Chapter 15: Working with musicians
Building healthy relationships with the artists performing at your venue will not only increase your chances of hosting great entertainment, it will help ensure that Victoria has a vibrant live music industry and creative economy for many years to come. Without musicians there is no live music industry! Venues have a duty of care to remunerate artists fairly for their work (taking into account the overheads musicians bear) and to treat musicians responsibly and ethically at all times. MusicNT recommends adopting the below strategies in order to become the best venue possible for musicians, audiences and staff alike and create an environment that bands will want to return to time and time again.
Hire / Nominate a Band Booker
Venue owners/managers should nominate a band liaison officer to act as the point of contact for bands, choose/book/program bands, welcome them through the venue and respond to their requirements during the show. Making a member of staff responsible for these duties will ensure that musicians performing at your venue are aware of your expectations and any issues before or during the show can be resolved quickly and effectively.
A great booker/programmer has great taste in music, appreciation and knowledge of the music genres that the venue intends to book, great communication skills, attention to detail, basic knowledge of sound and tech requirements, great customer service skills and attention to detail and an understanding of the needs of a performing musician. The booker/programmer should liaise with other venue staff regularly and brief them on the entertainment program, payment processes and show details so that all staff are adequately prepared for the show.
Communication is Key
Clear confirmation with the artists/band managers/agents prior to the show is crucial to ensure all parties are on the same page regarding show details, payment and expectations. It is important to understand and respect the role of the manager and agent, and if an artist has a manager or agent, the initial approach and negotiation should be done via this person.
Industry standard is to email performance contract agreements and worksheets to artists that underline all duties and responsibilities of both parties upon confirming the date of the show. Bookers should email or call all artists/artist managers/agents in the lead up to the show to ensure they are across all details and to avoid any confusion on the night, especially issues such as production and payment.
Know Who You Are Dealing With
It should be clear to everyone involved who the contracting parties are, and who is authorised to
represent and negotiate on behalf of the venue and band. The full (legal) names of the parties should be clear on the performance/booking agreement and worksheet – see below.
Create Contracts and Worksheets
Standard industry practice when booking musicians to perform at a venue is to send the artists a legally binding performance agreement that outlines all relevant details around the performance, including performance fee, date and time of the show, set/performance duration, breaks and other terms and conditions. Typically, this agreement is sent to artists upon confirmation of the booking (approximately 4 or so weeks ahead of the performance, sometimes more).
Any expectations around what the artists will provide as part of their performance service in terms of promotion, equipment hire, ticketing etc. should be included, and both parties should sign it to acknowledge their understanding and agreement. The performance agreement should be as clear as possible and contact details of management/the party responsible for payment should be articulated. If the venue wishes to
ask for exclusivity from the artist, this should be clear and negotiated in advance on a case-by-case basis, and should only be included if it is beneficial to both parties. Factors such as kilometre radius, dates in between shows,
and ticketed vs guarantee performances can be discussed in relation to exclusivity with reasonable consideration provided for working musicians. Set lengths and start times are negotiable and can vary depending on fee, geographical location and the number of acts on the bill. Corporate and special events (e.g. weddings) may attract a higher fee and longer and/or multiple sets. Refer to MEAA for guidance on industry award rates. Closer to the show date, industry practice is to send
the artists a worksheet which outlines details of the performance around production, sound check, set times and rider (this is a separate document to the performance contract and is not legally binding).
Be aware that musicians have rights and many newcomers to the industry may need to seek advice on topics such as performance agreements, copyright law, tax and insurance. Support acts should also be sent performance
agreements and worksheets – whoever books the supports (either the venue or the headline artist) should communicate the relevant information to the act prior to the show.
When negotiating performance agreements with
musicians to perform at your venue, provide them with the Live Show Checklist and Resources for Musicians (Appendix of these guidelines).
