Just had to relate this one...

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Oct 6, 2007.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    A client comes in with a hodge podge of songs on DATs, CDs and reel to reel tape. This was after telling me on the phone that he is already for mastering. All of this material is at different sample rates and bit depths and there are 3 to 5 takes of each song. He wants to listen to all the takes before he decides which one to use in the mastering. He wants me to put them all on my computer's hard drive so they will be instantaneously accessible in case he needs to audition one or all of them for the CD.

    We sit and listen to 3 to 5 takes of each song and there are 10 songs. Most songs are 3 to 5 minutes long. I tell him that this is better done by him in his own studio because the clock is running. He informs me that he understands but wants to listen to them on a "good system" After about 4 hours he says that he can't do any more today but wants to reschedule at a later time. He pays me and leaves.

    Days and weeks pass and then he calls up and says that he wants to start the whole process over again because he mixed some of the songs differently after hearing them here. So he brings over more versions of even more songs and again wants them on my hard drive. After listening to the new material he pays and leaves.

    Days, weeks and months pass and I again hear from him saying that he wants me to copy all of the material onto "a" CD and he will pick it up the next day. There is something like 4.5 gigs of his stuff still on my hard drive and I tell him that it will take a number of CDs and suggest he bring over a HD and I can copy all the stuff to his drive.

    I again don't hear from him for a couple of weeks and finally one day he just shows up and wants the stuff transfered. He forgot the HD and asks if he can "borrow" one. Considering his track record and knowing that I am not feeling too attached to this job anymore and say "no" so he says he wants all of his material(s) on a CD and he wants it done RIGHT now. He threatens me with legal action if I don't comply and says he has a RIGHT to get his material back. (Some how he has forgotten that he also has his material since I gave it all back to him but it is not in usable form for mastering since it is all all different sample rates and on many different media) I smile and say "sure" but that "there will be a transfer charge since I am having to spend my time transferring 4.5 gigs of material to individual CDs" I suggest again that he bring a HD and I can transfer it all in a couple of minutes. He does "not want to"

    I suggest that since this will be a long time that he come back tomorrow and claim his transfers.

    He leaves and I have not heard from him since. This was about two weeks ago

    My question is .......what do I do now? I have 4.5 + gigs of materials on my HD, I have multiple CDs that I have burned. HELP!!!!!!!

    Am I the only one who gets these idiotic jobs??????

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Do you have a lawyer?

    It's a legal matter at this point since he mentioned it first.

    Do you have documentation of these transactions? As in bills, receipts, did he pay cash? Are you a legit registered business?

    Me, I personally believe in the CYA school. I would do all the work, then write out a complete bill including any extra costs.

    Once you do the work you can start charging him storage fees depending on your local laws. Maybe even a fee or penalty for not paying in a timely manner, it all depends on your local laws.

    Once you do the work, if he has a way for you to contact him do so and document it. Then file a claim yourself against him, if he doesn't show up eventually he'll lose the case and use that on a lien on any of his property, again it depends on your local and state laws.

    It's a 50/50 thing if you ever even see him again. This business(music) brings them all out. I've done it all including retail.....blah.
  3. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Hi Thomas,

    I say keep everything, he will propably show up again like he always did. You can always put that data on DVD and /or CD's and put it on a shelf. This wouldn't take too much time. And..no, you are not the only one that get these ....

  4. HansAm

    HansAm Active Member

    As TriliumSound: Bag it, store it and wait. If you don't really want the money right now thow. Then you gotta do something about it :D

    "rules" have to be layed down the moment you start cooperating with an external customer. This situation should'nt ever been allowed to escalate to this level. imho.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I would copy it all as data files to one DVD (it should just fit) and inform the client by registered post that the DVD is ready for collection on payment of the transfer fee. I smell further trouble here, so I would state explicitly in the letter that you have deleted the material from your computer hard drive and that the DVD is the only copy that you have, so after collection, you retain nothing whatever of his recordings.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Great idea - thanks!
  7. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Sounds very typical of our line of work sometimes, sad to say! I've got a couple of those as well, but fortunately they're fairly benign and simply too busy.

