Demo Singer's: How to Handle Difficult Clients

Mar 20, 2024

If you're a demo singer and people hire you to record vocals for them, it's just a fact of life, not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome. Your success rate will be very high because people hear your voice on your demo reel and they know you are who they want to sing their song! But once in a while you will get an unhappy customer. 

There are 3 basic choices you have in how to handle these situations:

  • You can work it out
  • You can stand your ground
  • You can take the loss


Every situation is different, but one thing's for sure the best way to deal with problems is to prevent them. All the ways to do that will reveal themselves through trial and painful error.

When these tough moments do occur, look at the situation as new data, calm your emotions, and make note of how this situation can be prevented next time. It can be heartbreaking when a client is unhappy with your performance because making music is such a vulnerable thing. We have to open our hearts to give the performance every song baby deserves. So when a client turns around and tells us our baby is ugly, it hurts!

Choice 1: Working it Out

Hopefully we want to work it out and get this song across the finish line with a happy client. But we don’t want to be taken advantage of! Which is why you should do your best to ask questions about the performance they want from you ahead of time so you truly can deliver what they want on the first try.

You must also have a clear revisions policy. It’s up to you what that will look like, mine personally is: "1 free round of revisions, which is a handful of small fixes but not a re-recording of the song."

If you sent the mp3 over to your client, and they've replied that it’s not quite there, it’s time to talk revisions. Try to keep the tone of your messages really positive. It’s never comfortable for the client to have to tell someone they didn’t nail it, so try not to be offended, and help them feel more comfortable with positive language in your reply. If they aren’t being clear on what they want, ask them nicely to send you a numbered list of the quick fixes they’d like you to do. 

Keeping this attitude of what our possibilities are is a lot better than immediately telling them what they can’t have. So let’s hope they read between the lines. Be reasonable, be calm, and if you need to take a pause and not respond right away, that’s a great idea.

Choice 2: Standing Your Ground

In rare cases some clients will argue your policy and ask for more than you’ve agreed to, such as re-recording the whole thing. So option 2 is to stand your ground. Again, leading with what you are able to do shows that you are trying to be reasonable, but you may have to also explain what you do not do, and offer alternatives. When people ask for more than you offer, give it a price tag. Extensive revisions may cost $100-250, or even just charging the full rate again.

I’ve had clients pay the full rate again a handful of times in the last 3 years. It’s really rare but some people are willing to do it if you’re kind, and it’s obvious they are asking for something that’s a total different direction than what you originally discussed. If you end up at a stand still with the client, it may be time to message the admin of the platform you’re using for advice and mediation.

Choice 3: Taking a Loss

Cutting your losses and walking away may be an option for clients from hell. You are never trapped in a nightmare job with a nightmare client. You can always offer a refund to make them go away if it’s better for your mental health.

When I've seen it reasonable, I have presented two options in the past. I’ve told clients they can either pay the additional fee for extended revisions or I can offer them a 50% refund, and if they choose the 50%, you’ve come to an agreement.

But I will tell you an interesting case that came up once and turned into a win. I was hired to write a song and record it, and I really really thought I had written a smash hit. I loved how it came out, and unfortunately the client just didn’t like it. So I didn’t even want to deal with a rewrite, I probably was never going to accept another gig with him again, so I offered him a full refund in exchange for 100% rights to what I wrote (technically a producer has a legal claim to your songwriting if you wrote to their track because they inspired the songwriting and chord progression). Well he agreed, I refunded him, and I went and uploaded that song to And funny enough, I have now made more money selling acapella licenses for it than the fee I originally charged him. 

There are endless scenarios that can come up with demo singing and custom songwriting clients. Try to prevent them by having clear policies and asking questions about the type of performance they want. Be kind in the revisions process, and reiterate the revisions back to them in your own words so there's no confusion. Stand your ground when your demo singing clients ask for too much by kindly offering an alternative instead of slamming the door on them. And check in with yourself if this is becoming too much and the money isn't worth the headache, as it might be time to walk away. 

If you have special cases you'd like to share, head over to the youtube version of this topic and tell us about it in the comments! I'd be happy to discuss possibilities for resolution. 

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