My placement is taking long to pay out. What should I do?
As musicians, our income predictable. There are times when things go well and payments come in on time and there are other times when life is just a struggle. I used to find myself waiting for clients to pay for work that I’ve done. This left me frustrated especially when the work was complete. I’ve also been in situations where I landed great placements and I’d wait for a very long time for payment. I’d generally be upset as I would spend that money in my head before I got it and it was never as much as I had hoped. Today I want to give you some practical tips to avoid feeling the way that I did.
Define your types of income
Placements are long-term forms of income. When you appreciate this then you’ll be able to start looking for shorter term forms of income to balance out your earnings. Things like services rendered through recording, mixing and mastering as well as tutoring beatmaking or song writing are nice short-term forms of income that people have used to create a more reliable income source. Getting gigs may seem like a short-term source of income, but in opinion gigs are more mid-term sources of income as it can take a while from the time you get approached to do the gig to the time when you get paid for the gig.
Draw three columns onto a page and label them ‘short’, ‘mid’ and ‘long’. Take all the skills you possess that can make you money and write them in the column they fit in. Short-term is generally defined as payment immediately after the services, mid-term can mean there’s a bit of waiting that you’ll be doing and long-term is when you may need to wait a few months to a year for payment to happen (in the case of royalties).
As an interesting fact, if you earn foreign royalties it’s not unusual to wait 3 years before payment is made. This is due to usage stats being collected internationally, license fees being collected internationally and then the transfer of all that information to SAMRO and CAPASSO which then gets sent to the composer. am currently in that situation waiting for a payment from a 2020 placement. It’s 2022 so I should get something by next year.
Define payment periods
Working with people means you’ll need to get really good at setting boundaries. People in this industry will walk all over you if you don’t bring up the subject of payment. You don’t have to be brash about how you do it, you just need to do it. In fact, you’re more likely to get a favourable response if you address the issue of payment carefully. Some people may get defensive if a harsh approach is used.
When discussing what’s going to be done, talk briefly about how long they foresee the project taking and how they’d like to settle the account. A rule I use is that I’ll work on the project once 50% deposit is paid. This may not work for someone who is new to the industry though as they aren’t a proven name with a track record. The person you’re working with may want some proof that you’re going to deliver on what you say you will. At this point, you’ll direct them to your well-designed social media page or website with examples of past work and credits where they’ll be impressed by the level of professionalism you hold. This always makes the subject of payment much easier because your clients see how seriously you take your work.
With the deliverables (the complete mixed song, the beat, the verse), it’s always a good idea to hold onto them until you receive the rest of your payment. I usually send a tagged version of the work and let the artist know that all the necessary files will be sent once full payment has been made. It’s shielded me from a lot of disappointment. It’s also meant that I was able to catch chance takers out because they just never came back to pay for their work.
Sometimes it’s best to continue working on other projects while you wait for payment. When clients talk about money that they’re waiting to receive so that they can pay me, I always think about that dusty skeleton waiting in the chair. Your payment may be waiting for you, or it may not. Despite your best efforts to define payment periods and draw up agreements, the client or person who has hired you may not be ready to pay you. If that person ends up ghosting you then you don’t get as upset because you’re busy working on the next thing. It’s tough to keep up motivation levels when you’re waiting for payment, but it’s always worth it to continue working on new projects while you wait for old ones to pay you.
Desperation leads to silly decisions
If you’ve worked and worked and nothing seems to be going right, then you may need to look to alternative forms of income like a day job to secure rent and your next meal. When your main expenses are taken care of it becomes easier to think. You’re less likely to fall for scams or run endless specials or discounts just to make ends meet. You aren’t desperate so you can stand firm in your choices. Scammers and opportunists generally look for desperate people because they’re easier to convince.
Remember to stay strong and keep working hard towards your clearly defined goals. You’ll eventually get to a place where your income is more stable and your business/career can take off.