artists beware

There has been a debate raging of late about how much artists are subsidising the arts through unpaid work. Firstly, its worth saying that many of the people working to make the buildings vibrant are equally contributing way past what they are paid for. Nobody gets up in the morning thinking ‘how can i make the world worse’ but sometimes, out of anxiety or pressure to balance books or to ‘minimise risk’ apparently logical decisions are made that do much to undermine the ambitions of us all.

Mark Makin, who leads house for us, and I have been talking about the increasing number of clauses that appear in venue contracts, often sent weeks – if at all – after the deal has been agreed. At their worst these charges only come to light when companies receive venue final reports, and is too late for renegotiation. It may be if you are aware of  such-and-such a clause you can ask to have it struck out but if you are new to touring or have never visited a particular venue you might just think it part of the system. But it isn’t.  Here are a few examples:

a venue in the midlands that charges a hire fee for the use of their in-house PA.

one in the south west that charges a contribution towards lighting and heating of £50 for each performance day. (even in the summer)

many who charge a restoration levy on tickets – even when the restoration has happened or the venue is new.

a venue in the south east that charges a per-ticket printing charge on box office splits of 19.7p per ticket.

box office system operating charges – mostly with venues using Spektrix – who deduct the full operating charge (sometimes 7-8%) before any splits.

third party box office charges – % deduction when tickets are sold by other agencies/venues.

marketing contras for overprinting costs.

many middle or large scale venues charge a contribution towards marketing the show sometimes as much as£250 for a single night engagement.

charges for early or late delivery of print.

Other things to be mindful of are that cancellation clauses only cater for the venue, should the company cancel the date. There is often no counter clause to support the company for any financial losses if the venue chooses to cancel.

But where does this end? Should companies cover the cost of cleaning the toilets or for producing the contract? Apart from occasionally asking for accommodation if they are a long way from home, or a meal – particularly on the rural touring circuit – I am not aware of companies trying to include clauses that have an impact on the split.

We all know that times are difficult but these clauses can’t help in building the trust and shared ambition that will make the event a success. If the charges are reasonable then can’t they be factored in when discussing the deal? If we are going to shift from a bunkered, protectionist culture then we need to acknowledge that artists and venues want the same thing and find ways to promote generosity and openness.

later Helen Whittam  reminded that some venues charge for Wifi… beggars belief.

and now i am going to collect stories of the opposite which are much more satisfying and namable. Like the New Wolsey, Ipswich who offer a pre-show meal and post- show drink as standard…. more please.



One Response to “artists beware”

  1. charlotte jones ITC - January 28th, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Yes Gav
    So right. We hear many similar horror stories. You have inspired me to start collecting them more proactively and seeing what we can do to ensure these often archaic and unfair practices are exposed and ended.

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