I Work for Talents, not Clients

One of my pet peeves in this business is that situation where you sense someone is afraid of their client.  You know, where they’re afraid to call someone on obnoxious behaviour, or simply manage client expectations.  I know clients come in all shapes and sizes – a wide spectrum from completely organized, to the guy writing things on the back of envelopes. From pleasant and friendly to grumpy and curt.  Some have been around for years and know the ropes and some require hand holding every step of the way.  But I’ve never bought into this idea that it was necessary to keep a client at all costs.  There is nothing wrong with calling someone on bad behaviour or in some cases, “firing” a client.

This is why my old talent agency motto was “the client is NOT always right”.  I’ve now refined this to “I work for talents, not clients”.    Now of course we are trying to provide good service to all clients and we really do want to address their professional needs as best we can.  But I try never to lose sight of the fact that I work for the voice talents, not the clients.  Below I present an example of sticking to this concept. As usual, names have been changed except mine which I’m keeping:

Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 11:01 AM
Subject: Aborted Session
As you are likely aware, the XYZ event, through our company, hired Jeremy for a session in late January to voice some radio spots. 
The agreed upon price was $2,500.
Unfortunately, the client killed the session, after approximately 3 hours of work. 
We did not finish the session, nor broadcast any part of the session. 
Do you have a policy here, recognizing that obviously we must pay for Jeremy’s time?
Please give me a shout when you get a moment.
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2011 11:38:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Aborted Session

Hi Mike:

Thanks for the follow-up.  While I appreciate the situation, here are the facts:

1)Jeremy was there 3 hours as you say which is a pretty long session.  You indicated to us that in no way was there anything wrong with his performance.  It was a client’s decision to not push forward and/or not use the material, but the client was in on selecting his voice and agreeing to the rate in the first place.
2)After the session, you wrote to us to apologize for the session and authorized us to bill the full amount of $2500.
3)We sent the invoice a month ago and nothing was said at the time either.  Approved, in other words.
This invoice is already on our books and Jeremy has been promised the full amount by you and by us.
So, in this case, I request that the invoice be paid in full.
Hope that makes sense.  Thanks.

Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 12:24 PM
Subject: Re: Aborted Session
Thanks for the response. 
I understand – and do not dispute – the facts. 
1. Your performer spent 3 hours – he should be compensated for his time.
2. You were directed to bill us the full amount and I personally apologized – professional, courteous conduct in light of what happened
3. Time has passed.
The client isn’t looking to deny responsibility for their decision, only searching for fair treatment. A certain percentage of every performance is tied to the rights to broadcast the work. This performance was never broadcast. Industry standards go so far as to suggest that 50% of original fee be payable.
Given that 45 days have passed, some compensation to you/performer is warranted.  
Is there any common ground here? Thanks for your consideration. 
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2011 12:31:09 -0500
Subject: Re: Aborted Session

Hi Mike:

Not trying to be difficult but I really don’t see the argument in this case.  You say “Given that 45 days have passed, some compensation to you/performer is warranted.”   I would amend this to read:  “Given that 45 days have passed, ALL compensation to you/performer is warranted.”

Why did you authorize us to bill the full amount if you were going to come back 45 days later and try and go back on that?   Will this be the case with any other sessions we book with you?  We can never be sure until later on whether the full amount will be honoured or not?  I mean, no information has changed since the time of the session.  It was clear then, was it not, that your client wouldn’t be using the material. 
Don’t know your client but you had to apologize for him at the time and now are coming back 45 days later to try and re-negotiate.  I think you would agree this is not how things are usually done in our business.

I’m sticking with the argument that the invoice should be paid in its entirety.  Sorry Mike, nothing personal.  Just business.      
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 1:34 PM
Subject: Re: Aborted Session
My records show we received the invoice only 30 days ago – to the day (see your email invoice to me below).
We are honest and professional businesses as clearly demonstrated by the way we handled the entire cancellation. Heck, I even sent Jeremy some XYZ event tickets as a show of my regret! The fact we ask now is not to be difficult – or as you suggest, unprofessional – is only due to nature of running a time-sensitive Show.
My authorization to bill full amount, again, is not in dispute. You argue that we should have diligently pushed for a reduced fee at the time of cancellation. We did not. Put that down to time pressure or human error. 
We – and by extension, the client – are just seeking for a bit of understanding. 


Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: Aborted Session

I’m not sure what else to say.  I think I’ve been clear in my explanation and professional & respectful about it.   And while you could not have handled the situation better at the time of the session, I agree…this exchange is sort of changing my opinion, to be honest.   I want you to understand that I can’t be telling my talents they are being paid one amount and then come back to them 30-45 days later and tell them they are not making that money after all.  It hurts the credibility of my relationship with the talent(s) which is what you are asking me to do.  I repeat that no information has changed since the day you told us to bill the full amount. 
I can’t tell you how to run your business but if it were me, I would offer your client a discount instead of coming to me.  Why do I/we have to pay the price for your client’s change of heart?  How is that fair? 

I am comfortable with you thinking I’m unfair or whatever else you want to say/think but my position remains unchanged:  Please pay the invoice in full or if you prefer, we can settle the matter through the legal system.

I expect to receive a cheque for the full amount.  Will keep you posted! 

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One Response to “I Work for Talents, not Clients”

  1. Matt Cowlrick Says:
    March 16th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Wow. Exceptional work, Roger. Thank you for being an inspiration to businesspeople in the creative field through standing your ground.

    This is one post to save for a long, long time.


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