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Agent Disputes Notion That
The Client Is Always Right
 
By Roger King
Voice Talent Agent
Performance Network Agency
 
One of my pet peeves in this business is the situation where you sense that the voice talent is afraid of a client.
 
You know, where they’re afraid to call out someone on obnoxious behaviour, or simply manage client expectations.
 
I know that 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.
NEW MOTTO
 
But I’ve never bought into the idea that it was necessary to keep a client at all costs.
 
There is nothing wrong with calling out 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.”
 
A RECENT CASE ...
 
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. It begins with a recent email that I received from a client.
 
As usual, names have been changed except mine (which I’m keeping).

Tues, 8 Mar 2011, 11:01 AM
Subject: Aborted Session

Roger:

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.

Mike

Tues, 8 Mar 2011, 11:38 AM
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 $2,500.

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.

Roger 

Tues, 8 Mar 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.

Mike

Tues, 8 Mar 2011, 12:31 PM
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. 
 
Tues, 8 Mar 2011, 1:34 PM
Subject: Re: Aborted Session


Roger,

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. 

Tues, 8 Mar 2011, 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: Aborted Session


Mike,

I’m not sure what else to say. I think I’ve been clear in my explanation and professional and 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.

Respectfully,
Roger
 
WHAT NEXT?

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

ABOUT ROGER ...
 
Roger King is the president of Peformance Network (PN) Agency, which provides voice over talent to the radio, television, film, multi-media and animation industries. In 2004, he launched a sister agency, Ethnic Voice Talent (EVT), and now represents over 100 voice over talents and translators in more than 15 different languages.

PN Agency: www.pnagency.com 
Ethnic Voice Talent: www.ethnicvoicetalent.com 
Email: pnagency@pnagency.com 
Blog: www.voiceovercanada.ca
 
 
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Comments (19)
Tim
6/15/2011 at 3:15 PM
Roger IS MY agent! :)
Roger King
6/13/2011 at 2:17 PM
UPDATE: The client paid in full. I appreciate your applause :)-
LJA
3/28/2011 at 9:57 PM
Roger,

We are grateful to have you on our side!

To poster 'Gary': You sound arrogant and bitter - and perhaps resentful due to your difficulty in adapting to significant changes in this industry?
Ronald T. Robinson
3/28/2011 at 3:51 PM
This is about a client-rep trying to weasel out of a deal and has chosen to take the advertiser's side. Whether the advertiser puts the material to air or sends it off to his/her grandmother is of no consequence.

Roger's case is solid and so are his priorities.
Cam
3/28/2011 at 3:25 PM
Nice post, Roger. A deal's a deal. Stick to your guns!
Amanda Sellers
3/26/2011 at 2:58 PM
Roger! I wish you were my agent! Nice post.
Peter J. Marx
3/25/2011 at 10:04 PM
Good article. A couple of additional thoughts, which at least in part are implied in your article.

First of all, the consideration for the $2,500 at least in part was the artist's commitment to be available at the date and time specified, somewhat in the nature of a non-refundable retainer. The artist honored that commitment, and thus is entitled to the agreed amount. Similarly, by making that commitment the artist took himself out of the market for that particular time, and thus conceivably lost work he could otherwise have obtained.

Finally, you were prudent in documenting all this, and in general there should be some sort of documetation setting out the deal points before the gig. Oral agreements are generally enforceable - but sometimes difficult to prove.
Mr.E.
3/25/2011 at 2:45 PM
"When you pursue non-union work, which defies guild protected industry, you get what you deserve."

So what you're really saying is that all beginners deserve not to get paid. Were you born into the union? If not, then you were non-union at one time.

I know that losing work to non-union folks hurts, but to make a statement like that is simply arrogant. I believe in unions and hate what happened in Wisconsin, but your statement is simply trolling and I decided to bite. You've opened a can of worms here and I suspect that most folks on here find your type a disgrace to the industry
Gary
3/24/2011 at 1:46 PM
This MUST be a "non-union" agency, talent, and a "client" that is not signator to the AFTRA contract. The unions protect the talent & the agent from violations of contract (ie: booked sessions that aren't compensated in the timely fashion set forth by the AFTRA contract).

