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1st Client is very difficult. What would you do?
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CaspianR2D2
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#1
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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RESOLVED: 1st Client is very difficult. What would you do?

Hi everyone,
I would really appreciate your help! This is kinda urgent.

First,
Basics about me:
- Multi-instrumentalist & majored in Violin Performance in College
- Got a 2 year degree in recording (kept enrolling in classes to use the facilities afterwards)
- I write, record, perform and produce my own material
- It took me years to accumulate gear (not fancy) but I’m happy for now
- Did a few random recording paying gigs (and they were really happy with the results) and realize I can arrange and produce for people.
- Gear:
o Monitors KRK Rokits
o ProTools M-Powered with Firewire 1814
o Reason 6, Native Instruments Komplete 8
o Roland VS2480

- Now, I know most of you folks charge hourly but I hear a lot of stories about how bands don’t finish their recordings because they run skint on their budget. SO, for my business (for now) I’m doing flat rate project fees to increase my credits/demo reel. I’m charging half up front and then the remaining when they pick up the mixdown.

So, lucky me, I get this guy who finds me on the internet who wanted to meet in person and talk. (Mind you, I will never do this again and have more samples and video on my website.) But considering there was not much on my website, I liked the fact he was taking a leap of faith with me. So I told him to meet me at a coffee shop a block a way from my best friend’s place so I can make the most of the outing. He was feeling my vibe and wanted to start work. His music is acoustic instruments along the lines of Mumford and Sons. And we agreed to do it for $300 (I know, It’s not much for the amount of arranging, recording and mixing I’ll be doing).

So, before we were doing preproduction I was installing new monitors (which I should’ve done before we got there, I know) and I had a lot of technical difficulties I would normally never have and I was internally freaking out. After that was done, I started auditioning sounds through drum samples from Kontact Studio Drummer and Native Instruments Battery (I know these aren’t high-end samples but this is what I can afford right now). And then he goes and talks about how his drum samples at home are so much better. Then I say, “Well, would you like to use yours, instead?” And he pretty much just wasn’t convinced that I could program drums because I didn’t have 8 measures ready in 20 minutes. Yes, I can do 8 measures of generic drum patterns quite easily. But for the type of music he was doing, I knew I had to play in real time and quantize as less as possible so there would be an authentic groove. But he left and was so unconvinced (without giving me the proper chance to fully complete a groove). And then he had the nerve to want to see programing I’ve done for other songs and I told him they were buried in another hard drive which would take another 20 minutes for me to restore (which was very true).

Long story short, he hasn’t paid yet and wants me to send him a drum sample (it could be mixed in with the vocals he gave me) of something that is just 5 measures. He can’t afford a live drummer but wants the drums to sound high quality and also wants me to find a good guitarist who will do it as cheap as possible. He is aware he is paying little, is a student with a $200,000 student loan and he thinks whoever can help him will have good credits since his previous tunes have had 8,000 hits on youtube (I checked this and it was true).

(I know most of you have cringed already at my rookie moves in this deal.) Part of me is like, “haaayuul naw!” but I also know I had a catastrophe of a start and wasted time troubleshooting, I don’t need to prove anything to him and could easily not do it. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea to start a business and right away start rejecting work/clients? My ego says, “Drop him like it’s hot” and my eagerness to make music my only career and leave my crappy waitressing job is so strong.

We had a long conversation about his expectations and I also believe in not producing a crappy project as I care about my reputation as well. But he is acting like Madonna and not paying like Madonna.

SO THE QUESTION IS:
Where do you draw the line with a client who is really demanding? I programmed 8 measures mixed in with vocals (he won’t be able to reuse it) mostly so I have peace and mind about my abilities but I had doubts about sending it. Should I cut my losses and move on since he hasn’t paid me? What would you guys do if you’re just starting?

Last edited by CaspianR2D2; 14th March 2013 at 06:55 PM.. Reason: Resolved Problem
#2
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
  #2
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Just starting out?
Take every job and learn from it. Forget about the money. You need first hand experience and this guy is giving you that + $300. Not a bad deal.
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#3
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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We've all made this mistake at one time or other and most of us get caught out more than just once. You've given the answer yourself - cut your losses and move on. Give him nothing and ask for nothing.

