COVID-19 FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions regarding the coronavirus COVID-19. This has been developed by a task force created by NAPAMA to address COVID-19 and its impact on the performing arts field, particularly from the perspective of agents, managers, and self-represented artists with the goal of preserving assets and mitigating risks.

LAST REVISED Sunday, March 15, 2020; 9:02 a.m. ET

New and updated information will be posted as made available. If you have additional questions and answers that you would like to be considered for adding to this list, please email Board Member, Andrew Delicata.

To share comments with your colleagues, please visit our Facebook pages: Public page and Members Only page. We also suggest you visit our coronavirus resource page filled with a variety of related links.

RESOURCES A variety of information and action resources for agents, managers, and self-represented artists compiled by NAPAMA surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

NAPAMA Does Not Provide Legal Advice

  • Nothing below should be construed as legal advice.
  • The information provided by NAPAMA serves as only one source of information.
  • One of NAPAMA’s core goals is to serve as an advocate in the field forartist representatives. This means advocating for our cohort in the public sphere with conference organizers and other higher level industry organizations.
  • NAPAMA does not serve as a mediator nor does it provide mediation services.

Cancelled Events

What do I do if the presenter needs to shut down their venue?
Venue closures to comply with recommendations or directives from city, municipal, state/provincial, federal and/or health directives is increasingly becoming the reality and would indisputably be considered a force majeure event. We encourage all parties to work together to make it through this difficult time.

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The presenter needs to cancel due to government action. What do I do?
Get clarity on the reason for the cancellation and request that the engagement be postponed or rescheduled. This benefits the presenter as they can continue the momentum of their marketing drive for your show, they can honor tickets already sold (which is a lot less work for them than refunding) and keeps their season budget (mostly) stable. These are all valid reasons you can discuss with the presenter when looking at the residual costs they incur when booking a show. In some cases, this may also be a way to retain grant or sponsor funding by the presenter.

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What do I do with the deposit in the case of cancellation or postponement?

If the date has a confirmed rescheduled date, you can apply the deposit towards the new date.

If you have hard expenses related to the cancelled or rescheduled date, first look at your contract to see if it provides direction on how to deal with the circumstance. Even if there is or is not legal precedent, you can (and it is recommended to) have a frank conversation with the presenter about the financial realities to see if losses can be collectively mitigated. The venue will also have expenses related to the cancelled or rescheduled date, so it is important that everyone listen and try to understand each other’s circumstances to come to a mutual understanding and path forward. In some cases, especially with presenters associated with a municipality or university bureaucracy, understand that this may cause procedural complications and delays for the presenter.

It goes without saying that all monetary exchanges should be made expeditiously according to the agreements, whether we are talking about the original presenter deposit made to the artist/rep or the return (or partial return) of that deposit. As such, NAPAMA does not endorse unduly holding a deposit. Approach things in an orderly fashion, which in this scenario might be a conversation about mitigation and acknowledgement of collective losses before a return of funds.

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How can both parties mitigate losses after an event is cancelled?
We strongly recommend that all parties have open conversations on how to mitigate losses. The performing arts ecosystem is deeply interconnected. Cancellations impact everyone.

 

  • Mitigation Strategies for Presenters

    • These can be shared with presenting organizations in conversations around mitigating losses.

    • Ask ticket holders to donate the cost of their ticket rather than opt for a refund.

    • Here is sample language being used by Fox Theatre Tuscon:

      Please consider transforming your ticket purchase into a donation. The Fox is a 501(c) non-profit organization that relies heavily on the generous support of donors who value the live arts. Donating your tickets back helps to ease the financial burden for all the artists and arts organizations currently impacted by these evolving conditions, and at the local level will help the Fox recover unrecoverable expenses incurred.

    • Ask if funders and/or sponsors can be flexible with the money they have provided so the organization can take care of all those affected, both internal organization impact as well as visiting performers.

    • Contact your local or state/provincial arts organizations as well as government representatives to see if there are relief funds available. Even if there is not, they need to understand the impact of this to create an informed response.

    • Explore options for emergency assistance from the government. (We do not have verified knowledge that this is available, but believe that there will be based on our best guess of future outcomes and news reports that this type of relief is being considered).

    • Check all insurance policies. Many presenters have learned their insurance policies do not cover public health emergencies, like pandemics. There is a type of insurance for "disruption of business," but you will need to check with your individual carrier to see if health-related issues are covered. See if your policy does cover or might cover expenses incurred due to cancellations for not just the presenting organization, but also the artist’s fee. (There is a very small chance of this, but we believe it is a possibility that should still be explored just in case).

