The Summerglen Files

Music, Creativity, and Everyday Life at Summerglen Music in Raleigh, NC

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Ironclad Contracts and the Red Velvet Rope

September 24th, 2008 · No Comments

Red Velvet Rope

Yesterday evening, one of the ensembles I perform with lost a gig–because the gig was booked by a scammer! A couple months back, another group lost a show because they relied on a verbal agreement (and no deposit) to book the gig. Both the scammer and the verbal agreement person backed out at the last minute with no consequences whatsoever, and we musicians had no way of collecting the income we were anticipating.

On the other hand, Andrew and I had a student last year who would take a lesson, “forget” his checkbook, and not show up again for several weeks. But he didn’t run off with free lessons–he ended up paying our fee and then some! The difference? A contract.

Unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there, and there are those who think it’s OK to try to get something for nothing. As a younger musician, I thought people would think I was “mean” if I required a contract for my services. But after getting burned several times, I realized that it’s better make sure you get paid than to have a con man think you’re “nice”.

In his excellent book Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port advocates having a “Red Velvet Rope Policy” for your business–meaning, if you’re not the very best type of client, we don’t need to let you in. Willingness to sign a contract is one of the top items in my Red Velvet Rope Policy. When a client signs a contract, it not only shows me they’re serious, but it also protects me if it turns out they’re not.

Having a Red Velvet Rope Policy can be tricky without faith; after all, some people won’t make it past the rope. They might promise lots of money or more gigs in the future, but if they refuse to put down a deposit, or won’t sign the contract, or give you more excuses than details, it’s usually best to politely send them elsewhere. You’ll survive without the gig, and you can save your energy for those clients who treat you well and are fun to work with.

So, if you’re a musician without a contract, go to the library and learn more about written agreements. Take a lawyer friend to lunch and talk contracts for your band. Do something nice for yourself, and step behind the red velvet rope.

Tags: music business

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