Tao of Street Performing

Tao of Street Performing
by Sue Basko, esq.

For rules on street performing in certain locations, please see:

The Tao is The Way. Laws and rules regarding street performing vary location to location. Some require permits, some do not. Some reserve spaces. Some limit the length of time a performer can stay in one spot and/or the overall time a performer can be on the street in one day. Some do not allow amplifiers. All limit the noise level. Some do not allow gymnastics, animals, fire, or other things that might be dangerous. But overall, there is a way of street performing that will make you welcome in most locations, if you are at the right time and place with the right permit.

The Tao of Street Performing, in simple rules:

1) You are not a monkey. In Santa Monica, there is a street performing act that has dogs jumping through hoops. Then a cute little monkey wearing a jacket runs in a circle taking dollars out of peoples' hands. This is cute. If you run around in a circle taking dollars out of peoples' hands, it is "aggressive solicitation," and will get you ticketed, arrested, or tossed out of almost any street performing location, and often banned.

Aggressive solicitation is one of the surest ways for a performer to be unwelcome on the street. The most you can do to collect money is to have a jar, coffee can, or open guitar case. Start it off with some money of the sort you would like to fill it - usually dollars. Keep an eye on your money jar so it does not walk away. Do not ask anyone for money. Do not name a price. Do not refuse to perform without being paid. Just perform and make it easy for people to tip you. If your tips are meager, you might be in a bad location or maybe your act is not so good. Try a good location. If you still don't get money, it's your act.

2) You are not interrogating terrorists. In U.S. jails housing possible terrorists, the jailers blast loud music to torment their prisoners. The usual picks are heavy metal , screamo, hip hop. Hearing such music, after a while, makes most people go mad. If you play loud repetitive beats on the street, bang on containers, blast a boom box, shout, sing off-key, etc., you are creating a nuisance or violating a noise ordinance. Depending on the location, you will be asked to stop, ticketed, fined, lose your street performing permit, or be arrested.

3) You are not Cirque du Soleil. Many locations forbid things such as acrobats, tumbling, fire, anything involving knives or axes or saws, animals, snakes, birds, and anything else that might pose a danger to the performers or the audience or to passersby.

4) You are not a home for runaways. Most locations forbid anyone under age 16 from street performing. Some allow young teens if they are in the company of their parents.

5) Don't let pickpockets gather around you. If your act draws a crowd, and if there are people who hang around a bit too much, ask them to move on. If you suspect they might be pickpockets, tell the police. Tourist areas, subways, and busy streets are prime areas for pickpockets.

6) You are not a crazy street person. Or at least, you are not supposed to appear like one. How to look like one: Bring a shopping cart piled with things. Bring a sign - a big piece of cardboard where you have written unintelligible things in black marker. The topics? War, economy, conspiracy, abortion, religion. Rant about chemtrails and communists or how people are going to hell. Play a keyboard or accordion with the same 2 notes over and over for hours.

7) You are not the only street performer. You must share the space physically and by not letting your sound emanate too far. Be considerate. Even if you think your act is far superior to the others, you still must share the time and space.

8) Be in tune. Be in tune with your environment. Be in tune with the vibe of the street. Be in tune with the people. Be in tune musically.

What is a Music Talent Developer?

What is a Music Talent Developer?
by Sue Basko, esq.

See also:

In California, a Talent Developer is a licensed Talent Agent who in addition to the agent duty of procuring employment for the talent, also counsels or directs artists in the development of their professional careers. The California Labor Code Sec. 1700.4 states: "Talent Agents may, in addition, counsel or direct artists in the development of their professional careers."

In California, a music manager might also be considered a Talent Developer, although a music manager is not allowed to procure employment for the Talent. The California Talent Agency Law has a very limited exception that allows a music manager to seek a recording contract for a musician or band. That exception is very limited and does not include the right to seek other music work for the talent, such as songwriting or concerts, etc.

Look at the notion of "Talent Development" from the point of view of the Talent Developer. What is the idea? The idea is that the Talent Developer will spot a person with great potential when they are just starting out and have little income. The Talent Developer works with the talent to build them up, help them get gigs, build and grow to something bigger. The payoff for the Talent Developer is when then the talent starts to make big money and the Talent Developer takes a percentage.

