rock'n'roll concert


Tina Turner concludes her career with her latest performance on the notes of “Be Tender With Me Baby”

We miss you Tina … you are and you’ll always be simply the best !!!

Una fotografia è un istante magico che l'autore cattura fissandolo per sempre nel tempo e ogni volta che la guardi provi di nuovo le stesse identiche emozioni…. Quando ascolti una canzone è un po come guardare una fotografia: ce le hai tutte lì… vive e palpabili le emozioni di un ricordo… come la prima volta…

Vasco Rossi

How not to work with an artist

Recently I had an interaction with someone who wanted to hire me to make a comic that really took me aback.  I’m going to analyze how things escalated, and some of the red flags along the way, with the hope that perhaps you too can steer clear of these kinds of potentially awful situations.

So the story goes…

He first contacted me on Tuesday, Nov. 29th, spoke on the phone to arrange a meeting.  At this point, I only have a rough idea of what the project is. Something along the lines of making a comic to go alongside the release of a metal music album in Summer 2017.  Sounds interesting! No budget has been spoken about yet, however.

I mentioned I would be in Toronto the next day, but time would be tight.  I tried to make a meeting happen, but time wouldn’t allow for it.  We both agreed to reschedule.

Realizing that I would have to make a separate trip in to meet with them on my own time, I emailed them for more details.  This way I could have a better feeling of whether it would be worth taking a half day off work to travel to Toronto to chat, it went as follows:

I just wanted to chat about the logistics before I head to Toronto because if I come down next week it will just be solely to meet you, rather than as part of a bunch of Toronto errands like this past Wednesday.  In light of this I’d just like to confirm some details:

-how many pages will the comic be?
-cover and back cover I assume?
-any intermediary pages? Like ‘introducing’, or info about your band? Just give me a full scope of the project basically
-black and white or colour?
-what styles of art would you like to shoot for? Aka, what is the artistic 'aesthetic’ of your band?  
-timelime, you provided some info but let’s hammer down some specifics
-budget, how much would you ideally like to keep this between? Giving me a range is okay if you’re not sure. I’ll give you a more accurate quote one way or another of the costs of the work when I have more details about what exactly you’re looking for, so the more accurate you are, the better.  I always do my best to estimate how many hours I expect the work to take me, and usually I’m very close.

This will gets the pot boiling for now. Looking forward to hearing back.

He then gave me some nice details, the best he could without his partner Dan to help fill in the blanks.  30 pages, colour, front and back cover, maybe some pages in between.  Fairly substantial!  Was looking forward to it, until we got to the question of the budget. 

This was his response:

I don’t want set a budget limit for this right now because I feel like it could interfere with what you think is your best you can do for this project. I would like to know what you think so far based on where we are at after these questions. We want someone’s best work and after seeing some of your stuff, I think you can make a Comic book for this album that will be classic.

This is where my initial red flags began to go up.  Most notable from the bold and italicized font above.  The rest isn’t too bad, other than being vague.

Let it be known, that having a ballpark budget (even if it changes) should never ‘interfere with what you think is your best you can do for the project’. Also notice how this keeps the onus on the artist as having to do their ‘best that they can do’ while not mentioning how their best will be compensated.  

This irked me a bit, so I emailed back hoping to clarify that part, and also adding why I needed at least some indication:

This description regarding a budget question gives me a healthy level of skepticism of whether there is a budget for this.  I want to just be able to trust you guys as it sounds like an awesome project to me, but trust alone doesn’t, and hasn’t always worked for me.  

The reason I need to at least have some indication of what you’d like to put towards this is so I can know whether making a trip to Toronto is worth it financially, because that’s basically a half day off my other freelance contracts right now. 

So with what I know from you in regards to the detail and quantity of pages, I will send you a quote tomorrow with my general (and it will be pretty general) range.

Be in touch soon.

