Legal Matters

Divided into different areas from contract law to insurance issues to basic legal knowledge, you will find comprehensible introductions to the world of paragraphs. We offer practical suggestions, case examples, and sample letters to make it easier for you to think about it.

As a service to our members, we offer a free initial legal consultation by our legal department (Wolfgang Schwaninger) on all questions relating to stage contract law.

An essential component of civil law is the right to form one’s private legal relationships according to one’s own decision. In the case of employment contracts, this includes freedom of contract, the right to conclude contracts of any content with anyone. This right is limited only by certain laws and the so-called „good customs“, e.g. the general personal rights and the so-called General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), or also the General Terms and Conditions Act („small print – AGB in German“).
Since the contracts pre-formulated by the theaters and organizers change over time, adapt to the circumstances (e.g. SARS-CoV2 regulations), they must be individually reviewed for their effectiveness, for which the arbitration courts and courts are responsible. Courts, however, can never act on their own in civil law, they must be „called upon“. Therefore, without court proceedings or the involvement of legal experts, contracts are usually not automatically called into question, and this rarely happens in practice, which unfortunately does not lead to the clarification of many unanswered questions.
Basically, one encounters three basic forms of contracts in employment relationships at the theatre: the Arbeitsvertrag, the Dienstvertrag, and the Werkvertrag.

The artist is employed as a dependent employee for the duration of the engagement and is bound by instructions, he is socially insured through the employer, the social security contributions (pension, health, nursing care, and unemployment insurance) are borne jointly by the employer and the employee, in addition, one is insured through the employer against accidents at work. The employer decides, of which the work consists – often the offer made orally can be quite different from the work lateron. It is automatically renewed for one year if the employer or employee does not issue a non-renewal notice.

TIP: It is possible to negotiate the number of pieces and performances, extra fees for additional shows, and paid guesting time in the contract.

The ordered neglect

The soprano Saffi learns from her make-up artist that she can no longer go to the hairdresser, as there is a premiere in 3 months, in which she is to perform in her own long hair. Saffi immediately gets a short hairstyle and promptly receives an invitation from her boss to come to an employee interview

Should she be worried?


No. Basically, the employer has a extensive right – the right to issue instructions or directives. However, it ends where the personal rights of each individual begin.
These rights are directly derived from the Basic Law (Art.2 Abs 1 GG free development of personality and Art. 1, Abs.1 GG, human dignity). These rights are not surrendered at the theater gate.

The service contract (guest contract)

If the artist (singer, dancer, actor) is invited for a production, in most cases it is a temporary service contract (guest contract), which means that except for a few rules (e.g. minimum fee 200 EUR/evening) the „collective agreement stage“ does not apply for the guests.
The benefits of the labor protection laws such as continued payment of wages in case of illness and maternity protection laws do therefore not apply to the service employees.
Although they are also subject to social insurance and the employer pays the contributions, the guest is often denied the rights arising from this (e.g. because he or she does not meet the requirements for receiving unemployment benefits in the case of temporary employment).

TIP In some cases, self-employed guests are also not legally insured against accidents, please ask the theater and, if necessary, take out private insurance.
We advise you, in case write an email to

Many open questions in the area of the guest contract are still to be answered. Each state (Bundesland), each theatre, and each contract has different regulations and must be considered individually. Thus it is not clarified in the long run, how much cancellation fee i.e.  in the context of the pandemic must be paid. One thing is for sure: The theater always has to pay something!

The contract in your pocket?

Singer Sido is happy, he has received a call from his agent Alberich, he has been hired. A well-known theater has promised him 20 performances of an extremely rarely performed opera „The Golden Glove“ with the role of the „Innkeeper“, he has also been promised an evening fee of 400 euros.
Has a contract been concluded?


No. An essential part of the contract is missing: the exact place and dates of the production, i.e. when the rehearsals are to begin and when the performances are to be. It is actually but an incomplete offer, which the agent delivers. In order to conclude the contract, the missing information is required, followed by Sido’s consent (can be verbal).

