Whenever an artist is booked for a performance, it is crucial to touch base with the client directly at least a week prior to the performance. This is called “advancing” the show. With your signed contract in hand, call (not email) the client to confirm the following:
- Show content and special requests
- Directions, unloading, and parking details
- Technical rider, staging, and sound details
- Arrival time and performance time
- Hotel reservations
- Food/drink arrangements
- Final payment
My personal opinion on dress is that the performer should always be the best dressed person in the room. Unless you have an act like Larry the Cable Guy, there is no good reason to be wearing jeans when everyone else is in suits. Of course, you don’t want to overdress, either. Ask the client what the dress for the event will be, and then dress a little nicer.
Show Content and Special Requests
Make sure you and the client are on the same page about the kind of show you're offering. If they ask you to avoid certain subject matter or language, then go out of your way to accommodate them. If they want you to do unusual song requests or custom material that is outside the scope of your contract, feel free to politely push back or ask them to speak to your booking agent.
Directions, Unloading, and Parking
In case you don’t know it already, Google Maps isn’t always correct. Plot out your directions before you call then go over them with the client. Get some anecdotal landmarks like “turn left right past the Wal-Mart”. You’ll save yourself some stress later. Also be sure that you have a designated area nearby to load your equipment and park your car. Have the client mail or fax you a parking pass ahead of time if necessary.
Technical Rider, Staging, and Sound
Just because the client signed the contract doesn’t mean that they read it. And it’s very possible that they won’t be the on-site contact, and that the on-site contact will have never seen your rider. So if there’s something you absolutely need, make it abundantly clear.
Arrival and Performance Time
The arrival time on your contract should not be overlooked. Often times you will have to meet your client at a specified time to be escorted to your performance location. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Make sure you specify where, when, and who you will meet. Also, double-check the performance time. Plans often change dramatically from the time the contract was issued.
Get a hotel confirmation number from the client. If you’re going to be checking in late, call the hotel directly to confirm your reservation. About 1 out of 5 times someone at the client organization makes the hotel reservation under their name. You won’t know this when you get to the hotel at 2 AM, and neither will the person working the front desk at the hotel. Guess what happens then? You don't get the room that has been reserved and paid for. Save yourself the hassle and call ahead!
Food and Drink Arrangements
If your rider calls for a meal, confirm ahead of time when and where it will be served. Never count on anything. Take your own bottled water and power bars just in case.
If your contract calls for you to be paid following the performance, make sure they will have the check cut and ready for you. This doesn’t have to be awkward. When you call, just casually ask “Will I pick up a check that night?”, and follow that with “And just to confirm, it will be made payable to _________.” Sometimes corporate events and government agencies cannot have your check that night, no matter what your contract says. Avoid any night-of-show confusion by asking ahead of time.
If you have any additional provisions in your contract, be sure to go over each and every one. Remember that it is your responsibility to call ahead and ensure a successful performance.
If you have additional tips, advice, or funny stories, please post them in the comments section below...