    One client (a violist) has about 15 gigs of video clips on a HD here, and she swears up and down, every time I see her out on live gigs that she's "THISCLOSE" to finishing her EDL and PROMISES we'll finish it up "Soon".

    I too have a lot of clients who want to hear their stuff on MY speakers (such is our lot in life for having great playback & mastering systems, eh?) One client even moved away for a while, and has recently returned (after 3-4 years away!!!!) and wants to pick up where we left off. Fortunatly, I have his stuff safely stored on a backup HD precisely for this "Rainy day" scenario. I knew he'd be back sooner or later.

    Another client - a woman, a choral director with big/grand visions - suddenly, suspiciously wants to "get her masters back." (from several projects.) She doens't do email, she just leaves me long rambling voice mails, so it's tough communicating in more formal terms; I have to write her letters to clarify my stance on things like this with her instead of a simple email.

    THe rub here is that we "partnered" on a lot of things over the last few years, and I let her slide on a LOT of little things, cost-wise. There were lots of repairs, do-overs, overdubs, and many many tweaks to bring it all in at the end of the mastering stage. I didn't mind, because we were "in it together", and I did OK in the final analysis, and it was a very rewarding experience. She gave me a free hand in the mixing and mastering stage, and I didn't beat her up for every change and tweak needed.

    The problem now is she wants to take the masters elsewhere, and do some changes - add new solos, replace some old members, etc. She's one of those types that always wants to tinker with things endlessly. (Not that she knows what she's doing anyway....) As I said, it became a bit of a partnership with the way we had to work to bring some of her ideas to completion.

    Some of the stuff is fairly proprietary to Sequoia (my mastering software), and some of the edits are very tricky and known only to myself, in terms of notes, etc. (It would take a LOT of time to sort it all out and make it user-friendly to anyone who wants to open generic edits, etc. and i'm NOT about to do that for her.)

    IN addition, some of the sessions involve other choral groups that have NOT given permission to have their stuff used, so there may be some editing/production time involved to separate some very co-joined choral recording sessions and live concerts.

    Of course, the woman does NOT understand any of this beyond "Mutitrack" vs. "Stereo". She's been told buzzwords by others - presumably someone new she's going to work with now, once she gets her "masters" back.

    I don't care enough about it to fight with her anyway, but the very process of separating the tracks, copying the files and the cost of the HD itself (at least 80-100 gigs of stuff in toto), makes it above and beyond a "favor". So, I expect a testy phone call and "bad news" conversation with her, not to mention my own feelings of betrayal after all the favors, etc.; now that she's going elsewhere.

    Sometimes it just does NOT pay to be a nice guy. Always get it in writing, and remember that even the act of giving something (ie: studio time) away for free can sometimes come back to haunt you.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Joe H,

    Thanks for your input. It is always comforting to know you are not alone in this sometime strange business we all know and love.

    A couple of years ago we were doing a live radio show in a remote location. This was done 4 times a year. The person who performed was a medical doctor/theater organist and up front seemed like a very nice person. The idea was to broadcast the show live. He also wanted to do a taping of the run through and then also tape the show so afterwards we could edit the two together for a CD that he could sell.

    Things seemed fine at first. We recorded the show on to DAT and CD along with the run through and did the post production from the two recordings. Then the performer wanted to get more creative in the editing process so we started recording the show in a multi-track format so we could do what he wanted done. He too did not understand what multi track really was all about and thought that we could isolate the various elements of the show down to the point that we could replace the singing from the show with the singing from the run though and leave his organ playing intact. (The one important thing that he never caught on to was that his playing was NEVER the same and he would add flourishes and extra measures to the show playing that he had NOT done in the run though). The singers, who were all professionals, went along with the playing no matter what he was doing but to try and put the elements from two shows together would NEVER have worked due to the leakage between the vocalist microphones and the microphones we used on his pipe organ)

    The room where this was done was all hard surfaces, glass, wood and a marble floor. The "stage" was about 20 feet by 15 feet and the there was lots of bleed between the various microphones (8- 10 microphones used). The performer is also a medical doctor and has three or four degrees but could not understand the concept of multi track and microphone bleed and that in a live concert recording situation you cannot replace elements from one run though with elements from another without lots of work.

