Solotoff breaks down how to use the discussion guide and explains the five stages of the commissioning process:

  1. The Development Stage, when preliminary discussions are taking place between the composer and commissioner regarding the creation and funding of a new work.
  2. The Contract Stage, when the parties begin to align on the vision, artistic elements, timelines, and other material terms for the commissioning project.
  3. The Preparation and Delivery Stage, when the composer is focused on creating, composing, and delivering the commissioned work. This stage may also include readings and workshops.
  4. The Premiere Stage, when the work is given its first rehearsals and public performances.
  5. The Post-Premiere Stage, when subsequent performances, regional premieres, and the first recordings of the work may take place.

Sample Deal Memo

This Sample Deal Memo organizes the information in the Discussion Guide into a document that can be signed by the composer and commissioner as a preliminary agreement. Like our Discussion Guide, this Sample Deal Memo is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal advice. The specific circumstances leading to a commission will differ in every instance, resulting in the need for a variety of formal contract terms. Readers are encouraged to seek out and consult with a legal advisor or other music publishing professional when working with these materials.

Ari Solotoff

Ari Solotoff is an entertainment lawyer and the Managing Attorney at Solotoff Law. He launched the firm in 2020 with a specialized focus on counseling clients at the intersection of copyright, entertainment, and the arts. In addition, Ari serves as an adjunct professor at the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and the University of Michigan, where he teaches courses on Music Law and Legal Issues in the Arts. Ari’s practice uniquely blends representation of a diverse range of clients, who are known for defining and defying contemporary culture (Billboard-charting catalogs; Pulitzer Prize-winning literary authors; and today’s leading composers, concert artists, and ensembles), and copyright-driven cases.

The Discussion Guide is made possible, in part, by a grant from Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership’s funds from the Paul R. Judy Center for Innovation and Research, Solotoff Law, and contributions from composers, artistic administrators, managers, and publishers.