Tag Archives: tips

Canadian Entry

Stress-Free Canadian Entry

My band, based in Houston, Texas, is booked to perform at a number of Canadian venues in early October. It’s our first time and we have been told that there are certain requirements for getting into the country, and we’re not sure what to expect. Can you help?

Some of us remember the “good old days” when all you needed to cross the border into Canada was a driver’s license and a birth certificate. Since 2009 this is no longer possible. Now, if you are traveling by air you need a US passport (or a NEXUS card) to enter Canada and you will need the same to get back into the US. If you are driving or coming by boat, you will need a US passport, passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license (available in Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington).

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the US, your Green Card will allow you to cross the border both ways, regardless of your mode of transportation. Canada requires a visa for holders of passports from certain countries. Check the Canada Government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp, if you are unsure about your band members. Getting a visa online can take well over a month. Start the process early. Check to see if any members of your group require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) as well: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp.

Savvy border crossers traveling by car know that it is faster to cross at certain border crossings. Times can also vary depending upon the traffic flow and volume, time of day, and time of year. Check wait times in advance at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/menu-eng.html.

In order to avoid any complications while crossing borders with musical instruments, there are two options available: the ATA Carnet (http://www.atacarnet.com) or an inventory list. The list should include item descriptions; serial numbers; costs, dates, and places of purchase; and current resale values. Be sure to take this list into the border office of your home country and have it stamped by a border official. The border official will examine the instruments to verify the list, so it is best if the instruments are clearly marked with owner/group name (if applicable) and perhaps numbered to correspond with the list. You should also declare any CDs or
merch you are bringing into the country.

Having the required documents does not guarantee admission into Canada. All visitors to Canada have to also undergo an interview with a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer upon arrival to determine admissibility into the country. Be sure to have your passport or other documentation, including vehicle ownership and performance contracts, ready for inspection. Remove any sunglasses, and look the agent in the eye when answering. This is not the time for jokes or unseemly behavior. You want to impress upon the border officer that you are law-abiding and respectful of authority.

For most foreign artists, entry into Canada is relatively easy. A work permit is not required in most cases. Crossing the border can be as simple as answering a few questions about the purpose of your trip, where you are going, and what you will be doing there. To avoid delay, be prepared with simple straightforward answers to the questions the officer might ask, and voilà—welcome to Canada.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com. While I cannot answer every question I receive in this column, I will feature as many as I can and I promise to answer each and every e-mail I receive.

Border Crossing Tips

Last-Minute Border Crossing Tips

You’ve done all the heavy lifting and your paperwork seems to be in order. You’re ready to get on the road and get across that border to fulfil contracted dates. Before you head out the door, here are some last-minute border crossing tips to ensure a successful crossing:

Organize your paperwork. Have your approved I-797 or visa document with you (perhaps in a binder) and be sure that everyone crossing has a valid passport. If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you need to have evidence of a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are travelling with gear, have a complete inventory with you. If you are a lone parent/guardian travelling with a child, you may need written travel permission from another guardian or parent.

Appearances are important. At the border, you need to look and sound like a law-abiding citizen who is respectful of authority and poses absolutely no risk. Your demeanor and attitude need to send the right message to border crossing officials. Turn off the radio and remove the sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should be orderly, neat, and clean.

Declare what you are bringing with you. If you are bringing in CDs for sale or promotion, let the border officials know. You may have to fill out some paperwork, but it’s better to be up front then to have merchandise discovered in a routine inspection and have to deal with the repercussions of not having declared them.

Be prepared for search or inspection. Border officials routinely inspect personal belongings and search vehicles. Your suitcase or purse might be emptied, if border officials need to confirm what they have seen on the x-ray machine, or they might just be searching at random. An inspection might be as simple as a drug-sniffing dog being led on a leash around your vehicle to see if anything turns up, or a complete emptying of the contents of your vehicle. Whatever happens, grin and bear it.

Answer all questions pleasantly. Whatever you are asked, answer with a smile. Border officials can throw you a curve and may try to get a rise out of you, depending on the kind of day they are having. Just remember that their job is a difficult one and they certainly do not need, nor do they deserve, any attitude on the part of someone trying to cross a border and get into their country. Even if you are subjected to aggression or intimidation from a border crossing official, remain calm and polite. Whatever you do, don’t lie.

