Do English people hate talking about money so much that someone is REFUSING TO PAY ME??

Posted on January 5, 2013 by yankeebean

I woke up today to a ridiculous email from a friend (a friend!) I’ve been collaborating with.  I don’t mention it often, but I’m a musician and I do a lot of remote recording work.  My friend (FRIEND!?) and I just finished working on a ten track album on which I worked on 9 out of the ten songs.

I do this kind of thing all the time and usually with people I’ve never met.  So what I USUALLY do (very sensibly) is arrange a contract first and everyone signs it before I record a note.  But THIS time it was for an English friend so I thought we could just talk money once I’d finished.  What. A. FOOL.

When we came to talk percentages / royalties ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and now I can’t see past my fury enough to figure out if he’s:

a) Over-reacting

b) A d-bag

or c) Rendered useless by money-talk because of his Britishness

Here’s what happened:

He emailed me to ask about contracts / percentages, etc.  I emailed back suggesting slightly high figures so he could barter me down to what I actually wanted.  Based on my past 10 years of experience – this is how it’s always done.  But here’s his response:

I think I wasn’t expecting any of this and in reality this album wont me making you or I any money.

Really?  Nobody every told me…

I won’t be making any formal agreement with percentages or sales in regards to the songs.

OH, GOOD.  I thought you were going to make this difficult.

I think you will have to accept the original terms – you did this because you wanted to play these songs, not for any financial reward.

What??   I  mean yes, I love music and yes, I like his songs – but I can’t pay my bills with the Sound of Music (unless the hills come alive and pay my mortgage)

You cannot now be asking for percentages and so forth when it was clear from the start I would not be paying you for your contribution to the album.

Um… yes I can.  Because no it wasn’t.

This is the same as a dentist doing a filling and his patient telling him he should accept payment as HIS LOVE OF TEETH.

So cast your votes, expats!  Is he a) over-reacting, b) d-bagging or c) paralysed by the fear of talking about moolah.

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  2. Liz February 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Definitely a d-bag! Even worse that’s he’s a “friend” – they’re not supposed to take advantage of you. Hmm… put him down to the z-list! Pach!

  3. Zestos January 13, 2013 at 6:05 am

    I’m going to go against the tide here. I think it sounds like a misunderstanding, and you are just as guilty as him in all of this. You’ve also aired your dirty laundry in public (this blog), which a friend (FRIEND!?) wouldn’t do. The fact of the matter is that you should have worked all of this out long before you recorded a single note. He was obviously working under the presumption that you were doing him a favour and might ask for a small fee, which isn’t a crazy assumption to make when you’re working with a friend.

    I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. I’m just being honest. Great blog, by the way.

    • yankeebean January 13, 2013 at 10:48 am

      No worries about honestly here (we’re against bigotry, but as long as you keep it clean, your voice shall be heard!)

      We had discussed payment and that we’d both make some money once costs were covered. The absolute truth of the matter is that I was used for my music and disgarded. It’s also true that I legally own the tracks that I sent across and they’ll remain mine forever (until I sign them over to him – which I’ll never do).

      So technically I could take him to court, but I settled for writing a blog post under an anonymous name. I’d say he got off lightly.

  4. yankeebean January 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you guys SO. MUCH. It really helps to know I’m not being insane in my red-tinted-rage. Update: He’s been in touch again and KINDA apologised, but then repeated that he still wasn’t going to pay me.


    Guess what I’m never ever ever ever ever doing again?

  5. BeccaJaneStClair January 7, 2013 at 1:33 am

    I asked my husband, he says dbag and he’s British. Husband suggests printing out the email where he offered you a percentage and the email where he said he was giving you 0 and having a lawyer (or a lawyer friend) write a letter to him….that ought to scare the shit out of him into paying you.

  6. Dana January 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    D-bagging 100%! It’s really unfortunate when friends take advantage in business situations… and it’s definitely just as likely for that to happen in the states as it is here. People D-bag on both sides of the pond.

  7. Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife January 6, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Brits know perfectly well how to do business. He’s scamming you.

  8. britmiami January 6, 2013 at 2:02 am

    I think the most important thing to do is look back on what he said to you originally. From his messages you can tell that he is hurt about the talking of percentages. Did he say anything to you at the start of the project? Remember, English people can imply a lot with only a few words. So, maybe he said something that you would consider general chit-chat, but to him it’s something that he feels was stated at the start of the project.

    Also if he thought of the idea, in his mind, he may feel for that reason it at least entitles him to at least 50 percent.

    He also may feel that you set your percentage so high that it’s disrespectful. Your ignoring him as a friend and treating him only as a business partner. * I feel that this is the reason by the way, but I don’t agree with it :) .

    I work as a software developer and have run into these situations before with friends, colleagues, and family. I find that in most situations someone gets hurt if no contract is written up in advance. Normally, the friend insists that no contract is necessary, but from my experience this is a big mistake. It’s very important to set out what you expect from him or her and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be a legal binding contract, it’s better if it is, but at least it helps define rules and expectations.

    This brought me to my golden rule: Don’t do business with friends, family or colleagues. If you do, it normally results in a big pain in the ass, and it leads to one person feeling that they got a bad deal. Friends’ of friends is okay, so long as you approach it as all business. (In the end you have to work with someone).

    So, this still leaves you in your current situation. If you think to yourself, “f*** him. I’m going to stick to my high percentage,” then from my experience you won’t sell anything because this person will always be in your way. Resulting in that person being negative, difficult, and even more unwilling to help, and you will of course loose your friendship with this person in the end too. If you apologize to this person by making some lame excuse saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so used to working with clients, that I treated that e-mail as business. Please could you meet me for a coffee, so that we could come to agreement that we both feel is fair.” Which will no doubt end-up in a 50/50 percentage.

    Now that may be hard to sallow, but you still make some money from the project and you learned a valuable lesson, in my humble opinion, in doing business with friends.

    Please don’t take this comment as I agree with your friend, but as the best result you can get from a shitty deal.

    Good Lucky,


    • yankeebean January 6, 2013 at 8:35 am

      I definitely didn’t ask for super high percentages – I’ve been doing this for a long time, too, so I know what’s what and I’m not an unreasonable person.

      Regarding percentages – HE brought it up! That’s another thing that stymies me. He sent me an email asking me what cut I wanted and then emailed back saying he wouldn’t give me anything. Pretty confused there…

      Regarding what we said initially, I vividly remember a conversation in which we talked about me getting reimbursed once he’s covered production / duplication costs. He must have conveniently forgotten about that one.

      • britmiami January 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        Well, from what you have said, i’d go for option B.

        I hope you get at least some return from your efforts.

  9. Taylor January 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    That’s crazy! It sounds like he was just doing it for kicks and giggles to begin with! Maybe he was really convinced on super cheap “mates rates”… I vote b, maybe c if we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt…

  10. Gareth January 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    I’m English, and so were my parents. And theirs, and so on for a number of centuries.

    And this is not an “English” thing. It is exploitative bad behaviour, and bloody rude to boot.

    Don’t stand for it.

    • yankeebean January 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

      YES! This is exactly what I need to hear. Deep down I think I knew it wasn’t an English thing. I’m pretty sure he’s such a d-bag and they come in all shapes and nationalities.

  11. englandia January 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    That’s awful! But it’s really almost impossible to renegotiate after the work has been done. Hope he sobers up and you don’t have to cut your losses.

  12. justineswims January 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I vote for b. And now you’ll know to never do it again!

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