The very fact that he can't afford a real drummer, but wants the groove of real drums should tell you all you need to know. He sounds like an idiot and a psychopath all rolled into one convenient and highly educational package!

Learn to read the warning signs - as soon as someone starts to move the goal posts on me, I show them the door.
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#4
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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Me? I have enough experience to know when someone or something is not worth it and I will cut and walk away.

You? You sound like you don't have a lot of experience and so you're getting it. You only get experience from dealing with the bad ones. And you need to be pushed to the point where you're so disgusted that you cut and walk away, that way next time your reaction will be to cut and walk away right from the beginning to save yourself the trouble.

Regards,
Frank
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#5
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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There is nothing worse than someone who makes you feel like a child in your own studio.

I've recently stopped doing recordings for people as I feel people are far too over-demanding and want instant results. I mean within minutes. These 'acoustic coffee shop guitar' guys turn up with their little song and expect a Goyte song within three hours. Fully mixed and mastered. They are deluded.

They ALWAYS say they know more than you. If they did, why are they looking for someone else to record them?

The reason I stopped trying to earn money from my studio was the last client. I ended up bodily removing him and his friend from my studio as they were sniggering like children at me whilst I was quickly trying to wrangle all the plugins and automation on a godawful vocal take that he refused to re-record. I could have dealt with that, but finding out one of them pissed all over my bathroom in some show of disrespect made me near violent.

Drums take time, mixing takes time. I used to tell the client 'I'll mix it up and send it to you'. Usually I would work ungodly hours to get it right.

You need to know when to say no and draw lines in the sand. Hopefully you'll never get the weirdest shit like I had.

I just concentrate on my own music now. At least I don't piss everywhere.
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#6
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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It doesn't sound like this guy's requests were outlandish. I do drum programming too and it's normal for people to want to hear examples and maybe his drum samples did sound better, can't really argue with his preference. I also work at flat rates, but anytime the project will include me doing programming then either the flat price gets inflated or I insist on working hourly since there's going to be some trial & error til you find what they like.

I'd also have no problem with giving him a sample of a few bars. If he doesn't like the drum patterns then ask what he had in mind. Having said that, I wasn't there and can't assess his demeanor. If he's being rude tell him to gtfo, but otherwise you might want to be patient and trudge through it for the experience. Good luck!
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#7
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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If that's the kind of work you want to do, go intern with someone who does it all the time, and you'll learn pretty quickly whether or not this guy's expectations were out of line.

-Dan.
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#8
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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Mumford and Sons/Drum samples.

You already lost that battle - move on.

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#9
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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^Haha missed that
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14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Labs View Post
Mumford and Sons/Drum samples.

You already lost that battle - move on.

Gustav
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Haha this is how I was feeling, hire a drummer or find a different project would be my call.
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#11
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
  #11
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Yunno one little quirk I carry with me? "Carry-on luggage for the soul," kinda thing?

I don't call these people 'clients.' I call 'em 'customers.' I got that from my pseudo-guru, a brilliant engineer named Greg Steele, a font of wisdom about many things.

That sort of puts it all in perspective, for me. It sets up the paradigm: they want me to do something, it's worth cash out of pocket to make it happen.

We're not just wading around in a vat, trying to make something happen that'll justify their love.

Of course, early in your career you run into all shades of mind-boggling madness, welcome to the club.
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CaspianR2D2
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#12
14th March 2013
Old 14th March 2013
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Hi everyone!

Thank you very much for your responses. I really REALLY appreciate it. When member ‘The Byre’ (2nd post) responded I already made the decision to cut my losses and sent him an email. I read everyone else’s post a few times and am happy with the decision I made.

This isn’t the first recording & paying gig (before I’ve managed to crank out the drums fast and do really well with what humble gear that I had at the time), but this is the first time a completely random person saw me from the internet approached me without word of mouth so I considered it my 1st professional situation.

