The International Square Dance Magazine

Wade Driver

Booking a Caller

Far too often I see or hear of an uncomfortable situation involving the hiring of a caller for a dance or a dance event such as a festival or convention. Upon investigation of these situations, I have found that the majority of problems are due to a lack of proper communication between the caller and the hiring entity. I really don’t know if that is due to: 1) a lack of knowledge as to what is expected; 2) intentional subterfuge; or 3) sloppy business practices. None of the above is a justifiable reason for failure of a calling contract to be executed.

CALLERLAB has available for download on its website a “Caller/Club Confirmation Agreement” that covers all (except in extremely unusual situations) salient points of the contractual agreement between both parties. It is detailed and all inclusive regarding what is to be expected by both caller and club (or organization). Most of the time, any problem that might arise happens prior to the execution of this contract.

One of our primary means of communication these days is email. Almost everyone has an email address and most of the time; callers are first approached as to their availability and fee using email. Several problems can (and do) arise from this practice:

1) Once the date, time, fee, etc. are agreed to, one or both sides neglect to follow through on a written contract. Even though the email is considered a legal contractual arrangement, it rarely includes all of the details of the agreement. Therefore, a potential problem arises at the outset.

2) During negotiations, one or both parties are slow to respond. Maybe the club is talking with more than one caller or maybe the caller is waiting for a better deal elsewhere.
3) It is very easy to be misunderstood when conversing via email. Ninety-nine percent of all phone calls are free, so I strongly recommend that you use a phone call to finalize a deal.

Once the deal is reached, I implore you to use the standard calling contract to finalize the transaction. There is a place on this contract for special considerations. If you wish to have a cancellation clause added, I suggest you put it in this area. There is always that possibility that either the caller will have to cancel due to illness or some other viable reason, or that the event will have to be canceled or rescheduled. There should be some time limit for that to happen and a listing of recourse in the event it does happen. There should be no misunderstanding about this. Later on is not the time for “He said/she said”.

Many times, after I have agreed to the details of a contract, the hiring entity will email me a copy of the contract. The proper procedure at that point is to:

1) Download the contract
2) Check it carefully before signing it
3) Sign and date the contract
4) Either mail the signed copy back to the hiring entity or scan it into your computer and email it back to the hiring entity. Either way, both of you should now have a hard copy of the contract.

Please understand that contract law in this country is just about the strongest law on the books and should be treated as such.

As to the emotional, cultural, and philosophical aspects there is no end to the complaints. Similar to “buyer’s remorse” I hear clubs complain that they are paying too much and I hear callers complain that they booked for too little. Get over it guys! Decide BEFORE you sign the contract if it is a price you can live with. Once it is signed, it is too late to renegotiate (unless both parties are agreeable). To go back later and say “oops, I just found out I can’t pay that much” is totally unacceptable. This is another good reason for the cancellation clause being included in special considerations.

Another scenario that occurs quite frequently is the change of officers or change of booking agents. If an officer of an organization makes a commitment to a caller for a certain fee, in my opinion, the new officer is bound to honor that contract. This is a good reason to stipulate this possibility in the “special considerations” area of the contract. Being aware of this possibility can save a great deal of headaches and hard feelings down the road. I very strongly request that all square dance organizations be aware of this possibility and make sure that incoming officers are aware of any standing commitments (in detail).

In summation, I would love to be able to say that the blame for the misunderstandings and subsequent hard feelings of mishandled contracts lies with one party more than the other, but I cannot do that since a lack of attention and due diligence lies both with the caller and the booking entity. The only thing that will prevent problems is communication. “Say what you mean and mean what you say!”

Fun set to music!