Changing payment agreement mid-project

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cale w
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Changing payment agreement mid-project

Post by cale w » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:48 am

So last year after acquiring my first serious recording rig, I agree to engineer a guy's full length album for him for a piddlingly small amount upfront. 12 songs, $300 dollars. I didn't have any concept of day or hourly rates at the time, nor how much time actually goes into a bunch of semi-armatures trying to make an album.

So... 8-piece reggae band, being recorded mostly as overdubs, and the whole thing has been one scheduling failure after another, with players flaking out all over the place. The band leader (also producer) just can't seem to herd all the cats to make stuff happen. In the interim, I've gotten smart about charging a day rate and now have a few active paying projects. With that and my day job, I literally can't afford to keep taking days to work on this fellow's album, for what is now cumulatively paying me $1.57/hr and falling.

Do I:

A) Renegotiate for more money
B) Suck it up and work for essentially free
C) Back out and return a partial refund of the (long-ago spent) upfront fee

SPOILER ALERT: I already contacted him and said I will only continue working on this clusterfuck for half of my normal day rate, except I didn't call it a clusterfuck to him. I feel sort of douchey about asking for more money, but I feel that's all I can do, and I don't think anyone involved really knew off the bat how project payment things go...

Weigh in if you have any views to offer!

Oh yeah, I just found out he's having someone else mix it, which I was really looking forward togetting to do. More things we failed to discuss upfront I guess. The cool thing about every project is learning exactly what NOT to do the next time around!

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Post by Ron's Brother » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:32 am

You agreed, ever how stupidly, to record for "as long as it takes." you made an agreement and an agreement, verbal or written, is a contract that needs to be upheld... He CAN sue you. (yes I did take an intro to law class HA HA)

If I were you I would continue the recording as you agreed. bands talk to each other "yeah, don't go to him, he said he would record us for one rate then half way during the project he wanted to charge me another rate"

At minimum if you are not going to hold up your end of the agreement; You need to refund the 300 bucks.

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Re: Changing payment agreement mid-project

Post by LazarusLong » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:02 am

cale w wrote:a bunch of semi-armatures
:lol: That typo made me smile, imagining several half-assembled electric motors absent-mindedly whirring and flopping about amid some guitars and mics.

But seriously, I'm sorry about your dilemma. Take it as a learning experience. Also, talk to him. Though it probably isn't cool to ask for money at this point, you can ask for referrals. Be honest with him and explain how you're going to do the job still and do it right, but if he'd be willing to tell his friends about you - ask him to not share your heinously low rate - and hopefully you can work something out where you will, in effect, make more money from him and he understands what kind of a deal you're giving him.
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Post by TapeOpLarry » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:20 am

My first "pro" recordings were $10 an hr, show or no show. I've never regretted having set that rule and rate.
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Post by Artifex » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:29 am

I agree with Larry. Your time is worth more than that. Explain the concept of opportunity cost to this guy.

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Post by Aquaman » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:27 pm

Wow, you agreed to engineer an 8 piece reggae band for $25 a song? Dude.



How many blunts had you smoked prior to agreeing to this?

You are so screwed. I would chalk this one up as the biggest, hairiest, smelliest, lamest lesson learned ever. Good luck getting more $$ out of them, but again:


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Post by Kazumdb » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:51 pm

I would also suck it up and do the gig for what you said you would. Saying that I certainly wouldn't take time off of work to do it.

I would only schedule sessions when it was convienent for me and my schedule. Lets face it he isn't paying for a premium time slot for that kind of money. If they call and say how about Wednesday from 6:00pm to midnight, well that's not quite goin to work. How about Sunday morning about 10:00 am!!!!

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Post by AstroDan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:55 pm

I must be a total son of a bitch, because not only would I ask for deposits back from amp builders - I would also bail on this project. :D
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:57 pm

I'm no lawyer, but surely you can't be sued for simply asking them if they'd be willing to renegotiate. They'd have to be real oblivious assholes [a distinct possibility in this biz] to not realize they are taking advantage of you. Do you have a particularly good relationship with any one person in the band? That's who I'd approach. Co-opt someone in the band and then have them convince the others.

Way back when I recorded other people I had bands try to pull shit that no individual would try to pull. They can all point the finger at the other members. Showing up on the least douchie [sp?] guy's porch could be a real problem solver here. I, personally, think that *asking* to renegotiate and then seeing it through regardless of what they say is the high road here.
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Post by Gentleman Jim » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:22 pm

The band leader has to know he's being an asshole if you're something like 180 hours into a $300 project rate. If not, then you have every right in the world to point it out, as nicely or as harshly as you want. You made a mistake, but that doesn't mean that he gets to take ridiculous advantage of you. In my opinion, your obligation to honor the strictest terms of the agreement ceased as soon as the hourly rate sunk below minimum wage - you know, the lowest amount of money people are allowed to work for by law.

