Deals are complex. They balance many variables, from how many concession tickets may be sold to royalties, contras, hospitality and technical riders. The principal items to cover during the deal are:
- Dates, times, length of show, interval, number of performers, technical requirements, geographical exclusions if appropriate.
- The deal itself.
- Ticket prices – normally these will be in line with the Venue’s custom and practice but they should be mutually agreed.
- Discounts – if the theatre has a friends scheme, or early bird discounts etc, now is the time to agree them.
- Marketing – what is provided as standard, and what is not. Will marketing costs come off before or after any split?
- Technical requirements – if things must be hired, who’s paying?
- Hospitality rider – ensure that things are clear from the start. A policy that the venue will not pay for accommodation or travel costs unless agreed in writing at the time of the deal is not a bad idea. These costs can mount up and should be considered as part of the deal as a whole. Bands are the worst culprits for contra-ing venues for hospitality, accommodation, equipment hire, marketing, back line etc after the event.
- Programme and merchandise splits – the venue should take a cut of these. 15% is pretty common, although there’s always flexibility as part of the deal as a whole.
- Company complimentary tickets, if any.
- Ensure that VAT or GST is discussed at this point. Some venues have a cultural exemption from VAT or GST. They don’t charge it in the ticket price, and they can’t pay it out. Have a chat about this.
- Booking fees, service charges, refurbishment contributions – Make these charges clear, and agree them at the time of the deal.
- Royalties, if any.
- Performing Rights Society fees or equivalents. These fees, usually a % of the box office where copyrighted music is used, can mount up. It’s not a bad idea to deduct these off box office before any split or off a guarantee in the proportion of the split. So if the split is 70/30% in the company’s favour, the company will pay 70% of the 3% PRS fees. This seems fair, in any case.
All of the individual components listed above need to be seen in the light of the whole deal. Give and take is central to the process of negotiation, but if you can’t agree on items despite seriously trying, it’s better just to walk away than agree to something that you’re not happy with. On deals with higher levels of risk where the deal is being negotiated over the telephone, it can be helpful to take a break before agreeing. Ask to call the producer back, or email them.
Make copious notes during the telephone conversation – having a photocopied page with set headings for discussion is a good idea and acts as an aide memoire.I used to have an email template set up with all the different headings and make notes straight into it. At the conclusion of the telephone call I’d fire off the email as a record of the conversation and it would form the basis of the contract.