A Simple Invoicing System Can Save You from Getting Stiffed by a Club

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How to sign, seal, and deliver an invoice — and then get paid.

Play enough live shows, and you’ll get stiffed on at least one.  Or, confronted with any variety of funny business, unexpected disagreement, or lower-than-expected payment.

Unfortunately, there are promoters that either take their time paying you or choose not to pay you at all.  Surprisingly, a lot of this tomfoolery can be eliminated with a well-structured invoicing process.

Right off the bat, invoices provide documentation for both parties of the work performed and the amount the promoter owes you.  This might not seem like a concern, but it offers tremendous proof and paperwork when a problem occurs.

Here are a few tips for drafting an invoice to make sure your band gets paid.

Agree to the terms upfront.

You wouldn’t believe how many bands fail to finalize payment terms because a promoter promises that he or she will take care of the group.  It’s easy to fall for the smooth talking promoter, but you need to insist on a written agreement.  If someone doesn’t want to give you an agreement in writing, it’s best to walk away.  Otherwise, you run the distinct risk of getting stiffed.

Find out what determines how much you get paid.

If it’s a head count, make sure you find out the price per attendee.  If it’s a flat fee, don’t be afraid to negotiate based on how many tickets you usually sell.

Even if it’s only an email, get your agreement in writing.  Verbal contracts might be legally binding, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll stand up in a court of law.  In many cases, they won’t, especially if a judge is trying to make a determination based on competing claims (and no paperwork to back anything up).

Create an invoice before the date of the concert.

Creating your invoice before a performance encourages the promoter to pay you on time.  The invoice gives you a legal record of what you’re owed and also looks professional.

You don’t need a lawyer to prepare your invoice. There are a few things that you need to have on it though.

(a) Professional Header

Start off with the name of your band.  Put it on top of the invoice in an easy to read font.  Some promoters are going to have multiple invoices; make it easy for them to find yours.

Next, list your contact information. Include an address, phone number, email, and website. All the basics.  If there’s extra information you think should also be included, then include it.

Anything that helps the promoter contact you needs to be in this section.  Again, you want to make it easy for the client to pay you.  Most payments aren’t held up because the promoter is shady, but because they don’t know how to get in touch with you.

(b) The Promoter’s Information

Make it clear who you’re sending the invoice to.  Put the name of the business where you’re performing, their address, and phone number.  If you’ve corresponded through email, put that information in your invoice as well.

How To Send An Invoice With Payment Details

(c) Payment Specifics

Across from the promoter’s information, put the payment details that were agreed upon.

(d) Invoice Number and Date.

Always include an invoice number.  This helps you keep track of which invoice to reference in case of a late payment, especially if you have a lot of them while you’re on tour.

Include the date that you prepare the invoice and the due date.  The date of payment is up to you and the promoter; make sure that’s it is obvious and easy to spot.

If you expect payment on the date of the concert, put that in the invoice.  Don’t assume that you won’t need an invoice if this is the case.  If something happens and the promoter isn’t around after the show, you’ll need proof that he or she promised you payment on that date.

(e) Other terms.

Some venues want to take a cut of merchandising sales. If this is the case, you’ll need to include this information on your invoice. While this is a rare occurrence, it does happen, so you need to account for that when you bill the venue.

Important: Have All Parties Sign the Invoice

It’s imperative that you and the promoter sign the invoice as soon as possible.  You need written confirmation that both parties agree to the terms.  If the promoter runs a venue in a town that’s far away from you, email them the invoice and ask them to sign it and send it back to you.

Give them enough time to review the invoice.  Don’t send it the day before the show and expect everything to be okay once you arrive.  You don’t want to arrive, set up your equipment, and then realize that there’s a problem.

You always want a written record of what you agree to in advance of your show. If the promoter isn’t there when you arrive, you’ll need to prove what you agreed to, and a signed invoice is the best way to do so.

Tips For Dealing With Late (or No) Payment

Even with an agreement and invoice, there are going to be times that you deal with someone that wants to stiff you.

There are a few options available to you.  First, you can go the legal route.  Most of the time, promoters that don’t pay believe you won’t go through the court system. You don’t have to file a lawsuit to get paid in these instances. Having a lawyer write a letter demanding payment gets you the money you’re owed most of the time.

Word of mouth, especially if the promoter runs a small venue or operates in a small town, is also effective.  Most promoters know that they need acts to fill their venue and make money.  If they know that you’ll put them on blast, they are more apt to pay what they owe.

Again, remember that 95% of promoters pay on time and the amount agreed to. Don’t assume that you’re going to get ripped off, but protect yourself for the times it happens.

Bands should always conduct themselves as a business first.  Part of running a business is dealing with billing.  There are products out there that manage resources, like this one that’s designed for freelance websites.

As a band, it’s easier to focus on going out on stage and performing if you’re confident.  And 90% of confidence comes from preparation. Knowing what you’ll get paid and having documentation of that takes the stress off of your band — and helps you focus more on your music.