The guest does not feel like a guest

Tenor Tonio has been invited to a theater for a production, he has signed a „guest contract“ and is in the middle of rehearsals when the production is canceled without replacement due to the outbreak of the Sars-CoV2 pandemic. While the colleagues who are „permanently“ at the company continue to receive their wages or „short-time allowance“/Kurzarbeitergeld, he receives nothing. Many regulations do not apply to him. Why is this actually the case?


That’s where the difference between an employment contract and a service contract become clear.
It does mean that Tonio is not treated as an employee, but as a so-called service worker and the special protection rules of employees do not apply to him.  This was not always seen this way, important in this context is a ruling of the highest German labor court, the Federal Labor Court (BAG) from 2007.

Parsifal judgment

The contract for work: (typically direction, set design, costume, choreography).

The artists are obligated to create a specific work, this can also be a plan, a staging, or a choreography.

In essence, the artists can freely dispose of their working time and the designed activity, they are not bound by instructions, they are not subject to the statutory social security or the Versorgungsanstalt der Deutschen Bühnen.

Caution: If singers and actors and dancers are employed under a contract which, despite being bound by instructions, sounds like a „self-employed“ contract for work and services, this often constitutes so-called „bogus self-employment“. These contracts are actually forbidden and harbor risks!

Please seek advice.

Who you can build your trust

Set designer Bodo has been working for months on his major project „AIDA at the quarry“, an opera production of the local municipal theater, drawing and submitting plans, holding many meetings with the director, and also working out a concept that is viable for three elephants. Several times the scheduled building rehearsal (Bauprobe) is postponed by the theater, then the production is finally canceled because of an official ban, for which the theater is not responsible. How much fee can Bodo have claim from the theatre?


Stage designers are almost always connected to the theatre within the framework of a contract for work, i.e. they owe a specified work, something that brings about a certain success, e.g. a thing, a plan, an expert opinion, or a craftsman’s result, as opposed to a service, which means the mere performance of something.

Because it is clearly stated in the Civil Code that the remuneration is to be paid only after acceptance of the work, the risk lies with Bodo. However, he has the right to demand deductions, but the conditions for this must be contractually regulated. Usually in Germany work contracts at a theatre provide he regulation of a third, that is, for example, a third of the fee for the preparation with the submission of the plans, the second third at the building inspection (Bauprobe), and the third at the premiere due.

Bodo’s mistake was not to have written a specific date for the building inspection into his contract.

While the first third must be paid, the theater successfully prevented the second third from becoming due by repeatedly postponing the building rehearsal until the production was canceled „because of external restrictions.“ It is also recommended to negotiate an advance payment, such as the first third contract to be paid immediately after the contract has been signed.

Don’t sell yourself short in contract negotiations, as the Intendant or Opera Manager may have a specific interest in you. Salaries for permanent positions are not often increased and are only adjusted during the respective collective bargaining rounds. Many theaters have an in-house collective bargaining agreement, and a salary increase is hardly possible. Therefore, when negotiating your own salary expectations, you should always start a little higher to have room for negotiation if necessary.

There are different situations in which you have to conduct your first negotiations. The more support you can get from friends, colleagues, or family, for example, and the more advice you can get, the better. In concrete terms, role-playing as preparation, e.g. in your studies, is also a great help in order not to accept everything at the decisive moment.

Often an agent intervenes right at the beginning, but this is not always the case and the sooner you are prepared for such a moment, the better. If your agent is negotiating for you, he/she will have an overview of what is being paid at the theater. You don’t have to agree to the first offer. Your agent will want to do good business with the theater in the future and will try to find a balance, but it might not always be so favorable to you.

If you want to know concrete figures about who has earned where you can also get a fee consultation at the portal theapolis, there is a large database with anonymized contracts that is constantly growing. For first guest contracts, this can be worthwhile.

What can be negotiated or specified in a Fest contract?

  • Vocal Fach/Job title

For singers – mention of the specific voice type according to the „Kloiber“ opera guide, in which the voice types are divided into roles (which is a legal norm). If you are hired as a lyric soprano, for example, you do not have to sing parts that are designated as dramatic soprano in the Kloiber book.
Possibly also the genre: opera, operetta, musical, concert.