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  • Mitigation Strategies for Artists, Producers, Agents, Managers
    • Request airline refunds. Some airlines are giving refunds even if it is not stated explicitly on their website. Having a high “airline status” helps. Ask your “frequent flier” colleagues for assistance if you feel it might help. There is wide variation in airline policies and “exceptions”. Here is a resource from Forbes that appears to be updated daily with all of the airlines and their official policies.
    • Ask if the presenter will pay for change-fees if you find that you are going to be charged for the change in flight.

    • Cancel hotel and ground transportation reservations.

    • Check all sources of potential insurance. This includes travel / trip insurance; insurance associated with a credit card; perhaps even a health insurance policy, if the situation involves a quarantine period.

    • Talk to your colleagues to see how others are mitigating losses.

    • Contact your local, state/provincial, and/or federal arts organizations as well as government representatives to see if there are relief funds available. Even if there is not, they need to understand the impact of this to create an informed response.

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My artist (or I) are international artists whose US tour has been cancelled. Can I change the dates of their/my US visa for a rescheduled tour without restarting the visa process?

Unfortunately, no. Visas for performing arts (O and P category) are specific to a time, person, and the individuals. Should you need to reschedule a tour, you will need to file an entirely new visa petition requesting approval for the new dates and pay new filing fees.

According to GG Arts Law, in the case of O-1 petitions, if the new dates are within 2 years of the date of the union letter, then you do not need to pay for a new letter. However, this does not apply to P-Visas or any visas other than an O-1.

In addition, there is no evidence that USCIS is considering issuing refunds or changing the dates on approved petitions or issued visas to foreign artists for previously processed I-129 and I-907 forms for engagements that were cancelled because of COVID-19. (GG Arts Law believes this is “beyond unlikely unless there is an extraordinary change in USCIS policies and administration.”) In addition, there is currently no indication that USCIS will reduce fees for future petitions for any reason including a past tour’s cancellation or inability to travel related to coronavirus.

According to Blue Skies Immigration, for artists with approved petitions that have not yet gone through the interview process, the State Department is telling everyone to reschedule visa interviews. It is likely that the State Department will refund consular interview fees for those who have to cancel appointments due to cancelled engagements. Note: this information has not been confirmed. For more information related to visas and COVID-10, CoveyLaw has created this separate FAQ page.

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Be Informed About force majeure

  • NAPAMA does not take a position on whether cancelling out of “an abundance of caution” or “to mitigate losses” does or does not count as a force majeure event in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • NAPAMA does endorse the following:
  • Listen to each other. Listen to understand.
  • Ask questions instead.
  • Be open to all ideas for resolving disputes and collectively mitigating risks.
  • Work towards a solution that benefits both parties to the extent possible, realizing that all parties have a variety of constituents to which they must answer.

The concept of force majeure is to address circumstances beyond the reasonable control of either party to an agreement. One accepted definition of a force majeure event under international law is:

“...an irresistible force or unforeseen event beyond the control of a state making itmmaterially impossible to fulfill an international obligation, and is related to the concept of a state of emergency.” (Quoted from Wikipeda; Original Source Legal UN)

Yet in practice, there are many definitions. Force majeure is a concept, not a thing, and as such, when discussing force majeure, it is important to remember that two people may think they have the same definitions and assumptions and discover that they do not. Most misunderstanding around force majeure come from assumptions.

Currently some venues and producers are cancelling events prior to a strict “event” as defined above. Some have argued there is a legal argument to include a coronavirus cancellations within an existing force majeure clause.

NAPAMA recognizes the impact of COVID-19 and the necessary reactions it may cause.

Artists, technicians, administrators and everyone involved in the arts community are facing an unprecedented situation as events get canceled or postponed. Ultimately,  we believe that the arts are about bringing people together. We share emotions and ideas. These connections strengthen us. Looking forward as we work our way collectively through this pandemic, we are hopeful that the artists, organizations, and everyone who make up our arts community will come together and be stronger for it.

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I do not have a force majeure clause in my contract and the event is cancelled. What do I do now?
All is not lost, though we HIGHLY recommend that you add a force majeure clause into your contracts for the future (more on that below). Force majeure clause or not, we encourage open communication among all parties to collectively find a path forward.
A lack of a force majeure clause could mean that technically neither party is responsible for damages.