    The two track post production editing sessions were grueling and we did multiple edits for each show. He would be four or five edits in front of what I was doing and could not understand why I could not keep up with his "need for speed" when it came to editing the shows. He was always watching the "clock"

    When he saw what multi track could do he was very excited but when we started to "dabble" in multi track editing he did not understand how complex it was and that there was a cost involved which he was unwilling to pay for. So we soon went back to the two track editing. He wanted the flexibility of the multi track editing but want the two track editing price.

    We still recorded all of the shows in multi track but never used them for the post production editing. I amassed a 160 Gig hard drive of the shows from one year and charged him for the drive. He was not too pleased but paid for the drive saying that "why should I pay for something that is mine already".

    About this time gas prices went up and I had to have my assistant along to do the concert sound and video that he also wanted done. So I had to renegotiate my fees with him and he was not pleased. He also wanted things setup before the concert day so we did the setup on Fridays for a Sunday concert. This meant that we had to drive over to his place (80 mile round trip) spend most of Friday driving and setting up and then to it all over again on Sunday. For what he was paying us it was not worth it. I told him that I would have to basically double the price if I was going to continue to do this the way he wanted it done. We finally parted company and someone else is doing the show. Hope he is having fun. :wink:

    We had two hard drives of information that was all of his shows. He had paid for one and the second one I charged him for before I gave it to him. All the files on the hard drive were .wav files and the files that Samplitude and Wavelab had created. He had all the files that I had including the artwork for his various CDs. He had not paid us for the final taping and I refused to give him the drives until we were paid. He also had some of our equipment and I wanted to pick it up so we arranged a trade. He would give us access to the equipment and our check and we would give him his hard drives.

    The shows were while knuckle affairs and no one on our side was having much fun. There were also 250 people jammed into a room that was designed for 80 tops so it was very claustrophobic. It was a good thing to stop doing the shows. His wife/bookkeeper was slow to pay and most times she post dated the checks two weeks in advance so we were waiting a full month or more before we could cash the check.

    Nice person at the start but he turned out to be not so nice when it came to spending money. He did not charge for the shows at first but then he started charging $25.00 per person per show for the audience. He said it was to "cover my expenses" but I really think he was trying to make some money off the show. Whatever floats your boat.


  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Tom, I always wondered how that radio show of yours ended up. Thanks for the update; I guess everything has its life-cycle; some of it good, some of it not-so good, eh?
  10. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I generally don't have problems with clients when it comes to storage of their material because I explicitly state at the beginning of any project that 1 (or 2 if I'm feeling nice) months after the delivery of their project, the drive gets wiped. I can't afford to archive everything and I let the clients know. Sometimes I'm nice and I'll hold on to stuff for a few months, but I generally do not hold on to anything.

    I had one really pissy client, though. He wanted all his tracks for a CD that he wanted to do. I told him fine, buy a firewire hard drive and I'll give you the tracks. He had insisted on 24/96 recording because he heard somewhere it was better. His concerts were long and the sessions were huge. I always gave him a CD of his rough mixes as well so he got delivery of his shows in one way or another.

    Eventually, he showed up here one day with a USB drive. I told him that wouldn't work for his projects and he needed firewire due to the data throughput needs. I reminded him of my policy and he disappeared. Finally after about 6 or 7 months, I deleted the project. A full year and a half later, he came back to me demanding his tracks. I told him I deleted them as I considered them abandoned property since I had heard nothing from him for over a year.

    Next thing I know, I got a letter from a Lawyer threatening to sue. Evidently, he was really pissed. I talked to the lawyer and told her the full story and she laughed. I said, if you leave your pants at the dry-cleaners for over a year, do you really expect them to still be there? Needless to say, she "advised" her client that he had no case.

    Funny thing is- a couple weeks back, he needed another engineer to record and he couldn't find anybody willing. I guess he's burned so many bridges that nobody will work with him anymore...

    Oh well. No worries Tom. You're not the only one.

