Why can't client's make up their minds?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Two times in the past week we had long discussions with our restoration clients about the projects they were bringing in. We finished up the project and burned the CDs and DVDs and then they decided that they wanted some major revisions. I guess I am trying to figure out what is the best way to handle this??? I have a mini contact made up but the clients seem to not want to tell us what they really want until after the project is done and has been burned. This costs me time and money and kind of throws a monkey wrench into our work schedule.

    Any ideas would be most welcome.
  2. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    I would suggest using some project management principles, as best you can. State the requirements, allow for some deviations as they happen, agree to it, then make sure they understand there is a change process. This is very important especially on fixed price contracts. Requirements, agreement, execute. Deviations should be documented and an impact given to the customer on the change.

    If it is free, everyone tends to be less serious about changes. To your point, your time and effort has value. If it is an important change, then they will pay for it, or at least willing to negotiate something that you're not the only one getting hurt in the process. Skin in the game keeps everyone more honest.
    kmetal likes this.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Personally, I'd be asking for more money. Its a great opportunity to extend services and make the client happier. Win win imho.
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I spent 6 months of my life re mixing an ep for an obsessive client, and the label hasn't even put it out yet. That burned the last of my creative generosity for quite a while. They're wallets will determine how important the changes are to them. This is after any sort of 'courtesy work' has been done.
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Clients around these parts seem to want a lot of things done for free . Never understood that ethos. I think it must be an Oberlin "thing"

    If I take my car to the auto shop and the owner tells me it is going to cost more money than he estimated because he did not see some of the damage or something else is wrong then I have two choices I can tell the owner to "go ahead" or not. If I tell him to go ahead then I know I will have to pay more money. If I tell him no then I will have done only what he estimated. If I want additional work done on the car, that I never told him about, like a new battery or replacing a head light then I expect I will have to pay more money. It is the way I was brought up.

    Around here clients seem to want to change their minds AFTER THE WORK HAS BEEN DONE with no consequences including monetary ones. In these two cases we had long discussions with the clients prior to doing the work. We asked them very direct questions and they told us what they wanted. We performed the service as requested and charged them accordingly. Then they come back and want some major revisions which they seem to expect to be done for free. Sometimes I just want to tell clients the Facts of Life in the "real" world.
    pcrecord and kmetal like this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm assuming that the client was supplied with some kind of "proof" copy, even just partials, or that they were able to hear what the project sounded like, to get their initial approval before committing the project to a final master?

    For example, if I send you an album to be mastered - as I am going to in the next week or so - and you supplied me with a proof copy that I found to be exactly what I wanted, and I approved and signed off on it and you render the master ... but then two weeks later, I change my mind about song #3, and decide that I want you to change something, I would expect to compensate you accordingly for those changes and additional work involved - regardless of whether they are minor or major changes - because I had already approved it originally.

    I've done my share of gratis work here and there, helping clients who are regulars, those who have been easy to work with and who have been loyal over the years. And I'm not one to charge for every little paperclip and envelope used.
    I've even done the occasional freebie to get clients in for future and bigger paying projects. But... if a client approves and signs off on a project, and then comes back to me a month later and wants a free remix, it's probably not going to happen. They're going to get charged for it.

    I'm a nice guy, I consider myself to be lenient and fair, but I'm also a professional... this is my job - and I'm good at what I do. I'm not going to allow myself to be taken advantage of.
    Accordingly, if something goes wrong on my end, in my studio during a session, and it's something within my control or that is my responsibility, the clock gets stopped until I can get things operating correctly again. It's very rare that his happens, but if you're in this business long enough, it's bound to happen eventually. It's all a matter of what's right, what's fair. So, it goes both ways.

    IMHO of course ;)

    niclaus likes this.
  7. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I'll bend over backwards to help somebody, but beyond a certain point I'm just being a patsy.

    If they have unrealistic expectations, you can't make that your problem. What's the worst that could happen, they'll take their non-paying 'business' elsewhere? Your auto shop metaphor is right on target. Any time I start de-valuing my own time, a trip to the auto-mechanic, doctor / dentist, or a visit from a contractor / electrician / plumber sets me straight. I don't have the specialized tools or expertise to change out a head gasket, or do anything but the crudest auto body work. I can choose to go to the cheapest shop, or the one with the best reputation for quality work (it's worth noting, that's NEVER the same guy).

    Do you allow clients to attend a restoration session, or mastering session? I know it's a pain working on that kind of project by committee, so charge more if they want to sit there and kibitz. You might make more money and waste less time.
    kmetal and DonnyThompson like this.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Mastering yes, Restoration no. But it is a good idea and it will let the client see how long it really takes to do some processes. A lot of people looking for restoration or media change (reel-to-reel, cassette or record to CD) have nary a clue as to how long it really takes and they don't understand why I can't just "put it into the computer and let the computer do the work". I have always wanted to ask them where the slot is for the reels or cassette or record go when I put them "into the computer" but have thought better of it. To do a proper job on restoration takes time, equipment and know how and I have to charge for my time and expertise and that is the hardest thing for people to understand. They think they are going to a copy shop and that I put their materials into a "copier" and out the other side comes the completed transfer. When you try and explain all the steps including cleaning of their materials to putting track markers on the CD their eyes glaze over and they go into la la land.