WHO is in a position to do this? ONLY a licensed Talent Agent with a long-term contract. A music manager is not in such a position, because the music manager cannot, by law, find gigs, book shows, etc. A music manager who does so can be brought up on Labor Board charges and may have the contract voided or severed and be forced to repay wages and fees. Of course, a music manager can develop talent, but once the talent has developed and found an agent, the music manager can seem mighty superfluous to the talent. The hoped-for payoff may not be forthcoming or may be very short-lived.

There could be the notion (in California, where this exception exists in the Talent Agent law) that a music talent developer is a music manager who tries to get the big payoff by getting a recording contract for a band/ musician. However, recording contracts are few and far between and with most of them, the only sure money is whatever is in the upfront money, or advance. Today, advances for new artists are not all that much, and small record labels may have minimal or no advance. Therefore, working for years to develop a musical artist with the idea of the big payoff coming from taking a percentage of a recording contract is basically hocus pocus. I think you could make more per hour as a Starbuck's barista. Therefore, if one is serious about developing talent, and wishes to be securely protected, being a licensed Talent Agent is the way to go.

In California, there is a newly rewritten law about any talent services that charge fees, such as for photos, website participation, videos, workshops, classes, etc. These people are forbidden from offering to find employment for the talent or from stating that they could do this. This law aims to cut down on the scams such as the modeling scams, acting school scams, child singer scams, music production scams, etc., that charge a fee for a service and claim they will assist the person in getting auditions or getting employment as a model, actor, musician, etc. Therefore, such people cannot be considered Talent Developers.

In Illinois, the laws are rather similar. However, in Illinois, there is no provision that allows a music manager to try to get a recording contract for a client. In Illinois, if you want to be a Talent Developer, the only real way to do so legally is by being a licensed Talent Agent. Otherwise, the contracts are likely to be void as being in violation of law.

WHY are the laws so specific and so strict? Because many musicians have been ripped off by people calling themselves managers, agents, talent developers, bookers, etc. Therefore, if a person wants to do the work of a talent agent, they are required to be licensed and to follow the laws.

There are definitely some very good unlicensed people who have found their way to booking bands and being paid a percentage by the band. They are basically unlicensed talent agents, good people but in violation of the law. I know of such people in California and Illinois. The ones I am thinking of are solid and honest, they build opportunities for the talent, and pay fairly. I think they should just cover their bases and get licensed.

Texas Talent Agent Law Repealed

Texas Talent Agent Law Repealed
By Sue Basko, esq.

Please also see these other related posts:

Starting September 1, 2011, businesses that obtain or attempt to obtain employment for artists in Texas will no longer need to be certified by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The reason given for repealing the law was that few people had the licenses anyway. True enough, it would be hard to twirl a hula hoop in Austin without knocking into someone calling themself a "booker." All these illegal Texas talent agents will be illegal no more. However, stay tuned and keep aware, because this may also change. The law was repealed because so few followed the law. The damage and danger likely to befall musicians from this are so great that the law may do a reverse shortly.

Texas does not exist in a vacuum. Producers and venues in California and New York are not going to want to deal with unlicensed Texas showbiz hucksters. Licensing of talent agents by the state (any state) is a way for talent buyers from other states to know that those talent agents have at least some minimal level of integrity and standard practices. Talent agency law has developed in very similar ways in states across the nation. Across the board, there are certain practices in show business that have proven to be fair and decent, and other practices that have proven not to be. Texas is choosing a step back, far back, in protecting talent, and it is not likely this will mesh well with other states that have chosen to protect talent.

Repealing this law opens up a lot of danger for Texas musicians, bands, and other performers because it removes this layer of legal protection that assured them of decent gigs and payment. My suggestion? If you are a musician or band in Texas, be sure to have a good music attorney check out all your contracts. Get paid for gigs upfront or in escrow. Work only with reputable people. If you are from Texas and seeking gigs in California, get a licensed California talent agent.