  11. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I never delete anything. I still have every project i've ever done. Granted some are in formats that I can't retrieve any longer, but I still have the tapes, just not the hardware and i've used some funky hardware over the last 20 years. I use firewire drives now and when one fills up, I unplug it and stick it in a closet and pop a new one on. Being able to retrieve a project that is several years old makes me a lot of money and also makes the client very happy. Last month I retrieved a project for a client that was 10 years old.
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I guess I'm the poster child for "Anal-retentive", at least in terms of masters and work copies.

    I rent a 15x15x10 climate controlled storage unit where I put my various live systems and gear, along with allllll the archives. This way it's off-site should anything unspeakable happen here, or if both the client and myself manage to lose both of our final copies.

    It also pays for itself over time, just on the number of old projects that always seem to come back from the dead every now and then. There's ALWAYS someone who wants to revisit something, and I guess I'm guilty of feeding their appetite for this sort of thing.

    I have formats going all the way back to 1/2 track 10" reel to reel, along with all the consumer and pro-sumer formats since then. I still can do DATs, VHS-F1 digital, cassette, even vinyl 78s and 33s. Every time I think I'm going to dump it all, a project comes along and makes me glad I didn't. (For some reason, the number of old analog reel to reel restoration projects seems to be UP lately, not sure why.... The greening of the baby boomers, perhaps?)

    As for "Firewire" drives; the line is blurring here as well; mainly it's about Hard Drives period, my external caddies are both USB2 and Firewire 400 compatible, so it often comes down to which computer has what port open & avaiable. At least two of my caddies are always open, ready to swap the drive itself; much faster that way, instead of taking the things apart over and over again. As long as the drive is powered down when making the change, and securely fastened once it's ON, l never have a problem swapping them around as needed.
  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    We too have everything archived and some projects go back to Sound Designer II and Bias Peak which we no longer have on any of our computers.

    What gets me is the client that wants you to take up large amounts of hard disk space and have things ready at a moments notice and then leaves for a long period of time and then wants to come back and revisit the project IMMEDIATELY. I had a client show up out of the blue recently and wanted me to give him all of his material on a CD and this is a project we did over 10 years ago. I have the stuff archived but not for instantaneous delivery. We are NOT running the public library or Iron Mountain. I told him I would have it for him after the weekend but he wanted it NOW! Cooler heads prevailed and he consented to wait two FULL days until I could get the stuff found and to him. After 10 years I really don't think two days is going make a lot of difference.

    What ever floats your boat. :roll:
  14. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I totally agree with you there on the time-factor, Tom. With people I haven't heard from in ages, I make a (nice) point about how good it is to hear from them - after such a long time! Hahaha. The message is clear enough that I'd laugh them out of the room if they made any demands on me NOW. I reward loyalty, and generally ignore those who have gone elsewhere. I make it clear that good clients get my full and undivided attention, and the bargain seekers & tire kickers can go elsewher.

    I guess I'm lucky in that sense - a lot of them ASK if I've still got their old archives around, and are often pleasantly surprised when I tell them I do. Of course, I also tell them it's buried in the vault somewhere, and it'll take at least x number of days to retrieve it. (I now live about 20 miles from the new warehouse instead of 2, so it's a much slower process.)

    This makes me want to revisit my production agreements with clients, to make sure it's clearly worded how "Masters" are treated, who's got them, etc.

    I always say: Yes, the intellectual property is yours, but the "box" that holds it (ie: the Hard Drive itself) is MINE. Buy a new "container" for it, and you're welcome to anything you own - as long as your tab is up to date, of course.
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    So...this isn't about mastering, but I thought I'd share a similar (and current for me) story...

    I did a session recording for a local choral ensemble about 2 years ago. The choir is a good choir, especially for an amatuer ensemble. However, despite how much I impressed upon them that the venue was critical, they chose a church which was built 100 years ago and has hardly been updated since (read: dilapidated) and it's creaky, leaky doors faced a busy intersection with no more than 30 feet to the road during Harley Davidson season...

    So anyway...I mixed the project based on EDLs and sent the discs to the client about 2 years ago. The client has asked (finally) to come in and mix the project tomorrow. Hmmm...it's a good thing I took good notes on each track and take!

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