Several times, over the course of working with my last crew, we had situations involving clients who didn’t hold up their end of the deal. It was fascinating and challenging to resolve these problems.
On one festival stage, the client had followed only part of our standard agreement. The deposit was half of the fee for building a stage, sound system and lighting rig. The deal was that as soon as everything was in place and operational, the balance was due.
The boss had been burned before. The quality of the performers was not our problem. The size of the audience had nothing to do with us. We weren’t hired to promote the event, only to provide the production support. Our part was done as soon as that system could play tracks.
This particular client had made an enormous assumption. He paid the deposit, but figured he would finalize the balance with gate sales. However, by the time we were done with our part, tickets were not even close to making up the difference.
My orders, upon realizing what was happening, was to pull the feeder lines and shut the power off to the stage. When the client heard that order, he panicked.
He began to argue his case that there were thousands of people coming and he needed music coming from the stage to bait more in. The boss responded by adding an order to start packing everything up if the money wasn’t in his hand in time for sound check. Cash. The opportunity to deliver a check had passed with the understanding of how this gig was being financed.
So, I shut it down… While being questioned and “reasoned with” by the promoter and a few performers who had already arrived.
The funny thing about it, was how calm we remained. This wasn’t our first rodeo. We had faced this before. There was no point in being hostile or angry. It was just business. We fulfilled our agreement. We had provided everything in the contract. We were just prepared to cut our losses and work half a day for half a day’s pay and be done with it.
The promoter, seeing that he wasn’t making progress with us, went back to his own responsibilities. He got his phone out and began the process of begging and borrowing from everyone he knew until that money was raised.
I will never forget how calm the boss was, while counting out that huge stack of small bills and finally giving me the “ok” to fire it back up.
The show went fine. Sound check still happened on time and the show went off without a hitch. The promoter even cleared enough at the gate to repay everyone and put a dollar or two in his own pocket.
It simply came down to integrity and professionalism. We had maintained ours and expected him to do the same. We never lost our cool, we just followed the agreement without adding unnecessary comments or arguments. We even locked in his next show. Just by keeping it under control and doing what we agreed to do.
I have seen it to the other way, too. When folks treat it more like a playground fight than a business deal. When they allow their emotions to drive the situation deeper into a hole. It rarely ends with a continued business relationship when we go that route.
Stay calm. Stay professional. Follow the contract and be prepared to cut your losses when the client refuses to do his part. There are only so many hours in the day to earn a living. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t understand that.