    Good idea - thanks!
    kmetal likes this.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I know a guy who owes the studio for a 6 song mastering job. His justification 'I liked the mix/masters better you did, not the mastering engineer'. This, was about a couple weeks after the client 'approved' it. I got into a heated argument with him at is house in front of his family, explaining the ME did his work, whether or not you use his version for the album or not, does not effect the billing.

    To be honest, it was the most worthless project I've ever done, creatively and monetarily. It made me re think my whole career. This guy still owes all of it even tho we set up a payment 'plan'.

    You don't wanna think a guy you spent a few nights a weeks locked in a room for a year, would flake out over an amount of money that buys a couple used 421's....
    pcrecord likes this.
  10. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    This is what small claims court is all about. Some problem with that, it could affect customer relations with other clients. But really, people need to pay for what they agreed to pay. I think it is pretty simple.
    kmetal likes this.
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's not quite simple, when you consider the various demographics in my area... I think my biggest lesson is getting my paperwork and contracts together, and just being more frugal with my freebies, as my skills are developing. As someone who is solely dependent on gigs for food and living, this kind of hangup is detrimental.
  12. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    Actually it is, and it was why I made that statement after small claims court.

    You want to get paid, but the money isn't worth what you would lose in community good will. You are probably handling it the best way for the situation.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Small claims court also holds the benefit of having documentation showing the circumstances around the lack of payment, which, if judgment is rendered against them, shows that the defendant ( ahem, cough, "deadbeat") was being unreasonable... although, people are going to say whatever they want, think whatever they want, and react however they want - regardless of whom is to truly blame, and you will probably have to deal with that kind of backlash at some point.

    Then again, the guy who hasn't paid you what he agreed to pay you could already be spreading negative word of mouth comments.

    And you can't let everyone get away with lack of payment, or you'll go broke.

    I have to ask, Kyle... did the client end up with the final mastered disc in his possession before he paid the studio what he owed?

    Personally, unless it's a good friend, or a client who has established good faith and credit with me over the years, I never release a final product to a client until the balance has been paid in full.
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Too many horror stories to tell about people who do not want to pay AFTER the work is all done. For one of our projects last year we spent the entire afternoon with a client doing some video work, some graphics and some audio work. When we got done the client said he did not have the money with him to pay us and he was late for a meeting in town. He asked if he could take the materials and just send us a check when he got home. We had done work for this client before. I don't usually like to give materials that are not paid for to clients but I made an exception in this case. I should not have done so because it is now a year later and guess what - we have still not been paid. Just the other day a client came and we gave her the materials and then she said "oh gee did you want to be paid today?" and I replied that that was the arrangement. She wrote us a check and we were done. In another case from years ago a young person got some mastering done. He was happy with the mastering but about 6 weeks later he called me up and said his Grandmother, who was funding the project, did not like the mastering and wanted her money back. I asked how old his Grandmother was and he replied "90". I told him that if his Grandmother would come to the studio and tell me what she did not like about the mastering I would think about refunding the money. Never heard from him again although I did hear that he spent all his money and needed some more money to pay for the duplication and decided to try and get the money back from me. My favorite is the guy who showed up in a Saab 9000 Turbo for his mastering session. We spent hours doing his mastering and then he says that he does not have any money but if I will make him 100 CDs he will pay after selling all the CDs. He was very upset when I refused. Then he says the he is owned the master CD since it is HIS material and if I kept it I could be sued. I told him that I would put it into my CD shredder to take care of that problem.

    Probably noe of my business but I asked him how he could be driving around in an expensive car and not have any money and he says "well it is my wife's car and I am unemployed and my wife does not like my music". He left without the mastered CD and I take it was not very pleased as he slammed the door on the way out of the studio.

    Lots more but....
    kmetal likes this.
  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I never start a project with fixed price. I explain my Customer that they are in charge of deciding how much they are gonna pay by what time they take to record and mix.
    I sometime cut the corners (a 15min here and there) but what I just don't want to hear is '' but last time you did it for free'' !!

    But I can understand that restoration jobs are like recording a band. The operation is very obscure to the customers but I guess I would try to make them realise the amount of work by specifying the hours and detailed operation on the invoice. Let's say, 2hours for digital transfer, 5 hours of classification and Queuing. Mixdown 2 hours etc... And on each item, a price tag.. so when a Customer comes and force you to redo stuff, you can point out the amount that it represent. Then, you can negociate a price better..
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    It does not work that well in restoration. A client called me up and asked how much to transfer a reel to reel tape to a CD. I asked him how long it was and he said it is on a 7" reel. He estimated 45 minutes. I told him that before I could give him an estimate I would need to look at and play the tape. He brought it over and it was MONO recorded in 4 directions on a 1/4 track recorder running at 1 7/8" per second AND it was on 1/2 mil tape so more than 8 hours of music. If I had told him my hourly rate for a 45 minute tape I would have had to eat 7 hours of time. The same thing with VHS cassettes that are recorded on ultra low speed and the client is thinking one hour when it could be 6 hours. Again I want to see and playback the tape or VHS before I give an estimate. The client "remembers" one thing and it is quite different when they bring in the materials.