Try exploring suggestions we have provided in other FAQs with regards to rescheduling and mitigating losses. There is no guarantee of an amicable result, but if you do not try to have the conversation, there is no possibility of recourse.

For those in need of a place to start for a force majeure clause, here is one that was crafted by GG Arts Law for NAPAMA members several years ago for you to consider. That being said, force majeure and all other contract clauses should be understood and specific to each artist and organization’s circumstances. You may want to consider hiring a lawyer to review and/or craft your clauses and/or review future agreements. In some cases, often seen when contracting with a municipal or state/provincial agency (such as universities), the force majeure clause may be crafted for you and is something to be looked at carefully to make sure you agree with its language.

FORCE MAJEURE:

  1. In the event that the performance of any of the covenants, duties, or obligations of this Agreement on the part of the Company or the Presenter shall be prevented, interrupted, delayed or suspended by any force majeure event, as defined herein, either party may terminate this Agreement without any liability on either party for any damages arising from such termination, provided, however, that the Presenter shall pay to the Company all out-of-pocket expenses incurred as of the date of the force majeure event (including the cost of any nonrefundable portion of travel or hotel arrangements). If, as a result of any force majeure event, the Company is able to perform only a portion of the performance(s), then the Engagement Fee shall be reduced on a pro-rata basis. Termination for a force majeure event shall not be deemed a breach of the Agreement.
  2. In the event of the cancellation of the performance(s) for a force majeure event, neither the Presenter nor the Company shall be under any obligation to present the performance(s) at a different time, except that the Presenter shall use its best efforts to re-engage the Company within a twenty-four month period on the same terms and conditions set forth herein, subject, however, to the Company’s availability. In the event that the Company consists of persons other than a featured performer and one or more of such persons cannot perform for any reason, the Company shall have the option either to use its reasonable efforts to furnish a substitute of the same substantial artistic quality for each such person, which substitute the Presenter agrees to accept, or to perform without such person, in which event the Company shall not be liable for such failure of any such person to perform and such person’s unavailability shall not be treated as a force majeure event on the part of the Company. The Company will be the sole judge of the artistic quality of such substitutes.
  3. “Force Majeure” shall mean severely inclement weather; illness, death or incapacitation of a key member of the Company (as determined by the Company in its sole judgment) or death or life threatening illness of an immediate family member of a key member of the Company; any present or future statute, laws, ordinance, regulation, order, judgment or decree; act of God; earthquake; flood; fire; epidemic; accident; explosion; casualty; lockout, boycott, strike, or labor controversy (including, but not limited to, threat of lockout, boycott or strike); riot, civil disturbance, war or armed conflict (whether or not there has been an official declaration of war or official statement as to the existence of a state of war), invasion, occupation, intervention of military forces, act of public enemy, embargo, or act or threat of terrorism; delay of a common carrier; disruption of air traffic; any inability without fault on the Presenter’s part to obtain sufficient material, labor, transportation, power or other essential commodity required in the conduct of its business or services; or any other similar or dissimilar cause or causes outside the reasonable control of a party hereto.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Presenter’s cancellation or rescheduling of the performance(s) or other services of the Company due to Presenter’s fiscal insolvency, poor ticket sales, or scheduling problems, or for any other reason, shall not be deemed a force majeure event and the Presenter shall not have the right to terminate this Agreement without liability on the part of the Presenter.

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How do we preserve our assets?
Our performing arts assets are robust and full and comprise our people, our places, our things, and our qualities.  We must preserve our audiences, our artists, our institutions, our supply chains and  our relationships to meet debts, commitments, and legacies. All - from individuals to organizations - are at acute, short term risk, and some are at life and death risk.

Avoid making a business choice based purely on emotion. Avoid moving too fast, even though circumstances are changing rapidly

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I’m not sure how I’m going to pay my immediate bills. What can I do?
We are compiling an ever growing list of resources from across our industry. There are many emergency funds and relief programs. Please refer to the links provided for these programs to see if you qualify for any.