Negotiating the deal
Musicians should be fairly remunerated for their
performances. Factors such as size of the band and profile of the band can be taken into account when negotiating fees for artists. The payment method should be detailed in the
performance agreement when booking the show. The three most common forms of payment are:
1. A guarantee:
The venue/client agrees to pay an agreed fee for the show in advance. This is the most common form of payment for festival shows, corporate events, weddings and venue shows that are free for the public to attend (e.g. pub shows, RSL clubs, café performances). E.g. Venue offers
a guarantee of $400 incl. GST for performance by <insert artist> on <insert date> between <insert times>. Venue agrees to provide production, FOH operator and rider as per worksheet details. MusicNT recommends referring to the MEAA payment guidelines.
2. A door deal:
The venue pays the artist a percentage of ticket sales for the show (pre-sale and on the door sales). Venue offers a door deal for performance by <insert artist> on <insert date> between <insert times>. Artist will receive proceeds of ticket sales as outlined:
- $17.50 incl. GST of $20 incl. GST pre-sale GA ticket price
- $17.50 incl. GST of $25 incl. GST pre-sale reserved seat ticket price
- $22.50 incl. GST of $25 incl. GST walk up GA ticket price
Venue will supply production, FOH operator and rider as specified in worksheet details.
3. A versus deal:
The venue pays a guaranteed fee to the artist plus a percentage of the door takings once a certain amount has been reached. Artist will received a guarantee of $2000 incl. GST for performance by <insert artist> on <insert date> between <insert times>. Artist will receive proceeds of ticket sales after gross ticket sales reach $3500 incl. GST as outlined:
- $17.50 of $20 pre-sale GA ticket price
- $17.50 of $25 pre-sale reserved seat ticket price
- $22.50 of $25 walk up GA ticket price
Venue will supply production, FOH operator and rider as specified in worksheet details.
Invoicing / Payment, Superannuation and Taxation
Standard industry practice is that musicians or their representative (artist manager or booking agent) will invoice the venue for the performance fee as per the terms and conditions of the performance agreement.
The invoice will include the artists (or artist’s
representative) Australian Business Number (ABN) or the artists will submit a hobby form. Some artists may charge GST. The performance contract should state the due date
for payment. If performances are paid for on the night in cash, a receipt or reconciliation sheet should be provided which is ideally signed by both parties acknowledging what was paid.
Musicians invoicing for shows are responsible for their own income tax, however artists may be entitled to superannuation contribution from the venue, for more information please refer to the ATO.
In the case of ticketed shows, the performance agreement needs to specify which party is responsible for managing the ticket sales. If the venue is managing the ticket sales, the venue manager should train/brief staff on the best way
to manage the door and guest list on live music nights.
Accurate record keeping is important for both parties to reconcile fees post event as per the terms and conditions of the performance agreement. The performance agreement needs to clearly state the process around the event ticketing and should clearly state which party supplies the door operator and any relevant equipment (e.g. Clicker to count numbers, till/ POS equipment, rubber stamp or wristbands, and online ticketing pre- booking service). This role is particularly important in smaller venues, where running the door is often combined with operating the merchandise desk and liaising with the band. See chapters Five and Six of these guidelines for information on complying with your liquor licence and your obligations in relation to venue security.
Publicising the Event
Venues need to negotiate clear and reasonable expectations regarding publicity of events. Musicians are generally not professional marketing or public relations specialists. Whilst it is reasonable to expect some basic promotion of the event by musicians (such as social media posting and fan newsletters) it is unreasonable to expect artists to operate as publicists for venues. MusicNT recommends hiring a Music PR specialist to promote shows within your venue. Community radio and street press provide excellent campaigns for advertising and can assist with promoting gigs.
Ethical Treatment of Musicians
Musicians must be treated ethically at fairly at all times. They reserve the right to work in venues that adhere to the laws surrounding sexism, homophobia, violence and harassment. Venues have a duty of care to treat artists fairly in all circumstances. Musicians who are treated fairly and equitably are more likely to play better, speak highly of your venue and return for future performances to build on their audience (therefore a venues bottom line). Please consider incorporating the following points into your venue’s routine to create a safe, happy and supportive environment for musicians.
Set aside a quiet and secure backstage area for performers to relax and prepare for the show (e.g. tune instruments, get dressed and prepare a set list). This will help ensure that the night’s entertainment runs smoothly, particularly if there are multiple acts on the bill.
