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How to create your own music performance contract

Many points to cover when creating a music performance contract, and what to watch out for in others` contracts.

All professional musicians seek the perfect performance contract (also known as a performance agreement) - one that will offer the most payoff for the least payout, unlimited insurance in the case of damage or theft, provisions for sickness or cancellation, flawless security measures, a full sound check, plenty of free promotional materials, and full control over merchandising - however, in the often harsh reality of the music business, you may as well be searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The `perfect` contract simply does not exist, but fear not! There are many ways to save yourself a world of worries and hopefully better avoid being ripped off - by helping to protect your band legally by scripting your own performance contract.

Before you even begin to book your band, sit down with all of the members and decide what it is that you hope to accomplish with a live gig. For instance, if your goal is to play a show for a non-profit, benefit concert, then many of your contractual goals will be wildly different than if you decide to play for the most money possible. The most important thing you can do at this stage is to make specific decisions on what is contractually acceptable and unacceptable to you and your band and stick with them! For example, are you willing to play a shorter set in order to ensure than you get a longer sound check? Are you willing to go without a dressing room? Will you provide your own sound / lighting engineer or equipment, or use the venue`s? Are you willing to give up a flat fee in exchange for a percentage of ticket sales? Drafting a contract before your first gig can be difficult, but as you gain more experience you will learn how to tailor the contract to better fit your and the venue`s needs. Whatev er your choices are, presenting a performance contract to a venue manager / booking agent will give your band the appearance of professionalism that it needs to survive in the music business, and will make a good impression even if your contract is rejected.

The first thing to understand is that different venues will have different methods of booking acts. Smaller venues sometimes will simply refuse to sign any performance contract. Don`t be alarmed; this is a fairly typical practice. In this case try to at least secure some kind of written notice that your band has been booked to play for a certain night, and if possible, for what amount you have agreed to perform. Most medium sized venues with an average draw will readily accept a performance contract from a band, while very few large venues with well-established reputations will accept anything other than their own contracts. If this is the case, make sure that you check and recheck the following to avoid being mislead: band name, band members, method of payment, time of payment, time and date of performance, length of performance (and don`t forget the sound check!), contract riders, and provisions for security, insurance coverage, sound systems and lighting, control of merchandising, cancellation fee s, deposits, ticket sales and free tickets, permissible video and audio recording / broadcasting equipment, guest list, and most importantly, signatures! (These are also topics you will want to be sure to cover in your own contract.) Although some of these points may seem obvious, you never know when a simple misprint may mean your legal security. Besides these basic provisions, make doubly sure that your band is not required to post a bond or security deposit, or that your band is liable for any and all damages that occur during your residence in the venue! Most venues should provide adequate insurance coverage for theft or damage at no cost to your band, but be sure to make a note of it. Also look to make sure that you are not being given a `pay to play` deal, where you must purchase a block of tickets and sell them out yourself! These awful policies are unfortunately popular sticking points with unsavory concert promoters.

Secondly, venues will often have differing methods of paying for the services of the band. The most common methods of payment today are guaranteed (where you will receive a certain amount regardless of attendance) or non-guaranteed (where you rely solely on your band`s popularity and ability to draw an audience). The four types of payment are usually based on a flat fee, a percentage of ticket sales, a guaranteed percentage of the gate or a flat fee (whichever is higher), or a guaranteed fee plus a percentage of ticket sales above the guarantee. The venue will always decide what type of payment it prefers, but it is ultimately up to you to decide which of these payments you will accept and whether or not you are willing to play for whatever the venue determines. If you feel that the exposure is worth a cut in pay, then play on, but if you feel you could get a better deal elsewhere you may choose to forgo this deal or try to bargain with the booking agent.

One of the best ways to ensure your financial and legal security is to include a contract rider provision (also commonly known as a hospitality rider provision). You may have heard the stories of bands demanding that a fresh pot of coffee provided by a local independent coffee shop be placed backstage, that the dressing room ceiling be painted black, or that all green M&Ms be removed from the bowl in the dressing room. These may seem like laughable addendums to such a serious issue, but they can be the most valuable assets to a performing musician who wants to be sure that his contract was read thoroughly. It`s likely that the more outrageous the demands are, the more likely they are to be crossed off by the booking agent, but this is a good sign, because it means the promoter was seriously paying attention to your contract. For instance, if you demand that two apple pies baked by someone`s grandmother are to be placed in the dressing room five minutes before the sound check, and the booking age nt has not brought this item up for dispute with you before signing, beware! It`s likely that there will be other more serious and legally binding aspects of your contract that will be overlooked.

