Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Keeping in Contract

Expectations
Contracts, an essential article that organizers and instructors have to deal with alike before a swing dance event. In the ideal world all expectations are explicitly stated and agreed to in these documents before an event. However as shown in Bobby White’s article Implied in the Contract over at Swungover this is proven to frequently not be the case. Usually though this only results in possible annoyance of the instructors and/or organizers.

However in the worst case scenarios this can end up being disastrous and costing individuals thousands of dollars.  This doesn’t even go into the opportunity costs for instructors or organizers. Instructors who lose money on an event could have been at another event which would have paid them or perhaps at a competition that they could have placed and received prizes and possible credibility to earn future teaching jobs.

Below are two links for situations that are arguably worst case scenarios, I won’t go into detail about them here but let you make your own judgments.

Advice for Organizers

  1. My first piece of advice is if you haven’t read Bobby’s article on Swungover, do so.
  2. Second piece of advice is from a video titled, “F$#% you Pay Me”.

At the 8:45 minute mark is great advice is given for anyone dealing with any type of contract.

Clear definitions.
Clear expectations.

… all explicitly stated and agreed to by both parties in A CONTRACT.

Summary: Only expect instructors to do what is stated in the contracts. Showing up for dances, doing demos at the Friday night dance, judging contests, et cetera should all be agreed upon in that beforehand. Otherwise, don’t expect it.

Advice for Instructors/Performers

If you want something, put it in your conditions to work in the contract. Even if it is small details such as being provided water during classes or having the option of getting transportation to leave a dance early. As an organizer myself I want the instructors I hire to be as comfortable and happy as possible, because often they carry that attitude to the classes they teach. I know most good organizers hold this same view as well. If what to do to make that happen is conveniently provided in a list form it makes life easier on myself and the volunteers for my event. In addition it makes life for the instructors easier during that event.

For those of you who teach outside of your local area Richard Halpern’s advice in the comment section of one of the ifsgscrewedus.com posts is spot on,

Yes indeed, folks! You all should have been wise enough to get ALL your travel arrangements either made and paid for by the client, OR to have been completely reimbursed BEFORE you left, as well as receiving your TOTAL PAYMENT IN-FULL, at least 30 days PRIOR to the date of the engagement, if being paid by check, or 7 days prior, if being paid by wire-transfer (as is customary when dealing with gigs that are out of the USA.

[…] I do these kinds of gigs all the time, all year long, and because of my requirements, I don’t have these problems anymore. Some of the bottom-feeding “agents” in the lookalike and event planning industry have complained that I am being a “Diva” or am “Ego-maniacal” because I ask for these things, and they are the ones who always leave themselves open for this type of abuse from disreputable clients, and then expect the talent that they themselves contracted with, stand by them when they don’t get paid. What a crock. Good luck to all of you on this one.

Unnecessary Risks… Don’t Take Them

Contracts exist to protect both parties and remove any ambiguity from a business relationship.  In addition they ideally provide a plan of action if things go awry (instructor’s flight gets delayed/organizer has to cancel event after contracts are signed/et cetera).  In respect to contracts I want to to leave everybody with these finishing remarks:

  1. Know what is necessary criteria for yourself as an organizer and/or instructor for contracts and do not back down on them.
  2. If someone tries to get you to avoid contracts with promises of trust or great rewards, walk the hell away.
  3. If possible/reasonable get a lawyer to draft an initial contract, they are professionals and anticipate things one would not even fathom.

Addendum

In the comment section below there have been some responses posted in relation to the situation in which the organizers are more then willing to pay/hire instructors, but getting contracting to happen is difficult due to the behalf of the instructors. A quote from Michael Gamble from Bobby’s Swungover post I think addresses these situations best,

“On another side (not necessarily “the” other side), I’d like to point out that not all instructors are comfortable, eager, or even ABLE to interact on this professional of a level. There are definitely some who prefer a less formal agreement, who chafe at spelling out their needs, and who, let’s face it, do not like to write emails. (That was not a euphemism for “they aren’t very timely in their responses” — some actually don’t like it and can get surly and/or increase their demands if pressured to respond to a request) This is perhaps doubly true of many musicians.
So with those things in mind, I often find myself trying to figure out “at what level” each staff member operates, and try to meet them there, for practical reasons.”

My advice for future organizers, especially college students is unless if you are dead set on a certain instructor/pair of instructors talk to experienced organizers before you attempt to hire anybody. Ask them in their experience which ones have been professional and easy to work with. Organizing a workshop is hard enough, the larger number of things you can limit as stress factors, the better.

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3 responses

  1. S

    I have a rather weird situation where we the organizers have been fully desiring and expecting to pay the instructor for our large annual dance, but he hasn’t been replying to our e-mails requesting that he send us the signed final contract so that we can do so!

    So it isn’t really what was in the contract that is the issue, but the contract itself not being in…

    April 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm

  2. I had a simlar situation a few years back, where I hired an instructor with money from my college and all they need to do to get paid was send in a tax form and a contract. But the school year ended and they hadn’t, so the school wouldn’t pay them.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm

  3. Thanks for the responses guys. I added an Addendum to the end of the post to address them.

    April 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm

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