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Old March 8th, 2011, 04:31 PM   #1
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Music video problems -who's right?

Hi everyone,

We were recently commissioned to produce a music video for a band. After discussions about budget, etc...we shot and edited the video....but stupidly enough, we hadn't sigedn a contract. However, we had a verbal agreement as shown in a large amount of emails with budgets, ideas, etc...is this legally binding?

Before the shoot, we forced the band to pay a deposit which basically covered our expenses (equipment, petrol, food, etc...). Before the shoot we had gone on a rehearsal/reccie day where we shot a draft of the video, the band really liked the footage and style. But after finishing the final piece, the band don't like the video at all even though it's almost the same to what we had shot previously, not any technical errors, etc.....except they wanted more long shots (unjustified if you ask me). And this is after the first draft.

So now they say that they're not going to use the video and therefore they only want to pay around 25% of the fees they owe. In exchange for this, they want us to never use/show the video. If we don't accept their conditions, well....they will look for a lawyer.......so who is right? at the end of the day we did the job according to their specifications in a very professional manner.......how can you measure if the video is not right? everyone who has watched it considers it to be a really cool piece......what would you recommend us to do? should we just settle?

thanks,
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Old March 8th, 2011, 06:12 PM   #2
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Not sure about the UK, but here in the US, even a verbal agreement is technically binding. Certainly a slew of emails would be more so.

I think they're bluffing about the lawyer. Too much money and no guarantees. Certainly you could threaten the same.
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Old March 8th, 2011, 06:19 PM   #3
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Who's right? They guy who spends the most on their attorney who's "old friends" with the judge...

This is certainly an odd situation, I don't know anything about UK law, but in the US, a well documented "oral" contact backed by emails would generally be admissible to establish the agreements. Whether a contract could be enforced is another matter (see my first "take"), and whether you could collect if you prevail is another matter entirely (see below).


That said, you've got an "unhappy customer", without knowing what their expectations were and what is going through their heads, it's a tough call. You'd think with an approved "draft", there shouldn't be this sort of stuff up on the final.

My guess is you're probably getting about half or less of "the story" here, having worked in the music "business" myself... "artists" are funny critters, and if there's "managers" involved, who knows what's going on!? Any new girlfriends in the picture "yoko-ing" things up perhaps?

If you didn't have an up front written and signed contract (NEVER a good idea), be 100% sure to have a clearly defined EXIT contract, OK? By that I mean, have them (and all responsible parties, mind you) sign and agree that they WILL NOT use the final production for any purposes, and neither will you, with STIFF penalties for violation. This way if they suddenly decide after paying 25% that the video isn't so bad and begin to use it, YOU can bring YOUR attorney and sue their pants off. In the back of my mind I've got a funny little voice saying that's exactly what will happen if you don't have an IRONCLAD termination agreement.

If 25% will recover your costs, probably best to get that agreement typed up and signed, get cash in hand for any balances owed (it's funny how checks turn all bouncy when things go south like this), and move on.

My suspicion is they don't have the agreed upon budget, and are looking for an "out", meaning you probably won't collect anyway, but you should make 100% sure they don't use your work, PERIOD. Any agreement for a reduced price should probably include a statement that all video copyrights are retained by YOU, or how ever that works in the UK.


I don't suppose there's any chance of a re-edit at this point, it's a little tough to tell if "don't like" means "it's just not quite what we wanted, and with some tweaking..." or "hate it". Sounds closer to "burn it" than "fix it in the mix", but I raise the question just in case this is "artistic vision differences" rather than as I suspect "budget ran out"...

Hope that is of some help in sorting the awkward situation...
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Old March 8th, 2011, 06:22 PM   #4
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Oh, if you're comfortable posting the budgetary considerations, that might be helpful in evaluating the overall situation. It would help to know if we're talking peanuts or elephants, it you catch my drift. Peanuts, move on, elephants, maybe not so much, but my take is unless it's a herd of elephants, avoid litigation where only the attorneys will "win".
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Old March 8th, 2011, 07:44 PM   #5
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Imho they do not have a leg to stand upon. You delivered your product in the style that was agreed upon in the warm up shoot.

What are they going to sue for? They are the ones who are not fulfilling their obligations. But that does not mean you will win any court case!

I also agree that you will probably lose by just being involved with any litigation because it will be messy and possibly expensive.

