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Booking agent troubles - what to do ?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bassplayerjojo, Nov 11, 2002.

  1. About 5 months ago my band was playing at this bar, and this guy tells us we’re really good, yada yada yada, and to make a long story short, offers us some gigs at some places he does the bookings for. Always wanting to spread ourselves out there, of course we take the gigs. So he hooks us up with gigs for 3 different places for which “he takes care of the bookings”. Having never said ANYTHING about money, I thought it slightly unusual. Well I just figured that since he works for those bars, that it was all part of promoting the place itself, and they have their own separate person to take care of bands, and they pay him. Now we get paid by the door at these places, the bar doesn’t take a cut, we just get what we get. We had a gig on Saturday, and the person ‘in charge’ informed us that we wouldn’t be making a whole lot that night, because the bar owner had died today. Understandable. By Midnight we had $48. Pretty ****ty. They told us we could pack up and go if we wanted to, but we were already there, and just for the love of playing, we played our full 3 set show. During our last set, our ‘booking agent’ dropped in, then quickly left with $40 of the door money, OUR money. The bar, in ignorance, gave it to him, only after questioning what kind of booking agent would take $40 of our $52 total, leaving the band with $12. He told the bar that he takes $40 from each gig regardless of the amount made. Having never mentioned any of this to us, THE BAND, we were a bit surprised to hear this. There was no money mentioning contract, written or verbal. If we didn’t know about it I’m sure none of the other bands do. Say he books 5 bands at various places and drives around to pop in and out of each venue with $40. That’s an easy $400 in one weekend.
    What should I do about this situation? I plan to call him and confront him, but do you think I should get the other bands involved and take legal action? Would the compensation be worth my time? What do you all think?

    PS- The place we were playing at Saturday said that we don’t need to go through him anymore, they would pay us a flat rate of $300, gave us direct contact numbers for them, and our picks of gigs for the next 3 months saying we were the exact type of sound they are looking for. =) So at least THAT’S good
  2. sleazylenny


    Jun 20, 2002
    Mpls, MN
    Your agent is a slime ball. Unfortunately, I get the feeling you're new to this stuff, so I'll clue you in.

    1. NEVER play without a contract. I don't care if you're playing for the door, a guarantee, a flat rate, or any combination of the above. Make sure the contract spells out the mode of payment. If you have questions about the contract, ASK! If the agent gives you that line "Oh, we do this all on a casual spoken word basis.", WALK AWAY.

    2. The club owner is to pay the band, not the agent. You, in turn, pay him/her their percentage. ANY agent that walks into a club to collect while you're playing ( and doesn't SAY ANYHTHING to the band before leaving ) is a rip-off artist. Especially collecting from the door receipts before the night is even finished!

    3. Door gigs are dicey. Larger clubs tend to be a bit better, but beware the smaller clubs who will give you every bull**** line in the world as to why the door got less than you figure actually came through. It's your word against theirs and they're the ones holding the cash. Don't do doors unless you've got a guaranteed amount you'll be paid regardless of the turnout, IN A CONTRACT.

    4. Go check out some bands. TAlk to the members and ask who books them. We working musicians have very little tolerence for the shysters out there and will happily steer business away from them by pointing you towards a reputable agent.

    Expect to take a few lumps in the learning process and good luck!
  3. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Sorry you feel like you got screwed.

    But, if you never bothered to ask about money up front, you really don't have anyone to blame but yourselves.

    If you don't get it in writing, you should expect nothing less than to get screwed over. Just be glad it was only $40--consider it a lesson gig.
  4. Well the thing is he took $40 LAST NIGHT, but what about all the other gigs we've played. he could've sneaked more from other gigs when we've made more. And even if we've never talked about money, its still wrong on his part, especially whereas he's doing it to a number of bands.
  5. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Oh, so you have done more shows for him than just this one?

    I hate to say it but if you guys have been playing without working out the financial side of things, I don't think you have anything to confront him with. If you like the places he has taken you, call him up and tell him that you want to talk about money now. Consider the other shows your audition.

    My band has played for free before when we thought it would get us into a cool place. It's all part of paying your dues.
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Tough break, kiddo.

    For future reference, Please keep your thread titles and text foul language free. Thank you.
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Like everbody else has already said, if you were working with the agent and had not even talked about money, you don't have a leg to stand on.

    Any time you play for money, there should be a contract involved. No contract, no play. Period.

    Sorry you had to learn this lesson the hard way. That's life.

    And don't do business on a handshake or verbal agreement, either. Paper contract only!
  8. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    One more thing. In the future, do not post duplicate threads!!!
  9. Hey bassplayerjojo, what's happenin'... I live in Weymouth, MA and play in a Boston-based band. I've been in similar situations... I bet we could share a few Massachusetts club war stories!

  10. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    No, this is entirely YOUR fault. You didn't mention money, and you got exactly what you negotiated for. If you didn't learn that, bend over once more and prepare for a ramming. Wise up.
  11. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Consider it the cost of an education.
  12. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Yeah, there's one to chalk up to the school of hard knocks. Not much to do but move on and resolve to be more careful next time around.

    That said, I must say that all of the insistence from some folks to ONLY work with written contracts is just plain unrealistic for a lot of us. Yes, I've worked in a cover band where every gig was accompanied by a written contract, and I even signed agreements and whatnot when I joined the band. However, most of my musical career has been spent either as the 'weekend warrior' or in an original band playing a regional college club circuit for little more than beer and glory. Contracts are simply not a luxury to be afforded in these latter two situations.