If, for whatever reason, any points of your contract are not met, you have the right to pursue legal action. However, you may need to carefully consider the consequences of such an action (court costs, legal fees, possible loss of reputation with venues) and weigh those against whether or not the situation warrants it. If your band has an attorney, it`s a good idea to have him or her look over your contract for loopholes and double check that everything weighs heavily in your favor before you present it to a booking agent. Even bands with good contracts and lawyers sometimes do not come out on top, but by knowing the ins and outs of your own contract and the basic laws governing contracts in your area you will feel a great deal more secure in your dealings with booking agents and concert promoters, and you can get back to concentrating on what`s really important - the music!

Shankara - Lord of Ragas

Lord Shiva and His primal association with music and dance have long been a source of joy and inspiration to Indians. The Shiva leitmotif is a powerful stimulus to many an intoxicated soul, a spoor to the creative impulse as it searches for the ideal sounded in the famous apothegm: Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Raga Shankara's immense popularity and prestige derive not merely from a share in the Lord's name. The rAga is also the musical embodiment of His personality, comporting with all its attributes: raudra, veera, irrascible, volatile, capricious and, above all, cool. This high-powered melody is the subject of our present expose'. Throughout the ride, M =shuddha and m =teevra madhyam.

The shADava jAti Raga Shankara (pronounced 'shankarA') employs all the shuddha swaras except the madhyam and is filed under the Bilawal thAT corresponding to the 29th Carnatic melakartA, Shankarabharanam. Two definitive threads constitute Shankara's woof and they are (the swara in parenthesis represents the kaN imparted to the one following it):

(1) S (P)G P, P (R)G-->S (poorvAnga marker)

(2) G P N D S" N (uttarAnga marker)

Let us amplify on the dominant themes. In (1) above, the gandhAr receives a tug of the pancham in Arohi - S (P)G P - and a kaN of the rishab in avarohi - i.e., G P (R)G - sanchAris. The "-->" placed between G and S signifies a meenD-laden retreat grazing the rishab en route (a la Bihag). The rishab's role is paradoxical - it is durbal (weak) yet very vital for the manner in which it services G and P.

In the uttarAnga signpost (2), the nyAsa on N following G P N D S" N is vital. An AbhAsa of Bihag prevails but the absence of M keeps it in check. The Bihag-like movement N-->P, grazing D along its declining locus, is the uttarAnga foil for the G-->S gesture indicated earlier; a little reflection shows how the Bihag presence permeates Shankara's strata.

Obiter dicta: P and N are crucial nyAsa sthAnas. The rishab is occasionally brightened for effect in the tAra saptak as in, say, PP N S" R, S". This may induce a tirobhAva due to Hamsadhwani where there is a premium on the rishab. The dhaivat is subdued, descried in quick clusters such as SGPDPP or GPDGP. The aprachalita Raga Malashree (to be treated later in this feature) has a mild alliance with Shankara but there the dhaivat is varjita. Comparisons are often drawn between Shankara and Hamsadhwani but the points of departure are significant and should be evident by now. Straight up and down runs, the norm in Hamsadhwani, do not sit well with Shankara. Instead, the tAns are conceived in zigzagging clusters such as SGPDPPNDPP, GPNDS"NPP and so on.

