Personal engineer followup/rant/lesson

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megajoe
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Personal engineer followup/rant/lesson

Post by megajoe » Wed May 30, 2012 10:09 pm

Some of you may remember a post a made a while back about working as a personal engineer for a high-profile athlete (prev topic). I got lots of great feedback from fellow tapeopers.

I say a lot of this from a negative perspective, but I still love recording and making music. I've met and worked with a lot of great artists on this project. People that I can name-drop to new prospects and they get all excited and wide-eyed. A lot of it really has been fun.

So, here's what has happened.

We had a nice-looking contract drafted up ($60k/yr), and decided to wait until the end of the season to start it. January came and we started working like crazy for a month. I made enough money to move me and my pregnant girlfriend to the city and eliminate the hour commute. After I moved, he left town and I didn't hear back from him for a long time.

I overdrew my bank account to pay rent. I asked when he was coming back to town. He said a little over 2 months. I told him I'd like to do more work for him before I get evicted and collectors come after me. He sent me a check that covered 2 months living expenses and asked me to make a ton of beats for him.

He also told me we wouldn't be doing the contract anymore. Lesson #1: Don't buy into a lifestyle that requires a deal you haven't signed yet.

He came back with a new manager and we started a 9 week project. At the end of the first week, she tried negotiating a lower rate with me ($25 to $20/hr), saying Mr. athlete already discussed it with me (he didn't). The rationale was there would be so many hours, like 50-60 week. I stood firm on my rate.

The next week was hell. Everyday he would tell me I could leave if I didn't want to be there, or he could hire another engineer. There was even one point that he stopped in the middle of a take and chewed me out in front of everyone, telling me not to be there just for the money. I took it all like a champ though and kept my cool, and worked my ass off.

He sat me down at the beginning of the next week and basically said I could work for $15/hr or leave. At one point he mentioned $10/hr, which felt pretty insulting; I'm not a clerk at a gas station. He also mentioned how he doesn't even give his mother what he's paying me (uhh..). Then he mentioned he could just get one of several interns from the college nearby. He had some leverage, I put all my chips in and I needed this gig. At $15/hr, 50-60 hrs is $750-900 a week, still a decent amount, so I shook on it.

Then I had 30 hr weeks. 20 hr weeks. It was becoming less income than I need to support my family. Then they talked about a work-for-hire contract, which was the opposite of what they mentioned before with publishing. I actually contributed a significant portion of lyrics to some songs.

Last week still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. When he paid me, he denied I was there for one of the weeks that I worked (!!!!!!!!). He started getting angry with me, got his manager on speaker phone, they were both yelling and telling me all the ways I was wrong. He then started writing me a check saying "I know how to fix this." like he was still right but would pay me anyway. I think we came to an understanding, but I haven't talked to him since Saturday. Lesson #2: don't be the only person writing down your hours.

So far I worked there for 3 hrs this week with another artist while he was doing something else. While I was there, his ex backed into my van, causing some cosmetic damage. I'll be able to use the money for 1 month living expenses. She said "I hope you're not mad!" It was actually a relief.

I came to the conclusion that I need a job until I can turn down gigs where I'm giving up more than I can afford. The last time a had a job-job was in 2007 on the assembly line of a garage door factory.

I hope some of that is interesting or useful information. Also, if anyone has some good ideas about hunting down jobs that engineering experience or a B.M. would be useful in, I'd love to hear them!

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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Thu May 31, 2012 6:44 am

Sorry about the difficult lesson, Joe.

_Did_ you sign a work-for-hire contract? If not, I'd start backing-up any beats/tracks/compositions that you created/made any significant contribution to, and document any lyrics that you co-wrote, right away if possible. If/When the inevitable happens, you'll need documentation for any legal actions you may deem necessary to make sure things stay equitable. Is your name on any of the copyrights filed? Has any copyright paperwork been filed?

GJ

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Post by chris harris » Thu May 31, 2012 7:45 am

You didn't move to Oklahoma City for this job, did you? I'd hate to think that one of our Thunder guys was this asshole.

I wouldn't put up with this bullshit for $60k/yr., much less $15/hr.

Sorry to hear about this. Hope you find something that will be more solid so that you and your family can stop worrying about the whims of some celebrity and their vanity project.

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Post by brew » Thu May 31, 2012 8:25 am

It sounds like you handled yourself with poise and professionalism, and have squeezed some of the good from this lemon, and at least it was probably exciting.

Unfortunately, your story is not so unusual regarding a celebrity trying to "bridge" entertainment industries.

These types are so used to people fawning over them, doing whatever just to be involved. Most of them are dirtbags with no class.

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megajoe
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Post by megajoe » Thu May 31, 2012 12:54 pm

Gregg, I did not sign a work-for-hire contract yet. I have most of what I've done backed up. Copyright paperwork has not been filed yet.

He's not from the Thunder. I've actually known this guy for five years now, and he's always been cool. Everything changed when he got this manager, that I think he mainly keeps around because she used to manage a really famous short rapper from New Orleans.

I've learned quite a bit about how to keep the vibe nice and the work on track in rap sessions with lots of artists. I learned I'm rather inexperienced at negotiations. There is a lot of great stuff I can draw from this experience.

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Post by kslight » Thu May 31, 2012 4:46 pm

Not only keep a backup but I believe it would be prudent to make an optical backup and send it registered mail to yourself, and keep it sealed until the time comes. May not be the most legally binding way to prove ownership of something, but better than nothing if you feel that shit could get serious.

That sucks that the relationship went sour for you, but its better that you stuck to your guns than sold yourself out.

You know this now, but this is why you should have a contract before investing your life into it. I bet you won't do that again!

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu May 31, 2012 5:20 pm

Register everything you make immediately. Copyright the hell out of all you did.

If they haven't ,which it sounds like they didn't, then you'll have leverage.

If / when the nice ex-athlete makes it in the industry, take him and his manager for a nice ride down lawsuit land.

Money will be made. Just not the way you intended.

And please, STOP acting like, "oh, I was victimized, but I'm a nice guy, so took it and got beat down, I will get up again"... That is not how you should think of yourself, unless you want it to happen again and again and again.

Do get up again, and definitely keep doing what you love. but do not act like a victim, under any circumstances. Thinking like that will not get you up and forward as fast, if at all.

Cheers
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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megajoe
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Post by megajoe » Thu May 31, 2012 7:11 pm

A lot of it was collaboration. We would write a few basic parts of the music together, then I would elaborate it and make it a full track. Should I mess with copyrighting those, or just only the few that I did by myself?

Thanks for bringing that to my awareness Nick. Those few words go a long way.

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu May 31, 2012 8:28 pm

megajoe wrote:A lot of it was collaboration. We would write a few basic parts of the music together, then I would elaborate it and make it a full track. Should I mess with copyrighting those, or just only the few that I did by myself?

Thanks for bringing that to my awareness Nick. Those few words go a long way.
You're welcome. I have seen this victim attitude in too many people.

As to the copyrighting, do the ones that you created 100% by yourself.
The rest, would be too much hassle to prove what you did vs what he did.
This can be easy to prove since you have the original audio somewhere.
As to the collaborations, unless you have detailed notes, like dated papers with original lyrics, computer files that have correct creation dates (original files that can be verified, not copies) would be enough for a convicing argument in court.

This is why I refuse to create any musical parts. Unless I am making music exclusively for myself, by myself. Any time I engineer for someone else... they get to be the creative force.

Cheers
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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