For freelance assistants: Job title (costume assistant, assistant director), etc.

  • Monthly Salary

At least 2,000€ gross (current minimum salary of the collective agreement NV Bühne). It is important to make sure that the contract includes the tariff increases.

  • Parts (for performers)

Which roles do I sing in which operas?
How many parts do I sing per season (e.g. three new parts plus one revival)?
How many premieres will I sing for sure (interesting if you are often double cast)?
Do I have to sing smaller roles as well (i.e. roles with one or two sentences to sing)?

  • Duration of Contract

The norm is 2 years. It is possible to conclude fixed-term contracts for a shorter or longer period (four years maximum).

  • Partial Season Contract (Teilspielzeitvertrag)

Contract for a specified period of time during a season. You are part of the ensemble and receive your salary even in case of illness. The contract is always fixed-term and includes an entitlement for vacation.

  • Residency Contract (Residenzvertrag)

Contract with the theatre that stipulates that you only have to be in the theatre at certain times of the season, i.e., you reside, but you are not employed for the entire season (for example, for two productions – the rest of the time you do not have to be present). Such contracts are more likely to be signed by large theatres. However, in terms of insurance, you remain insured through the theatre for the entire season.

  • Extra Fee

Are concerts, special events, promotional events, matinees, etc. paid extra?

  • Number of Performances per Season

How many performances do I have to perform?

  • Extra Fee for Additional Performances (Überspielhonorar)

The fee per performance when a performer sings more than the contracted performances. Usually 1/30th of the monthly fee is paid extra, also for the 2nd performance in a day. There are theatres that pay a higher fee.

  • Guest Leave (Gastierurlaub)

Number of days a performer may go on guest leave without the theatre deducting salary or or being able to order the performer back to the house.

  • Agency Commission

Is calculated on the basis of the monthly fee. The amount depends on the contract with the agency and should be split in two so the theatre pays half of the commission. Typically, agency commission is paid only for the first two seasons at a house, after which the performer negotiates for him/herself and then pays no commission.

  • Copyright

In the case of internal theatre use (e.g., advertising) or small excerpts for a reportage, the copyrights and ancillary copyrights are usually settled with the contract.
If the performance is to be recorded for radio or television, a separate agreementsshould be made.

What can be negotiated or specified in a guest contract?

  • Roles
    What roles in which pieces willI be expected to sing/play?
  • Number and Dates of Performances
    If specific dates are not yet known, then a number of performances should be guaranteed.
  • Time Period of On-site Rehearsals
    Time period of performers’ on-site availabilty for rehearsals must be established in advance.
  • Blocking Dates Due to Unavailability
    I am able to establish in the contract when I will not be available to the theatre during rehearsal periods.
  • Fee
    It is more advantageous to negotiate fees for rehearsals and performances separately, and not in a lump sum.
  • Travel and Accommodation Costs
    There are several possibilities:
    1.The theatre pays the proven costs incurred in addition to the agreed upon fee.
    2.The theatre pays a lump sum regardless of the actual costs incurred.
    3.The theatre provides accommodation and pays the costs incurred for a certain number of trips.All these variants are to be treated separately from the fee because they are compensation for expenses.
  • Agency Commission
    Accrues on the agreed fee. The amount depends on the contract with the agency with 50% of the fee being paid by the theatre.
  • Copyright and Neighbouring Rights
    In the case of internal theatre use (e.g. advertising) or small excerpts for a report, copyrights and ancillary copyrights are usually covered by the contract. If the performance is to be recorded or streamed for television or radio, a separate agreement should be made.
  • Cancellation/Cancellation of Performance
    It should be agreed upon in the contract what the conditions are if a performance is cancelled by the theatre. Usually there is a graduated timescale (e.g. up to 3 weeks before, up to 8 days before, etc.), which in turn affects the fee (if more than 3 weeks before there would be no fee, up to 8 days before 50% of the fee,etc.).
    If a performance is cancelled for reasons for which the theatre is not responsible, care should be taken that the entrepreneurial risk is not completely passed on to the artist. A 50/50 split would be fair (e.g. as in the case of the closure of a theatre by the authorities in the event of a pandemic/corona/quarantine among the artists).
  • Agreements Pertaining to the Contract: Social security contributions throughout the time of the contract or not?
    In most cases it is favourable that the theatre pays the social security contributions throughout the entire rehearsal and performance period and does not deregister the guest between performances. However, if you want/need to be registered as unemployed between performances that are far apart, the theatre must deregister you or you will not receive unemployment benefits.


