Musicians: Know Your Paperwork

Hi everyone. I recently experienced an event during a performance gig that I believe is worthy of sharing with other performing artists. Musicians: Know your paperwork.

First: In order to protect yourself, you must understand the paperwork you sign, agreements you enter into, and other pertinent business endeavors. Failing to do so can result in embezzlement, misunderstandings, illegal/hindering contracts, and other possible dilemmas.

Case in point: I always make a point of telling my clients I expect payment date of performance. If this is not possible, I schedule a date that allows payment processing time.

So, with all the prior agreements (verbal and written) handled, I show up at the gig venue.

As I was setting up my performance area, my scheduler approached me. “We need you to sign this before we can pay you,” is what I heard. She handed me the piece of paper.

I read the document. It was a RECEIPT. I was to sign a receipt stating that I received payment before payment could be processed. WHAT??!!! No, I wasn’t going to sign it.

“This is a receipt. I have not received payment. I’m not signing something stating that I have received your payment when I have not. If I sign this, it appears that we have settled payment,” I explained.

“Oh, I don’t understand this. I was just told by Administration that you need to sign it. All entertainers sign this without putting up a fight,” she said. “No. Can I speak with the Administration person?” I asked. She went and got him.

He arrived. “It’s standard protocol for musicians to sign this document in order for us to process payment,” he stated.

“Can you explain to me what a receipt is?” I asked him.

At this point he was huffy and losing patience. “It’s a document stating the person received payment,” he said.

“Right. So, since I have not received payment, why is it you want me to sign a receipt stating I have?” I inquired.

He didn’t have an answer other than “it’s standard protocol”.

“Well, your company protocol is wrong. The only time I’m signing your receipt is when I have payment in hand,” I reiterated, “I was promised payment upon performance date. We discussed the performance/payment details two months ago when we set the date.”

“OK. Hold on,” he went into his office. I never saw him again. The scheduler came back, however, with a check for an agreed upon amount.

After I had the check in hand, I signed the receipt. “Thank you. I’m glad we got it all worked out,” I replied.

The musician paperwork situation was successfully completed. The performance went on as planned.

Moral of story: Please know your paperwork and what you are signing. Never sign something you are uncertain about. Always ask what a document is for. Obtain assistance when needed. Study up on the basic business paperwork.

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Marie Buckner owns and operates this site. She is a classically-trained musician/flutist with over 50 years of performance experience. She enjoys introducing others to the joys of the flute. Available for weddings, retirement parties, children’s parties, and other events.