"Tim Epstein, a sports and entertainment lawyer whose festival clients include Pitchfork, Life Is Beautiful, and Riot Fest, explains that government-mandated festival shutdowns may trigger “force majeure,” a contract provision that lets people off the hook for their obligations under the deal if there are certain unforeseeable circumstances, such as a natural disaster. Epstein believes that most coronavirus-related festival cancellations will happen under similar government-ordered force majeure conditions.
“What happens is that the parties are basically returned to their position pre-contract—with an exception being compensation for work performed to that point, for reimbursement of expenses incurred at that point,” Epstein says. “Most of the work is going to be taking place at the time of the event. And so most of the contracts for that work will not require performance because of the force majeure event, nor will it require a payment for the performance that did not occur.” In other words, artists and vendors wouldn’t be paid except for work or expenses from before the festival was canceled."