ANYWHOO, yes, I could’ve used more experience, but considering the amount of work I was planning to put into it on my own time without him there and his attitude so I had to tell him to get lost. Since I’m from Long Beach, part of me was ready to tell him off and talk about how bad his singing was etc. but I decided that would not be good for business, lol.

As a graceful exit (practically paying him to go away) I decided to send him that small sample of drums that I finished anyway and told him that, “Unfortunately, I will have to pass up the opportunity to work with you…[yada yada]…When we met, I debriefed you on all the gear and software I had and I am not in a position to keep auditioning to work for you…[yada yada]… and we would not be a good fit.” Then, I said he was welcome to use the drums I gave him as a reference but I recommended he approach some hybrid recording/music schools in L.A. where he can get a guitarist and drummer for free/cheap/donate to school.


@Metrik – I know what you are saying and I am eager to get some credits. I am not about the money right now, but I am more than happy to work with someone for free if they didn’t come into my home studio and insult my setup and capabilities. If this person was really picky about sounds and samples then he should have researched the gear when I told him what I had.

And what I left out in the first post about his demeanor was that:
- he kept comparing me to his previous producer who cranked out drums on EZDrummer and had a ProTools HD system. At $300 per song (with the way it was going with him) would not help me pay for an HD with the hardware any time soon. And he kept saying he wanted this tune to sound better than his last one that was on HD. I believe you can do well with the gear you have if you’ve mastered it, but (as you gear aficionados know) you can’t record in a state-of-the-art environment when you can’t pay for one.
- Prior to preproduction we agreed to have these samples, his guitar playing and a mandolin player. And when he showed up he wanted a really good guitar player and said, “you told me you knew people in your network!”. Well, yes I do. The people I know and would bother to work with are semi-professional to professional and no longer accept “gas and lunch” like they would in their college days, which was something he wanted to do. So, yes, I do know people but not at his budget and attitude. I was not willing to pull strings with my colleagues to work with a guy with a demanding vibe and I was neither going to take the time to find someone at a college for him.
- And lastly, his sob story intertwined with potential success: “I’m a student with a lot of debt, I can’t afford to pay musicians. I intern for so-and-so for free and I make a lot of sacrifices”. (I’ve interned for Sony for free and commuted 2 hours and back for a year and have never let anyone feel they should do something for me for free/cheap because I did something for free before). And he goes on and says “But I have 8,000 hits on youtube and you can make a name for yourself, too.” And what I didn’t like about this was that he felt entitled to get a song and really good musicians on a shoestring budget and talked about his youtube success(?) like he was doing me a favor.

@BlindUncleDallas – yes, he is a bit deluded, lol, thank you for your story and I’m glad you knew where this was going!!


Long story short, the lesson was learned and I’m glad I nipped it in the bud before real work happened. But I am not deterred and I’m still determined to help people who are grateful. And in his case he was not nice, couldn’t sing in tune and his song was okay. If you’ve got the money, sure, I’ll stay up call who I know who can help and make it work. But even if you don’t and you are really talented and nice and know we will have a good long-term relationship then yes I will bend over backwards.

I understand some of you pro’s are in really stressful situations where you work with a budget in the $10,000+ range. I can deal with work stress and deadlines and staying up for 24+ hours if I have to. Whether or not I ever get to that place, as God as my witness, no matter how much someone pays me, I’m not letting anyone come into my home studio and set a hostile work environment.

Thank you, everyone, again, for your support and wisdom!!!
#13
15th March 2013
Old 15th March 2013
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I used to hate when people who were wiser than me would say stuff like I am about to say but " honour your agreement ". That is not only morally correct but legally correct as well.

" Your word is your bond "
#14
15th March 2013
Old 15th March 2013
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As for the word is your bond malarkey, no money seems to have changed hands, so no contract has been entered into. As his demands changed, so the original verbal contract ceased to exist.

As for the whole situation, a producer friend of mine summed it all up in one pithy sentence (after some pin-head claimed poverty, when it came time to pay the bill) -

"When a man has no money, I lose all sympathy for him!"
#15
15th March 2013
Old 15th March 2013
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We all live and work in a very fast paced world. What use to take days now takes hours. You can order something from Amazon and have it delivered the next day. Many of my clients want things FEDEXed to them overnight. People are use to not waiting for anything.