Contract for work – which parameters can you negotiate?

  • Piece
  • Fee
  • Performance venue
  • Rehearsal time and date of the premiere
  • Travel costs
  • Streaming rights

Often the theater pays a certain number of trips. For directors, usually 3-5 or a flat rate, for travel often just the equivalent of a train ticket, 2nd class with the German Bahncard 50 %.

Housing – Housing is either provided or there is a flat rate. It all depends on the size and thus the budget of the house you are working at

Attention: when you are offered an apartment by the theater, make sure to find out what it looks like beforehand. There are sometimes nasty surprises when it comes to furnishings and cleanliness…

  • Agency commissions are only paid to those who have one – in the world of directing and set design, this is not often the case. Some theaters pay 50% of the commission, but even here there are efforts to pass on the 8-12% plus VAT to the artists.

Fee: in Germany we get gross for net and have to pay taxes ourselves. Directors pay a quarterly advance payment to the tax office according to the estimated income. We do NOT pay additional sales tax like stage and costume designers.

Abroad, things are often different. Austria, for example, pays a good fee on paper, from which a flat 20% tax is withheld, but also on travel and housing. Check all details here!
The payment of the fee takes place in three thirds:

  • Signing the contract
  • Start of rehearsals
  • Premiere

From the Corona experiences I advise meanwhile to negotiate the payment as follows:

  • Signing the contract
  • before rehearsals start (with a certain date, otherwise the theater can postpone)
  • Start of rehearsals

Streaming: this new format is compensated with very low fees for directors. Here an example from a contract: „…for productions that are broadcast longer than three minutes on radio/television/internet – incl. streaming – (regardless of the frequency of broadcasting), the guest is entitled to a one-time payment of 60 euros for the broadcast staging/choreography, and in case of broadcasting of the complete performance, an amount of 5% of the agreed fee is paid additionally.“

Covid 19 – Attention – trap!
Many paragraphs are added here slowly but surely, which are disadvantageous to the artists, such as reduction of the fees if the rehearsals do not take place in full length etc.. Such paragraps should not be signed.
Beware of standard „Bühnenverein“ contracts: they often state that the last third will not be paid if the premiere does not take place, using the strangest arguments: Performance cancellation in case of force majeure, illness in the ensemble, necessary structural measures…. etc. These are all things that artists cannot influence. Our work is done with the GP and not at the premiere.

Good to know:
Accident insurance can be covered differently – e.g. not at all: „The stage is not liable for damages caused to the guest as a result of slight negligence by the stage or its employees.“ but in the same contract it states furtheron: „The guest is insured against the economic consequences of accidents through the group accident insurance policy concluded between the German Stage Association and the Gerling Group (….). ….“ There would have to be a clarification.
In case doubt, it is worth asking e.g. the GDBA legal advice or us – we can arrange competent legal advisors.

In this section, you will find some information and tips for your social security. This includes unemployment, pension, health, and nursing care insurance. Important help for freelance colleagues is the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK).

Why Social Security?

In the first few years on stage, looking at your pension, which older colleagues like to remind you of, is more than a nuisance; you have so many other things on your mind and don’t want to deal with what might be waiting for you in 30 years, too. And yet:

Social security is enormously important!

A normal working pension is calculated on 40 working years – there are few singers who do their job that long. So you need a good strategy for how you could draw a pension that doesn’t plunge you into old-age poverty, even without that long working life. The social security for stage artists includes, in addition to the state pension/unemployment benefit, the Bayerische Versicherungskammer, and, if you are a freelancer, the Künstlersozialkasse.

