Studio Owners

3 Important Things You Should Put in Your Competition Team Contract That You May Not Have Considered

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We all know that we need to include agreements in our contracts that address tuition, billing and changing or dropping classes, but what about the nitty-gritty details you may not have considered? You don't want to get caught off-guard by a lawsuit or uncooperative parent simply because you didn't cover your bases.

To help you stay on top of things, here are three important things you should put in your studio contract.

You're welcome!

1. Photo Release

It's 2019, classes and performances will be filmed and photographed—that's just a fact. Whether by a student, a teacher or a parent, your dancers and their work will very likely end up on social media somewhere. You can't monitor everything your students do, and frankly, you're going to want to use footage and photography to help promote your business. So, include a photo release agreement. Be sure to include a statement that says parents/guardians consent to the use, distribution or sale of images by your studio.

2. Unattended Children

Ever since the dawn of the dance-studio business, parents/guardians have had trouble picking up their dancers on time. I for one know I spent a good chunk of time waiting for my parents to rush across town to pick me up after class had long since been over. Of course the mayhem of looking after unattended children is not your studio's responsibility, and it can start to be a real problem if not addressed. Get ahead of things by reminding parents/guardians to pick their kids up on time. In your agreement, include a clause that states parents/guardians may be charged a certain amount of money if they leave children at the studio for longer than a certain amount of time.

3. Studio Rental

Renting studio space to your students and other businesses for extra rehearsals can be a big money-maker, as long as your guests are respectful of your rules and procedures. Make sure your contract outlines cost, when payment is due, cancellation fees and the correct process for booking space. You don't want anyone sneaking into the space dishonestly and taking the time away from a paying customer. Let your dancers know there is a fee that will be charged to anyone who doesn't follow your regulations.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

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Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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