On the other hand creativity takes time. When you look back at how songs were recorded in days past you start to realize that from the first idea for a song to a finished recording of that song could take 6 weeks or 6 months. Now a lot of young musicians expect to go into the studio in the afternoon and have a finished product by supper time ready to be put up on the WWW. If something doesn't work they can always "protool" it and make it passable. If they do decide to go to a professional studio they expect the same time frame and if you cannot do what they want in the time allotted they get upset especially if they are, in their own minds, paying you "big bucks" for your services.

I think you did the right thing and can learn much from this experience.

Next time you will know what to do and what not to do and I guess that is how we all learn.

Best of luck!
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#16
15th March 2013
Old 15th March 2013
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it was your first gig and you gave up....bummer

maybe hang in there and learn something from the experience?

even if its how not to react to someone...

from your post its seems like your chops (yes i just used that word ) aren't there yet...work on it AND the most important lesson is how to deal with different personality's ie: working with others IF you want to go down this path

this deal is WAY less about recording and WAY MORE about people...

good luck next time!
#17
15th March 2013
Old 15th March 2013
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No biggie...

Don't worry - sometimes things just do not work out, it happens at all levels, and the fact that early in your career you resolved an uncomfortable and potentially very difficult project by passing on it shows strength.

Your sincerity and commitment will help you in future.

You dodged a bullet.
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#18
16th March 2013
Old 16th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
As for the word is your bond malarkey, no money seems to have changed hands, so no contract has been entered into. As his demands changed, so the original verbal contract ceased to exist.

As for the whole situation, a producer friend of mine summed it all up in one pithy sentence (after some pin-head claimed poverty, when it came time to pay the bill) -

"When a man has no money, I lose all sympathy for him!"
There doesn't have to be any money change hands. Just "valuable consideration" which labor and time qualify as. Would you dare to say that in a world prior to money there were no contracts?

A contract is
Offer
Acceptance
Over Time
With Consideration.

I'm a long time law researcher and every time I have advised someone on a contract issue it seems to me that those who think they are in the right are not because of their lack of awareness of what constitutes a valid contract.

You are wrong , not because I say so, but because a judge would rule against your statement..... and rightly so.
#19
16th March 2013
Old 16th March 2013
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
We've all made this mistake at one time or other and most of us get caught out more than just once. You've given the answer yourself - cut your losses and move on. Give him nothing and ask for nothing.

The very fact that he can't afford a real drummer, but wants the groove of real drums should tell you all you need to know. He sounds like an idiot and a psychopath all rolled into one convenient and highly educational package!

Learn to read the warning signs - as soon as someone starts to move the goal posts on me, I show them the door.
.

Indeed. Well said.

Skreww the psychos.

.
#20
16th March 2013
Old 16th March 2013
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@ Tagra2 - I agree (obviously!) about what constitutes a contract, but the way I read the situation (and we don't know the details and have not heard the other side) the other party unilaterally changed the terms of the contract.

As for the moving goal posts - I had a pianist like that last year. First she booked a day, then she asked to have some time extra to 'get to know the piano' and then she wanted to be able to stay with us (all this for free BTW!) and then she told us that she would be come TWO days earlier and that her husband will be staying with us (full board of course!) and all for the price of one day's recording.

I told her that I no longer wanted her custom and suggested that she find somewhere else. She pleaded to be allowed to go back to just one day and sans husband, but my answer remained no.

Once they start like that, the result is ALWAYS trouble.
#21
16th March 2013
Old 16th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
@ Tagra2 - I agree (obviously!) about what constitutes a contract, but the way I read the situation (and we don't know the details and have not heard the other side) the other party unilaterally changed the terms of the contract.

As for the moving goal posts - I had a pianist like that last year. First she booked a day, then she asked to have some time extra to 'get to know the piano' and then she wanted to be able to stay with us (all this for free BTW!) and then she told us that she would be come TWO days earlier and that her husband will be staying with us (full board of course!) and all for the price of one day's recording.

