As you sit in your home studio wondering where your career is going, you suddenly receive a call from an unknown number. The person on the other end identifies himself as an event coordinator and invites you as a judge and performer. You negotiate your fee with him and he says he will update you henceforth. You keep down the phone and fist pump the air, glad that work has finally landed your way, at the right time.
But often this doesn't end well. Every single artist we asked, said that on an average they have been scammed at least twice by organisers who didn't pay their rightful fee on time.
Let's be real - Independent artists are a passionate bunch who make sacrifices to pursue their art. They struggle to get adequate and dependable work, spend more than they earn, are always at the risk of getting scammed and have to brave societal pressure to not quit. On top of that, skipping social life for training. Hell of a life!
The least it deserves is respect.
The team at Kollab Lifestyle, are independent artists tired of bullshit meted to us by unethical organisers. We could have cried foul on social media but we decided to educate ourselves and strengthen our position. If you are one of us, read on. We have put up 7 steps that will help you be more professional in your dealings -
I know you are excited to get your next gig. But take the first call as a formality.
The organiser wants to know if you are interested and there is a way you can show your interest without committing to anything. So if the organiser insists, "Shall I confirm you for our event?", consider replying with something on the lines of -
"Please call me tomorrow at 11 AM and let's take it forward."
"I'm actually at an event/class/meeting, so would you mind calling me tomorrow at 5 in the evening?"
OR, if you are semi-pro or a group,
"My/Our manager will contact you tomorrow."
I personally know artists who work in the entertainment industry and are verified on Facebook with millions of followers. They have pulled the manager card even when they had a small team and no manager. This is the same way call centres talk to clients - They don't use their real names, they use an imaginary agent name. An imaginary manager distances you from the caller and allows you or your band to be professional and play big. Just hand over the phone to a team member.
Ethically speaking, these are all white lies but remember you are asked to commit to something you haven't had too much to think about. Better safe, than sorry.
If they really want you, they will call you again. Don't be desperate or reveal your desperation, if you are.
Note: Make an exception for a gig of a lifetime.
Know and research about the person/college/organisation you are dealing with.
Person: If it is a person, ask him/her first who referred you or if it is on Facebook or Instagram, try to use your network to find more about the person, their prior dealings and so on.
College: If it is a college, find out about the college fest you are asked to perform/judge at. Use your private network to find information about - footfall, reputation, budget etc. This will help you determine the fee you should be charging.
Organisation: For corporate gigs, theatre, annual shows, music festivals etc. inquire about the rates other artists in your field have charged and the kind of professionalism to expect.
Note: This is to ensure you never undercharge your worth or overcharge and lose a deal.
So now that you are prepared to negotiate, you would want to know the following -
All Very Important. You don't want to be made to work more for the same fees.
Note: Consider this is a negotiation. The following step is how you confirm it.
Often it so happens that a person not in authority invites you to an event and you book your dates but they cancel at the last minute because you know - The person was not in authority to do that or he was plain unprofessional.
To avoid this - Ask the person/college/organisation to send an "Official Invite" to your e-mail.
How would you verify it as Official?
While verified e-mails are legally permissible, you may want to put everything in writing in the form of a legal agreement. It will only strengthen your deal and this is how professional work is done. Have you noticed how they make you sign a document at reality show auditions? That is an agreement you are signing with the channel. This is similar. It may not seem necessary, but it will protect your interests in case of a dispute.
We are providing you two sample agreements that you may want to use -
Note: These are "Sample Agreements". You may use them as they are, or modify them to suit the requirements of your deals. Ensure the signature of the other party on all pages. Kollab Lifestyle takes no responsibility for the legal implications of the usage of these sample agreements.
Remember how you were excited about a gig, travelled all the way and then it got cancelled on the day of the event. Luckily you got reimbursed for your travel expenses but what about the other gig you gave up to be on this?
The best practice to avoid such a situation is to have it mentioned in the agreement and collect half of the fees + travel expenses upon arrival. Even if the event doesn't happen, you avoid frustration and monetary loss.
Note: A lot of negotiation is done in the artist scene solely on goodwill.
So far, the above points seem to reflect the artist point of view while ignoring the organisers. But the success of a professional deal is when both sides win.
If the deal has progressed to the day of the event, ALWAYS deliver your 120%. Give the event that extra bit that makes them call you again. If the audience asks for "One more time", consider giving them that. There is an absence of an emcee? Consider picking up the mic and deliver. As long as it is not a lot of additional work that makes you reconsider your fee, do it. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot rides on goodwill in the independent artist scene. Organisers, help artists win and artists will help you and your event win.
I remember a quote by Marlon "Marley" Lizama, dancer and poet from Havikoro crew from Texas USA -
Events do not make artists, artists make events.
On that note, we hope this can help you avoid unpleasant dealings and be always ready to Kollab!
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