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Gimme the money or the guitar gets it!
All Rights Reserved ©1996 Duncan R Fry
The Door Deal. Can you believe that bands still fall for this one? For those not familiar with the term, it's when the band doesn't get paid an actual fee for playing, but they get a percentage of the money people pay to come and see them. This assumes that people are going to come and see them, of course. However, it's frequently done in the dying days of a venue, when audiences have dwindled to unprofitable levels, the club knows it's going to change hands or shut down and just wants to keep the place going until someone new takes over.
Let's face it, if the promoters knew that 900 people were going to pay ten bucks a head to come and see The Fudgepackers, then they would be damn sure to want that money themselves, wouldn't they? But they know that it's highly likely the band and crew will outnumber the paying customers, so they offer The Door Deal to the band. The band gets stars in their eyes and orders up big on the production.
And what happens? Well, if you're a PA owner/operator, how many times has someone from the band come up to you after a gig and whined: "We didn't get as many people as we hoped. Is it OK if we pay you a bit less?"
The implication left unsaid but floating in the air being that if you don't agree to this ridiculous demand, you're the worst bastard left unhung in the world.
What do you do? Well, you could say, "Yeah sure mate, look just give me some bucks for diesel and give me the rest whenever," but if you're that determined to give so much away then you'd be better off getting a job as a Christmas Santa and let the band keep the truck and PA and shift in with you rent free as well! Get real!
Here's my suggestion. You take the snivelling little shit to one side and you say, firmly but tactfully, "Look Damiian or Tarquin or Snothead or whatever, you mean that if you'd had a whole lot more people you'd have paid me more than we agreed on? Of course not, and I wouldn't have expected it, because I agreed to do the show for a set price. You'd expect me to honour the agreement we made, the same as I expect you to honour it."
Of course, many up and coming or down and struggling bands have a somewhat laissez faire attitude towards their personal finances, and it may well be that they just don't have any more money to pay you.
So I suggest you say, "OK, you can fix me up later for the difference, but in the meantime I'll just hang on to your pre 'L' series Digitronix XYZ 5000 Midi keyboard until you bring the money round!" This is a very persuasive argument, especially if it's already in the truck!
Call me a bit cynical if you like. Perhaps I am. If cynicism means that I don't believe you should work for nothing while other people make money out of you, then yup, I'm cynical.
If you think I'm being harsh, consider this little story.
I got a call from a band I worked with quite regularly. They had a job in Albury (200 miles/300K away, on the border between Victoria and NSW) and could I do the gig? Well, it was a fair distance for just the one gig, and the engine in my big old Toyota F series truck had been playing up a bit; missing, spluttering and hard to start, but I said yes anyway. I had been regularly putting a bit aside in an engine repair fund, and with the money from this gig I'd be able to get some repairs done.
During the week I picked up their stage gear from the house they all shared, when I happened to be in the area. Their girlfriends helped me load it into the truck, as the boys were off on a photo shoot or something.
Bright and early on the day of the gig my trusty assistant Jim and I headed off to Albury. I wanted to have a bit of time up my sleeve so we wouldn't have to hurry, and to allow for anything unforeseen.
50 miles or so from Melbourne, the engine started to miss quite drastically, and by 100 miles had settled down to a ragged, uneven beat that indicated we were only running on 5 cylinders. As anyone who's driven a truck full of gear knows, losing that one cylinder makes all the difference on hills, but we eventually rattled our way into Albury and arrived at the gig.
What gig? The club manager said it had been cancelled a week ago!
I called the band. John the guitarist answered the phone.
"It's Dunk here," I said
"Oh, Dunk, thank heavens you called. We just found out this morning - the gig's been cancelled." he replied. Lying bastard. What he meant was 'the gig was cancelled last week but we forgot to tell you'
"I know it's been fucking cancelled," I said through gritted teeth. "Jim and I have just driven 200 miles in a sick truck to get here."
"What - you're at the gig? In Albury?"
"Yes, here in Albury. Hot, sticky, tired and very shitty."
There was silence on the other end, but I persisted.
"What are you going to do about it? Remembering, of course, that I've got all your stage gear!"
John sounded nervous. He obviously had visions of his guitar and amp joining the rest of their stuff in a starring role at the Albury tip that night!
"Oh, we'll fix you and Jim up for everything, Dunk, don't worry. Just take it easy with that stage gear, won't you. We'll see you when you're back in Melbourne."
Jim and I got back in the truck, had a leisurely lunch on the band's petrol bill and then headed for home. The misfires from the engine got worse. Soon we were just crawling along, often running on 4 cylinders only, and frequently down to second gear for any slight incline.
It was dark by the time the truck wheezed into Melbourne. A whole day's driving for nothing. We were two really happy guys!
Still, the stage gear threat worked, and the band reluctantly paid us in full for the gig. Oddly enough I didn't work with them again - I think they either broke up or found someone more compliant!
Anyhow, I didn't give a rat's bunghole. With the money I managed to get a really good deal on a secondhand engine that had only done about 100 miles from new. It had come out of a Toyota Landcruiser that had got rolled on the beach on King Island at the low tide point. It was covered in sand and seaweed, but being a late model engine, it was fully sealed, and ran like clockwork for as long as I had the truck.
As long as you didn't mind the smell of fish when it got hot!
This story first appeared in Connections magazine