I thought this was pretty fair, but would love to hear from you if you feel otherwise.  However, this is when things went sour.  Here is his response:

Hello Garth,
I could feel your skepticism before the last email. Don’t let assumptions get the best of you. What I meant by your highlighted phrase “I would like to know what you think so far based on where we are at after these questions.” is that we want to know what you can do for what price. I’m not going to throw out a random number and say this is what we’ll pay you. I want to know what you can do for what price and what quality we will be getting. It is not a question of money. It is just realistic business on our end too. We discuss what the project entails, you give us a quote based on what you think it will cost for your time and talent, and we make a deal or not. I think that is a fair way to do business.
I am a freelance worker also. I build concerts at the Rogers Center, Molson Amphitheatre, all the festivals in the City since 2009.I have many connections and colleagues in the Concert world. I also know how to make a great rock'n'roll concert and have worked for all of my favourite bands. Dan was a private student of multiple gold and platinum record producer Andrew Shepps, who produced hits by Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica. You could call him a mentor as they still keep in touch. We are both up and coming professionals on both fronts of the music industry Just so you know that we are not fucking around.

Several things I’d like to point out here that, in my opinion, are badly handled:

  • First red flag, from the first bold segment on ‘not throwing out a random number’, I didn’t actually ask for this, I asked ‘how much would you ideally like to keep this between? Giving me a range is okay if you’re not sure’ and then said that I’d give him a quote after.
  • Second red flag: “It is not a question of money. It is just realistic business on our end too”.  To me, this sounds like he is purposely avoiding the topic of the cost of the project.
  • One reasonable part is the next bold part, that says:  “you give us a quote based on what you think it will cost for your time and talent, and we make a deal or not. I think that is a fair way to do business.” is definitely one of the more reasonable in this, however, I was already in agreement with this, but wanted to feel out if they were as serious about this project as he says they are.
  • Third red flag is the entire second paragraph, which feels like an over dramatic inflation of self.  Making them appear much larger is a common trick, that often leads to the ‘we’ll pay you in exposure’ that so many others promise, and moreover, contributes to my bullshit detector going off about the whole thing.  The last sentence is especially promising, with the ‘we are not fucking around’. Dramatic antics ahoy.  If you want to prove you’re not fucking around, then give me a reason to believe that taking a half-day off my other work is worth it.  Would a lawyer come and meet you for an initial consultation in your separate city for free?

Soon after the last email was sent, I received several texts, which I’ll respond to individually below:

“Hello Garth, I’ve talked to Dan this morning and we don’t want to do business with you.  You’ve missed the first meeting and you are too skeptical”

The immediate back-out leaves my bullshit detector ringing off the handle, and it’s doubled by saying that ‘I am to skeptical’ for asking for a budget. I love the guilt-inducing ‘you’ve missed the first meeting’ when I’d mentioned from the outset that I may not be able to fit it in to my Toronto visit which was already fairly full, and it was understood and resolved from both ends immediately.

The second text:

“We don’t want to waste more time on someone we can’t count on. So for that reason we are going to find another artist.”

So far, the ‘wasted time’ he refers to is a couple emails and a handful of texts. I’m clearly the anchor that is holding the ship back.

 A third, unnecessary but hilariously welcome, text to cap it off:

“My advice next time you get an opportunity like this is to have a proper business meeting and have some interest in hearing the music.”

The interesting thing here is that he didn’t actually give me a chance to send him my quote.  This feels similar to the all-too-familiar client that tries to get the artist behind their project to the point that they’re the one carrying the flag. 

I get that having an artist personally invested in your product or service is a benefit to their ability in bringing their best work to the table, but do you know what’s even better? A demonstration of your sincerity through your investment in the product you want to be have created, so that the artist can bring their best work to the table.

In conclusion:

If you want to work with an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, or any other artist, please respect their time as you would any other profession, and don’t be disappointed if they’re not on the front of the ship with you and the rest of the team who are steering it if you’re not prepared to act reasonably on the business end of it.