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Dealing with contractors/middle-men

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by bnutz, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. bnutz


    Mar 27, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I'd love to get some thoughts on how to handle a situation that came up on a set of gigs I just did. It may be sort of a long story, so I appreciate folks hanging in and reading...

    A group I work with was hired for a "corporate event" by a guy who is a musician and also fuctions as a music contractor for lots of different events. I've heard his name before and when I spoke to other musician buddies, some of them have, too. One even said he wouldn't work for him because he takes a big chunk of the money for himself and screws the musicians.

    We were told we'd be playing two 40 minute sets of music, get there an hour ahead of time, wear black, etc. etc. Great. The pay was pretty good, but not amazing, but it'd be an early night and we'd made a good contact. Oh, but also in that list of do's and don'ts we were told that for the event, our band that was usually called (for our purposes here) X, would now be called Y, and that if anyone asked for contact info, we were to direct them to the guy who hired us and were not to give out any of our own business cards. Kind of lame, but I get it.

    So a few days before the first gig, we're told that we now need to show up several hours earlier than the time we were originally given. We wouldn't be ending sooner, but everything needed to be set up and sound checked before the guests arrived, and, oh yeah, you're now doing three sets on two different stages as well. But they're short, one 20 minute, and two thirty minute sets.

    We get there and figure out, this is a big deal. It's a really high profile event and we're definitely being hosed on the pay. I know it's kind of lame, but I'm still not sure I want to burn a bridge with this guy, so I'm not going to say what it is. But, in accordance with how everything else has gone, the sets end up being 50 minutes, and then two 45 minute sets and we're at the event for seven hours.

    The guitarist and I are still talking about what to do about the contractor guy because we didn't make a stink at all, and he said he was really happy with us and will want to use us again for events. Initially, the guitarist was ready to cancel the second of the two gigs, but here's my solution: Let the guy call us for more work and just ask for more money. It seemed pretty straightforward, but the other guys were pissed and ready to tell the guy to go screw himself. My thinking is that because we're easy to work with and we got a lot of compliments from attendees and production staff alike, we may have some leverage to get more money out of him.

    I'd love to hear thoughts, opinions, and if anyone else has stories like this.

  2. eotpr


    Jun 25, 2007
    Ask for more money and also tell him if the sets go over like last time that it will cost extra. Get it all in writing.
  3. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I'm sure he's thrilled with you. He totally screwed you over and you took it without complaining.

    He's requiring you to change your band name to work for him, and he won't let you pass out cards? Pretty slick, especially if he gets bands to fall for it.

    Commit to the next gig, then walk at the last minute. Hey, you're using a different name, so it's not likely to hurt your reputation, right?
  4. bnutz


    Mar 27, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Yeah, that's pretty much how the other guys feel. I'm not worried about my reputation, but am thinking more about the bottom line. This`guy contracts a lot of work, and if he's willing to do better for us in the future, it would be worth it, financially, look past this last gig. If he's not, then I will tell him to take a hike and spread his name around every corner of creation.

  5. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Prediction: He'll promise you whatever you want to hear, then screw you over every time.

    Good luck.
  6. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    Someone who knows more about these things than I do once told me to "play the changes"...

    You were contracted to play 2x40 minute sets. Get it in writing. When he calls you up and tells you it's now 3 40 minute sets, you say "sure, great - that'll be 50% more cash". If he doesn't like it (which he won't), then either you play 2x40 minute sets for the agreed amount, or he gets another band to play instead (and pays you the agreed cancelation fee) - chances are he'll cough up more for you to play the extra set.

    If the client asks why you're only playing two sets, tell them that you've been explicitly told by the contractor NOT to discuss any buisiness with them (which is true), and they need to speak to him.

    If he is deliberatly moving the goal posts to screw you out of money, then he'll stop pulling that trick once it's costing him every time there's a change (turn up an hour earlier than agreed? extra $50 a man!). Cheap price+lots of changes > fair price up front.

  7. HomeBrewTJ


    May 16, 2004
    Lafayette, IN
    That's how you do it. I've done that exact thing before, and it's the proper way to handle it.
  8. bnutz


    Mar 27, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I definitely agree with changes costing more. In fact, I'm playing a wedding with the same band in a couple of weeks and we are upping our fee because we've been asked to learn a bunch of songs specifically for the event. The debate we're having is how much weight we should give to the prospect of future work (with contracts, of course).

  9. willgroove2


    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    The fact that he is making you use a different name means he probably sold the package to the clinit as another band and used you guys to fill in/cover his but for less money,that's a old trick. I worked for a contractor who had 4-5 groups that all performed under the same name at various times and he would call different crews according to how much money he wanted to spend or rather make that night.My thing is this;ask for what you think your worth as soon as you can in a business relationship because if you go too long as his cheap band you will never get the real money gig's.
  10. could also hand out your details if its the venue arranging things. not much point if its just the guests who are unlikely to be arranging similar events.
  11. I'll just echo what the others here have said about getting things in writing. A contract is a must to avoid these exact kinds of thing from happening. He is definitely not splitting the gig fee evenly (!) though this is not exactly uncommon as most bookers do take a substantial whack of commission from the pot.

