Karen Van Pletsen --- Performances: Negotations & Contracts

KarenInterview with Karen Van Pletsen --- Performances: Negotations & Contracts

By Russel Hlongwane

As many times as it has been mentioned, the decline of the CD has meant that artists are relying more heavily on performance revenues. And it also seems that the paperwork side of performance aspect could be a strange world. So to help us navigate this foreign land, our friend Karen Van Pletsen gave us a few pointers to consider.   

Through some of our work, two of our clients who run music academies have often mentioned the unfortunate cases of talented young instrumentalists catching the shorter end of the stick when it comes to performance renumeration.

RH: In your experience, what are the cornerstones and fundamentals that an artist should consider when negotiating the conditions and performance remuneration?

KvP: Fee negotiation is as easy or difficult as you choose to make it. The biggest mistake I made when I entered the industry was not understanding my own worth as an artist . You can't negotiate a price if you (yourself) don't know what you're selling . Equating a financial value to one's talent is a difficult task for most young artists, but it's essentially a cornerstone of any negotiation  - the folks paying the bills want to know that they are paying "X "and getting "Y ".

RH: Over and above the fundamentals of negotiating, what tips can you offer the inexperienced artist (when negotiating) especially since they're generally dealing with experienced venue owners with a business background?
Kvp: Just as with any product, there is a going rate. Investigate what your peers are charging for similar services and determine your rate accordingly. You don't want to make the mistake of out pricing yourself from the market, but at the same time you don't want to sell yourself short . Develop a sturdy confidence - not to be confused with arrogance - and do not let venue owners or producers bully you. It may sound simplistic, but if you respect yourself, others will too .

RH: Ok cool, so we've negotiated and agreed on a performance fee. Now we need to document this agreement onto a performance contract, right? Where does one even start in drawing up such a document? What should be contained in a fair and ''just'' performance contract?
KvP: The internet is an amazing resource - you can find hundreds of sample/template versions of any documents that you require ( eg. I googled "performance contract " and this one came up : http://www.docracy.com/5972/band-performance-contract ) .

Obviously you need to check the document and ensure that it is inclusive of all the aspects you require. Some essentials:

  • Identify which parties the agreement is between
  • Indicate the name of the event  or venue 
  • List the function details ( e.g Date, Time, Performance duration, Sound check etc )
  • Establish the status quo re sound/technical (If to be provider include detailed technical rider ) 
  • Stipulate payment terms (Be very specific regarding  dates of deposits and final payments are to be made and stipulate cancellation policy)
  • Be sure to include any unique conditions or stipulations (e.g. Filming rights and royalties needing to be paid) and get a signature!
  • A contract that includes the former protects both you and the client .

RH: Is there an alternative to the ''performance contract''? e.g an easier method that replaces the performance contract.
KvP: Simply put …NO .  Should you need to go to court to fight for your money, a contract is the main weapon that you need.

RH: Can you tell us the core service of a booking agent. And at what stage does one seek a booking agent? And what are percentages split between booking agent, the artist and venue?
KvP: As the name suggest, a booking agent manages an artist's bookings, as well as all the relating  practicalities, travel arrangements and performance contracts. A good booking agent relieves the artist of the headache of fee negotiation. (They are generally better at getting you the money you deserve!). Since they work on a commission basis (an average of 10% of the artist"s performance fee) you need to be getting a fair amount of bookings for a booking agent to be interested in representing you. (In some cases, they may see potential in you, and help drive your career in the direction that will benefit you both.)

RH: In conclusion, drawing from your experience, how can musicians secure more gigs in our city/ country?
KvP: I believe it's up to each artist to raise their profile, establish a good reputation and deliver strong performances. In the theatre there is a saying : "You are only as good as your last performance …" so artists need to ensure that they always deliver their best, always! Artists also need to remember that work won't always find you … you have to find it . Nothing frustrates me than extremely talented performers who sit around waiting for someone to discover them. I learnt the hard way that THERE ARE NO FAIRY GODMOTHERS  …. go out and create your own destiny!

Karen Van Pletsen Profile;

Some background information:
Karen Van Pletsen is a performer and artistic entrepreneur proudly based in KZN. She began her career in the musical theatre arena when she performed numerous award winning roles in production such as "Annie"; "Far From the Madding Crowd"; "Joseph and his amazing technicolored  dream coat" and "The Lady sings the blues" (About her performance in which, Peter Machen of the Saturday Independent had the following to say: "Van Pletsen is a great singer, too effervescent to be merely consummate. Her body language was born to belt out torch songs in smoky, divey bars. Which might sound like an insult, but she’ll know that it’s a compliment”. Karen then spread her wings and ventured to Dubai where she honed her Jazz skills performing in various live music venues during a 2 year period. On her return to South Africa she resumed local performances and also entreated the corporate theatre market in a producer capacity. Some of the events and corporate performances at which she has performed and produced include: "The World Heritage Conference"; "The International World Transplant Games"; The SAIFTA Awards; The Fifa world Cup 2010 opening in Durban; various awards ceremonies for SASCOC to name but a few. In early 2009 Karen co-founded The Durban Gospel Choir which she continues to manage. (View video footage here : https://tinyurl.com/o5x5jym ).

Throughout her career Karen maintained a love for contemporary original music which has seen her perform in bands such as "The Tim Wells Band", "The Mike Smith Band " and "The Burlesque Supergroup''. A songwriter herself, Karen is still determined to still share her personal voice and will be releasing an EPK of original material later in 2014



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