Wedding Subcontracts?

Posted In: Performing

  • Participant
    Samantha B on #183810

    After four years at university I will be moving back to my hometown and naturally will be playing weddings there. My old harp teacher recently contacted me and said that she has some weddings she wants me to work as a “subcontract.” That is, she will set it up for me and I’ll have to add $50 to the price the clients would pay, which would go to her.

    I feel pretty weird about it. Is this sort of thing normal? I would have thought that the norm would be just to pass along another harpist’s contact info or website if you couldn’t take a gig and wanted to refer someone else, rather than asking for money from it. I also feel uncomfortable charging extra for no actual extra service, and if this isn’t normal I don’t want to set a precedent with her. I feel like I need to be able to do business under my own terms rather than her still considering me to be her student.

    Any advice is welcome!

    Sid Humphreys on #183817

    How you handle this with your teacher now, will affect how this works in the future. If your former teacher will act as your “agent” then they are entitled to a fee; but they need to handle the arrangements and payment and in turn pay you as the subcontractor ($50 per wedding seems steep). It also has the potential to make you look like you overcharge. Otherwise it should just be a referral and any fee should be your option not hers.

    brian-noel on #183824

    Sid is right, but, like he said, your teacher is acting as a contractor at that point. She collects the full fee and then pays you your agreed upon fee, keeping a percentage for herself. Contractors usually charge a minimum of 20% of the total fee. And, they often require that you pass out their business cards only, not your own. If you’re working for a contractor, expect to make a little less money, but you won’t have to deal with the client until the day of the event; you just show up and play, while the contractor handles all the details.

    Sylvia on #183825

    I wouldn’t even consider that kind of setup. You’re an adult, and it’s important for you to learn how to manage your playing opportunities. That’s just part of the job. You’ll be out playing long after the teacher has retired.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #184051

    It might work better if you set up a more symbiotic way of subbing. In the future, you will get some calls that you can’t accept. In those cases, you can pass them on to your former teacher, for no fee, and she can do the same for you. Is she running a booking agency? If an agent is doing a lot of work to manage all the details, then there should be a percentage paid. But I think most harpists just share gigs with each other. Weddings can be very labour-intensive, what with meeting the bride and groom, having to buy, write or learn new pieces, etc., and no booking agent can do that for you. It’s not difficult to make a boiler-plate contract and set of rules, so you probably don’t need an agent. You should be fine with a good web site, and making connections with the bridal industry. You do want to establish a friendly, professional relationship with all the harpists in your city. Tell your former teacher that you respect and value her, and will pass on any gigs to her that you can’t handle, but respectfully decline her offer.

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