Beat the Cheats – Self PromoteJune 20, 2016
Beat the Cheat
by Lee Softley
(self gig booking)
Over the years I’ve played many gigs and the majority of I’ve played were overseas. I’ve worked with agents at certain periods when DJing but mainly I’ve handled most of my bookings or gigs myself.
Having a good agent can be a real help and relieve a lot of time and stress when dealing with your bookings, payments and travel arrangements. However, in the modern electronic music world more and more DJs are self-managing their gigs.
I’m not favoring self management over agents’ because if you can get a good agent there can be real benefits, not only freeing up your time, but also, often they can pitch you for gigs you wouldn’t have been able to get yourself.
I’ve had lots of great experiences when managing my gigs as well as some shocking experiences, which leave you shaking your head and wondering what the mentality is.
Having to chase promoters around in dark clubs to be paid or leaving a hotel that’s supposed to be pre paid for you and getting stiffed with the bill just isn’t fun. Changes upon changes at the last minute, flights changed to destinations far from home, left stranded in Europe, equipment stolen and the goal posts constantly moving just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
I often get asked about handling self-bookings, so here are a few pointers that have helped me.
1: Contract agreement / booking form is essential
When you are confirmed for a gig, make sure you send the promoter a booking form / contract agreement that both of you sign. It doesn’t have to be over complicated but should include the fees you have discussed, who is responsible for your accommodation (if required), who is responsible for your travel arrangements i.e. if flights are required or other, include your gig equipment spec / space needed in the booth, if a deposit is to be paid in advance and potential collection / return to airports or train stations.
Try to include as much detail as possible in a sensible way. Regarding payments and deposits, in my eyes if a promoter is serious about booking you for an event they won’t have any issues paying you a none returnable advance deposit from your full fee. This amount should be paid to you some months before the scheduled event or gig and act as confirmation so you can close the date and make it none available for any other bookings. Should the event unfortunately be canceled, then at least you have some small compensation.
Regarding the remainder of your fee, make sure this is paid to you (by your chosen method) on your arrival or pre event “BEFORE YOU PLAY” and not after. You don’t want to be chasing a promoter in the middle of an event and especially if there are financial issues there.
When I’ve been involved in co-organized events I would personally ensure the DJ’s were paid when they arrived before playing. After all, I’ve asked them to spend their own time to prepare, travel and come to play for me. Regardless of what happens in the event financially that was my responsibility and agreement to the DJ’s and the rest lay’s on my shoulders.
If you are being booked for an international event and flights are required specify which airport you prefer to fly from, specify your flight preference if you have one and specify that you need to confirm all flight / travel itinerary before the flight is booked and confirmed! Set a timeline for when all these details have to be confirmed by, i.e. not the last minute and your left wondering what the hell you’re supposed to be doing. Do the same for your accommodation as well.
If possible ask the promoter to confirm your set time and at least your playing hours and include it on the booking form / agreement. If they can’t be specific about your set time then ask them to commit to a time frame / window that you are comfortable with. Unfortunately some promoters will book you if you have a good reputation purely to include your name on advertising without overly being concerned about when you play or having a decent crowd in front of you.
I once spent hours in fact days editing music for a specialist gig only to be told the night before travel that the promoter wanted me to play when the doors opened. I really didn’t understand why they asked me to play in first place if they didn’t actually want people to hear me playing. Had I been firmer with them or asked them to specify this information at the booking stage I could have alleviated this problem and discussion. Rather I had to have a conversation about how I was a pre Madonna and I should do what they requested, they are the promoter, blar further blar and all because I asked why?
On a whole there a lot of good serious promoters out there who are trust worthy and deal with you in professional and friendly manner but you only find out who they are by technically working for them. Be clear and precise from the word go and make you communicate well and exchange numbers before the event.
2: Be organized
Being organized when dealing with travel arrangements, dates and specifics can save you a lot of trouble.
A promoter only has the details that you give them to go by, so make sure those details are correct from the start and alleviate having to go back and forwards with them and taking up unnecessary time. On a couple of occasions was a bit flippant when providing travel dates and the promoter went ahead and booked my flights. Because the event was a few months away Id put travel dates to the back of my mind only to receive a message a few days before asking if I was at the airport.
Luckily I had the time to correct the issue and make the gig but it could have gone horribly wrong and a whole load of expense and trouble for both the promoter and myself.
Make sure you don’t double book gigs either and ensure if you have two events side by side that you can feasibly travel to both whilst allowing enough time for potential travel delays.
3: Be personable
Be friendly and accommodating as possible when dealing with promoters, keep in mind they are booking you for an event which enables you to do something that you love and enjoy doing. Nobody likes to deal with demanding people who make the whole experience difficult and it doesn’t take long to get a reputation for it. Sometimes no matter how good you are they might just think it’s not worth the hassle.
4: Its not a party its your job
I’m not being a hypocrite here but when you are playing at an event consider that technically you are being employed as an entertainer for a certain amount of hours. We all know the temptations available in a club or event environment and myself like many others have made the mistake of indulging in the party when technically you are working.
Nobody will knock you for having a few drinks and relaxing whilst your playing but try stick within your limits and don’t get into a mess. Should anything go wrong with sound or anything else when you are playing, even if its not your fault the focal point becomes on you for being trashed. I’ve learned the hard way on a couple of occasions when I did something I shouldn’t have, it’s been messy and considered disrespectful from my behalf.
Unlike the 90’s it’s becoming frowned upon, the party animal DJ having it out whilst playing, even if you can mange to keep the music good.
If you want to enjoy the party at least make sure you have played and fulfilled your commitments first. If you have friends with you and their out for the occasion unfortunately sometimes you to have to make it clear that you are working. Sometimes I go to gigs on my own to avoid it turning into a night out or party.
5: Stick to what you agreed
Not turning up for gigs when a promoter has booked and advertised unless there is real genuine reason for it just isn’t right. It causes the promoters potential problems with ticket refunds, complaints of false advertising, unnecessary costs and unnecessary stress.
To be honest I have only ever done this once many years ago and I deservedly got the biggest dressing down from my manger at the time, so don’t do it.
I was often told many years back that anything you do in terms of arrangements and commitments that “its not about what’s fair, its all about what you agree to”.