Pension through singing:

As long as you are permanently at a theater, the theater pays half of your unemployment, pension, health, and nursing care insurance.

If you are freelancing because things are going well and you can earn more – or because you have been laid off and have no other choice but to freelance – then make sure that you are well insured in case of illness (possibly book private supplementary insurance to the statutory insurance).

Try to join the Artists‘ Social Insurance (Künstlersozialkasse, KSK). They will then pay part of your insurance contributions, just like an employer.

During permanent engagements and guest performances, you also pay contributions to the Versorgungsanstalt der Deutschen Bühnen (Bayerische Versicherungskammer), which is professional insurance for stage artists.

The Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen – also known as „Bühnenversorgung“ for short – offers the predominantly artistic employees of German theaters additional insurance protection in addition to the statutory pension insurance in the event of old age, occupational disability, and death.

Your theater/guest theater in Germany will automatically register you for this insurance. If you leave a permanent engagement, you should remain a voluntary member so that your insurance period is not interrupted. The contribution is low (currently 12,50€/month). It is now also possible for freelancers to join the pension fund.

Pension for teaching:

If you like teaching, make an early effort (starting around age 40) to get a teaching position at a conservatory – if you want to become a professor later, teaching experience at a conservatory is often a prerequisite for employment.

Additional pension:

If things are going particularly well and you have money to put aside, consider investing in real estate that you will have paid off by the time you retire and for which you can then get rent that will supplement your pension.

Get good advice on insurances so you don’t get any nasty surprises later!

Many useful tips on insurance, taxes, and other things that artists do not want to deal with, but urgently should, can be found in the book by Eleonore Marguerre „Earn a fee for your High C“

Unemployment benefit I (ALG I)

After termination of an employment relationship, unemployment benefit (ALG I) is paid for twelve months, based on the earnings of the last 24 months and amounting to 60 percent of the net income, if one is not yet 65 years old. If you are older (50+) and have paid in for a long time, unemployment benefits can be paid for up to a maximum of 18 months. Entitlement to ALG 1 exists if

Worked for 360 days in the last 30 months
Or 180 days in the last 30 months, if the contracts were limited to a maximum of ten weeks AND no more than 57,330 euros gross was earned.

If children live in the household, the amount increases to 67 percent. The employment agency provides a calculator on the Internet where you can calculate the amount of your unemployment benefit.

In order to receive unemployment benefits, you must register as a jobseeker with the employment agency at least three months before you become unemployed.

To do this, first, call the appropriate hotline (0800-4555500) or register online at If there are less than three months between the notice of termination and the start of unemployment (for example, in the case of a termination agreement), you must register as a jobseeker within three days.

Then you make an appointment at the employment agency, where you bring all your documents with you or scan them online:

Checklist for ALG I:

  • Identity card or passport (for foreigners additionally registration certificate or identity documents with valid residence & work permit).
  • Non-extension
  • Resume for further applications
  • Social security number
  • Work package (form from the employment office; can be filled out at home and brought with you)
  • Certificate of employment from employer (can be submitted later).

When submitting your employer’s certificate of employment („Arbeitsbescheinigung“), please make sure that all days worked are noted. If you are not on a permanent contract but only working as a guest at a theater for a few weeks, each day can be crucial and increase your entitlement. If something is missing, your employment agency will tell you which documents are still necessary. The employment agency will check your application and may ask for additional documents. You will receive a decision on how long you are entitled to unemployment benefits and how much they will be.

