Ryan McDonnell

Ryan McDonnell

Belfast’s Ryan McDonnell started in comedy by becoming runner-up in the 2009 Amused Moose Laugh Off final; and was part of the AAA compilation show at the Edinburgh Fringe the following year. His solo debut was in 2013 with Stupid Hair And Skinny Jeans.
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Cheque to follow...

Ryan McDonnell on comedy's hidden problem: Promoters who are slow to pay

The contraction of the 'comedy boom' has been well documented.  Green room chat and long car journeys are mainly being filled with negative stories, bitching and Mayan-like prophesies of impending doom.

The hard times become particularly frustrating though when they are being made needlessly hard by promoters who are slow to pay. I've just found myself skint and once again going crawling to promoters for money owed to me, just so I can afford the diesel to get to a gig.  

I'm far from alone on this front, I've spoken to two other comedians this week alone who have had to pull gigs, at late notice, because money they were counting on didn't materialise and they were no longer able to get to the venue.

The knock-on effect of this is that those acts run the risk of being ostracised by other promoters for pulling out.  You can hardly blame them after all, they've billed said act, had posters, mail-outs and tickets with their name on it for months only to be let down at the last minute.  

With so many comedians in this day and age there is always someone just as good, so why would they take the risk in rebooking someone who’s let them down?

At the minute I'm owed a grand sum of almost £3,000.  Not a bad figure all being considered, so what am I moaning about?  I'm owed that money from a total of five promoters, some of it dating back as far as six months.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the financial struggle and difficulties that the promoters endure as well as the constant struggle to get people to fill the seats in these inclement economical times, but that's a different discussion.  

The promoters earn their money on the night, through ticket sales and, depending on the nature of their deal, food and booze, so it’s galling to have to wait as other bills mount up.  At the top end you have agents who bill us monthly for commission, quarterly VAT and the annual tax bill – and you can't argue with the HMRC.  

What is often overlooked is the money spent in getting to gigs.  A weekend in one of Britain's further flung cities can easily cost £250 including travel and accommodation.  This will be reimbursed of course, but in possibly up to six months time…and counting.  Not all gigs are as far away and as expensive, but even the closest of venues incur costs.  A tank of fuel costs £70 for a small car, in the last nine months alone I've covered 25,000 miles.  That's not counting train tickets, coach tickets and parking.

So we're left with a situation whereby the promoter has their money, the agent has his money, the tax man has his and I've paid out, and continue to pay out hundreds in travel costs – all while waiting to be paid.

There will be a breaking point, there has to be, because there are mortgages, rents and utilities to be paid and people have to eat.  With more and more comedians returning to part-time status, perhaps they will drop out of the game, or through lack of practise fail to cut the mustard at the top level, which means the industry will plateau.  In what other line of work would you wait for wages for half a year and continue to show up for work?

I grew up without very much money, and for me there's nothing more embarrassing than being skint and having to ask someone for cash.  When that money is owed to you and you've earned it, it's even worse.  But you can't be forceful, you certainly can't be rude and you can't threaten such things as legally recovering those funds like any normal company would do.  Well you can, but you'll only ostracise yourself again, because who wants to book a troublemaker?  

With so many comedians around who are just as good as you, all the power lies in the hands of the people who pay the fees, when they fail to play their part in the chain, or at least stall in doing so, that is an abuse of power.

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Published: 4 Dec 2012

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

AAA Stand-Up Late


Agent

Anita Elizabeth Holmes
Contact by email
Artist Management
Mobile: 0790 5310027

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