Do not volunteer extraneous information. As interesting as our life may be, border crossing officials really do not have time to listen to anything other than straight answers to the questions they ask. Answer briefly and directly; the fewer words the better. Use language carefully to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. Do not make jokes or any kind of extraneous comment.

Relax. It may take a while to cross a border and the waiting can be nerve-wracking. At the border, you may be searched, detained and interrogated. Whatever happens, be cooperative and reserved.

See you on the other side.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

record under afm

Top 10 Important Reasons to Record Under AFM Agreements

  1.  Standard wages—You are guaranteed to receive at least the minimum standards for your services.
  2.  Doubling and overdubs—In addition to wage payments, the employer is required to make payments for doubling and overdub services.
  3.  Foreign use—If you perform services in the production of a show produced under most of the AFM’s television agreements, you will receive additional payments if the program is broadcast overseas.
  4. BLu-ray payments—If you provide services to a program that is released into the Blu-ray or digital formats, you will be entitled to additional payments that will
    continue to accrue based on gross receipts.
  5. Pension fund contribution—The employer is required to make a pension fund contribution on your behalf, which puts your documented work into the system.
  6. Health and welfare fund contribution—The employer is required to make health and welfare contributions to the health plan of your local. If your local does not have a plan, they are required to make a nonpensionable wage payment directly to you.
  7. SOUND RECORDING Special payments fund (SPF)—If you perform services on
    sessions for a sound recording, you are guaranteed to receive payments from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund for each of the next five years.
  8. Secondary markets fund—If you perform services under the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture or Television Film Labor agreements, you will qualify for distributions from the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund should the film be released to outlets such as pay cable, TV, Blu-ray, or new media.
  9. Reuse—If you perform services for work under the Commercial Announcements Agreement, you will receive periodic reuse payments for any new cycles the
    commercials enter into; if the commercial is exhibited on the Internet, full payment for use in that format will apply. Re-use also applies to work done under the AFM TV agreements.
  10. New use—If you perform services under an AFM agreement and your product is licensed for use in another medium, such as a theatrical motion picture, television film, or commercial announcement, you will be entitled to additional payments and pension contributions as if you had performed the work under that agreement.
neck pain

Finding Relief from Neck Pain

Editor’s note: Always check with a physician if you are experiencing pain, as well as before beginning a new physical activity.

Chronic neck pain stems largely from poor posture and daily exertion. Taking simple measures to realign one’s body can decrease the odds of having to live with chronic pain. 

Our bodies are designed to work in concert with gravity. Poor posture causes a slew of problems such as inflammation, nerve compression, and limited range of motion. In some cases, it leads to acute conditions such as degenerative disc disease. If the neck is habitually thrust forward, in front of the shoulders, the pull and weight of the head places undue stress on the vertebrae of the lower neck. Our heads can weigh 10-15 pounds, which is a lot of strain. The muscles of the upper back must compensate to balance the weight. Simple stretches and exercises performed on a regular basis can offer long-term relief.

The Alexander Technique

A popular component of voice and music instruction is the Alexander Technique, which focuses on the head and spine. This correlation determines the quality of overall coordination. The exercises within this curriculum are well established and offer positive physical benefits. The approach centers on not overworking the neck muscles and the head being properly positioned and balanced, at the top of the spine. For more information, go to the American Society for the Alexander Technique at http://www.amsatonline.org/alexander-technique.

Take Care Moving Instruments

Never carry a heavy instrument with one hand or on one shoulder. For better distribution of weight, straps should be long enough to go across the chest. Use a bag or case with wheels whenever possible to transport heavier stringed instruments. Bend from the knees and keep the weight close to the body when picking up heavy equipment.

Gentle Neck Stretches

Free Up the Muscles. Let your neck muscles relax, and let your head rotate slightly forward, and go up. Slowly, and very slightly lower the tip of your nose while the crown of your head moves up. Let your sitting bones release down into the chair, in opposition to your head moving up, neither slumping nor straining. Reduce the neck tension again. Let your head rotate forward, and go up.