I told her that I no longer wanted her custom and suggested that she find somewhere else. She pleaded to be allowed to go back to just one day and sans husband, but my answer remained no.

Once they start like that, the result is ALWAYS trouble.
.

Again, I agree 100%.

In my entire recording and producing life, I've only had to turn down, or cease working with a few clients - and it was largely because of this exact problem.

When I was a young engineer, I remember working with a jazz singer client who would ask me every single time I even touched a fader - why is the piano so quiet...now why is the vocal so loud....now why is are the drums so loud....so why is the piano so loud....so why is the voice so quiet...

I should have seen the writing on the wall when she came to my studio complaining about engineers at 4 of the best recording studios in NYC.

Needless to say, I referred her to some friends, and gave them the heads up that she was a psycho.

Some people are just really, really difficult.

Again, only a handful - out of the probably high hundreds, if not thousands of musicians I've worked with.

Musicians are crazy - I'm crazy - but some people are just impossible to work with. And some combinations of personalities are lethal.

I've had musicians freak out in my studio before - break expensive microphones and windows, stoned rappers with guns threatening engineers, tons of gear stolen, bands breaking up during recordings, band members and friends committing suicide during recordings, etc.

So many stories.

What a life.

These are just SOME of the reasons I decided a LONG TIME AGO not to produce or record other bands or artists, and just create my own music.

These days, if there's drama in the studio, it's my own - and I can usually deal with it reasonably well.

MUCH easier.

.
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#22
16th March 2013
Old 16th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
...then she told us that she would be come TWO days earlier and that her husband will be staying with us (full board of course!) and all for the price of one day's recording.
Seems she was looking for a low cost away-break, recording, walking and sight-seeing in the beautiful Scottish hills.

If you had a studio in Soho and lived in a flat, I doubt she would be inviting herself and hubby to bunk with you there!
#23
17th March 2013
Old 17th March 2013
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Every day you get to work in this business is a blessing.
Every client/person who wants to work with you is a gift.

We have the best jobs in the world. Make the most of it. Our difficulties pale in comparison to those dressed in monkey suits, working in offices, dreading each day as a mindless existence and looking forward to booze at the end of the day.

Get on your knees and thank the Higher Power each day you get to do something you love, even when it's difficult!
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#24
17th March 2013
Old 17th March 2013
  #24
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BYRE
Yes the moving goal post thing is a real issue. This is why I always like to set up some stopgaps in agreements. It prevents the moving line later on.

However...this is not life and death here so the guy should just get the job done
and learn from the mistake about how to conduct agreements in the future.


Proverbs 9 : 10 Knowledge of the law is one of the conditions of a sound mind
#25
20th March 2013
Old 20th March 2013
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinduncledallas View Post
There is nothing worse than someone who makes you feel like a child in your own studio.

I've recently stopped doing recordings for people as I feel people are far too over-demanding and want instant results. I mean within minutes. These 'acoustic coffee shop guitar' guys turn up with their little song and expect a Goyte song within three hours. Fully mixed and mastered. They are deluded.

They ALWAYS say they know more than you. If they did, why are they looking for someone else to record them?

The reason I stopped trying to earn money from my studio was the last client. I ended up bodily removing him and his friend from my studio as they were sniggering like children at me whilst I was quickly trying to wrangle all the plugins and automation on a godawful vocal take that he refused to re-record. I could have dealt with that, but finding out one of them pissed all over my bathroom in some show of disrespect made me near violent.

Drums take time, mixing takes time. I used to tell the client 'I'll mix it up and send it to you'. Usually I would work ungodly hours to get it right.

You need to know when to say no and draw lines in the sand. Hopefully you'll never get the weirdest shit like I had.

I just concentrate on my own music now. At least I don't piss everywhere.
Ah bogans of the first order. I bow to your restraint, I would have given them a head flush. Same sort of reason why I got a day job and my studio is for me only now.
#26
20th March 2013
Old 20th March 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaspianR2D2 View Post

SO THE QUESTION IS:
Where do you draw the line with a client who is really demanding?
Punch the guy in the ear. Hard.
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