• Darrel Hull

Music Festivals - Do Research Before Playing - Or Attending.

As some of you maybe aware I was recently approached by a Leeds based event company for assistance with booking artists for two festivals, one in York, the other in Leeds.

Initially all looked positive and above board, there was a budget for live music and a breakdown of how much each artist would be paid, the amount of which incidentally was impressive.

I had a meeting with the owner & a couple of team members, as far as I was lead to believe the organisers were booking their own artists & looking for help filling any remaining slots.

As time went by I discovered that the company was not, in fact, booking any artists, only relying on myself to fill the full live music schedule using my own contacts.

When approaching artists I was asked a number of questions such as; payment, access to the grounds, sound checks etc, some of which I could answer, some not.

Subsequently I put questions to the team member dealing with the schedule. It was then I discovered this person was only working one day a week which left me unable to respond to the artists for sometime, on a couple of issues I was informed the questions needed to be forwarded on to the owner, which, of course meant an even longer wait.

Following a few days of not getting any response to important queries I ended up approaching the owner directly. After some pressing I was told all fees would not be paid on the day but 2-3 days afterwards by bank transfer, straight away warning bells began to ring.

Most, if not all venues & festivals pay artists on the day, with this in mind I pushed the matter, I emailed the owner querying the reason behind the delay. Most importantly, I wanted to ensure that artist fees were not dependent on ticket sales, that everyone booked was guaranteed the amount promised.

This email was sent around 11:30am, after receiving no response by approximately 16:15 I followed it up with another only to get a curt reply stating that the team were managing multiple events and I had no right to expect an immediate reply plus, alarmingly, the email stated that there was no written agreement between us (the company & myself).

As I'm sure you can imagine I was not impressed at all, it also highlighted the owner had no understanding that verbal contracts are as binding as written ones!!!

Following this I turned to someone who is a great sounding board, my friend, Music For The Head & Heart & Green Eyed Records colleague Nick Cody for advice.

Both of us began a thorough research on the company which brought to our attention a number of concerns which lead to me pulling out. Thankfully no one lost money, the only inconvenience for me was to refund booking fees to a couple of artists.

This has certainly been a learning curve for me, although I've handled many bookings for venues, this was the first time I've been approached by a company putting together festivals.

However, it certainly has not put me off partnering with other event companies in the future, although I now have a list of questions that require written answers plus contracts that need to be signed before any collaboration is agreed.

While one of my big concerns was about my reputation as a promoter, my main one was independent, unsigned artists not being taken advantage off.

But, please do not be discouraged, there are more legitimate, well run festivals than ones such as highlighted above.

So, all you Singers & Bands out there, if approached by an events company or festival organiser make sure to get all details about the event, most importantly, ensure you have a contract which covers payment before agreeing to anything.

Also, a note of caution to festival goers & artists alike, research event companies:
Does it have a track record?
Does the company have details, write ups, images, videos of past events, on their website or/and social media?
Are any upcoming events being advertised?
What do terms & conditions state about the event being cancelled?

These are issues that will be covered in future blog posts.

To be continued... in the meantime I advise you read Nick Cody's findings & views on this matter:


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