With practice you can release neck muscles and reduce neck tension. In time, you will realize when and how you are creating tension in your neck.

Seated Neck Release. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, or in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, extend your right arm next to your right knee or along the right side of the chair. Place your left hand lightly on the top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch. For a deeper stretch, hold onto your right knee or the seat of the chair. This stabilizes the torso and allows you to isolate the stretch on the side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, slowly lift your head and repeat on the other side.

Seated Clasping Neck Stretch. For a deep stretch for the back of your neck and your upper back, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Clasp your hands and bring both palms to the back of your head. Sitting tall, ground your hips firmly into your seat. From there, begin to gently press your hands down toward your thighs, tucking your chin into your chest. As you press down, use the heels of your palms to softly pull your head away from your shoulders to intensify the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, slowly lift your head and release your hands.

Behind-the-Back Neck Stretch. This standing stretch provides a deep stretch in the sides of your neck. Stand with your feet slightly apart, about hip distance, arms by your sides. Reach both hands behind your buttock and hold onto your left wrist with your right hand. Use your right hand to gently straighten your left arm and pull it away slightly. To increase the stretch in your neck, slowly lower your right ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

For more neck stretches to reduce tension, go to http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/simple-routines/neck-pain-exercises.php.

US Visa

Planning for a Successful US Visa

Getting a work permit (O or P visa) for the US as a foreign artist (or nonresident alien) requires a lot of advance planning and thoughtful consideration of the time required for the many steps involved, including the possibility of unavoidable delays.

It’s an unfortunate circumstance that artists are often unable to enter the US to perform because they simply run out of time for the visa process. Here are some suggestions:

First, an artist should start the process as soon as possible. Even beginning a year in advance of a proposed performance date or start date in the US is not too soon. Even if contracts have not yet been signed, you can apply for a nonimmigrant work permit (O or P visa) with deal memos, emails, or letters of intent, as long as they confirm that there are performance date(s). Of course, a foreign artist cannot apply for a non-immigrant work permit but needs to appoint a petitioner (a US-based individual or entity). Gathering this evidence and appointing a petitioner takes time.

Next, the required petition materials must be gathered and prepared to form part of the petition. These materials include passport photo pages from everyone who will be performing (passports need to be valid for six months beyond the proposed US dates), personal information, reviews, programs, biographies, letters of recommendation, lists of awards, a tour itinerary, etc. Although for the P-2 permit specifically, which for musical artists can only be obtained through the AFM, evidence of reviews, biographies, and other accomplishments are not required. It may take some time to gather this information, so start early.

Once completed, a formal petition is submitted to the USCIS office in either Vermont or California for regular or premium processing. Regular processing is less expensive than premium, but currently can take up to four months for an approval; in the case of a P-2 visa, these petitions have been taking 100 calendar days from the date of submission to the AFM. Premium Processing costs more, but USCIS guarantees a response in 15 days. However, even with premium processing, you must apply for the petition at least 25 days before entry to the US to ensure your Approval Notice will arrive in time. There is no guarantee of approval with either processing. At times, USCIS will require further evidence and this can cause unexpected delay in the process. All submitted petitions are issued a receipt number from USCIS, identifying the application.

Eventually, an approved petition will result in receipt of an I-797 form. USCIS will also send a copy of the petition to the Kentucky Consular Center for download to the Petitioner Information Management Service (PIMS). This can take a few days.

Canadian citizens, including Canadian members of the AFM, who are able to apply for P-2 visas, do not need to go to a consular interview, but can go directly to the Canada-US border with an approved I-797.

For non-Canadian citizens, once you have an approved I-797 in hand, you can schedule an appointment at your closest US Consulate. (Wait times for an interview vary from two to 40 days or more.) Go online to complete the required DS-160 Visa Application form, pay the required visa fee, and then arrive at the consulate for an interview with your DS-160 barcode page, proof of payment, and required photos. Once you have been approved for the visa, the consulate, will retain your passport, process the visa document (times vary from consulate to consulate), and make arrangements for these documents to get back to you.

