It’s one of the most common issues in live entertainment: late artists. Sometimes tardiness is due to travel issues, sometimes poor planning, and other times the artist team never intended to arrive at the time you discussed for sound check. So how can you prevent a late artist? What can you do when they are late? And when is late too late?

KEY:  Being late, causing you stress, or missing a sound check is NOT a breach of contract. But not fulfilling their complete contractual obligations IS a breach of contract. 


Prevent

  1.  Make sure your contract clearly states your event start time, the artist’s set time, and the set times of the openers. 
  2.  Establish a curfew. If there is no curfew given, there is no firm deadline for when an artist needs to be absolutely finished.
  3.  Advance everything thoroughly with the artist’s tour manager. Establish a timeline to include their arrival, sound check, set time, and any other commitments. Email everyone a copy of the agreed upon timeline, with everyone from the artist’s touring team on copy (tour manager, production manager, manager, etc.)
  4.  Gather the artist’s travel info. Even if you are not providing the artist’s transportation, it’s important to know their flight numbers or where they are coming from so you can monitor flights and/or drive times. Delays and bad traffic will happen; they are a part of life. Knowing what is going on ahead of time can help you react more quickly.

 

Communicate

  1.  A few hours before arrival, text the artist team from your cell phone (if you are the main contact). That way they have your number handy at all times. In that text tell them whose cell phone it is and to let you know if any travel issues come up. It’s establishing an early flow of communication.
  2.  If you see that flights are delayed or traffic is especially heavy, feel free to check in with the artist team via call or text. If you are not receiving texts or calls back, feel free to send an email with everyone on copy again – managers, agents, etc. – to try to elicit a response. Try not to get stressed out or concerned too early. Keep in mind that often people cannot respond mid-flight or when landing or gathering luggage, so give them a reasonable amount of time to respond.
  3.  If an artist team tells you they are running late, tell them to keep you updated so you can properly adjust sound checks, rearrange transportation, and work through the other logistics.

Remember to communicate to ALL teams involved (artist, production, hospitality, etc.) what changes you are making to the timeline to accommodate.

 

Pivot

  1.  If an artist is running late, don’t panic. Rearrange as best you can.
  2.  Get creative. I’ve rearranged sound check and set times, extended stage changeovers between bands, switched around the opener line-up if artists agree to it, extended curfews, and much more to accommodate late artists. Typically you make some changes so the audience is none the wiser.


When is it TOO late? And what can I do about it?

Once you know your artist is going to be late, review your contract language and form a plan. Yes, the artist could be a little late, but they could also be very late. 

This is where having a curfew listed on your contract comes in handy. Again, being late is not a breach of contract until it affects contractual obligations. Example: If your curfew is 11pm and you cannot extend it, and the artist’s contract states a 60-minute set, that means technically they have until 11pm to get their set in. If they arrive late and get on stage at 10:30pm, they will only get a 30-minute set in before curfew. THAT is a breach of contract. This gives you grounds to hold their payment and work out a reduction. Keep communication flowing. Remind them of the curfew and how you plan to adjust.

Communicate with the agent that you booked the show with. Making the agent aware of issues is important to establishing a plan and avoiding a breach of contract. If they don’t know there has been a breach of contract, they will be blindsided if you hold payment from their artist. Instead of surpising them, let them help you form a plan. 

If an artist is so late that they cannot perform a full set, or if their tardiness has affected your ticket sales, then you have grounds to withhold payment and work out an adjusted fee. Those discussions must be with the agent. You need to then propose a prorated artist fee in writing. For example, in the case of an artist only performing 30 minutes out of a 60-minute set, you should propose a 50% payment. The agent (if doing their job correctly) will argue for more because the artist has incurred all their travel costs and more. If the artist was communicative, but clearly just ran into some challenges, it is a good idea to pay them more than 50%. If it was just a blatant disregard for contractual obligations, or if a lot of audience members demand refunds and there is money lost because of the tardiness, I am usually less lenient. 

Keep in mind:

  • You cannot control everything, especially flight issues. Control what you can control, be prepared, know your contract, and find solutions.

  • Get creative when you need to. Make exceptions if you can. After all, it’s the audience’s experience that matters, and being lenient with artists who are making an effort can mean a better show.

  • Reputation matters in this industry. If you are consistently withholding payment from artists, or being unreasonable, industry personnel may hesitate to work with you again. But keep in mind that reputation goes both ways. If an artist is a pain, you certainly never have to work with them again, and you certainly don’t have to recommend them to anyone else.

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]