Eek! Cancelled!

Okay, by now folks are probably tired of me evoking what I learned at the WAA conference in every entry. However, I forgot this one last bit until I sorted through my papers last week. I had attended a forum on cancellations sponsored by NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Managers and Presenters) on cancellations.

I hadn’t known cancellations was such a hot topic until I attended this forum. NAPAMA has a whole section in their code of ethics devoted to avoiding cancellations and attempting to preserve a good will relationship between agent and presenter if a cancellation has to occur.

There are a number of reasons why cancellations occur according to Patty Milch who lead the discussion,–Force Majeure, tours or funding fall through, directors of presenting organizations change and the next person doesn’t honor the contract, less experienced presenting organizations think it is acceptable for them to cancel.

It was actually these last two points that caused the most discussion and relation of anecdotes. Apparently amateur presenters don’t know if they ask for a contract, they have essentially orally said they have every intent of presenting this person, save some minor alterations to allow the presenter to accomodate the performer.

According to some stories, people are asking for contracts so they can pass them around a committee table and contract 2 of the twenty they asked for. The agent on the other hand is already preparing an artist’s itinerary and working out routing with other presenters based on the issuance of that contract.

These instances turn out badly for all involved because the agent stands to lose face and money, but he will enforce the contract. The presenter gets a bad rep and has the agent/manager glaring and threatening him with legal action.

The other instance is again due to inexperienced people who believe that the decisions of predecessors doesn’t bind the organization if the leadership simply changes. If only it were that simple, eh?

The point of the forum was to discuss how the rancor could be avoided and how a better operating environment might be created. Not surprisingly, we didn’t really get past the discussion of the problem and no one really had any suggestions for a solution.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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