Anatomy of a One Hour Gig

When you hire an act, the show is just one part of the process.

Sometimes when I’m hired to perform my show for an event, I’m asked why I charge a flat day rate instead of billing for an hour of my time. If variety entertainers charged an hourly rate for their work, no-one would be able to afford their work!

Here’s a little graphic that should help explain:


Writing – To ensure the best show possible, it’s important to customize your material to the audience. Just as the host of a dinner party will addjust the menu to their guests’ taste, a skilled entertainer will modify his material to best resonate with their audience.

Are you performing for a yacht club? Then it’s time to write some new punchlines with a nautical slant. Performing for a plumbing convention? It’s time to do a little research and write some material about spanners and water pressure.

This step takes research, writing, and a few hours of work.

Rehearsal – In order to execute a show cleanly, you’ve got to practice! A good variety performer will spend a few hours every day in the studio to polish his routines and work on new material. If you want your juggler to balance a wineglass on the edge of a knife he’s holding between his teeth – then skip rope while maintaining the balance – he’ll need to dedicate some time a few days before the show.

I often learn new tricks- or even write entirely new acts- for clients based on their needs. As you can imagine, these numbers can take several weeks to get stage-ready.

Transport – Depending on where your event is being held, transport can be more than half a day’s work! Most entertainers won’t charge you for time spent in the car, but do expect to pay their expenses along the way when you’re bringing in a performer from out of town. The 2014 federal reimbursement rate is $0.56 per mile driven – a number that accounts for gas, maintenance, and the car’s depreciation (Source:,-Medical-and-Moving-Announced).

Setup & Teardown – Even a relatively lightweight show can take an hour or two to set up, tech, and warm up. This can take some shows longer, depending on their size and technical requirements. I generally ask to have access to the venue two hours before curtain – an hour to set up my things and check my microphone, then another hour to warm up the tricks in my show.

…of course, this breakdown doesn’t include the amount of time and dedication it takes to learn the skills performed on stage! A dedicated variety performer will spend thousands of hours practicing across many years before he even considers going on stage professionally.

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Understanding your Entertainment Contract

Understanding your entertainment contract

Need help navigating an entertainment contract? Learn the essentials here.

Contracts can be difficult to understand. Whether you’re booking an entertainer for the first time or if you’re a seasoned event planner, it’s important to understand the basics.

These documents protect both the event planner and the artist by being both detailed and legally binding. A good contract prevents glitches at your event by clearly outlining the rights and obligations of everyone involved. A basic entertainment contract can be broken down into the following parts:

Names and Information – Who’s the hiring organization? Who is the contracted performer? Who is the contact person for each group? How can they be contacted?

     Tip: Sometimes event planners use one staff person to sign the contract and a different one to manage the event on site. If the on-site contact is different than the administrative contact, be sure to include both sets of information.

Description of Services – What is the performer being hired to do? Be as specific as possible. “Show” isn’t descriptive, but “45-60 minute juggling show for PTA meeting” is.

Times and Dates – When will the performer begin his show? When will it end? When will they have access to the venue for setup and sound check?

“Noon show” can lead to some confusion, but “Tuesday, July 3rd – Show starts at 12:00 noon and ends at 1:00pm. The venue will be available for setup and soundcheck at 10:00am the day of the show” doesn’t leave any room for misunderstanding.

If you’re hiring ambient or “walkaround” entertainment, be sure to include information about breaks, too. Ambient entertainers usually require a 15-minute break for every hour worked.

     Tip: If your event starts late due to an issue on the buyer’s side, it’s common practice for the end time to remain the same. If you’re hiring a performer to do walkaround entertainment from 6:00pm-8:00pm but start the event at 6:30pm, the performer’s contract still ends at 8:00pm unless you discuss otherwise.

Pay Schedule – How much is the entertainer being paid? Is there a travel fee? Is there a deposit? If so, how much is it and when is it due? When will the remaining balance be paid? Is there overtime pay?

Many performers require a deposit of up to 40% to be paid 30 days before the event takes place. This deposit ensures that your event is on their schedule and acts as compensation for cancellation. If the event coordinator cancels the event after a certain deadline (usually 14 days before an event), they forfeit the deposit. If the artist cancels, they offer a refund. This is often outlined in the cancellation clause.

Technical Requirements– Who is providing what equipment? Who is running the equipment? How much space is needed to run the show? How much ceiling height?

Many entertainers will bring their own PA systems to an event, but many do not. Is the singer you’re hiring bringing a microphone, a full sound system, or nothing at all? When the equipment is set up – no matter who’s obliged to bring it – who is running it during the show?

     Tip: Many professional entertainers also have a technical rider for their show. This document will usually go into greater detail than what is listed in the contract, and is written specifically for a venue’s technical staff.  If you’d like to see a sample technical rider, have a look at mine here.

Cancellation Clause – If the event is cancelled by the event planner, what happens to the deposit? If the performer cancels, what then?

     Tip: Professional entertainers take their jobs very seriously. If something happens and they have to cancel, chances are they have already found a suitable replacement for your event. Talk to them openly and honestly and work towards a solution together- more often than not, your event will be a smash success despite the scheduling issue.

Other details – Most contracts will also include details about photography and video recording, publicity, and conflict arbitration. Read these terms carefully, and don’t hesitate to ask questions – the artist will thank you for reading the details!

The purpose of a contract is to prevent issues that arise from assumptions and misunderstanding. If you see a term in the contract that you’re not comfortable with, discuss it with the artist. These documents are easily edited to address the specific needs and requirements of both parties. In my experience, artists pride themselves in being flexible and are excited to help you put on the best production possible. Let us help you create a successful event!

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