Most states require a license of anyone that finds gigs for performers, musicians, or bands. In most states, this includes third-party matchmakers, who often call themselves booking agents, promoters, managers, etc. For the most part, this is all illegal activity-- and rightly so -- because far too many musicians have been ripped off. There are so many stories of fine musicians finding themselves broke after years of trusting some unlicensed person. Most upstart bands have a tale of pay-to-play or working a gig and not being paid. It is truly a jungle out there, and talent agency laws could prevent all that -- if musicians would work only with licensed people.

The talent agency laws are an attempt to bring some standardization and assurances to show business. Most talent agency laws require a talent agent to undergo a thorough background check, to have insurance, and to abide by certain practices aimed at making sure the artists are treated properly and paid. Most talent agent laws require an agent to check out any potential employer before sending the talent there. Agents cannot send talent to any venue or producer who has left any talent unpaid or stranded. Many states require any contracts used by a talent agent to be pre-approved by the State agency. These are serious, basic protections for talent.

In most states, who can legally act on behalf of a musician or band?

1) A licensed talent agent.

2) A licensed music lawyer.

In most states, who cannot legally act on behalf of a musician or band in seeking gigs or other employment?

A band manager, a music manager, a freelance "booker," a "promoter," a "talent developer." If a person wants to do such work, they should get licensed as a talent agent! If they do not want to take the time or have the responsibility that comes with being licensed, do not deal with them! Working with licensed people protects the musicians and bands!

In most states, who can legally hire a performer, musician, or band?

1) The actual venue owner.

2) Someone directly, actually employed by the actual venue itself, if they are paid by the venue itself and not taking a percentage or fee from the amount paid to the artist. This person will be called a Talent Buyer, Band Booker, etc. If the person takes any money from the artist or from the amount the artist is to be paid, in most states, the person must be licensed as a talent agent.

3) A producer. And what is a producer? A producer is the person who has the financial stake in the show, who is putting forth the money and arranging for the talent, the venue, etc. This person stands to lose money or make money.

In most states, who cannot legally book gigs, negotiate gigs, negotiate ticket prices, negotiate the contract for a gig, etc?

A freelance "booker"or "booking agency" that takes any fee or portion of the money from the talent; a promoter; a band manager; a music manager; a talent developer, etc. To do these things legally, in most states, a person must be licensed as a talent agent. If you want to do this work, get licensed as a talent agent.

If you are a musician or a band and you are working with these unlicensed people to get shows, you expose yourself to great risk. If they are trustworthy and legit and responsible, they should just get licensed. It is not that big of a hurdle, but it does provide basic protections to the talent.

Can a person be a "booker," or "booking agent," that is, working for the venue to book talent for shows?

Of course. But, to quote Illinois law, they must "derive no placement fees from" the talent and all advertising "must state in the advertising that the employment agency is acting as the agency or representative of an employer." If a person is booking shows and taking a cut of the money from the performer's pay, then that is a talent agency that must be licensed.

The Illinois law defines "fee" as such:
The term "fee" means money or a promise to pay money. The term "fee" also means and includes the excess of money received by any such licensee over what he has paid for transportation, transfer of baggage, or lodging, for any applicant for employment. The term "fee" also means and includes the difference between the amount of money received by any person, who furnishes employees or performers for any entertainment, exhibition or performance, and the amount paid by the person receiving the amount of money to the employees or performers whom he hires to give such entertainment, exhibition or performance.

How does a person get licensed as a Talent Agent?
The laws are different in every state. It is typical to include include a background check, a written test, to have insurance and to pay state taxes. Once licensed, the agent must follow the state laws. The background check in Illinois is typical, and the law pertaining to that reads:

The applicant must furnish satisfactory proof to the Department that he has never been a party to any fraud, has no jail record, belongs to no subversive societies and is of good moral character and business integrity.

In determining honesty, truthfulness, integrity, moral character and business integrity under this Section, the Department may take into consideration any felony conviction of the applicant, but such a conviction shall not operate as a bar to licensing.