Events That Are NOT Yet Cancelled

How do I deal with the possibility of a cancellation?
  • The first step in dealing with a potential cancellation is to have a conversation.
  • Below are suggestions to ask a presenter. Every situation is different and might require different or modified questions. These questions are only a guide.
    • What is your internal policy regarding show cancellations / postponements? Will you wait for a municipality or overriding organization to make a decision (whether local, city, state/provincial, or federal)? Could the decision be made by your organization's board (or management team)?
    • Understanding the virus is affecting each region differently, what is your sense "on the ground" about a potential regional mitigation strategies or general mood? How are ticket sales? Are you receiving refund requests or inquiries about potential cancellation?
    • Are there expenses that you will be able to mitigate because of the engagement cancellations? Do any of those savings allow you to honor the financial obligation to the artist? For example, savings in hotels, marketing, labor, etc (although it is important to acknowledge that stage hands and ushers also are vulnerable here).
    • Do you have an insurance policy that covers epidemics/pandemics?
    • Can you share what is or is not covered in a potential insurance claim?
    • We would like to understand whether you have a force majeure clause with the rental venue. Have you had a conversation with the venue managers about potential force majeure? (relevant to local producers who do not own or directly manage the physical performance space)
    • Has this been a topic in the comments on social media?
    • Are there any major sponsors or grants involved that may result in complications for retaining those funds; are they allowing extensions?

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Proactive Preparation for Performances Not Currently Cancelled
  • Most venues are ramping up the frequency of deep-cleaning in their venues in order to keep their audiences, staff and volunteers healthy. They want performers to stay healthy, too.
    • What are reasonable venue expectations? What are unreasonable expectations of the house and when should the artist take responsibility for themself?
    • Ask questions, be proactive and communicate with the presenter.
    • How can artists and venues ensure equipment and dressing room areas are clean?
    • Does the performance involve direct contact with the audience during the show?
    • Before or after the show?
    • Can the artist help ensure a clean dressing room after load-out? Wiping/spraying counters, handles, doorknobs, switches with Lysol, etc., might help keep that “deep clean” mentality before and after the show.
    • Ask the venue to provide hand sanitizers/wipes/sprays to performers in the dressing rooms and backstage. We know hand sanitizers are at a premium right now, so an artist might want to bring their own, as well. And of course, don’t take a venue’s hand sanitizer home.
    • Discuss alternatives to traditional meet & greet sessions. Is there a humorous way to convey a no-handshake policy given the health concerns? How about limiting the number of people in a meet & greet and length of time? Should meet & greets be converted to post-show Q&A from the stage where there’s still great interaction and conversation with the artist, but a bit of safe space for VIPs and artists.
    • What effect would cancelling a meet & greet have on your audience, sponsors, donors, and other VIPs?
    • Community Outreach - Are there changes or modifications that need to be considered? Making sure all participants are well in order to participate? Communicating ahead of time with the outreach participants to kindly remind them to stay home if they are showing signs of illness. Is there a bigger space where the workshop can take place? Make a humorous game of making sure participants and artists wash hands or use hand sanitizers before entering into a workshop or outreach
    • Are there outreach activities that will need to be cancelled due to school or other mandated shutdowns? Will this affect your ticket sales?
    • Merch sales/Photo opps - See if there’s a way to set up tables to keep some sort of barrier between the artist and the audience. Instead of taking photos with the artist, perhaps artists can order photos in bulk and autograph them. Pictures with the artist can still be taken but in “photobomber” fashion. 
Planning Ahead: Potential Revenue Sources for Artists
Here are some strategies artists might explore to make up for lost income either during or after this crisis. Please heed public health and safety concerns, not only of yourself, but also of those you interact with when making decisions on avenues to pursue. Circumstances are ever-changing; please stay informed.
  • Look at radiuses that are within a day’s drive from where you live. Are there other markets that might be a good fit for you? Are there listening rooms, smaller venues or black box theaters, summer presenters that you can reach out to for smaller shows once this crisis begins to ebb? Could you produce your own pop-up shows?
  • Think locally and/or digitally - Are you really good at what you do? Can you do virtual workshops on these topics for your fans, students, schools and community groups in your hometown and beyond and teach some aspect of your craft? Spend the time researching businesses in your community who would welcome a local artist to come in for a concert or show during lunch or office happy hour. Schools and libraries are great for this, too. These may not be big-paying shows, but they can add up towards keeping the bills paid and food on the table and sometimes that in itself is abundance. This downtime may offer the time to do leg work for future opportunities that you can pursue once the crisis subsides.
  • For dates that aren’t postponing/canceling, perhaps there are additional opportunities for you to reach out to the community with additional workshops, lectures, clinics, etc. which may give you some additional income with that show. Perhaps you sell merch for a few dollars more, or, if your merch doesn’t always sell in mass quantity, maybe you sell it for less (don’t lose money/unit), but move more.
  • House concerts can be a good way to pick up filler dates if you now have holes in a tour. It doesn’t work for everyone, certainly, but can sometimes go towards covering hotel/gas/food expenses.

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