Private supplementary insurances in Germany

In addition to the statutory compulsory insurances, there are some supplementary insurances which we would like to explain and recommend:

Liability insurance

Everybody has to have liability insurance. It pays for damages that you cause to people or objects. If you drop a television set from a skyscraper onto a Maserati…

Accident insurance

Accident insurance pays for any damage to your health caused by an accident, whether during working hours or in your private life. The insurances pay a daily allowance for hospitalization or take over one-time payments for possible injuries or permanent disabilities. Compensation can also be paid for the consequences of tick bites. Compulsory insurance at theaters pays very little for accidents – if you fall into the orchestra pit and are traumatized, you won’t see much money…

Legal expenses insurance

In Germany, many people argue in court. Therefore legal protection insurance is recommended, although it is not cheap (from 250 € per year). Especially in traffic accidents, you can quickly get into situations that require legal assistance, and then it’s good not to have to pay the legal fees yourself. However, legal protection insurance often does not cover the costs of professional conflicts in the case of self-employed persons. In case of non-renewal and problems with the employer, however, it can be claimed.

Disability insurance

If you want to take out such insurance as a solo singer, you will be disappointed. No insurance company is willing to insure this profession. For choir singers, there are some providers.

Private pension insurance

Singers will eventually grow old and want to enjoy a secure retirement. Therefore, you should make private provisions for your old age. It is up to you whether you buy a property or take out private pension insurance with monthly contributions.

Term life insurance

If you have a family, term life insurance is recommended. Depending on the age of entry, this is very inexpensive (from 50 € per year), and if you lose your life in a plane crash in the direction of MET, your children will at least receive a compensation sum with which they are covered.

The most important facts about the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK)

The KSK ensures that self-employed artists (artists who create, perform, or teach music, performing or visual arts) and publicists enjoy similar protection in the statutory social insurance as employees, but not in the area of unemployment insurance.

The KSK is not a health insurance fund of its own, but works together with the chosen health insurance fund, coordinating the payment of contributions to health, pension, and long-term care insurance. Like an employee, the artist pays only half of the respective amounts due, the other share of contributions is financed by the artists‘ social insurance fund.

The monthly contribution depends on the income, but the annual income must be above the minimum income limit of 3900 € per year, except for young professionals and for the time of the pandemic, until at least end of 2022.

The contribution is calculated on the basis of an estimate of the expected annual income, which must be submitted at the end of the year for the coming year.

The prerequisite for compulsory insurance is that artistic or journalistic activity is carried out independently, profitably, and not only temporarily.

The activity is only self-employed if it does not constitute dependent employment within the framework of an employment relationship.

If the income as a singer/actor/dancer with short-term employment at a theater that is subject to social insurance is higher than the income from freelance work, one is not included in the KSK and must ensure oneself as self-employed.

A minor side job or a minor non-artistic side job does not affect the insurance under the KSVG, from July 2021, an additional income from a non-artistic activity up to 1300 € per month is possible, this is expected to apply for the first time until the end of 2022.

Although the artists‘ social insurance is compulsory insurance, access to it is not always easy. External advice before submitting an application is highly recommended, krea[K]tiv helps and refers experts.

Website KSK
email KSK

Sometimes there is no other help but to file a case to find justice. We support you in the clarification of the facts, use our networks and also refer you to experts for your specific questions.

Why sue? Because!
Or: Because it is our right!

That sounds very simple now, but it is actually the mere truth.

Especially in the last months, we had to experience that the employer’s side too often takes the position that their interpretation of the law is correct. This is largely doubted by us as well as by labor lawyers.

The only thing left for us to do is to challenge the contractual arrangements of the theatre administrations and take legal action against them to have their legality reviewed.

In German labor law, there is no possibility to have a group lawsuit like i.e in the USA. Therefore, each individual case must be dealt with and decided by (arbitration) courts.

And here we are with the very special case of the even more specialised stage laws:

Most guest contracts with German theaters are based on the NV-Bühne regarding the legal process. This provides for a regular first course of action before the stage arbitration court. This is an instance preceding the ordinary labor jurisdiction only for stage law.

Now everyone has to answer the fundamental question of whether they want to burden themselves – and possibly their own career – with a lawsuit against a theater.

This question is fraught with various rumors about professional disadvantages or even career setbacks. People fear that opera managers might say: „We’d rather not bring such a litigant into our house“.

Although this cannot really be proven, it cannot be completely denied, since decisions about (non-)engagements can always be justified in other ways.