Only after completing these steps are you able to go to the US with documents in hand and speak with a border official, at whose sole discretion you will be allowed into the country.

Take the time to determine the best timetable for getting through the process and ensuring that you will be able to be in the US for your performances.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

Canadian Letter of Invitation and Border Considerations

My company is hosting an event in Whistler, B.C., and will be employing an American band as entertainment for the event. I understand that they will need a Letter of Invitation, but does the band need to show a contract for performance at customs? Do you see any other issues with them crossing?

Any border crossing is fraught with several “issues.” In order to facilitate the border crossing of an American band into Canada, the following issues should be considered:

  • Obviously, a passport or other acceptable form of travel document will be required at the border.
  • A Letter of Invitation from the employer in Canada is required because the band members will be considered as business visitors. The letter must include information about the person(s) being invited including full names, dates of birth (if known), purpose of the trip, and length of time in Canada. The Letter of Invitation should be on organizational letterhead and include a brief description of the event, as well as the employer, and be signed by a responsible person in the organization. If group members are not arriving together, everyone in the group should have a copy of the Letter of Invitation.
  • In addition to the Letter of Invitation, an American group coming into Canada should have with them a copy of their performance contract.
  • At the border, the group members will normally be asked the purpose of their trip, how long they will be in Canada, where they will be staying, what they do for a living, and if they have anything to declare. They may have to confirm that they will be returning to the US (showing a return flight reservation, for example).
  • If the group is bringing in equipment into the country, then they should, at the very least, have an itemized inventory of the gear. Also, get the list stamped at US Customs before entering Canada, so that when the group returns to the US, there will be no problems bringing the equipment back into the country.
  • If the group is bringing in CDs or other promotional items, they need to be declared at the border and properly labeled with country of manufacture. Having a copy of the manufacturing invoice is recommended. Customs duties may apply, based on the manufacturing price, not on the sale price. If the items are for promotional purposes they should be labeled: “For Promotion ONLY; Not for Sale.”
  • If anyone in the group has a criminal record (felony or misdemeanor), including past driving under the influence (DUI) violations, this may impede entry. If it has been less than five years since a charge or conviction, persons will be deemed “criminally inadmissible” to Canada and a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is required, instead of a work permit. If five years have passed, the person may apply for “Individual Rehabilitation.” However, individuals from visa-exempt countries (e.g., the US) who have a single misdemeanor offense for which they were not sentenced to imprisonment, may be issued a TRP at the Canadian port of entry at the discretion of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). For more details about entering Canada with a criminal record visit: www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits.
  • A final consideration is the fact that there is a regulatory 15% withholding on fees to foreign artists in Canada. To avoid this withholding, artists can apply for an R-105 waiver at least 45 days before the performance date.

We welcome foreign artists in Canada and hope their border crossings are made easier by dealing with these considerations.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Precautions

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the US. The number of cases has increased 25-fold since national surveillance began in 1982, now infecting some 300,000 people a year.

The disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick and the Western blacklegged tick whose range is spreading north. The most recent surveys by CDC biologists show that they are found in more than 45% of US counties, compared to only 30% in 1998.

Once only in Ontario, Canada, Lyme-carrying ticks are now found in almost all the Canadian provinces. The Public Health Agency reported 500 cases of Lyme disease in 2014 and 700 in 2015.


Chronic Lyme disease patients may face a long hard fight to recovery, but first it’s a battle to get the correct diagnosis. Songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) faced a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, before he was tested and diagnosed with Lyme disease, according to recent interviews with his wife, Lisa. After many years of suffering with painful fibromyalgia, memory loss, and depression, he began aggressive treatment for Lyme disease and his health improved. Luckily, Lisa was an intuitive advocate who recognized that, cognitively, something did not add up.

The unfortunate reality is that Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed because doctors are not looking for it. Patients and physicians rely on telltale signs: a tick on the skin, the bull’s eye rash (Erythema Migrans (EM) rash), and joint pain. But research shows only 50%-60% of patients recall a tick bite, and the rash is reported in only 35%-60% of patients. Joint swelling typically occurs in only 20%-30%
of patients, and is easily masked by the prevalent use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.

