|How to $tiff-Proof Local Gigs
by Kenny Love - November 2000
Back to The Academy
"$tiffing" is a term (not limited to the music industry), generally, meaning not getting monetarily compensated
for a product sold, job performed, or service provided...all of which have occurred in
advance. However, for the sake of this article, it indeed addresses the music industry.
Recently, I was surprised to learn that in today's commercial music industry, and despite endless and untold historical
sad-sob stories regarding artists not being paid, especially at the club venue level, many musicians are still
In almost every case, it is because the musicians have either opted to receive their payment *after* the performance,
are operating without a pre-defined agreement or contract, or both. So, why do these ill-fated acts continue?
One reason is that there often exists quite a bit of competition by other bands for club dates within the local
market. And, with the life span of clubs, generally, being from 6-12 months at best, bands are willing to make
this, seemingly, small sacrifice in the hopes of getting in the door to build their name. But, following is some
information you may wish to consider in the interest of protecting your financial livelihood.
In order to present a truly professional business image, and as much as it may make you nervous to attempt, begin
presenting an agreement or contract and asking for, at least, a portion of your
funds as a deposit upfront from venues.
And, yes, this means letting the old 'door percentage' take a flying leap. To continue on the age-old path of exclusively
percentages, says a couple of negative things about you and your career.
1. You don't have enough pride or faith in your talent as an artist.
2. You are desperate for work, and are willing to take unnecessary chances.
Now, what happens if/when only 5-10 people show up at your gigs? If you have been performing for any length of
time, say, at least a year or longer, I'm not going to even ask "If," but will simply ask "How"
you feel when it happens?
For if you have, indeed, been performing this length of time, it is almost inevitable that you have performed at
some disappointingly low-number venues, much to your surprise.
Here are a number of reasons why you should begin eliminating becoming the 'sacrificial lamb' immediately.
1. If after hearing your music, the club manager, booker, or owner expresses positive interest in having you or
your band perform, that should instantly convey to you that there is already a desire
for your music.
2. By presenting an agreement/contract, you will further present a professional business image, and not that of
simply being a musician.
3. You will present that you have pride in and care about your career.
4. Getting a deposit upfront also commits the club to a financial investment which, in turn, gives it something
5. Having something to lo$e, means the club is going to try, at all co$ts, to keep that from happening through
promotion of your appearance using flyers, media press calendar notices, radio ads, posters, press ads, etc.
6. By having a deposit you, at least, cover your basic expenses of time, set-up, loading, unloading, etc.
7. The club is also less likely to $tiff you for the balance, since it will be 1/2 less to cover at the end of
Now, here is yet another tip for you to cover *yourself* ...both financially and legally.
In performance agreements, there is usually a clause that protects the artist from having to make appearances under
certain extreme conditions such as sickness, acts of God, etc. This also works both
As such, just because you may be successful in obtaining upfront deposits from venues, *doesn't* mean that you
can spend, or have the right to, that particular part of the money *before* your performance.
For normally, if you cannot make the appearance, you are obligated to return the money to the venue. The only exception
would be if the club decides to postpone or cancel your appearance after it has
been agreed to in writing, of which language regarding such should also be incorporated within your agreement.
Otherwise, you should place the deposit in "escrow" (in an interest-earning savings account) until all
parties are satisfied with the performance event.
Another goal to try for, is to attempt to collect the balance of payment owed you immediately upon arrival at your
performance location, as opposed to collecting *after* the gig.
Now, this may or may not work, depending on the venue and situation, their point sometimes being that they wish
to have the job done prior to payment. But, in your favor, try for it anyway during your negotiation, as it doesn't
hurt to ask. If it is agreed to do so, just make sure this it is placed within the agreement.
Point of Note:
If a venue, especially a club, attempts to present the argument that no other bands work this way by asking for
the balance upon arrival, "nicely" cite the comparison by asking them to consider that when a
customer orders a drink from the bar, the money is collected prior to the customer consuming it, unless there is
a bar tab being run (which they only do for their most trusted and long-time customers). They will, likely, see
Now, once the haggling is finally over, place all of these points within an agreement or contract, along with dates,
times, locations, club name, and $ amounts, and with the specified times of when payment(s) is/are to occur. The
club and you should then both sign it, with you providing a copy of the agreement to the venue.
Then, if you are still $tiffed for the balance, you not only now have a legal edge, but also more of a financial
edge, as you can now take the matter to Small Claims court and, in most cases, collect up to
3 times the amount of damages.
Now, see? You can have the best of both worlds. :-) These extra precautions are sound ways to $tiff-proof the live
performance aspect of your music career, starting with your very next gig.
Kenny Love has worked within several aspects of the commercial
music industry, including national recording artist, producer, promoter, publicist, and booking agent. He also
publishes the "B#
Newsletter," a monthly Email newsletter for independent
musicians, and is Co-Owner and Director or Marketing for "1st Light Records," a Houston-based Urban/R&B
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