Music promoters who work with big money deals would never dream of booking a show without a contract. Nor would the artists with whom they work consider playing a show without a contract. But in the indie music world, music promoter contracts are probably the most overlooked kind of contract. Relationships between promoters and bands at this level are often casual, but even if there are not huge sums of cash involved, a contract lets everyone know where they stand. Promoters and bands alike can use these steps to create a fair contract that will help the gig go more smoothly.
Bands and Promoters Are on the Same Side
Before you even get started, make sure you understand the nature of the relationship between band and promoter. The reason the same rules apply to writing contracts for both sides is because you are actually on the same side, especially if you are in the early stages of your career. If a promoter makes money, the band makes money and vice versa. Come to an agreement that gives everyone the tools they need to play their part in making the night a success AND gives everyone the best shot at going home with some money in their pockets!
Cover the Issues
A good music promoter contract will cover the important issues:
- The date of the show
- The venue (name, address, phone number, website)
- The position of the band on the bill (opening act? headliners?)
- The length of the set required (how long should/can the band play?)
- Soundcheck times and lengths
- Will accommodation be provided? If so, will the cost be charged back to the band?*
- Will the band be able to sell merchandise?
- Backline provided
- The rider
- Is the band to provide posters and promo materials?*
- Last but not least, the deal*
The starred points require further explanation - read on for more details
A Bed for the Night?
There are no hard and fast rules about whether or not a promoter should provide accommodation. If you're in a band that regularly pulls a profit at gigs, then you can easily negotiate for accommodation. If you're playing shows to build an audience and the promoter is not likely to break even on the show, accommodation is not required. In cases like these, some very nice promoters may put the band up at their own house, but don't expect it. If a promoter does get the band a hotel room, then it is acceptable to withhold that cost from the band's earnings. A lot of bands would rather crash in the van and keep the cash.
Who Is in Charge of Promo Material?
Music promoters will take on the task of promoting an upcoming gig to their local media (press, radio, websites), but to do this, they need some information from the band. Most promoters will request a few CDs and copies of a band bio so they can make a promo package. Promoters will often ask a band (or their label) to make posters for the promoter to use to advertise the show, though this is arranged on a case by case basis - some promoters prefer to make their own posters. Try to make sure the promoter has what they need to get the word out about the show - if they don't, they can't get people out to see you!
Is This Deal Fair?
A deal can involve either a flat fee or a door split deal. It's true -- a door split deal can leave a band and a promoter out of pocket at the end of the night, but for up and coming bands and promoters, it's a very fair deal. If there is a profit, everyone shares in it, and if there is not, everyone has shared the risk.
Promoters can reclaim their investment in the gig before they pay the band. The venue rental, rider, gear rental, hotels - these things can all be reclaimed from the fee. The contract should clearly state which expenses a promoter can reclaim from the show proceeds.
Promoters - What You Can't Do
Here's the truth - being a promoter is hard work, and when you are just getting started, you may lose money on a lot shows. What you can never do, however, is ask a band to pay you back for your expenses if the show did not make enough money for you earn it all back. That is the risk a promoter takes. There may be the odd special case, such as renting a ton of special equipment, in which you could ask the band to cover the cost, but 99% of the time, if you lose money on a show, you lose money on a show. Keep a close watch on your expenses and the bands you book, and you'll find a formula that works for you.
Bands - What You Must Do
Maintaining good relationships with promoters is absolutely essential. Be realistic about your expectations when you go into a show. If your band is in the building stages, you may play many very small shows which don't earn you any cash, and in fact, may actually cost you money. If that happens to you, make sure it is really the promoter's fault before you burn that bridge. A good promoter can really help you out. Even if a particular show wasn't a sell-out, if you have a good attitude, that promoter will want to work with you again. Be professional, and remember to view every show is a promotional tool for you and your band.
Please note that this information is general in nature - the specifics of your deal may be different. This advice is intended as a guide only and does not take the place of legal advice.