The foregoing discussion is now fortified by a demonstration specialized to underscore the intonational behaviour sought. An Aroha/avarohana set is first proposed ( D and R are not explicitly depicted in the grazing instances described earlier):

S, (P)G P, N D S" N, S" :: S" N-->P, G P (R)G-->S

Rajab Ali Khan's capers have been recorded in Prof. B.R. Deodhar's book Pillars of Hindustani Music (Popular Prakashan). Some excerpts:

Have you heard of a Court case in which a shagird (formal disciple)sues the ustad for refund of fees paid by him or her at the time of the black-thread ceremony? This is what happened in the case of Khansaheb Rajaballi Khan. The interesting feature of this case was that the Counsel for the defendant was none other than the late Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande Khansaheb, not being well-versed in legal matters, sought Pandit Bhatkhande's advice. Panditji agreed to fight the case on Khansaheb's behalf. When the matter came up in Court, Panditji argued that the payment made at the ganda-bandhan (black-thread) ceremony being guru-dakshina, i.e. in the nature of a gift to the guru, the disciple can in no circumstances ask for its repayment. The Court, accepting this reasoning, decided in Khansaheb's favour

Khansaheb's concert tours used to cover several cities and he would earn a sizeable sum of rupees seven to eight thousand, before returning to Dewas. Because of his prodigal ways it was not long before this fortune was spent on his own extravagances and hospitality to intimate friends. Then the borrowings from money-lenders, grocers, other shopkeepers and confectioners would start. The shopkeepers, knowing their customer only too well, would decline to supply goods on credit when the borrowings had crossed reasonable limits On one occasion, the money-lenders, grocers, clothiers all stopped credit but the confectioner continued to provide stuff on credit. One day a relation of Khansaheb, who lived in a distant village, came on horseback to visit Khansaheb. Khansaheb extended a cordial welcome to him and ostentatiously told him to go to a confectioner and get five or ten seers of jalebi. The guest protested that his horse ate grass and not jalebi. Khansaheb replied, "You happen to be the guest of a great artiste. Your horse, while he is under my roof, must eat jalebi." The horse was indeed fed on jalebis. Khansaheb did not have any cash even to buy fodder for the horse but since the confectioner had still not cut off credit, jalebi was still obtainable

Having come to know that a visit to Vazir Khan was a must before seeking audience with the ruler [of Rampur], Rajaballi Khan went to the former's mansion The two went inside. Rajaballi Khan's companion bowed low and then squatted on the ground like a lowly dependant. Vazir Khan was seated in a silver-encrusted chair. Rajaballi Khan made a bee-line for his seat and sat on an adjoining chair. He even went so far as to take a few puffs on Vazir Khan's hookah. Vazir Khan, although really very angry at this impertinence, was outwardly calm. He politely enquired after Rajaballi Khan who replied that he was a singer, been player and a disciple of Khansaheb Bande Ali. Vazir Khan said, "Yes I know," and made some uncharitable remark about the kind of instrument Bande Ali was using. Rajaballi Khan replied "But it had a far sweeter sound than your Rampuri drum-like been." Since Rajaballi's first interview was so explosive the prospect of his being able to secure an audience with the Nawab was not very bright. But Rajaballi, ill-mannered as he was, had brought a letter from the Kolhapur ruler. Since not to grant him an interview would be discourtesy to the Maharaja, the Nawab decided to see him.

The Nawab sent for him the same night Rajaballi used to say that the Nawab was a very skilled singer and his layakari (sense of rhythm) was very good. He knew innumerable dhrupads and dhamars by heart. However, he did not pay as much attention to swara (tonal purity) as he should have. After his rendering of a song, the Nawab turned to the assembled musicians and said, "Tell me, have you heard any singer who can equal me in layakari and tonal purity?" All the musicians instantly chorused, "No Your Highness! We have neither seen nor heard anyone of your calibre!" Nawabsaheb turned to Rajaballi and asked, "Rajaballi, what is your opinion?" Rajaballi replied, "My opinion is identical with what the others have said." But this somehow did not carry conviction with the Nawab. He repeatedly pressed Rajaballi for his true opinion and finally asked him to swear by Allah and the Koran and give his true opinion. Thereupon Rajaballi said "Your Highness! I have visited many princely houses and palaces without coming across any Raja who knows as much music as you do or who can sing like you." Nawabsaheb countered this by saying, "I am not asking you to say where I stand with respect to the other princes. How do I rank among professional musicians? I want you to tell me that." To this Rajaballi replied, "Even the children of musicians are better than you." Nawabsaheb's face grew crimson with rage when he heard this. "I would have had you shot this instant," the Nawab barked, "but unfortunately you have come here with a letter from the Maharaja (of Kolhapur). I am helpless. But get out of my state immediately." Rajaballi was paid Rs. 500/- and expelled from Rampur without delay

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