Written by David Marty, Reif President/
As my July 1 retirement draws near, I’m reflecting on some of the interesting episodes of my career.
In March of 1998, in my second year at the Reif, I scored a major win. I managed to book a performance with the Irish National Orchestra. “Riverdance” had started as a project of the Irish Orchestra just a few years earlier, and this was an opportunity to have the original musicians on our stage with a dance segment included. AND I was able to book it in March, right around St. Patrick’s Day as a part of a Minnesota block of performances. What a great success!
Then, just before the end of the year, less than three months before the scheduled performance (which, of course, was sold out), I got a call from their agent, Simon. He apologized when he informed me that the musicians had re-negotiated their contract, and they would no longer perform five dates in a row, as we had scheduled in the Minnesota block. He informed me that, at $11,000, my artist fee was the lowest on the tour, so my date was being dropped.
Not an act of God
“But wait!” I protested. “I have a signed contract from you for that date at that fee!” He claimed that he could cancel because this came under the heading of Force Majeure. (Force Majeure is an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God.) A renegotiated contract is NOT Force Majeure.
He felt bad, and offered, as a substitute, the four-piece band “Flout” which had been having some club success in Ireland. I informed Simon that I would not stand in front of a house filled with people expecting the original “Riverdance” and tell them that we were substituting a bar band from Ireland. I had promised The Irish National Orchestra and nothing else would be acceptable.
Show me the money
After various threats and negotiations, I was finally able to force a concession for the performance. My staff was pretty shocked as they overheard some pretty loud, angry telephone conversations. The artists (most of them anyway) agreed to perform the additional date. However, the fee increased from $11,000 to $15,000 (it suddenly became the highest fee on the tour) and the artists all had to be paid in cash at the stage door prior to the concert. Do you know how big a paper bag of $15,000 in small bills is? I do. And they look at you oddly when you go to the bank with such a request.
Even with the enhanced terms, a bassoon player and three other musicians refused to perform, so I had to hire local musicians to fill in.
Meanwhile, I had conferred with other presenters from Minnesota to look for solutions and recommendations. They were universally dismayed by the situation, and several let Simon know that this was NOT a case of Force Majeure. Simon was shocked that I had spilled the beans about his proposed cancellation and informed me that he intended to file a lawsuit against me for besmirching his name. No lawsuit was ever filed, and Simon closed his agency a few months later without any help from me.