Adding to the problem, people who have Lyme disease can test negative until their body builds up antibodies. Other patients can test false positive due to autoimmune disorders. The CDC recommends a two-tier testing process.

When Lyme disease is misdiagnosed during the early stages, it progresses to a chronic form that’s even more difficult to diagnose and treat. Symptoms can be debilitating, including severe fatigue, anxiety, headaches, and joint pain that mimic other conditions. Meanwhile, the disease causes complications involving the heart, nervous system, muscles, and joints. Patients may suffer through a complicated maze of specialists in search of appropriate treatment.


If you live in an endemic area for Lyme disease and suspect you may have been infected, prophylactic treatment for at least three weeks is advised. Early treatment will prevent the body from mounting an antibody response, and subsequent testing for Lyme will be negative.

Antibiotic choice presents another host of problems. Doxycycline also treats other tick-borne pathogens, including Q Fever, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. However, the parasites may carry bacteria not responsive to doxycycline. One side-effects are sun sensitivity and stomach problems. The typical 100mg twice daily dose may not reach therapeutic levels. Amoxicillin and Cefuroxime are better tolerated, but do not cover as wide a spectrum of infections.

Prevention and Precautions

Avoid tick-infested areas, especially in spring and early summer when nymph ticks feed. Adult ticks are more of a threat in fall. Ticks favor moist, shaded environments, especially leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats.

• Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily.

• Walk in the middle of designated trails.

• Wear closed-toed shoes.

• Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.

• Tuck pant legs into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.

• Use insect repellents containing  DEET or Icaridin on skin and clothing.

• Check clothing for ticks often, then shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.

While tick transmission is most common, new studies indicate that there may be other ways to contract Lyme, including blood transfusions or mosquito bites.

For a symptoms checklist go to:

Staying Healthy as a Musician

Athletes and the Arts: Staying Healthy as a Musician

by Randall W. Dick, M.S., FACSM 

Staying Healthy as a Musician

Lessons from the Sports World

Performing artists are athletes. Just like “sport” athletes they:

• Practice or perform almost every day

• Play through pain

• Compete in challenging environments

• Experience little “off season”

• Face extreme competition

• Face real risk of career-threatening injury

Yet, performing artists rarely have access to the injury prevention, nutrition, and practice and competition guidelines afforded most sports athletes, even at the youth level. Performing artists—musicians, dancers, singers, conductors, actors, and marching band members—of all ages and their instructors need this information, along with education and research associated with optimizing  performance and unique performance related problems.

Why the Concern?

Consider these factors:

In one year, 64% of world-class drum corps had members who developed stress fractures.

• 50% of all musicians have some form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

• 75% of orchestra instrumentalists will develop at least one musculoskeletal disorder from playing during their lifetimes.

Initiated in 2008 and formally launched in 2013, Athletes and the Arts (www.athletesandthearts.com) is a multi-organizational initiative that recognized that athletes exist throughout the performing arts community and that established performance, wellness, and injury prevention research for sport athletes is also applicable to performing artists. Health and wellness are generally foreign concepts in the performing arts community.

Athletes and the Arts (AATA) believes sports medicine physicians have the skill set to expand their practices to an entirely new and underserved population once they understand the needs and key risk factors of performing artists. Music instructors can address wellness, hearing, and cross-training, similarly to the way sports coaches introduce injury prevention initiatives.

Put Practice and Performance
in Perspective

At some point the number of practice hours may hurt rather than help. Consider focused practice segments with different goals in each session. Rote repetition for extended periods of time has not proven successful.

Large increases in the time spent practicing increases the risk of injury. If the volume or intensity of practice must increase, do it gradually.

Cross-train: employ a mental or physical activity that allows the body to focus on something different. Emphasize both mental and physical rest and recovery.

How to Put These Findings
into Practice

Select appropriate repertoire for yourself and your students. Select repertoire that challenges growth but does not overwhelm  physically or musically.

Learn and teach healthy practice strategies. Seek a problem-solving strategy
to avoid mindless practice. Break up
practice sessions to enhance concentration and avoid overuse.