When you pursue non-union work, which defies guild protected industry, you get what you deserve.
E
3/24/2011 at 12:02 PM
One thing that I have learned during my objective journey before the rubber meets the road for me in the voice acting industry, is not to dive into this business until you are sure ... and ready on all levels of the voice industry and business.

This article is excellent in helping me see what's in store from non-paying clients, which is a reality in any business.

I've got the talent, skills and business sinew, and my money blueprint is a very abundant, result-driven vision.

But, this post among many that I have read on VoiceOverXtra and gleaned valuable insight is one of the best - like in real time.

This article has given me another option in my repertoire on how to handle clients that "like eating meals without paying."
Melanie Haynes
3/24/2011 at 11:38 AM
Roger, you are a fantastic agent! I'm not sure all agents would have stuck to their guns like that. Often, it seems the "client" is king and talent are asked to back off. I hope we get a follow up. A big thank you on behalf of all talent!

I remember an incident years ago where the union office was telling a franchised agent not to book talent for a certain client (technically an "employer" in union terms), who was 6 months or more late on payment. The agent's response was, "But he's such a good client!"
Will Walker
3/24/2011 at 10:55 AM
I must side with Roger and PNA. A deal is a deal. If it were ACTRA talent, the same would apply. The performer did everything he was contracted for. The fact that it wasn't broadcast has nothing to do with the performer's contract. Non-Union is buy-out anyway, so it does not apply to the broadcast scenarios.
Johnny George
3/24/2011 at 10:47 AM
Roger,

I too would love to have you represent me with your business-like and no-nonsense attitude. Fair is fair. You handled it remarkably well. Not sure what the results will be, but if a client is that much trouble to collect from, then you don't need that lack of professionalism to be repeated in the future. You wouldn't be caving at all by dropping them after resolution.

Please let us all know the outcome. The analogy of buying a meal and then refusing to pay for it is a perfect example.

Good luck.
Roy Wells
3/24/2011 at 8:24 AM
Hey Roger, I like your style. Wish I had you as an agent.
Reuven Miller
3/24/2011 at 5:47 AM
I'm actually in the middle of a variation on this too-familiar-by-far theme.

The local branch of major US-based ad agency signs my agent's work order - not a legal contract (they are practically non-existent in the VO business in my part of the globe), but it would probably carry some weight if I decided to go the legal route.

Nevertheless, this client essentially pays according to their own time convenience, with no regard whatsoever for mutually agreed-upon terms. If I press the issue, I'll never work for them again. If I go over their collective head to the US office, same result, plus I'll be on the blacklist of the local branch for life.

As I stated, it's a big, prestigious job for a major brand name, and includes re-broadcast royalties.

Ideas, anyone?
voice123
3/24/2011 at 1:50 AM
Great post! Love this! I would say as you appear to be communicating via email, this got a bit ironfisted at the end.

I work for talent, too. I always remember to stay focused on getting the talent paid. I know getting too strong will create cause for that person to disappear and think 'come and get it.' I worked in recovery of funds for about 2 years.

This client is acting like a guy who orders a meal, eats all of it then thinks he doesn't have to pay because he did not like it. Ummmmmm no. Its kinda illegal to try that ... dang shame too ... because the talent took a hit too because some one is difficult.

Fair is fair ... not what people feel is fair to serve them. It wouldn't surprise me if this guy didn't have the money.
Rowell Gormon
3/24/2011 at 1:10 AM
...this is the kind of guy I want working for ME!
rg
www.voices2go.com
Ben
3/24/2011 at 1:08 AM
I think it wouldn't have hurt just to a compromise. Not 50% but just 20 - 25%.
Rick Lance
3/23/2011 at 11:32 PM
Boy this sounds familiar! At least you kept all the correspondence. Good thing you had the representation of your agency. Sometimes it's a good thing having a third party involved to represent you. When this happens and the talent is handling everything himself/herself it can become more difficult.

I've been in similar situations with arrangements I've handled myself. I've had to be very tough and diligent in my efforts to get paid. Even invoked copyright infringement. Anyway, looks like you've got a handle on this one.

And again, thankfully you've got an agent who's on the ball and definitely holds all the cards.
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