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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Contract negotiations (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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charliecheckers
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It seems to me that the point in Danny’s counter argument regarding negotiations with a theater centers around leverage. In other words, if you are a nobody, then you have little or no leverage to negotiate from. This did not seem to be discussed in the article Walter linked in his post.

I don't necessarily believe one would have to have a big name, but they would have to have some point of leverage if they plan on negotiating.
Dannydoyle
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Yep.

And isn't that true of ANY negotiations?
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Mindipulator
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Hey Tom,

I never had a set rate as each event was different with so many variables.

I would determine my costs and add on that for margin. Margin would vary as well.
Charity events were done at a non-profit rate.

As I had a bar I had the opportunity to make income on drink sales. If the event was geared to a college crowd I knew my take would be good and could lower the clients costs accordingly. One event I remember was targeted to an Islamic market. As I knew there would be zero alcohol sales they paid more up front.

I sometimes would negotiate a guaranteed minimum. If the bar did not reach its target the client would have to make up the difference.

Many events were in house bookings where the performer would get the door and I would get the bar. I would cover the costs in these situations.

When approached to hold an event I only considered what was in it for me. Some events required a minimum staff. Lighting tech, audio tech and basic security plus serving crew.
If more security was required this would sometimes come out of the door. When bands required loaders this too would be negotiated. The more well known the performer the more costs I was willing to incur. Locals would have to prove to me their ability to draw a crowd.

If approached to hold an event on a dark night I could be far more flexible. My staff appreciated the extra income and it would give a smaller draw a chance to perform in a professional setting. My lounge was often used in this way. Typically quieter nights also would get a better deal for the artist. If you wanted to book a Friday or Saturday night you would either have to have a reputation that sells well or be willing to give me a very good guarantee.

It was always amusing to be approached by a small local artist to be presented with not only a technical rider (appreciated by my techs,) but occasionally a hospitality rider. Some don’t get it. It was always easier dealing with bigger names as they understand how it works.

The best advice I could give a performer is to approach the venue with a “what can I do for you” attitude. What you want to achieve is not important. Determine how you can benefit the venue operator and be considerate of their costs. Yes I may normally be dark that night but staff, particularly good techs do not come cheap. Show respect for the tech crew. They are there to make you sound and look your best and they know the space better than you. Show up on time for checks/rehearsals and be willing to pay for that time. Your reputation always precedes you whether you know it or not. So does a complete lack of reputation. But in my mind no rep was better than a bad rep. I was always willing to work with someone new as long as they acted in a professional manner. I didn’t expect them to know everything but I did expect them to realize that fact.

Venue owners are in business to make a profit. Many have had bad experiences and unfortunately this makes it more difficult for performers. If you behave well and enable the operator to make a profit without their space being destroyed you will be welcomed back, often on better terms than your initial booking. I had a stand up comic come to me to book a dark night. It was a bit pricey for him at first because he could not offer me any idea as to numbers. He drew so well, and his crowd drank so much it became a regular booking with no costs to him other than a guarantee. Sales always met target so we were both happy.

Dale
Dannydoyle
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What an amazing post!
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
lou serrano
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Thanks for sharing your insight, Dale. Excellent information, and the "What can I do for you?'" attitude goes a long way in any relationship.

Lou Serrano
TomBoleware
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Excellent post Dale,

I can see where a smaller venue like that can be more flexible than say a historic theater with 975 seats designed mainly for plays and live events like we have here. No alcohol allowed, and they do not give up the concessions popcorn, candy, cokes, etc to anybody. They do offer tech if needed, but other than that there is not a lot of negotiations to do for people like myself. But now they do get a percentage of ticket sales and I’m sure they love the bigger stars that will sell more tickets at a higher price. And they do have a small discount for more than one night, so I guess there is a little wiggle room after all. Smile

It’s like you said, ask up front and keep a good helpful attitude.

Thanks again for the great post.

Tom
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Keith Raygor
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Thanks for sharing all that, Dale. You covered a lot of ground.
charliecheckers
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Great post Dale. Thanks for giving us so many specific areas of potential opportunity as well as considerations from the other side. It was great to hear how you evaluated particular proposals.

Did you belong to any industry associations? Did you get a sense how your business practices compared to other owners? Did anyone have novel ways of selling tickets? Did you ever work with children entertainers? If so, do you have any insights to offer specific to that type of performance?
Mindpro
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Dale, this sounds more like you operated as a (non-union) nightclub than a theater, correct? For context purposes, can you tell us more about the venue and market? Nightclubs and banquet venues often operate this way. I know some here are tying this into the 4 wall thread, so just wanting to clarify.

