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Sideman work - experienced advice sought.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by secretdonkey, Oct 22, 2003.


  1. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Okay, so I've taken a gig with a new 'alternative country' act. Not terribly musically rewarding, but it's an opportunity to play out, with someone else bearing all the burdens of promotion, planning, and so forth. I just gotta show up and know my parts.

    They are a new act, just getting started. I'm the only one involved who has a 'real' job, and we mutually agreed at the outset that in six months to a year they'll likely need to replace me with someone who can travel beyond weekend excursions. I figure that the fun will wear off in about that time, so this could be a pretty okay proposition.

    Looks like I'll be offered two payment options - 15% of the gross per show, with a $200 cap, or 10% with no cap. Simple math tells me that the core members will each also get no more than a 15% share. They will of course, be in on the merchandise end (CDs, Tshirts, etc.). They have a bus so transpo and crash options are available.

    From those with experience, what stipulations should I make, what pitfalls should I watch for, and what 'catches' are waiting to surprise me?

    Any experienced advice on this is appreciated...

    :)
     
  2. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Get that in writing. If you have that, you'll avoid most of the catches or pitfalls right there.

    As for stipulations, I would ask for at least as much $$ as the other members are making. Can't think of any others right now, as those usually come down to personal preference.

    If you don't find the gig musically rewarding or if these aren't your friends, you could ask to be paid for rehearsals.

    Other than that, the only thing I can think of is the band not being as good/solid/booked as they claim. The gig usually sounds a lot better than it really is (pun intended).

    The most annoying thing I've dealt with (aside from the $ issue) is people not understanding some part of the term "sideman" and trying to talk me into joining full-time. Looks like you've got that covered though. :)
     
  3. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Simple math tells me that I'm getting an even cut - there's 15% "leftover" that may be going to the manager -- that's okay by me. :)

    They're just starting out, financing everything out of their own pocket, so I don't think I could negotiate for that. I'm not getting paid to rehearse with my classic rock cover band, where 80% of the material isn't musically rewarding, and the rehearsal-to-gig ratio will be much improved with this project, so I'm okay with that aspect. I'm keeping my day job, so I'm on firmer financial footing than any of these guys, anyway. :)

    All of that potentially applies to this project. The bottom line, though, is that I don't have anything better on the table, and the only investment I'm making is in time to learn the material. And in a way, I don't want them to progress so rapidly that they need to replace me with someone without a day job before I get totally bored with the gig.

    I am busting my rear to keep up with two other projects, neither which is terribly satisfying, either -- but I don't want to put anything off the table until I know that this gig will put enough on my plate to keep me contented.

    Well, after the first show their manager gave me this "how exactly tied to your day job are you?" speech. I got to nip that in the bud by telling them that I fully understood that I was just a 'temp' until they needed someone with unlimited availability, and that he should understand that, too.

    Thanks for the input, Thrash!

    :)
     
  4. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    No problem - hope this helps! :)

    Beware the manager. He himself could, or he could talk the band into, replacing you at any given moment without warning.

    Myself, I use three criteria when I'm deciding if I want to play with a band (audition criteria, if you will):

    1. The gig pays well (potential to pay well doesn't count).
    2. The gig is technically challenging and/or musically interesting.
    3. The other band members are good people who treat me with respect and are as fun to be around as old friends.

    All three criteria = Too good to be true.
    Two criteria = :) :bassist:
    One criteria = Satisfying only in the short term.
    None = Why are you wasting your time?
     
  5. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Good post Thrash
     
  6. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Do the math:

    15% of gross with $200 cap means when the gross hits $1333 you reach the cap. Below that you make less:

    Gross 15%
    $200 $30
    $500 $75
    $800 $120
    $1000 $150
    $1333 $200 (capped)
    $1500 $200
    $2000 $200
    $3000 $200

    10% no cap you only start making out better when gross tops $2000:

    Gross 10%
    $200 $20
    $500 $50
    $800 $80
    $1000 $100
    $1500 $150
    $2000 $200
    $3000 $300

    So what's the chance that they'll be making more than $2000 at EVERY show in the next year? How about even MOST of the shows? If it's low, the 15% with cap maximizes your take. In fact, in the window between $1333 and $2000 gross while your take doesn't go up at all, it's still better than the 10%.

    As far as stipulations: if you have to sign a contract you need to look at the back-out clauses. How much notice to terminate you, how much notice if you want to quit. Anything about exclusivity (i.e. can you be required to not gig or record with others without permission, etc.). How often do you get paid (after every gig, weekly, monthly?), will they be doing witholding for the IRS/Social Security. Any allowances for gear maintenance (i.e. who pays if your amp blows up)?

    Even if it's a handshake deal you want to at least ask the same questions, but the answers have less weight in that case.
     
  7. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Thanks - that's an excellent observation that I had not actually calculated. I've been pretty set on the 15% option from the start, simply because it makes sense to me that the evolution to higher paying gigs will likely roughly correspond with their need to replace me, anyway.

    I'd actually prefer that everything be handled as informally as possible, but it is good to know what sort of paperwork issues might present themselves. As far as I can see, the worst screwing I can take is to be fired with no notice, in which case I'm only out for the amount I spent at the vintage clothing store to buy some shirts to fit the style. That's the beauty of being a weekend warrior, I suppose -- heck, as for the money, I try to hand over as much gig money as I can to my wife, anyway -- gives her something tangible in return for the support she give me.

    Thanks, Brian!

    :)
     
  8. Kid Charlemagne

    Kid Charlemagne

    May 29, 2002
    Europe
    I agree with Thrash,

    I usually think of a potential gig in terms of the three F's;
    Fun, Fame and Fortune.
    If the gig has the potential of all three F's, I obviously go for it, if there is two, I most likely consider it, if there's only one F in the gig, I take it only if it doesn't come in the way of any other gigs (with more F's to them!)

    Oh, and with "fame", I don't mean becoming a celebrety, I mean good exponation that may give me the opportunity to land other good gigs. :)