Observe, record, and review the strength and posture needed during practice. Don’t underestimate the value of core strength when it comes to posture and being strong enough to hold their posture (or instrument) for long stretches.

Promote the joy of performance. Open yourself and your students up to a range of different performance opportunities in order to feel comfortable in any performance setting.

Avoid Overuse/Burnout

Consider repetitive motion, a major source of injury in the sport world.

• About 150 pitches per team are thrown in a professional baseball game.

• Around 8,000 steps are taken by each field player during a soccer match.

• Approximately 50,000 steps are taken in a marathon.

• About 3 million musical notes are played in a full-length Broadway performance.

Youth in today’s culture are driven to train early and extensively. Early specialization and extensive training creates documented risks of overuse injury, burnout, stress, and less enjoyment in youth sports.

The performing artist faces many of these same challenges, but specific research for this population is scarce. Minimize the risk of physical and mental overuse by monitoring how often and intensely you perform.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Be aware of exposure to both the intensity of the sound (measured in decibels or dB) and its duration. Government standards for occupations with high noise exposure have
a foundation exposure value of no more than 85 dB for an eight-hour period. For every three dB increase, time exposure should
be halved:

88 dB for four hours per day

91 dB for two hours per day

94 dB for one hour per day

The dynamic range of music, live or recorded, can peak at or above 95 dB. Normal piano practice ranges from 60 dB to 90 dB, more intense, 70 dB to 105 dB. Hearing damage can occur when exposed to 94 dB for 60 minutes or less daily. Protect your hearing by limiting your exposure to loud noise when not performing, using musicians’ ear plugs on stage, and getting an annual hearing test with an audiologist.

Find a Health Professional
and Wellness Coach

Establish a relationship with a health professional before an injury occurs. Let your physician know you are a performing artist, demonstrate your craft, and explain how often/intensely you perform. Keep a performance diary to document a “typical” week of practice, performance, and other related activity. Insist on regular hearing checks. Your healthcare provider needs to understand how you play your instrument in order to counsel on injury prevention.


The Athletes and the Arts (AATA) website, www.athletesandthearts.com, is a resource  for artist health information through its own content and links to the 13 collaborating organization websites. There are one-pagers on subjects ranging from hearing loss to performance anxiety to nutrition. Use the website to educate yourself, your colleagues, and your students to enhance their long-term wellness and performance.


Performing artists are an underserved population related to medical coverage, care, injury prevention and wellness. Your short-term and long-term health will benefit from a knowledgeable medical team that understands what you do (including the volume and intensity of your activities). Your body is an extension of your instrument. Be as proactive about protecting your health as you are your instrument.

—Randall Dick, M.S., FACSM, is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He worked for 20 years with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, managing its sports medicine and injury prevention programs. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and serves on the US Lacrosse Sports Science Committee and as a consultant for Major League Baseball injury surveillance. He began developing the Athletes and the Arts initiative after a conversation with the New Orleans-based Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Contract Basics

Contract Basics for Touring Artists

by Robert Baird, President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)

robert-bairdKnowledge of contracts is a must for every touring artist. A contract ensures that both parties communicate their understanding of the details of an engagement. And it binds both parties to honor its provisions.

I highly recommend that a touring musician utilize the AFM Contract for Travelling Engagements (Form T-2C for US bookings & LPCC for Canadian bookings). Once completed and filed, the contract has the force of law and the AFM/CFM behind it. If for some reason the purchaser fails to meet the agreed contract terms, the AFM/CFM will make every effort possible to pursue collection of the monies owed to its members, including taking the purchaser to court when there is merit to do so.

If a venue prefers to use its own contract, try to get them to initial and attach the Schedule 1 (page 2) of the T-2C or LPCC as an addendum, forming part of the contractual arrangements. When you are unable to use the AFM/CFM contract, take the following precautions:

1) Read the contract. Don’t sign anything you have not read.

2) Make sure you understand what the contract is saying and how it will affect you before you sign it.

3) A contract should be in understandable English or French. If there is anything you don’t understand consult with your local union or the national office to ensure you are protected as much as the engager.