Generally musicians supply their own instruments and costumes, and venues are responsible for PA equipment and supplying a sound engineer. MusicNT recommends where possible however to supply and maintain high quality backline for artists (drum kit/amps). Refer to our resources for a sample backline list.
Rider / Hospitality / Accommodation
It is industry standard practice and usually expected by musicians that refreshments will be provided to the artists during or before performances at the cost of the venue. This may include meals, snacks and drinks (non-alcoholic
and alcoholic), and is to be negotiated in advance to the performance.
Some artists will stipulate accommodation, travel, catering and dietary requirements as part of their contract negotiation and should be discussed upon booking. Water should always be available to musicians backstage and on the stage. Please note that riders are often cover-all documents that are issued to anyone from small bars to tiny festivals. The artist doesn’t always expect the venue to provide every item listed on their rider document, but it’s important for the venue to make it clear what they will be providing, as part of the negotiation.
Guest List / Comps
Industry standard practice is for musicians to have a number of guest passes/tickets to ticketed shows. A good rule of thumb is to provide one complimentary guest pass
per band member e.g. a four-piece band receives four guests/ complimentary tickets.
Managers, agents, technical crew are considered part of the performance party and do not require tickets, however are not usually given their own comps.
Performance durations are negotiable however industry standards are for artists to play maximum of 45 minutes before taking a break. Typical performance duration for musicians is 45 minutes for a two set show, and 70 minutes for a one set show. Musicians should not perform for more than 70 minutes without a break.
Musical equipment is expensive and essential to musician’s livelihood and art. A secure and safe place to put instruments and personal possessions should be provided by the venue. This area should be a staff only area. MusicNT recommends musicians take out equipment insurance but also advises venues to provide optimal security conditions for artists.
Musician Safety and Security
As per Chapter 7, MusicNT recommend venues utilise the Best Practice Guidelines for sexual harassment policies taking audiences, staff and musicians into consideration. Musicians should feel safe in venues at all times and should be able to raise any issues or complaints with management if they experience assault, harassment or abuse within the venue.
Where possible, station security discreetly near the front of the stage (in no way blocking the view of the stage), to ensure no crowd/performer issues occur during a performance.
Other recommendations for ensuring musician safety and smooth load in/load out: Assign nearby parking spots to musicians (if possible) and/or have security usher musicians to their car for events that finish after dark.
Music Industry Terms Glossary
A person or group of people who work on behalf of an artist to book live performances for the act. The booking agent will liaise with the venue booker and negotiate contracts and all agreements between the artist and the venue.
The audio amplification equipment for bands onstage such as guitar amps, bass rigs and drum kits. A venue booker will supply the artist with the backline list supplied by the venue so that acts are aware of what is available to them. The artist must supply the venue with the list of backline required in advance of the performance.
The booker works for the venue and liaises with the act/ band or booking agent to organise and negotiate details of the gig. The venue booker will send information to the artists.
The Manager represents and works with the artist with the acts best interests in all business. They will determine, plan, negotiate deals and manage all activities and business for the artist/band. A Manager will liaise with the booking agent of the band or booker of the venue if the band does not have a booking agent in regard to details and agreements of the performance.
A rider is a technical specifications list and/or list of hospitality requests which are not strictly part of the artist’s payment and are often in addition to payment. Riders are negotiated between artist/booking agent and venue as part of the booking agreement.
A band or artist who represents themselves with all business of the band/act. They will determine, plan, and manage the acts activities and all business in relation to the act/ band including booking gigs and negotiating with the venue booker. A Self-Managed act may still have a booking agent who will then control business in relation to live performances.
See the Live Music Checklist and Resources for Musicians in the Appendix for useful information that you can provide musicians performing at your venue.
Live Music Office has a number of artist contract templates available for download.
Access them here - https://livemusicoffice.com.au/
Documents a venue should issue:
- Booking /live performance agreement
- Hospitality rider
- High quality backline
- Playing times
Documents a venue may receive from artist or booking agent:
- Stage plot & Input list
- Tech rider (what they expect the venue to provide)
- Hospitality rider (what they expect the venue to provide)