    I guess it comes down to this - if you're an established player or band, at a level where you can pick and choose your gigs somewhat, then there's no doubt that paperwork is the only smart way to go. On the other hand, if you're an up-and-coming original act or a yet-to-be-established cover act, you may very well be laughed at (and/or quickly written off) for insisting on written contracts - not always, but enough to make a noticeable impact on your gig calendar. And yes, you will get screwed - and you will, if you're smart, shrug your shoulders and consider that the price for doing what you love. Don't deal with that person/venue again, and tell others, but don't dwell or lose too much sleep over it.

    I am NOT saying that we musicians should resign ourselves to getting screwed. It's just that the advice to get written contracts needs to be put into context. Like saying "you should always demand stock options and a severence package when taking a new job." If you're applying for a job as vice president of marketing for McDonalds, this might be good advice. If you're applying for a job as fry cook at McDonalds, it verges on the ridiculous.

    My advice: Aspire to be at a point where you can afford to insist on contracts. If you're like most musicians I know (self included), you will be willing to take a few chances in an effort to get to that level. To that end, always be as careful and explicit as you can in your verbal agreements, without alienating those who have the power to book you or get gigs for you.

    [/rant] :)
  13. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    You don't have a leg to stand on as far as taking legal action goes. I am afraid you would get laughed out of court.

    The only places we play without a paper contract is our "regular" gigs. The places we have been playing at for a year or more on a once every 1-2 month basis. We all know and trust each other at these places, and at the end of the night, we know we are getting paid.

    Other than that, no guarantee of some sort, no play. simple as that.
  14. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I'd say word of mouth and contacts can go a long way here. If another band you know of has played there and everything went ok for them, things should be the same. If you have no information on the place at all, get something in writing.

    I guess a good rule would be "When in doubt, use a written contract."
  15. I agree with the others: He may have ripped you off but you allowed him to do so. It's a tough pill to swallow. So it seems that the last place liked your band enough to cut out the booker. Cool. What I'd do now is contact all the clubs he has booked for you and tell them that you love their club and you'd like to play their club again but you are no longer being "booked" by this guy. Give them your numbers BEFORE you cut this guy loose. If you tell him to screw before you can establish your own relationship with the clubs he may end up making sure you never play those clubs again out of spite.

    Good luck!
  16. the answers here are all right...but like secretdonkey said written contracts are usless to some of us...heres what we do 1. on "door" gigs we pay someone to collect money...it's worth giving someone(you can trust)a small cut of the door and a few beers to collect your money. if the club won't let you have your own person collect,have them count heads.that way you know exactly how many people came thru the door,how many were let in for free(gotta watch those doormen,a hot lookin chick will always find a way to get in free) .and with basic math skills will know how much you made or at least took in..2."booking agent" gigs-try to get it in writing.if you can't..a verbal agreement will have to do....again have someone count heads or collect if it is a door gig.remember the "booking agent" works for you!!! DO NOT LET ANYONE hand over any money to that person until the night is over.unless he\she is being paid by the club owner..same with a flat rate,see above...3.dealing with the club owner gigs..again,try to get it in writing, if not the hand shake will have to do,but make it PERFECTLY CLEAR that you will NOT settle on anything less that what you agreed on..if that club owner is still being a harda$$ at the end of the night see my post in another thread"cover gigs and getting paid".about the Peter Grant school of band management.it may sound harsh but sometimes that is what you need to do to make your point,and simply don't play there anymore...this is, in some cases YOUR livleyhood...but in most situations being polite and professonial will get you what you want..good luck and be careful
  17. sandmangeck


    Jul 2, 2007
    Contracts are a great option.
  18. Factor88


    Jun 21, 2011
    Agree with most who say this is your fault for getting a booking agent (a job title whose very definition is a person who makes money by booking bands) and not finding out up front what (if any) financial obligations your band might have with him. Does it appear based on your post that the guy is a slime bag? Yes, but this is still your fault.

    I disagree with those who say get a contract for everything. In 20 years of playing I certainly have played my share of contract gigs (for sure some of the "best" gigs like AC Casinos, Disney World, Cruise Ships, Hard Rock Cafes required them-but note in those cases the CLIENT required them, not the band) but many, many other nights were played without contract, and without too many problems. In fact, my feeling looking back on it is that the number of times a band I was in got burned (and had no contract to fall back on) is LESS than the number of times that bands I was in burned the client (Drunk band member, employing a sub that made the band sound not as good as the one the client booked, outright cancellations due to emergencies, etc). I have also played a decent amount of gigs (thinking some biker parties in the dim past that were very lucrative) that had the band required a contract they would have probably told us to p#$$ off. Meaning that the amount of money that I've been burned over the years is probably roughly about the same as the amount of money I would have lost had we insisted on a contract or no play.

    Contracts are a tool, to be employed at the right place and right time, and nothing more. I don't fault any band who decides they want to use contracts all the time (that's their business), but to insist that it is the correct plan for everyone, all the time, is rediculous.
  19. Yeah you needed to ask about the $ up front if you do call him just tell him you do not like the way things worked out and he needs to get another band to fill the other gigs. You have already outta him and his shady ways here so hopefully other bands in your area won't have to deal with his ways of doing business.Once people come forward like you did here his days booking bands in that area are numbered ask the people in your area that are on talkbass to PM you and you can give they the clubs and his name so they can start his demise! best revenge is the mighty internet!
  20. Somehow I doubt the OP is reading this...his last post was in 2002... :meh:

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