    Having played many hundreds of corporate functions (at least 500) it didn't surprise me to hear that the load in time was much earlier than he first indicted - generally in Sydney you'd be looking at "set up and sound check by 6:30", even if you're not due on until 9:30. And these things never run to schedule. And the drum kit is always in front of some screen onto which they want to project a Powerpoint presentation. And then there's the corporate coordinator with a stressed look on her face (because she only does this once a year and it's the biggest event of her life) saying "oh, I thought you guys were going to play dinner music". Then there's the appetizing sight of stone cold and congealed chicken kiev waiting for you in the band room because the most obvious time to serve a band a meal is right after their second song...

    If I was you I would keep in contact with the guy but negotiate a more reasonable deal with definite set times, loading time, are you getting a meal etc for next time. If he won't come to the party then it's his loss, I guess :)
  12. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar It Don’t Mean A Thing... Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    Right. Don't walk or piss the guy off -- there's too much work to be had down the road. Tell your guitar player to chill out or channel his bottled-up emotions into booking your own gigs!

    Make sure you follow up with the agent's initial offer with an email (something in writing) that lays out the time frame as you agreed -- plus overtime provisions for way-early set ups & extra dance sets later. You can bet he bills the client for overtime!

    Also, maybe if the band name is an issue, make up your own cards and hand them out with the agent's cards. Say "This is my group/company -- bnutz music -- and we book through so and so for these types of functions...please call him and ask for us."

    The good news is, if you keep showing up at these nice venues and playing succesful parties, your name will get around and you'll eventually be able to book your own functions there through word of mouth. That is, unless you sign your life away on the agent's non-compete clause -- careful!
  13. HomeBrewTJ


    May 16, 2004
    Lafayette, IN
    Sorry, this made me laugh. :)
  14. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    Of course he's happy with you, you bent right over for him! There's a guy like that in Chicago that I absolutely refuse to deal with, even though he has some decent connections. He wants to control bands, and make a living off of other people's hard work.
  15. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    By going along with the changes he made as stated (unless you were justly compensated), you pretty much told this guy you'd work for cheap and still go out of your way to satisfy him. I agree with the previous posters whose advice was to get everything in writing. Make up a standard contract for events like this with clauses for cancellations, extra time, time allotted for load-in/load-out, meals, contacts, and anything else you can think of. Show up to this low-life agent when he calls you for the next gig and present him with your terms, if he balks, tell him he can enjoy finding someone else and get the word out as fast as you can on the local scene. By working for cheap and being accommodating to the point of bending over, the entire industry gets undercut and you end up not only hurting your bottom line, but essentially that of all of the other working pros in the area. (Not saying you did, just that continuing to not ask what you're worth could lead to it.)
  16. Not only have I worked with contractors like this, I've worked with band leaders like this. It can be an even tougher pill to swallow when you're just the bass player who finds out the gig is longer, you need two rigs, the first set will be outdoors in the blazing sun, and you've got 10 minutes to pack everything up and move inside (and no, you can't stash your small rig anywhere...get it out to your car).

    So - from the school of hard knocks, follow the great advice above from a band perspective. Contract, contract, contract. Working under another name has never been an issue for me. If folks ask on the gig, I'm always happy to say that we're performing as "X" for this event, but we also work for ourselves. Working as a subcontractor can be incredibly lucrative, and it can take a lot of heartache off your shoulders. But protecting your interests is important. Provide a quote based on the scope of the gig (times, dress code, performance locations, yada yada) and put all the final details in writing, including your cancellation policy, overtime requirements, load-in/load-out instructions, etc.). Along those lines, your contract should also define liability specifics, indemnity, and so-on...you'll undoubtedly get some independent bookings and it's good to have everything squared away. And, believe it or not, it also makes you more attractive. Event planners big and small appreciate any service provider, from the band to the photographer to the caterer, who presents a professional approach to the gig.

    Individually...which I know is beyond the scope of this thread, but it's related...this can be really tough. I work with two band leaders in particular that, for each call, I have to ask them a list of specific questions before I'll commit to anything. Obviously give & take is part of what we do, and a lot of circumstances are always beyond the control of any leader. But often times they commit to additional obligations on behalf of the client without considering what effect such commitments have to the musicians. For example, when a four-hour gig turns into a seven-hour gig, because of an extended break for photographs, a delay before load-out, etc....my feathers get ruffled. :D

    Good luck - here's hoping you can come to an understanding within the band and that future work comes your way in whatever form you prefer.
  17. bnutz


    Mar 27, 2007
    Los Angeles
    This is pretty much exactly what happened. The event was catered by Patina (a KILLER Joachim Splichal restaurant here in Los Angeles) and we got bad, totally half-assed Mexican food. Oh well, still beats working.
  18. matt_m


    Feb 19, 2008
    Dallas, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Schroeder Cabinets
    Agreed 100%. Get yourself a contract. That is the only way you can protect yourself in situations like this. I have been through the same situations. Once you have a contract, it's strictly business. The contractor can't get mad, because there is a written agreement on what you are being paid for. Go as far as to include cartage in this contract. Check out the American federation of musicians. They have a good general contract for independently contracted music labor.
  19. Vetchking

    Vetchking Banned

    Mar 17, 2008
    President G.P.G. Co. "acoustic" USA
    If someone offers you a gig at X Dollars and you take it. Done Deal.

    If he makes $2,000.00 more that's his business.

    We're you cheated. No. You accepted the gig X Dollars. Ta Da.........
  20. cnltb


    May 28, 2005

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