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Dear friends,

I have been playing only for about ten years now, and mainly as a hobby. In fact, I played exclusively for friends at wedding receptions, church banquets, and extravagant birthday parties, but only for friends, believe it or not. I have used these opportunities to build my repertoire, find out what equipment I needed, and work off stage fright, until I got good enough, and had a big enough repertoire, to start charging money.

Now that I am approaching that stage, I need some advice. Assuming the old-fashioned way of acquring customers by word of mouth and advertising, as opposed to online booking services, and assuming a situation of sitting down and signing a written contract, for the sake of simplicity:

1. What exactly is the process that you go through with a new customer, regarding anything said that does not specifically appear in the contract, from the initial conversation to the end of the gig and final payment?

2. What exactly does your contract say? Can you please block out any sensitive information, and upload a sample of your own typical contract, or else direct me online to a perfect sample somewhere?

3. How soon must he pay the deposit?

4. Do you give a written receipt for his deposit? Can you upload a sample of what it says?

5. When exactly does he pay the balance due? On the day of the gig? Do you give him a written receipt on the day that you finish the gig, after he pays the balance? What does that one look like?

6. What are the typical terms for when the saxophonist himself cancels, just two weeks before the event contracted six months earlier?

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As for my first question above, below I will write out my guess, as to what is involved, but please be so kind as to add what is missing, and to correct any misunderstandings, if you would. Then, feel free to let me know how things have changed over the years, if you like, to the extent that certain parts are no longer practiced, now done online, etc. Meanwhile, as for the old-fashioned way, I'll use a hypothetical contract arranged on January 2nd, for a wedding reception to take place on June 30th from 7:00 to 10:00 pm.

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JAN 2ND

Customer calls by telephone? Asks if you are available for a certain date, six months from now, how much you charge, what kind of music you play, whether you have a sample gig that he can attend to hear how you sound, or receive a demo CD, etc.

You answer his questions, tell him about the deposit, when it must be received, how much of a balance will be due, when it should be paid, what happens if he cancels after paying the deposit, etc.

Host accepts the agreement. Both arrange to meet on January 8th to sign a contract.

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JAN 8TH

You both meet at a coffee shop.

You show the host the contract, in which you basically agree to charge him $100 per hour, plus $75 fee for taking your own audio equipment, for a total of $375.

He skims over it calmly and asks a few questions to clarify.

He asks about hypothetical situations, like what if the party goes on for an additional hour, and folks are having a good time, but the contract says nothing about overtime pay nor even of the possibility.

You agree to play overtime till 1:00 am maximum, for $150 per hour additional.

He says, "What about if we end up using you for just another hour and a half? Are you going to charge us $300 for those two hours?"

You say, "Well, good point. I would say then, $75 per half hour, regardless, or for any portion thereof. In other words, anything between one minute overtime and 30 minutes, you pay $75, just the same. Anything between 30 minutes and 60 minutes overtime, you pay $150 regardless."

He says, "I can do that."

You write that clause manually into the blank space on the contract: "Customer agrees to pay $75 per half hour or any portion thereof, beyond the time stipulated in this contract, for any overtime play requested on the day of the event, for a total of up to three hours overtime."

You both initial the amendment to the contract. In fact, you write it in manually on two copies of the same contract, and you both initial both amendments, so that you will both have a copy, in the end.

Then he asks what happens if you, yourself, suddenly cancel, two weeks before the wedding reception.

You tell the host that you will then refund his deposit.

"Is that all?" he asks. "So, then, if I cancel out on you, I lose my whole deposit. On the other hand, if you cancel out on me, I get back what I paid anyway, but I also end up with only two weeks left to find another musician. Fat chance of that."

"No," you answer. "I have it here in the contract, the part that says that, beyond refunding you your money, I will also give you 50% of my own money, as an apology for the unexpected cancelation, if that happens. So, you get your $150 back, plus another $150 check from me. In fact, I have a network of other musicians just like me, and I can get one of them to play for you on short notice."

"What if he charges more than you?" the host asks.

"I would like to say that I would pay the difference, but there are too many factors involved, so I will just say that, worst case, I will just try to find you somebody that charges what I charge, or close to it, but you will still have to meet with him and sign the contract with him personally. The good part is that I will have arranged for him to agree beforehand, since it would be my fault for the sudden change. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that somebody just as good as I, will still be ready to play at your wedding reception, regardless."

"Is that guaranteed in the contract, too?"

"Well, no, but I guess it ought to be...someday."

"O.K. I'll just trust you on that one."

You both sign the contract.

The host then pays you the depost of 50% of the total expected (i.d., $150) by personal check, having agreed to pay the balance at the end of the wedding reception, just before you pack up and go home, and not one day later.

You give him a written receipt for his deposit.

You both get a copy of the contract and go home.

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MAY 1ST

You never talk to the guy again for about five months. Then he calls you, just to make sure that you are still alive, and remind you that the event is one month away.

You assure him that all is well, and that you have been preparing.

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JUNE 29TH

Customer is nervous, calls again, just to make sure that all is well. He pretends that he just wanted to assure you that the building will be open by 4:00.

You assure him that you will arrive early, more like 5:30 pm.

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JUNE 30TH

5:30 pm, you arrive to set up your audio equipment, test everything, and start playing.

Host approaches at 6:00 pm, to say hello, and give you an updated copy of the program agenda. He tells you that the violinist that was going to play a special Hungarian number a capella, during the toast, got sick and will not be present. He wants you to play the same song instead, on a different stage temporarily, and you suggest that he allow you to play a romantic ballad that you have in your collection, instead, under the circumstances, and he accepts.

9:30 pm, the host approaches and asks you to keep playing beyond 10:00, indefinitely until further notice, and you concede.

10:20 pm, the bride and groom leave, and the host tells you that you won't be needed anymore.

The host pays you the $150 balance by check and the $75 overtime in cash.

Do you give him another receipt?

You tell him that you are having a good time, yourself, and that a pretty lady in the audience keeps asking you to play some of her own requests. You ask if he wouldn't mind letting you continue playing, free of charge, for another half hour or so, and he accepts.

11:00 pm You stop playing, and start packing. You find out that the pretty lady was drunk, and that she is married to the bride's own brother. At least you had a good time trying.

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Consult an entertainment lawyer. Are you in Venezuela, as indicated by your user bio? If so, consult a lawyer in that country. Contract law varies. You are starting a small business -- don't expect to get reliable advice from an Internet forum about an incredibly detailed set of legal scenarios.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you, LostConn. I've just moved back recently from Venezuela to Atlanta, but I had not updated my bio yet.
 
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