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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Campus performers’ contracts riddled with peculiarities

Getting ready for an artist or speaker means stocking dressing rooms and staging areas with sometimes expensive items — items that can range from after-dinner snacks to appliances.

That means that, in one contract, one dressing room got stocked with several pounds of deli meats and cheeses, “an electric kettle — ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL,” 48 12 oz. bottles of water, six bottles of Fiji water, four small glass bottles of San Pellegrino, and boxes of Triscuits, Quaker granola bars and gummies. Oh, and a “popular fashion or gossip magazine (surprise us!).”

Including everything but dinner, the total retail food cost before tax was about $150. Of course, the university only pays for this — with money from student fee coffers — if your name is Matt Johnson or Kim Schifino.

Requests like power pop duo Matt and Kim’s, who were paid $45,000 to perform at a canceled Summer show, are usually listed in hospitality riders. Riders are additions to contracts that specify food or artist necessities that typically go beyond a provided meal.

Sam Hunt, an agent with the Windish Agency who booked Matt and Kim to play at this summer’s Swampfest, said that these requests include items for the entire entourage.

“For a band that has four people, you’ve got the four members of the band, the person running the sound. There’s the monitor person, there’s a tour manager, (a) merch person, (a) light person, and sometimes there’s a lighting tech, and a tech for instrument and gear problems, and one or two video techs, (and) a production manager,” he said. “A band that tours on a bus — their requests reflect the entire touring party.”

Some contracts, like Matt and Kim’s, include highly specific items. On even-numbered days, the band requires ginger ale, “P&G” and “Sleepytime” teas, Dijon mustard, arugula, hummus, whole wheat pita bread, Triscuits and gummy candy. On odd-numbered days, members want Coca-Cola, Earl Grey and chamomile teas, stone mustard, triple-washed spinach, bananas, guacamole, Special K chips, Wheat Thins and 70 percent dark chocolate.

In total, their hospitality rider has 52 line items.

Other line items can range from simple requests like those of Daniel Tosh ($66,000) when he visited UF — 4 bottles of Smartwater and “a book you think Daniel might like to read” — to more elaborate, page-long lists like those in Matt and Kim’s and Passion Pit’s ($39,450) contracts.

Hunt said situations like this occur often because the band gets tired of eating the same food at each stop or because they want some peace and quiet while traveling. He said these requests are spelled out because it saves the group from having to run errands in an unfamiliar town.

“It’s not like they have a day when they wake up and say, ‘I hate talking to the common folk,’” he said. “It’s all relative to how you see the world around you.”

UF Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanna Mastrodicasa said the university regularly contracts out these charges when bigger artists visit.

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“As long as it’s legal, and it’s not unreasonable, we give it to them,” she said.

Alcohol, for instance, cannot be bought for the artists under state law. Everything else, she said, is up to the students negotiating the contracts to decide what goes.

“Students decide how to use student fees — that’s the state law,” she said.

This includes paying for commodities like blenders, irons, toasters and full-length mirrors for Passion Pit’s 2012 appearance.

Shontae White, who is often involved in the negotiation of artist contracts as assistant director of Student Activities and Involvement, said he didn’t know how much other Florida schools paid. But he said there isn’t much chance for anyone to bring artists for less money.

“I don’t know that we get a ‘good deal,’ so much that there isn’t really a deal for these activities,” he said.

Representatives for organizations similar to Student Government Productions and Accent at the Florida State University and the University of Central Florida could not be reached as of press time.

According to a Student Government contract guide, contracts are required for bands, lectures, speakers, presenters, DJs, “bounce house/lawn toys,” graphic designers, instructors, stage managers, honorariums and caricature artists.

But as long as there is a demand, UF will supply.

“People like to harp on hospitality riders, but they’re really the last thing that people are thinking about at all,” Hunt said.

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 11/8/2013 under the headline "Campus performers’ contracts riddled with peculiarities"

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