On the other hand, we have to ask ourselves whether we want to endure this kind of subliminal intimidation any longer. In other areas, such as gender equality or the abuse of power, great attention and successes have been achieved with #MeToo in recent months and years, despite the great fear of those affected to come out. There is no way that of all things in the area of the enforcement of our rights in contract law there is a standstill and unilateral interpretation by the employer.

The GDBA theatre union is a good partner here since it can provide legal protection – if one does not have private legal protection insurance, which also covers the area of labor law. They employ lawyers with a big expertise on stage law and who are familiar with the arbitration process.

Even before the contract is signed, the contracts offered can be checked with the GDBA for any questionable passages.

If problems arise during the current contract (or even afterward, keyword: pandemic), one can and should have questionable points checked by the GDBA’s legal department. This department can then also give an assessment of the possible chances of success of a complaint.

We have to understand the importance of a membership in a union or association like „krea[K]tiv – musiktheater stands up“  as a sign that we don’t have to stay the „lone fighter soloists“ forever. We have to stand up for our own professional group in order to achieve improvement for all.

Even if in labor law and stage arbitration all lawsuits are individual case decisions, they have a great signalling effect, see „Parsifal judgment“.

The more individual artists stand up for their rights, the less it will „fall on the feet“ of the individual career-wise if the one „litigant“ is joined by a „litigantina, litigant director or a litigant conductor“.

And thus the whole community will benefit!

In this section you will find general frequently asked questions and answers on the topic of „Law“. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. However, please note that we do not offer Legal Consulting.

It is best to ask a lawyer who is familiar with stage law.

You can even contact the lawyers who work with the GDBA if you are not a GDBA member. You can find the contact details on the GDBA homepage at About us -> Contact -> National Associations.

It could be due to your tax bracket. If you have several contracts with several theatres at the same time, you have to decide which of them counts as your first employment. Then the taxes will be be calculated according to your tax bracket.

  • If you are single, widowed, or retired, you are in tax bracket 1;
  • if you are a single parent, you are in tax bracket 2;
  • if you are married, you are in tax brackets 3, 4, or 5.
  • Every other employment relationship is in tax bracket 6. Therefore, higher deductions apply here.

In addition, if the theatre only registers you for one day, your daily earnings may be extrapolated to a month. This leads to higher deductions and is independent of the tax class.

The most important points are: which piece, which task/role, when exactly are the performances/rehearsals, where you will be working, and how much you get paid. Everything else depends on whether you are negotiating a guest contract or a contract for work. You can find more information in the „Contracts“ section (see this page above).

It is valid if all relevant parameters have been discussed conclusively:

What (piece, task/role), When (performance dates, rehearsal period) Where (location) and, How much (fee). It makes sense to document this with witnesses, notes of the conversation, or by e-mail.
See also Example 1 –  „The Contract in your pocket?“

The contract in your pocket?

Singer Sido is happy, he has received a call from his agent Alberich, he has been hired. A well-known theater has promised him 20 performances of an extremely rarely performed opera „The Golden Glove“ with the role of the „Innkeeper“, he has also been promised an evening fee of 400 euros.
Has a contract been concluded?


No. An essential part of the contract is missing: the exact place and dates of the production, i.e. when the rehearsals are to begin and when the performances are to be. It is actually but an incomplete offer, which the agent delivers. In order to conclude the contract, the missing information is required, followed by Sido’s consent (can be verbal).

If the maximum working hours are not specified in a company agreement of the theatre or in the collective agreement to which your employment contract refers, the Working Hours Act applies. It states that you may not work more than 8 hours per day, although in exceptional cases you may work up to 10 hours if the average working time over a 6-month period does not exceed 8 hours. (§ 3 ArbZG)

There are also collective agreements that do not specify hours but count services (e.g. NV Bühne SR Chor).

You can contact our AG International. We have an international network with LyriCoalition and can help you in many cases or put you in contact with the respective partner organization. Of course, our advice is not legal advice, but we are happy to help you establish a contact.

