[Author's Note: I'm including pics that are in no way tied to the written content of this entry, since I can't think of an appropriate visual theme. Just for the heck of it, I've posted photographs of Bauhaus (the goth band, not the German art school).]
As some of you may know, I’ve been writing artist bios on the side for extra money. (Artist bios are typically posted under the “ABOUT ME” section on a musician’s MySpace page and sent out--with a hard copy of their latest album--to promoters/music mag editors/radio stations.)
If someone requests my services, I in turn ask them for relevant background information (hometown, musical training, influences, core aesthetic, etc.) and song samples, and then set to work creating a personalized bio.
My rates are negotiable. Ideally, I should be collecting $100 for a page-long bio, but that hasn’t happened yet. When I write for friends, for example, I hesitate to charge the full amount. In other instances, I’m writing for musicians who either don’t have much money (in which case we meet in the middle), or would rather not pay at all, thank you very much. Rachelle* falls into the latter category.
*So as to avoid a potential ass-beating, I've changed her name.
Rachelle, a young singer/songwriter who specializes in oversexualized dance music, is based out of the Bronx. She found me on Craigslist. (I'd attached multiple writing samples--including this blog’s URL--to a short bio of my own, marketing myself as a freelancer.) Rachelle was my first nibble.
Her agent, Deb (name also changed), was the one who actually contacted me. We discussed length (three or four paragraphs) and payment ($80). Later that day, she forwarded along Rachelle's outdated MySpace page and a few phrases she wanted included in the final product.
I completed Draft #1 a few days later. Deb received it, raved about it, asked me to correct two or three minor points. Later that day, I revised and re-sent.
Then I didn’t hear from her for awhile. Hmm. I’m calling, I’m e-mailing, I’m leaving polite messages. Nothing.
Late March, after a number of days, I finally get her on the phone. Deb, says I, what the eff? (Ok, I didn’t say that.) She: "Mike, it's a fantastic bio! Very professional. I want to make sure you get your money...how does April 6th sound?" "Uhhhh," says I, "why so late? That’s ten days away!" "Well," says she, "I don’t get paid ‘til the 5th." (This, readers, is when I realized I’d been thoroughly suckered.) She: "Anyway, what was the price we agreed on? $60?" Me: "No, $80. Eighty dollars." She: "Can I give you $60?"
Now the ol’ blood pressure is spiking, but I intend to get SOMETHING outta the deal, so I warily agree. Fine, Deb, $60, sure, whatever. The sixth, you say? I’ll come and pick it up that afternoon. She: "Ok."
You know the story from here. Sixth rolls around. I call. Nothing. Send off an e-mail. Nothing. Every other day, I leave a voicemail. (This goes on for two full weeks.) Finally, I reach my breaking point and drop this in her inbox:
DEB. I'm going to get the $ from you, one way or another. If I have to, I'll come to Rachelle's next NY show to collect. Please show me some respect and return my messages.
Looking back, I could've been a bit wiser in my choice of words. It actually shames me that I stooped to that. Live and learn, I guess.
Two days later, I somehow get her on the phone. Now it’s war. She cites the above e-mail and accuses me of threatening her. Me: “Listen, Deb, you’ve failed to respond to any of my messages, which would lead any sane person to believe that you’re not intending to pay me. I understand the wording could've been a bit softer in that e-mail. For that, I apologize. The sentiment, though, was pretty spot-on. I intend to receive payment. Because you dropped off the face of the Earth, you left me no choice but to show up at a gig or something and approach you face-to-face. If I want to collect, what other choice do I have?”
She freaks: “We don’t want your damn bio! We ain't using it! I ain’t paying you no $60 for no bio! Hold on, my husband wants to talk to you.” So she puts him on. We speak for five minutes. Nice guy. At the end of the convo, he even calls me ‘buddy,’ which kind of surprises me.
After giving me a stern talking-to about how to treat a woman (I again apologize for the e-mail), he assures me the bio won't be used. Fine, I say. Not a problem. Situation diffused. I hang up the phone.
Well, two days ago (and 2+ weeks after my convo with the hubby) I go to Rachelle’s fresh, revamped web page, and my bio--shore nuff--is displayed front and center. If you want to see the link, please e-mail/message me. I'd rather not post it in my blog.
Another phone call. I ask her what the eff. Deb begins to shout. Me: "Listen, Deb, either take it down or cough up the dough. I'm not a sucker." She hangs up on me, mid-sentence.
So I sent this e-mail:
The last thing I want is a fight. Please hear me out:
If you want to use the bio for Rachelle's homepage, you're welcome to it. All I ask, then, is $60, which is the rate that we agreed on. If you remove the bio from her page, there's no issue, and you don't owe me a dime. Pretty simple.
Why haven't you responded to my messages? I know you're reading these e-mails. If the bio is not removed from her page by this Friday (6/5), I'll be contacting my lawyer. Please show some courtesy to someone who provided you a service.
I'm not a bad guy, Deb...I just don't like being taken advantage of. How would you like to be stiffed out of payment? I'm not writing these things for my health.
Thanks for your time. I'll be checking her page throughout the week to see if she's taken it down.
I don't have a lawyer.
The money's now of secondary concern; this is about something else entirely. When you get right down to it, I'm seeking recognition for my work. Call it justice. (Ayn Rand would be proud of me for fighting the good fight, though she'd probably scold me for not foreseeing this whole debacle.)
The war rages on...