Also was everything booked in-house or did you use outside promoters or agencies?
Mindipulator
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Charlie,

I didn’t belong to any official industry associations but I would get together with other venue owners to chat. We all differed somewhat in our approach but mostly due to differences in venue type and locations. I only recall a couple of events geared towards children. A theatre group and an internationally known children’s singer. Sold a lot of coffee to the parents ( I owned a coffee-house on the next block so just brought over some equipment) and had to pay my cleaner extra. Offering to help clean up may help. This was just at the beginning of social media. Most promotion was done through schools, kindergartens, daycare centres and churches.

Mindpro

We were a bit of an odd venue. An old theatre with mezzanine seats intact. The orchestra had been converted to a dance floor and of course we had the stage, small wings with fairly limited fly space. Nice green room and two dressing rooms with showers. Yes we were non union. We were a mid range market of about one million located part way between two major markets. Our location was popular with promoters who wanted to fill in a date. Our programming was very eclectic. Comics, plays, orchestral music and bands all played the stage. We even had some great movie nights. Due to brilliant acoustics several albums were recorded there.

Much of the booking was in house but we welcomed promoters and agencies. Dealing with professionals like that usually made my job much easier as no hand holding was needed.

I do remember on a couple of occasions when we had local acts, very talented who put a lot of work into their promotions, I would surprise them by giving them access to our VIP lounge with champagne on ice, deli platters, flowers etc. Made them feel big time and was a reward for their level of dedication and their attitude towards me and my crew. A bit of money for me was something very big for them. And I wanted them back. And return they did.

Never really got into 4 walling. Didn’t usually have any prospects for more than a couple of nights and the variety was part of our charm. I was in negotiations to buy a beautiful old opera house a couple of blocks away so that I could get into that area a little more. Unfortunately it blew up one night. Would have been a blast though. Bad choice of words.

Dale
Dannydoyle
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Sort of a non traditional performance space. Sounds cool.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Mindpro
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Sound like a nice pickup venue.
Mindipulator
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Dannydoyle, it was a wonderful space and the old lobby was divided to make a nice cozy lounge that sat 50.
It was as versatile as our performances.
Miss the fun but don’t miss the stress the hours could cause.

Dale
Dannydoyle
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I love non traditional spaces. The key is to ALWAYS let them tell you how to work it. They know best.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
55Hudson
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I have never negotiated a four-wall agreement, but have extensive negotiation experience from a hotel banquet venue to a $1 billion business acquisition (on a team for the large business transactions, as anyone with business experience would expect)

Dale's notes provide insight into the thinking of a venue owner. I highly recommend reading, "Getting to Yes", one of the recommendations on the NILO website. Understanding the wants and needs of all the parties involved in the negotiation (and even understanding who is involved in the negotiation) is critical to maximizing your outcome. (Dale mentions his tech crew - here is an example of someone involved/influencing a negotiation that might not be anticipated.)

Negotiating without understanding the basics of negotiation strategies and techniques will cost you money.
Christian & Katalina
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I have for the last 10 years done many 2-wall, 4-wall, and 3-wall contract/negotiations for mostly non-traditional spaces. Dale has made some great posts on renting a traditional theater space.

I would agree with Danny to some extent that you don't usually have much to negotiate with when approaching a traditional theater space. They have their contracts, they know what works and what does not. There might be some wiggle room on things but usually only what the theater already knows they will wiggle on.

Now, as for non-traditional spaces, Katalina and I have given many talks on this. The first thing we will tell people is to have a very clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish and how you are going to accomplish it. The next step will be to think, "Why would this venue let me put a show here? How will it help them? What is their win with my show?"

By far the biggest problem we see time and time and time again is that:
1. People don't have a business plan. They have no idea what it will take to put on a show in a non-traditional environment. They believe that if they put up a sign . . . people will just show up. They also have not thought through the concept of running the "Business" side of the show.
2. They lead with . . "I am amazing...why wouldn't you want my amazing show here!!" They have given no thought to what is in it for the venue? What is the benefit for the venue to have your crappy little magic show here?
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Mindpro
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So true! You can always tell these people and spot them a mile away because they seem to always only talk about themselves and their show. Theater managers are very keen to this as well, which again refers back to my points in another thread about knowing how you are perceived, being educated into the venue and industry, and mostly the understanding that very little is or has anything to actually do with you or your show.

The better you are educated and positioned to the business behind a show, the more you will be of interest and appealing to such venues.

But, of course, this brings into the greater picture of why do you think you could so such a production in the first place? Just because you want to or it seems like something you'd like to do? Just because you could see yourself doing a theater show? I know it seems ridiculous, strange or far-fetched but this happens the majority of time.

I also agree that very few negotiations really occur in 2/4 wall deals, especially with theaters and similar venues, and often even less in standard entertainment bookings. Sure negotiating is a great skill set to have, but certainly wouldn't be a priority to most standard level performers. Most performers have little or no negotiating position to leverage.
Senor Fabuloso
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I learned much from your posts Dale. Nice getting it from the owners point of view.
To hate those who hate is righteous.
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