Yes, absolutely! Clauses such as „The amount of the fee must be kept confidential“ are invalid. This has been established by a court (LAG Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Az 2 Sa 237/09). Besides, we can only improve our working conditions together if we talk about it.

Does the theatre have a company agreement? That could also apply to you. It’s best to ask the head of the section or the works/staff council.
As far as the collective agreement is concerned: unfortunately not.
The following paragraphs of the NV Bühne apply to solo guests (only available in German).

  • 1 „Geltungsbereich“ Abs 5⁣ legt fest, was genau ein Gastspielvertrag ist. Zum Beispiel darf er nicht mehr als 72 Vorstellungen für eine Spielzeit umfassen, es sei denn der Betrieb ist ein Serientheater.⁣
  • 1a „Mindestgage für Gaststpielverträge“⁣: Für Solist:innen beträgt sie mindestens 200 € pro Vorstellung. Für kleine Rollen oder Partien mindestens 150 €. Proben von maximal 4 Stunden werden mit mindestens 60 € vergütet.⁣ Ein Probentag mit mindestens 90 €.
  • 53 „Bühnenschiedsgerichtsbarkeit“⁣: Für Rechtsstreitigkeiten aus Gastverträgen ist das Bühnenschiedsgericht zuständig.
  • 60 „Vermittlungsgebühr – Solo“⁣ Kommt der Vertrag durch eine Agentur zustande, trägt der Arbeitgeber die Hälfte der Vermittlungsgebühr (§ 60). ACHTUNG! Das muss auch im Arbeitsvertrag stehen!
  • 98 „Ausschlussfristen“⁣ Ansprüche aus dem Arbeitsverhältnis entfallen, wenn sie nicht innerhalb von 6 Monaten schriftlich geltend gemacht werden.


Your employment contract states whether it refers to a collective agreement and which one. If you have been hired for a single performance or concert, you may sign a contract of employment that does not refer to a collective agreement but treats you as self-employed.

Caution! In the latter case, you may have to submit an invoice in order to receive your money.

Yes, under certain circumstances. Roles that are not part of the Fach of a singer for example may only be imposed on you if you agree. It is important to know what Fach is in your contract of employment. The more vague the Fach description, the more difficult it is to refuse a part as non-specialist (example: „mezzo-soprano in all Fach including musical and concert“).

In addition, your employer has a duty of care and must not „wear you out“. However, it is not easy to prove overuse. You can try to find a solution with the musical head. The head of the department and the works council can also be involved.

First you have to find out who your contact person is. This varies from theatre to theatre and could be the personnel management, the KBB management, the opera management, the management or the artistic director – depending on the internal distribution of tasks.

Make sure you know what you want to negotiate and then get in touch. If you wish, you can also take a companion to these talks – as to any staff talks – as a witness.

Depending on the length of your contract, the second half of October or the second half of July is a good time to negotiate your contract. By then, the non-renewal period for the theatre has already expired, whereas yours does not expire until the 31st of the month.

See the answer above. („How can I renegotiate…?“).

Has the contract been conclusively negotiated verbally? – Then go to the rehearsal and show that you are willing to work (acceptance of work performance by the employer, §§ 293 ff BGB). A written contract should follow. You can also point out again that you need the contract in writing.

Are you unsure whether the contract was finally negotiated? – Then ask your contact (personnel management/KBB/agency – with whom did you negotiate the contract?) and make it clear that you can only participate in rehearsals if you have the contract.

Look also at Example 1 – „Contract in your pocket?“

The contract in your pocket?

Singer Sido is happy, he has received a call from his agent Alberich, he has been hired. A well-known theater has promised him 20 performances of an extremely rarely performed opera „The Golden Glove“ with the role of the „Innkeeper“, he has also been promised an evening fee of 400 euros.
Has a contract been concluded?


No. An essential part of the contract is missing: the exact place and dates of the production, i.e. when the rehearsals are to begin and when the performances are to be. It is actually but an incomplete offer, which the agent delivers. In order to conclude the contract, the missing information is required, followed by Sido’s consent (can be verbal).