Take a Stand for Yourself

Hello! I can’t believe we are half way through December. It seems like just yesterday we were looking forward to fall (or mourning the end of summer). In keeping with the holiday season and the tradition of new beginnings for the New Year, I wanted to share an inspiring story about one of my clients, a talented young songwriter and artist.

About a year ago, prior to becoming my client, he was asked to work on an album project for an artist he had admired for a while. Of course, being a huge fan, he jumped at the chance. He was intimately involved with recording, engineering, producing, and mixing the album, and he co-wrote several of the album cuts. He verbally agreed to a fee for his services, but as often happens, he did not get a written agreement. His involvement with the album project lasted for the better part of a year. He often flew on his dime to the town where the recording took place, and sometimes paid for hotel and food out of his own pocket.

When the project was finished, he was paid a small part of the negotiated fee, and he thought he would get the rest of the money very soon after that, as he was promised. Unfortunately, the money never materialized. Every call and email was met with a new excuse – but no money. In the meantime, they asked him to do even more work on the album. Again, he agreed, still believing that he would be paid as promised. The album was released, and they continued to ask him for his help, but still – no money. He was understandably upset that he wasn’t getting paid, but he wasn’t upset enough to say NO to more unpaid work!

Finally he had enough and came to me for help, and in a matter of days he got the rest of his money. But the important lesson, and the reason for this post, is that my client came to understand that he had to take a stand for himself and his livelihood. As we worked together, it became clear to him that as long as he continued to provide services for free, there would be no incentive to pay him. This was a major turning point, and when he put his foot down (with a little help from me), everyone got the message.

I believe that my client’s change in perspective will serve him well in the future. I’ve watched him handle subsequent situations with more confidence and ownership in the outcome; no longer passive, but an active participant in his own future. And of course, he’s learned to seek advice and guidance from legal counsel. If you are trying to manage that fine line between music and business; if you find yourself doing work without getting paid; if you feel pressure to do work without an agreement when you need one, I hope that the story of my client inspires you to stand up for yourself and your art in the New Year. This is, after all, your passion, your livelihood, your life.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Written by Kelley Law Group

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