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Playing live is awesome right? Being on the road with your own band, playing your own songs, making the stage a place for your own creativity and getting new followers – a dream for many artists. Sure, at the moment live stream concerts are the only possibility to be live, but that too will change again. We'll get going again with plenty of motivation at the ready. But how? Are verbal agreements with organisers sufficient or are certain things better regulated with guest performance contracts? And if so - which ones? You'll find the answers in this article.
You are a band, you are a singer-songwriter, a rapper or a DJ. You know the incredible feeling on stage. Or you are just getting started as a band and you haven't played your first gigs yet. In both cases, you are definitely all about one thing: Your music. The passion you want to bring to life with live performances. So why not simply use all the contacts from the scene, start talking to organisers quickly and make verbal agreements? Don't bother too much with formalities, just do it – it will work out somehow. OK. And what if it doesn't? What happens if your concert suddenly has to be cancelled because there are problems within the band or with the organiser? Or if hardly any people show up because not enough publicity was made? In other words: If something about the concert organisation doesn't go as planned?
With a signed guest performance contract, you create a framework for yourself – and for the organisers as well.
With a guest performance contract (also called an artist, concert or booking contract), you enter into agreements with event organisers. This is a good and important thing, also for musicians who are not yet able to command major fees or expect overnight accommodation in hotels. It is best to put the guest performance contract in writing. But that doesn't always work out in time with small venues. Written contracts are best, but in a pinch you can also record telephone conversations with organisers and have them sign them. It is important that you have something you can use to prove things in case of disputes. Unfortunately, you won't get far with verbal agreements; in case of doubt, it's your word against theirs.
That's quite clear: Organisers and bands – both sides Taking the trouble to go through a contract carefully will give you a better idea of the responsibilities. There is less ambiguity – the contract provides a framework for both parties and thus for the event itself. This can mean more time for the essentials: More time for your music. Guest performance contracts are often dismissed as formalistic and old-fashioned in the underground. That is why it is important that you also make it clear to the organiser that, if there is any doubt, they will benefit from the contract. Be confident and make it clear that you want to work professionally.
Guest performance contracts are not bound by any form. You can specify your needs on an individual basis and designate responsibilities. Here we give you an overview with 10 points that you can use as a guide.
Performance and presentation
Here you can describe your performance. You define how long the performance should be (minimum and maximum playing time) and note any breaks. Sometimes, for the sake of form, a sentence is added here, such as:
"The type and form of the guest performance, the presentation and the artistic design are the sole responsibility of the band. The band will endeavour to meet the requirements of the organiser and the audience present." That way nobody can approach you after the show with claims or refuse the fee because they were simply dissatisfied with the performance.
Setup, sound check and cloakroom Now it gets more specific: With this point you clarify first of all that the organiser has to accommodate your technical requirements. In practice, this means that you provide your „technical rider“ that shows which equipment you will (and must) set up and which connectors you absolutely require. You also set times for set-up and for the sound check. It doesn't have to be a timetable. Just write down that you need a sound check (and not just a line check!).
As for the cloakroom (preferably lockable): Here the guest performance contract should regulate a few things regarding liability. For example, whether the organiser is liable for damage to the equipment caused in the absence of the band and whether they can specify an insurance policy in this respect. You can write them down here.
One of our articles explains how the live scene is currently changing. There we point out that not all clubs can take care of catering etc. because financial resources are tight. In your guest performance contract, determine together with the organiser to what extent the band members will be provided with catering at the venue. Whether there are only drinks or also food and how many people this concerns. Do your mixing engineer or band supporters get free drinks as well?
At this point, at the latest, it gets particularly interesting. As far as compensation is concerned, a distinction is mainly made between two models: "Door deal" orfixed fee. For lesser known artists or bands, it is often difficult to negotiate promising fixed fees. So they have little choice but to settle for the door deal. The breakdown usually goes something like this: 70 % for the band, 30 % for the organiser – although these numbers can of course vary greatly. You can specify here that you will receive a higher percentage, for example, if you distribute flyers, put up posters or do other kinds of promotion beforehand.
We recommend specifying the type of payment (cash or bank transfer) and whether it includes expenses (such as travel expenses).
8. GEMA and permits
GEMA fees apply to concerts – nothing new. Decide who will pay the fees for GEMA and the artists' social insurance, but don't let anyone talk you into anything. It is usually the organiser who registers the concert and also pays the percentage share to the artists' social insurance. Some contracts even have a separate field in which the organiser must enter his KSK registration number.
Without promotion, there is no audience. Since both parties rely on audiences, both should also make an effort to promote the event. Generally, the band provides the organiser with press material, which the organiser then reproduces and distributes. However, it can also be agreed here that a minimum amount of promo is done on social media by one or both parties. Consider this: In a door deal, your payment depends largely on how many audience members you have. A combination is also possible: a small fixed fee as a basis and a door deal on top of that.
10. Impediments to performance
A very important point in a guest performance contract: What happens if the performance cannot take place? Here you stipulate that the organiser cannot make any claims for compensation in the event of illness. You should also mention accidents, car failures or other similar occurrences. In some cases, organisers cancel a concert at very short notice because they have not sold enough tickets in advance. They can do that, of course. However, you should be prepared for this. So set a minimum amount for your fee in advance. That way you have it in black and white.
Of course, there are also things beyond these 10 points that you can cover with a guest performance contract. Your accommodation, recording and photographing during the concert or supplementary agreements in writing. You can negotiate and fix pretty much anything – the contract is an agreement.
It's really annoying to sort out contractual things. We understand that you don't want to spend too much time on this. However, we hope that by providing you with an overview of the situation, we can help to ensure that you do not sell yourselves short, and that you are protected to a certain extent.
Setting up a guest performance contract for the first time is not that difficult.
You can find many examples on the internet. We recommend the sample contract from StageAID, which you can download for free. Of course, it's always worth asking other bands how they do it. A bit of organisation is just part of it. But it is a reassuring feeling when all ambiguities are eliminated. The good thing is: Once you have drawn up a guest performance contract, you can modify it for any other organiser. Have fun with all the live performances that are to come.
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