    It is also interesting in restoration when a client wants the restored material to sound better than what they have brought in. Case in point a very famous opera singer from Akron asked to have a 78 rpm record transferred. When she brought it over I swear she had been keeping it in a sandbox as there were no groves left on the record. We played the record over and over again hoping we could piece is all together afterwards. We spent hours getting it all spliced together and presented it to her as a CD and we gave her the bill which she paid for. A week later she calls me up and says "I am very disappointed in the job you did for me and I am going to tell all my friends not to use your services". I asked her what was wrong. She said "well you obviously do not know what you are doing. It is NOT in stereo and it does not sound like a CD" "It sounds like an old 78 record"

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  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think we probably all have similar client stories.

    There's a church about 5 miles away from me that still owes me $80 for a cassette duplication job I did for them... back in '90. LOL

    (it's important to mention here that this is a church who's congregation is made up of people with a median income of $80-100K.. this is not a "poor" church. Sunday mornings , you can see Lexus, Benz, BMW's parked in the lot.)

    On the final conversation I had with them, which was with one of the church 'elders", it was suggested to me by this person that God was telling him that He wanted me to let the church off the hook for the balance due.

    My reply was something similar to, "Well, Pastor... I'm a Christian myself (and I really am, btw), and it's funny you should mention that... because as a matter of fact, just last night, God reminded me that you owe me $80.

    I ended up taking the church to small claims court, and judgement was filed against them. But... that still doesn't guarantee you'll get paid. You still have to collect.

    You'd think you could trust a church... when in fact, since then, after talking with other studio owners who have had similar situations, that churches are some of the worst offenders when it comes to paying their service-related bills.

    I won't even accept promissory notes from them. Deposit to start the job, with final balance paid-in-full to release the product.
    kmetal likes this.
  18. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I did a cassette transfer for a church pastor here in Oberlin. That was in 2005. I still have not been paid for it. I see him at social gatherings and on the street and he always says I haven't forgotten (and neither have I). It is for less than $50.00. I just did some other transfer work for the same church and got paid the next week. I don't know what the problem is getting paid. I used to do some other maintenance and install work for churches here in Oberlin. When I would present the bill they would always say "but this is for the Lord" and I would say I understand but he is not here and you are and you knew the cost going in so...I would like my payment. One day I got a call and one of the churches PA system was not working and could I come right over and "fix it" I said I could get there the next day but my night was already taken up with college work. The minister said "but we need you tonight and we always pay you for your services" I came the next day fixed the problem and presented them with a bill and the pastor, with a strait face, said "but this is for the Lord and I said "well I will unfix the amplifier and you can call someone else". They cut the check on the spot. I don't do any work for any churches any more. Go figure...


    UPDATE: He finally paid me after I sent his church a letter with "Past Due" stamp on the outside of the envelope. Some people just need some additional motivation.
    kmetal likes this.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    one of the few times i had problems collecting was from a church. i did a remote at a church in Oakland CA right on San Pablo Ave .... those of you who know this is right in the middle of the West Oakland ghetto .... parked on the street with a van full of recording gear and a snake running into the church (a converted auto repair garage) ..... lots 'o fun! i do love the sound of a good gospel choir though. the rev (that's what i called him) played B3 and all his kids were in the band. there's nothing like it. those guys were great!
    kmetal likes this.
  20. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Thomas W. Bethel, I understand your story of the signer and what she said about the 78 record. Some human will never understand and won't even try to. Sizing those maybe hard but not having them has customers would be a blessing ;)

    I got very few restoration projects and one of them was a recording which had nothing but noise on it.
    Before I did anything I took a lot of time and effort to explain that it was impossible to create what wasn't there. The customer insisted with hope so I proposed to treat 1 min of the recording with all my tricks and send a few exemples of results and this for free. I was able to retreive a few words but not clear enough to understand the conversation. I took half an hour and the client left with a lot of explaination on how audio work and confidence that nothing could be done.

    On another one, the restoration results were very poor but clean enough for the customer to bring in court. So, he accepted the results and paid with a smile.

    Dealing with customers is a real pain and challenge but it also can be rewarding. If you could have a way to explain without a doubt what are the limitations of your work. It would save you out of many situations. (a prepared speach or a brochure that you read with them or even a youtube video you can refer them to)

    My main job is IT technician, I had a lot of hdd restoration to do, either from OS crashes, viruses or defective HDD. I always started my speach with the worst senario.
    Ex : 'sorry, your hard drive has crashed and won't work anymore. Tools exist that could retreive some data but without any garanty. If you are willing to take a chance, here is the price : ....
    This was my way of breaking expectations and if I'd succeed, I'd be a hero. If I wouldn't succeed, I would be the nice guy who tried. Not the jerk who promessed but didn't deliver.

    I wish you luck of finding your own recipe to reduce your irritations and lost of incomes...
    kmetal likes this.

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