Given budget consideration first, I think the 25% added to the deposit they already paid is enough to let it float downstream unless the amounts are too large to ignore.

Some of the most important skills you can develop in this business is being able ot read potential clients before any project begins. This can help you steer away, add more in the deposit or give a little slack if needed with more confidence that you will not have a train wreck. Once you are at the train wreck stage there is usually not much work fighting for.
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Old March 9th, 2011, 03:48 AM   #6
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

hey, thanks for replying everyone.

Dave - It's certainly a very odd situation and you're right that we're only getting half the story here. There is a bit of everything that you suggest. For starters, they're mostly basing their decision in this 'media plugger' who says the video is not marketable. However, we've never met this guy or talked with him, it's almost like a ethereal figure......if he's so important, why is he in the shadows all the time? There's also a bit of a Yoko situation but not quite. This is a girlfriend/boyfriend band where the girl is the lead and 'image' of the band. However it's always the guy who speaks in behalf of the band. We are certain that the one taking decisions here is the girl.....the guy is mostly performing the 'hurt' boyfriend defends his beloved one, if you know what I mean.

The edit situation is not a possibility anymore. It's almost as if they had gone 'cold feet' or as someone mentioned....they don't have the money and they want out, easily and cheaply as possible.

They owe over 2k, so in the grand scheme of things it is peanuts but still time + work spent of their product.

I'm torn between two decisions here:

1 - My brain says, look for a quick exit, try to get as much as possible from them and learn a very valuable lesson about the industry and people/customers. Next time will be different.
2- The fighter in me says: so i don't get paid properly and on top of that i can't use the product as part of my portfolio? this is totally unfair! I've spent days of work and resources on their video. They're not right, they're cheeky and they have to pay for this. Let's go to court or whatever it takes!

hhhmmmmmmmm

thanks
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Old March 9th, 2011, 04:04 AM   #7
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Yeah, been round the music industry block a few times <wink>. All it takes is an "expert" to show up and say a few negative words, and suddenly everything is off the rails, even if the "expert" is just a moron with a big mouth... Watched more than a couple "up and comers" go down in flames with new "managers" in the mix...

Anyhow, here's my take - get what you can, ABSOLUTELY get a written exit contract so they know you're serious about this - bury it, and it STAYS buried, but it should cost them - they've "offered" 25%, that's probably all they've got and all you'd get unless it gets litigious, in which case you'd probably ultimately get nothing as collecting a judgement (unless it's different in the UK) is not as simple as it seems when you're dealing with poor "artists"...

You can try to negotiate for more, on grounds that you have expended "X" and screwing you is not an honorable thing to do to another "artist", but I wouldn't get my hopes up. Negotiate fairly, honestly, and NOT while angry - the one who loses his temper usually loses.

They don't want this thing popping up, I suppose you could threaten to put it on YouTube if you want to be nasty and push the issue, but I recommend the high road, as in the long run it's better - you'd rather be in business long after the band is history...

Litigation is expensive, time consuming and a crap shoot - I don't know if you have the UK equivalent of "small claims" Court where you could self represent? The amount involved would fall within typical "small claims" jurisdiction in the US... but how much could you be making while pursuing what I supect is a deadbeat horse?
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Old March 9th, 2011, 07:14 AM   #8
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Guillermo,

Dave is talking sense. Your brain says option 1. Your emotions (the fighter in you) says option 2. Listen to your brain.
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Old March 13th, 2011, 05:12 AM   #9
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Yep, that's what i'll end up doing i think. Iive and learn. Do you guys have a template/sample of what the contract should say?

thanks for your advice, much appreciated!
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Old May 5th, 2011, 09:51 AM   #10
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Re: Music video problems -who's right?

Guillermo, get hold of some contracts/terms of business from other companies in your field, cobble together your own based on those and then go to a lawyer to get his corrections. Don't bother going directly, they'll just do the searching around as you would. Write is simply and clearly using ordinary language. If it needs long words the lawyer will put them in. Lots has been lost on a mis-used "heretofore".

But pay what it takes. Good lawyers are like good tyres - cheap insurance. Spending pennies now could save you a fortune in the future.

And don't work without a contract. Ever. If someone doesn't want to sign one there's a reason. It's a tough rule and every now and then you'll miss a big one but that'll be offset by all the times you're saved from getting burned.

Good luck.
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