by Sue Basko, esq.
Music venues and festivals have insurance to cover entertainment. Every insurance policy excludes certain activity and/or invalidates coverage if certain activities take place. Music entertainment insurance usually does not allow mosh pits, stage diving, any dangerous activities, pyrotechnics, etc. If you are in the band, you cannot stage dive, cannot allow anyone else to do so, and cannot incite such actions in the crowd. Clubs and festivals are required to quickly remove anyone engaging in such activities, or their insurance becomes void.
Any "adult entertainment" invalidates insurance. Local laws vary as to what constitutes adult entertainment, but usually you are getting into "adult entertainment" if there are obscene words used, sexual imagery, or if any performer is not fully clothed. For rock bands, this usually means men have to perform wearing shirts. Most festivals have this somewhere in their long lists of rules. It means any stage dancers or other performers have to be dressed decently. If you have questionable lyrics or visuals, the venue must be made aware before booking. You are then not likely to be booked, because in most cases, this invalidates the insurance. If you have an act that includes indecent material, you are not likely to be booked. Most places want "family friendly" acts.
Most music entertainment insurance for bars, clubs and festivals prohibits rap, hip hop, and heavy metal music. People are usually surprised to hear this, but everyone in the venue industry that pays attention to their insurance coverage knows about this. This prohibition is because of the behavior of people associated with this kind of music and past incidents of violence, including killings inside and outside shows. If you play one of these kinds of music, you can find it very hard to get booked. If a venue wants to have such music, they can sometimes find special insurance coverage -- and this costs extra money. If they let an act play those genres without the special coverage, it invalidates the insurance.
Insurance companies check out the bands that are going to play at a festival. They check on the ads and shows of bars and clubs they insure. If you are a performer or have a band, you should be very careful with your online image. If you have pictures or videos that make you look rowdy or look as if you draw such a crowd, you will have a very difficult time being booked at any legit venue.
KEEP IN MIND, most venues cannot book rap, hip hop, or heavy metal. They cannot book any act that looks violent or rowdy or like heavy drinkers, drug users, or that have an "adult" -- meaning sexual-oriented show. They cannot book these acts, period. Their insurance does not cover it. If you tend to draw such a rowdy, heavy-drinking, or drug-using crowd or have had a history of problems at any of your shows, clubs and festivals cannot book you.
There are many other insurance rules. Usually, bouncers are covered and allowed by insurance if they are specially trained in dealing with difficult or unruly patrons. If the bouncers or security personnel are armed, this usually invalidates insurance. (They can call in police, if needed.) If a place has any entrances locked or blocked, the insurance is invalidated.
Many bars or clubs have insurance that includes only karaoke, DJs, or bands up to 3 performers. There are real advantages to being a solo artist, duo, or trio if you want to play at local restaurants or bars. Four performers and up is the dividing line with many insurance policies. Bigger entertainment venues usually have coverage for full size rock bands. Most restaurants and smaller clubs, however, specifically can only hire groups of 3 or less.
Most insurance policies dictate no dance floor or limit the square footage of a dance floor. A club owner is not allowed by their insurance company to expand the dance floor or to permit patrons to dance in non-dance floor areas. You may think they are being picky and no fun, but they are just protecting their liability coverage.
There are many other insurance provisions. If you plan to do anything unusual, clear it in advance, or you will likely find your show being shut down.