Chasing payment for freelance work shouldn't be, but often is, a thorny issue. Monica and Phoebe found this out in Friends when they set up their own catering business:
When entertaining clients - either through cooking or performing live music - asking for money is even more difficult because the musicians (or caterers) don't want to tarnish the service they've just provided.
It's also a hassle for the clients who made the booking. Many are fine about paying musicians on the night but even then it is hardly ideal to be handling large sums of cash at a party. Alternatively, if the client pays the musicians after the event, and the gig is for a wedding, the last thing the bride and groom want to be dealing with on their honeymoon is an online bank transfer.
Musicians can be somewhat held over a barrel when performing before payment, particularly when it comes to end times and meeting the client's expectations. Let's say a gig at a wedding reception begins late because the speeches over-ran at dinner.
At the same time the venue has strict curfews due to noise restrictions that are upheld by disgruntled neighbours. The musicians are caught between a rock and a hard place. They want to put on a good show, keep everyone dancing and maintain a decent reputation with the venue.
Why not use an agency?
There are a number of UK-based entertainment agencies, many of which have some decent acts (we're proud to say the best of them are also on FixTheMusic). Don't they provide a secure payment system? Actually, no. Sadly, nearly every agency takes a deposit to secure the booking but then leaves it up to the musician to sort their own payment on the night.
This system is out of date, insecure and utterly unfair. The deposit covers only the agent's cut leaving little financial incentive for them to support the musicians when it comes to the event itself. Agencies are rarely transparent about their commission, which varies from client to client and can be as much as 50%.
A client who may have been able to afford the band through FixTheMusic could be priced out of the booking altogether by the agent hiking up their fees for arbitrary reasons that remain unspoken to the client.
If the booking goes ahead, the agency model of payment is unsatisfactory on both sides. The client must take out cash to pay on the night, the tax implications of which makes many professional musicians feel uncomfortable. Or they pay with a cheque, which is unpredictable on both sides, or via a bank transfer, which we've already seen is an unnecessary drag on the process.
If a client decides not to pay a musician or there is an issue on the night, the agency does not hold the money in escrow to preside over the dispute. Put frankly, though their small print may pay lip service to chasing owed monies on behalf of musicians, they are not in a position to do so. And nowhere do they promise the legal help that would be necessary should musicians find themselves in this position.
Here are some of our most popular cover bands performing live...
We are innovating a fairer and simpler payment system
The solution to all these pitfalls is provided by FixTheMusic. For both event planners and the musicians for hire, we offer a fair payment system that is extremely straightforward to use.
Firstly, bookings are confirmed when the client pays a deposit. This provides peace of mind on both sides. The musician knows the client is serious about the booking, and the client knows the musicians will commit to the date.
Trust is especially important to us and our clients, particularly as we are already receiving enquiries for 2018. Trust is also important to our musicians who are professionals and need to know their working schedule in advance.
Furthermore, it helps the client to split payment into two instalments. Weddings and private parties are expensive, and venues, caterers, florists and other businesses can make a real dent in the event planner's bank account if everything is booked at once.
The remainder of the payment is due 28 days before the event. We send out reminders to clients well in advance of this date. As before, payment before the event reassures clients and musicians. The money is held securely by FixTheMusic until the day of the event, after which the musicians' payment is processed the next working day.
Clients don't have to worry about writing cheques or logging into their bank account and musicians can perform at the event with total confidence.
Confidence, trust and professionalism are what FixTheMusic values most. We also believe in transparency and treating our musicians and clients with respect.
For advice on budgeting for different types of bands and musicians, you can read another of our blog posts: The Cost of Hiring a Wedding Band in the UK.
— Myles is a co-founder of FixTheMusic and recently completed his PhD in Music at Cambridge University, where he also manages commercial bookings for the Centre for Music & Science. Alongside FixTheMusic, Myles works as a producer and engineer for Eastwood Records, a London-based sound recording company. He plays drums and guitar in several function bands.