You're bummed because you just found out that someone else has the pleasure of mixing this, something you were "really looking forward to getting to do?"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You should send that poor SOB a fruit basket and a sleeping bag! And then you should drop to your knees and thank your lucky stars. Imagine how many revisions and tweaks this guy would expect, all for free.

If the band leader gets upset and threatens to sue you, just give him the names and contact information for all the people here who claim they would honor whatever agreement they ever made.

You don't owe this knucklehead a penny or a minute more. If he wants to continue recording Heaven's Gate: The Irie Tribute, he can start paying again. It would be nice of you to cut him a modest discount, but with the discount he's already received I don't think you're obliged.

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Post by cale w » Wed Jan 13, 2010 6:57 pm

Wow, I'm surprised more people didn't tell me to suck it up and not ask for more money, but I'm of the feeling that they've spent so much time dragging their feet, that my time has become worth more than free in the meantime! It hasn't been 180-something hours gone into this project, more like 80 or so, but most of that's been spent waiting for players to show and not getting any work done. So the problem isn't the bandleader being nit-picky, just really disorganized. I would love to mix it because I could do that on MY time fairly quickly.

The band is made up of a lot of guys I've played with/ recorded with in the past, so I'm trying to keep this professional and not ruffle any more feathers than I need to. But I DO want to be compensated.

As far as upholding my end of the deal, I feel I was let down when players started to not show up, or show up unready to record their parts. Having everyone present and ready is the bandleader's part of the deal, and once that wasn't upheld I think the original agreement is open for renegotiation.

Aquaman wrote:Wow, you agreed to engineer an 8 piece reggae band for $25 a song? Dude.
I agreed this rate to get a feel for my new equipment, and for using these guys as guinea pigs for my first pro-ish recording gig. It's just taken so damn long and I have so much more potentially paying work lined up that I can't justify finishing it out for free, especially when there is such a track record of days being wasted for reasons beyond my control.

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Post by Scodiddly » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:08 pm

If players aren't showing up for scheduled sessions, then I think you have every right to renegotiate.

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Post by davepinkham » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:11 pm

if I were you I might also consider setting a reasonable (but fairly short) time limit on how much longer you're willing to spend before completing the project and telling them that. something along the lines of, "you're only paying me x which is already incredibly cheap for the quality product you'll be receiving for it. we need to get it done by such and such date because i have all this other paying work lined up." if being a musician and finishing their album is important to them, they can make time to do it. if they can't, hand them the files and wish them good luck. or just do it now.

i'm in a similar situation except not so extreme. i just told them we have to get it done, now. that's the problem with charging flat rates without any concrete amount of time blocked out in which to finish it. shit drags on forever. especially if you're working another job and they all have jobs. live and learn. now i'm going to go write up a contract for my next gig.

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Post by Aquaman » Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:30 am

cale w wrote:I agreed this rate to get a feel for my new equipment, and for using these guys as guinea pigs for my first pro-ish recording gig. It's just taken so damn long and I have so much more potentially paying work lined up that I can't justify finishing it out for free, especially when there is such a track record of days being wasted for reasons beyond my control.
I'm with you, I have done the same. And you did say "piddling" right out of the gate, so I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when I worked out the math.

You'll find the neutral bouyancy price point between "too high for us mate" and "hey we can walk all over this guy!" pretty fast, I bet. I like charging by the half (or quarter) day as it keeps people on task but without so much clock watching.

I agree with the previous suggestion of giving them a short but reasonable time limit to wrap things up or else take their never-ending project elsewhere. Bummer about the mixing though.

You could always do a few dub plates on your own just for fun & experience, and then see if they want to pay for them! I've gotten lucky a couple of times that way. Good luck with the project.

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Post by @?,*???&? » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:24 pm

Doing songs for a 'per song rate' can work out like this too.

It's more hilarious when you break it down and tell the band that their recording is going to cost $5800.00 for a 6-song E.P. where mastering and manufacturing rates are fixed expenses. I mean, if you tell them what it's actually going to cost because they can't sing and play in time, then it's likely they'd never work with you. But my question to you is, "Are you that desperate?"

You are between a rock and a hard place. There are local studios (and big ones with a history) turning out $350 album mixes complete with mastering.

I think it's insane. When a major studio starts doing that, it hurts the entire local economy- it's not that I can't compete- it's more like- "Who would want to?" I can't pay my bills at that rate.

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