4) You can change anything in a contract, however, the changes will not be binding until the other party agrees to them in writing.

No matter what kind of contract is used, be sure to clarify:

1) Services and duties—where, when, length, and type of show. Are there specific expectations of the purchaser?

2) Payment—the currency and form (cash, certified check, money order, etc.) that you will be paid in. The contract should address late payment or failure to pay, as well as interest charged on late payments.

3) Cancellation terms—under what conditions the contract can be cancelled and what are the applicable penalties for cancelling.

4) Liability—what insurance are you required to carry to protect yourself from injury or claims from audience, venue, staff, or crew. (It’s a good idea to have a policy in place. The CFM offers a good policy for its Canadian members, see here for more information: http://www.cfmusicians.org/services/we-ve-got-it-covered. For more information on obtaining insurance in the US visit afm.org.

5) Riders—specify your performance/hospitality and technical requirements:

Main rider: addresses such things as contact info; billing, advertising and promotion; merchandise; accommodations; dressing room; and security requirements.

Hospitality rider: addresses such things as meals; dressing room food and drink; after-show food; and bus food/stock.

Technical rider: addresses such things as sound, lighting and backline requirements; risers/staging; local crew required; stage plot and input list; and lighting plot.

Note: Riders can be changed, but any changes need to be agreed to in writing by both parties. Be sure to have the agreed-upon riders initialed by both parties.

6) Exclusivity—any geographical or time restrictions that might prevent booking other performances close by or around the same time of year.

Once you have a signed contract, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that all of the details have been addressed. If anything changes after signing, be sure to communicate with the other party immediately and seek to resolve unexpected issues. Life on the road is complicated. Detailed contracts are one way to make life easier.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: robert@bairdartists.com.

Face Time or Screen Time?

by Barbara Owens, AFM International Representative Midwest Territory and Symphonic Services Division Negotiator

Barbara-Owens2I come from the pre-computer/pre-smartphone era of writing letters and making telephone calls with a rotary dial phone (I even remember our family sharing a “party line”). In this electronic age, many of us feel challenged to maintain communication that has more substance than an impersonal conference call, quick text, or group email. Electronic communication certainly has advantages of flexibility and immediate accessibility, but the drawbacks, especially when it comes to group communication or decision making, can create misunderstandings and frustration.

Many experts agree that face-to-face meetings, even if conducted via Skype or another video chat program, are the optimal way to bring diverse groups into an environment where complex discussions can be undertaken and decisions can be made. Craig Jarrow, from Time Management Ninja, says, “You don’t have to be ‘in person’ but you have to ‘be there.’” In other words, how do you really know that you have the undivided attention of all the participants on a non-video conference call? If participants give into the temptation to multi-task, your call may be longer and less productive than you wish.

As musicians, we are so in-tune with the nonverbal cues of our orchestra colleagues that we might do ourselves a disservice when we bypass in-person or video chat meetings for the ease of a group conference call. We do better when we can see those we are communicating with; seeing the people you are talking with engages them and you more directly. (Also, it’s much harder to say no or disagree with someone when you have to look them in the eye!)

Written electronic communications can be even more problematic. We have all received those middle-of-the-night emails containing an emotional reaction to a negotiation proposal or situation of a colleague that can set in motion a never-ending email chain of reactions from people in the address loop. While you may think these types of emails provide a space for venting, at any time one email—or even one sentence—taken out of context has the potential to wreak havoc. Resist the temptation to “reply all” when you are in this situation. Picking up the phone for a one-on-one conversation, and then following it with a video chat for the group, if necessary, can alleviate unnecessary drama and confusion.

We are fortunate that musicians who have multiple employers in multiple locations can use video chats, texting, and email to keep current with news from their orchestras, their local, and the AFM. During negotiations, I have seen negotiating committees reach out electronically to absent committee members or colleagues for input on specific issues. This is a great benefit of technology that allows us all to participate and stay connected. But electronic communication is a tool, not a replacement for face-to-face communications. Electronic communication is easy, convenient, and efficient, but it does not have the emotional power of direct communication.