DaBaby Could Still Get Paid by the Festivals That Dropped Him

Even though he didn't perform, there's a chance he'll take home a hefty chunk of change, according to industry experts who spoke with VICE.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
August 6, 2021, 7:42pm
DaBaby
Photo by Rich Fury / Getty Images

Seven major music festivals have now cut DaBaby from their lineups after the rapper went on a homophobic rant at Rolling Loud in Miami last week, then immediately doubled down, spouting off comments that were arguably even more offensive than what he said at first. A few days later, he made a series of half-hearted apologies on Twitter—but as more and more festivals dropped him from their rosters, DaBaby finally issued a formal one, describing the language he used as “hurtful,” “triggering,” and “misinformed,” and vowing, vaguely, to seek “education.” 

Advertisement

Maybe DaBaby experienced a moment of moral clarity—or maybe, as many have suggested, he apologized because he was losing a ton of money.

Just how much money he’s losing, however, is an open question. Experts VICE consulted say that because of the way music festival contracts are typically structured, even if an artist gets dropped from a festival bill over their offensive conduct, there’s a chance they’ll still get paid at least something.

According to Peter Tempkins—a music and touring insurance broker who has reviewed countless contracts between artists and music festivals, and whose clients include Warped Tour and Bonnarroo—when an artist performs at a festival, their booking agent will typically charge the promoter a fraction of their fee up front, in the form of a deposit. An artist’s deposit is usually about 10 percent of their “guarantee”—or, in layman’s terms, the minimum fee an artist will make for performing, Tempkins told VICE. (Tempkins stressed that he is not directly involved with the festivals who canceled DaBaby’s shows, and has not seen their contracts with the rapper.)

DaBaby was slated to headline five major festivals this year: Music Midtown, Austin City Limits, Parklife, iHeartRadio Festival, and Can’t Wait Live. According to Tempkins, headliners at festivals of that size and caliber typically earn around $1 million, though some take home far more. (Beyoncé and Ariana Grande reportedly made $4 million per performance at Coachella in 2017 and 2018, respectively.) At Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, and Day N Vegas—the three other festivals that dropped Dababy—the rapper nabbed second-row billing, appearing directly underneath their headliners on announcements. Artists listed in that spot typically command guarantees of roughly $300,000 to $500,000, Tempkins said, though he stressed that was only a ballpark range.

Advertisement

Assuming that an artist is commanding fees in the six- and seven-figure range, receiving even just 10 percent of that money would amount to a hefty chunk of change. That said, an artist probably wouldn’t keep all of it. Tempkins said that musicians typically take home roughly 70 to 80 percent of their guarantee, with the rest paid out to their agent, manager, and others. Ostensibly, an artist would keep the same percentage of their deposit. 

When contacted by VICE, representatives for the seven festivals that dropped DaBaby did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a representative for DaBaby. Without information from those directly involved, it’s impossible to say exactly what DaBaby may have received in deposits from each festival. And there’s also a chance he won’t retain those deposits at all, according to Tim Epstein, an entertainment attorney who represents a number of prominent music festivals, including Pitchfork Music Festival and Riot Fest.

At this stage, Epstein said, DaBaby’s agent is likely negotiating with festival promoters about how to move forward. In a situation like this, even if an artist’s contract stipulates that they’re entitled to 10 percent of their guarantee, what they walk away with will probably come down to an agreement between their agent and festival promoters.

“These are going to be behind-the-scenes negotiations,” Epstein said of DaBaby’s situation. “He may have gotten the full guarantee from Lolla. He may have gotten zero. You're never going to find out, unless there's a lawsuit and stuff gets disclosed.”

While it might seem wrong that an artist could still get paid after doing something upsetting enough to get them kicked off a lineup, it’s worth noting that musicians’ contracts do occasionally include a so-called “morality clause.” These clauses, Epstein said, govern what happens if they exhibit “morally dubious conduct” ahead of an appearance. If an artist does something controversial or illegal, a morality clause protects the entity who hired them, entitling that entity to some kind of recourse, like terminating their contract or claiming a refund. 

According to Epstein, it’s “extremely rare” to see a morality clause in a music festival contract. But in the wake of the scandal surrounding DaBaby, Tempkins said, there’s a chance that could change.

“I read a lot of music festival contracts, and I haven’t seen anything in there about a morality clause,” Tempkins said. “But I wouldn't be surprised if for festivals next year, you saw it.”

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.