Thursday, 28 November 2013

Performance Agreements

A performance agreement is something a lot of bands have never even heard of.
Most gigs are booked on a handshake, a phone call or an email.

But what happens when it all goes wrong?

What happens if you are booked to play a big gig this weekend, the promoter has spent thousands on advertising, stages and production and at the last minute your singer has an accident and can't sing.

If no performance agreement is in place, the promoter is left out of pocket and you will be left with the worst reputation in the world.

A performance agreement details everything that will and could happen so that in the event something goes wrong (trust me, one day it will), then you are covered and everyone knows what will happen. You will walk away from the situation with an intact reputation as a band who does what they say they are going to do.

Performance Agreements are a legal document that lay out...
  • Who you are
  • Where you are playing
  • What time you will arrive
  • What time you will start playing
  • How long your breaks will be and how many you will take
  • When you will finish
  • When you will pack up
  • How much you will charge
  • How and when you will be paid
  • Any other costs (transport, accommodation, GST)
  • Any other benefits (meals, drinks).
As well as these things, it details softer things like:
  • What happens if the venue cancels the gig
  • What happens if you cancel the gig
  • What happens if the gig has to be cancelled due to weather or safety
  • Who is liable if something gets damaged or stolen
Its all scary stuff, but it happens every day and bands get caught out and end up in a world of pain.
Plenty of bands can tell stories of going up to a bar to get paid at the end of the night only to find the bar wants to doc $100 bucks off their fee because they didn't play for as long as they said they would, or the bass player drank a whole pile of beer.

A good performance agreement avoids all doubt and eliminates uncertainty for all parties.
It makes you look professional and above all else, it will get you loads of gigs and filter out a load of shit gigs. If a venue is not prepared to sign a performance agreement then its not worth playing at that venue (ie they are probably going to screw you).

I spent a lot of time putting together a bulletproof performance agreement for a band I used to play with called Deaf Lemon, this should give you a good starting point for developing your own. This document got us loads of great gigs and saved us on a number of occasions when things went wrong.
Get it here.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Getting the Gigs

Summer is coming and that means its the busiest time of year to be in the music business.

Or is it?

I still get the odd person mention that there aren't enough local performers in the lineup of summer events.
As someone who deals with most of the local concert and event organisers and many from out of town as well, I campaign local performers wherever I can. However, there is still a big gap between what Wairarapa performers offer and what event organisers are being offered from out of town performers.

This has nothing to do with musical ability and talent or even if you are local or not.

Its professional business cards, its promo packs, its media packs, its professional quality DVD demo videos.
Its references from clients and glossy brochures.
Its photos of large audiences having a great time dancing to them.
Its promotional offers, discounts for payment in advance.
Its bands operating as GST registered companies.
Its professional riders, professional equipment and a professional attitude.

Its making it easy for an event organiser to book your band.

If you don't do the things above, it makes it just that little bit harder for you to get booked.
Event organisers want a safe bet.
They want to book a band they know have a lot to lose if they screw up the gig or don't turn up.
They want to book a band that has a vested interest in making the event a success, because their event is their next reference for getting the next big gig.

Reputation counts for a lot and event organisers are an extremely conservative bunch who avoid risk at all costs.

They want to know that the band are going to bring along a big crowd with them and they will have heard of you or even better know your music.

Put yourself in the shoes of an event organiser running an event with a $200,000 budget...
You are running the event as a GST registered business and you get offered two bands.

Band A is a local band, they have done a few gigs and have a good local following. They quote you on the phone 'about' $800 cash to do the gig but will knock $100 off if you shout them beer during the gig. They can get down to your gig after the drummer finishes work about 2 hours before the show.

Band B is from Wellington, they courier you a pack containing a DVD presentation and a glossy brochure.
Inside are references from major outdoor concerts and corporate clients.
They provide you a written quote of $2500 + GST with a 5% prompt payment discount if you pay in advance. They have a written performance agreement that details what they will do and provide, when they will turn up and what rights you have in various scenarios (perhaps if the bass player get sick and can't play).

Who do you book?
You don't even hesitate booking band B.
Band A doesn't have a shit show in hell of getting booked for this event.

Its not about cost or talent.
Its all about risk.

Band A are a bit risky while Band B presents very little risk indeed and if you are running a $200k event, you don't want any risk when it comes to entertainment. You would far sooner pony up a bit more cash and sleep easy at night knowing that side of it is under control.

Next week, I'll detail the guts of a professional performance agreement so you can see the sort of thing that needs to be agreed in advance of a gig.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The real music industry

Musicians sometimes like to kid themselves that they are the ones with the product.
Musicians write and record material and sell it to music consumers, right?

Maybe this is how it used to be, but the tables have now turned and Musicians are now the customer.

Globally, Musicians spend in excess of $17 billion dollars per year on musical instruments and equipment.
The music services industry is a multi billion dollar industry on top of this and focuses on selling musicians websites, promotions, recording studio services, equipment rental and a myriad of other services that have sprung up to help musicians 'make it big'.
All up this industry is estimated to be worth in excess of $18 billion annually.

Now the sad part, Globally, music sales and performance rights for music came to a little over $10 billion in 2012. But that's not even the sad part, the musicians themselves only make a fraction of this $10 billion, most of which goes to the record labels and producers.

That means musicians spend well in excess of $35 billion dollars a year in order to make back a tiny percentage of a shrinking pool of $10 billion.

In case you hadn't noticed, you are the customer.

The Spotify story tells it all, there are more than 20 million songs on Spotify but only 6 million paid consumers.
There are more musicians than listeners and we wonder why the music industry is in trouble.

Most musicians have second jobs and work long hard hours to spend on their music.
This makes them an appealing target to sell to because they are passionate about music and willing to spend whatever it takes in order to 'make it'. Musicians are prepared to live on the bones of their arse while shelling out thousands of dollars to major corporates for new guitars and amplifiers, drum kits etc. Don't forget websites like Reverbnation that take millions of dollars off musicians in order to promote them to consumers.

News flash, Reverbnation has 2.5 million paid members who are all musicians trying to get noticed.
Pretty much the only people that visit Reverbnation are other musicians trying to get noticed.
So you pay Reverbnation a fee so you can get noticed by other people on Reverbnation who are also trying to get noticed.

Man, I wish I had have thought of that.

Revebnation is just one example, there are hundreds of others, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Youtube, Ampcast, TheMusicSocial, PromoteIt etc etc etc even Facebook is now vying for your dollar.

My point in all this is, be careful.
Be aware that making it in the music industry is now next to impossible simply because of the volume of other people who are also trying to do the same thing.
Be aware that the music industry is now more about exploiting musicians who are trying to make it than what it is about actually selling your music to consumers.

Add up how much you have spent on music and then add up how much you have made back from CD sales and royalties and you will see what I mean.

You are part of a $35 billion dollar industry that is focused on taking money off musicians in exchange for selling them the chance at the dream. Be careful and don't get sucked in. Most of all have fun and don't take it too seriously and then at least you won't die of depression.