Are these laws regarding who may act as a Talent Agent and who may book acts widely broken?

Yes. And this causes a great deal of trouble for musicians and bands. Talent agent laws protect the artists. Many people, companies or websites that operate in violation of talent agency laws try to pretend they are not in violation of laws by claiming the venues are their actual clients or by calling themselves a "venue," or other such things. If you are finding work for or offering work to talent, you are a talent agent, unless you are the actual venue owner, or are working for the venue owner and not paid any money from the amount to be paid to the talent, or are the actual producer with the money stake in the show. When Labor Boards look at such businesses, the tendency is to construe in favor of their being licensed.

I think the laws are so widely broken because people wanting to get into the business side of music are usually uneducated about the laws and do not understand their purpose. Arts management programs often fall short on teaching real world things. Musicians often go along with these schemes because they seem to be the only game in town.

Consult a lawyer knowledgeable in music and entertainment law. This blog post is not legal advice and may not pertain to your state. If you are musician or band and you take yourself seriously, the first person you should put on your team is a music lawyer. If you conduct your music business in ways that are substandard, you will have trouble moving up the ladder. If you are writing songs, playing gigs, hiring a manager, signing any contract, joining any website or service, or uploading your music anywhere -- you should have a music lawyer that you consult with before doing so. If you don't, you can be wrecking your own future.

Music Scam Alert!

Music Scam Alert!
by Sue Basko, esq

Two recent major music scams are operating out of New York City. Both are aimed at the Black hip-hop or rap crowd and are being done by Black men. Both scams are taking place on the internet. The scammers are reaching out to people on social networking sites, such as Linked-in, Reverbnation and other sites.

Scam artists work by selling you a dream -- a dream of easy fame and fortune. Before you sign any contract or agree to any deal, or upload anything online or click any online agreement or terms or contract -- have it checked out by a lawyer.

People tell me they cannot afford a lawyer, and yet the same people are contemplating sending hundreds or thousands of dollars to some scam on the internet. How does that happen? The scam artist is very skilled with flattery and also with making you believe you two are planning something wonderful and secret together. Talking to a lawyer, especially talking to me, might be a big downer because I am going to tell you the whole thing is a scam and there is no magic money out there just calling your name.

Scam #1 - "MUSIC MANAGEMENT scam " (I am purposely NOT naming the name of the man/ company running this scam. I want him to stay online until authorities stop him.) He says he is "Def Jam A&R," or other A&R, a music producer, a guy who can get you "signed" with a big record label contract. He uses typical drug dealer hip hop imagery, such as a photoshopped pic of him standing in a dark luxurious room. Under the chair is a box overflowing with money and two assault rifles. You are supposed to believe this is a legit businessman, and some people fall for this.

What Happens: He tells you you are wonderful and he wants to sign you to a management contract. He gets you to send him money, supposedly for services. He says he will write you a press release, but all his own online stuff is misspelled and with sloppy sentence structure. He says he'll make you a website, get you photos, and find you a record deal within 6 months. He says you can pay extra money to have your video on his website.

What to Do: Don't Send him money. Don't sign any contract. If you already did, talk to a lawyer, report it, or just move on and get wiser.

Scam #2 - "TOUR scam " - A guy reaches out to you and asks you to "audition" to be on a tour with some very famous music acts. Then they say you have to pay significant money to "lock in" your spot. The whole thing is fake and they are taking people for thousands of dollars. Word is that one of the men working the scam is a convicted rapist. So beware.

What to Do: Don't give them your money. Don't deal with them. Report it to police asap. If you feel more comfortable doing so, report it instead to IC3, the internet crime complaint center.

What the Two Scams Have in Common: Reaching out on the internet, using famous names to lure you, making you "audition" or send in music and links and say you are competing, possibly making you pay money each time you "move up" the audition ladder - meaning they take you for higher dollar amounts in increments. There may be "contracts," and they are terribly written and contain no actual names or contact info of the scammers.

How to Avoid All This: Never sign a contract or get into a deal without consulting first with a lawyer. If you think you can't afford a lawyer, how is it you can afford to send money to a scam artist?