Smaller/Local Bands - Show Contracts?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Obese Chess, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Hello all!

    Just thinking about how to make things go more smoothly in the future as my band starts to book larger shows. We are about 50/50 on shows opening for touring bands going smoothly or going disastrously wrong (never through any fault of the bands, as far as I know).

    One show was up in Seattle, at a large, reputable venue in the city. We loaded up our stuff and drove up to Seattle in weekend traffic, about five hours. The show had been advertised for months as "Doors at 8, show at 9." We were to load in at 6:00. When we arrived at 6:00, we were told that doors had been moved to 6:30 and that we were to start at 6:45. We were never given an explanation, to my knowledge, but we tried to make the best of it, figured maybe the touring bands, merch guys, whatever would like the set. After our set the venue staff was nowhere to be found and we did not get paid. Obviously we will not be playing there again if we can help it.

    We recently had another show opening for larger bands where set times got changed at the last minute - ours got cut almost in half - and then got cut further due to one of the headliners taking almost 4x their allotted load-in time and pushing the schedule back. We at least got paid for this one, but we got rushed on stage with no sound check and then rushed off to get the rest of the show to run on schedule.

    I don't post these things to gripe, and the vast majority of our shows are fun, positive experiences that go fairly smoothly, and to the degree stuff goes wrong, it's almost never the fault of the other musicians. My question is just how to avoid these kinds of snafus at larger venues and with larger promoters. My initial thought is some sort of a contract, but I do not know if that's a "thing" that people do or if it's enforceable.

    Just looking for advice from other folks with more experience than I have.

  2. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Sorry, this may belong in a different section such as Band Management - @Thor or @TBird1958 could I ask one of you nice mods to move it if that is the case?

    EDIT: Thank you! :)
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  3. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    A piece of paper isn't gonna stop an @$$ from being an @$$. If they want/need you, they will treat you well.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
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  5. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Yeah, that's kind of what I was afraid of. I'm still more sore about Seattle in particular than the other guys were, but I was just wondering how binding this kind of stuff is. Which is to say, I guess, not very.

    I suppose it's a testament to how good my local scene is that this kind of thing NEVER happens at locals-only shows that other bands put on. Everyone gets the right set times, everyone gets paid, and everyone has a good time at those.
    buldog5151bass likes this.
  6. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Generally our band only uses contracts when there is a high perceived risk. Local gigs paying a few hundred bucks don't make the cut and the venue likely wouldn't sign the contract any way. But high paying private events with travel involved are a different story.
    saabfender likes this.
  7. mrpackerguy

    mrpackerguy Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Madison, Wisconsin
    I never play a gig without a contract. Gives you a paper trail and sets forth details of the gig. Only smart way to book these days.
  8. An official, signed contract may be unrealistic for opening local spots for a few hundred bucks. The best alternative is to communicate via email so there's a record.

    As for, "After our set the venue staff was nowhere to be found and we did not get paid." What? Did the staff just leave and leave you there? Then drink your weight and call it good. (joking) There's ALWAYS someone there. Just hang out there until you find the one that will pay you. If they say they can't pay you, then you have the email communication to fall back on - pull it up and shove it in that guy's face. "Bob said we get $250, so open the register and pay us." Do not leave until someone pays you or there's a WRITTEN agreement in place for how you will get paid. Do not let someone tell you they will mail you a check or that you have to come back tomorrow and meet with Bob. Tell them to put that in an email while you sit and watch them write it.

    As for your set getting pushed earlier or your set cut due to schedule - them's the breaks for openers when you're opening for a disrespectful and inconsiderate headliner. You agreed to be their support, and it sucks, but sometimes you will be told to move or cut your set. If you get paid the agreed rate, then what's the problem? I can completely understand your frustration, especially if you spent money promoting the show and tried to get your friends there to see you. But, quite frankly, that wasn't your job. Your job - what your band was hired to do - was to support the headliner for $xxx dollars...not to play a 45 minute set for your friends.
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  9. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Promoter vanished. Just took off after the doors opened. We didn't have time to keep f'ing around with it that evening as we all had to go to work in the morning and weren't going to keep hassling bartenders who had nothing to do with it for another few hours. I think it took us two months to finally get the agreed upon amount because we did indeed have an email chain. Still... won't be playing that venue again, just hoping to avoid that kind of thing in the future!

    True enough! A learning experience for sure! I appreciate your insight!
    saabfender likes this.
  10. I know most of the venue (local anyway) owners so have never had anything in writing. That, and the fact that the singer in the band is a lawyer has always precluded any issues that might arise.

  11. The contract would be as enforceable as any other contract. Meaning that if they don’t pay you, you can sue them to get a judgement and then you can try to collect on the judgment. The reality is that for a small-paying gig it’s not going to be worth the effort to sue and collect, so it’s as good as having no contract. Save your contracts for the big-paying gigs where it would be worth your effort to sue and collect.

    Also, it sounds to me like you got screwed by the promoter and not the venue. Be sure you know who your agreement is with and who will be paying you, and if that person screws you don’t do business with them again.
  12. Wissen

    Wissen Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2007
    Central PA
    My band has recently signed a show-me deal for booking with a local guy hoping to start up his own entertainment company. The shows he books for us all come with a signed contract. The last show we booked for ourselves was a 4-figure promise and a $300 guarantee at a venue that was two hours from home. Guess how much we walked out with.

    In our case, the agreement was 100% of the door and the promise was that "Saturday bands usually walk out with over $1000". Our mistake was that we didn't have anyone standing at the door taking a count. So even if we had a contract for that gig, we couldn't have proven our side because we didn't have our own door rep.

    Our booking guy came away with an opportunity for a smug "told you so", but on the bright side the whole thing did create a situation where the guitarist we were planning to fire anyway walked out on his own first. So yeah. It was a fun night. But I promise, things got better!

    What's the point here? Contracts are a good thing, but still not a bulletproof vest.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
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