Looking To Hire A Vocalist Online? Read This First!
I came across a forum post recently that gave me cause for concern.
The thread was started by a musician who had been unable to find a suitable vocalist for one of his tracks. Naturally, the search led him online where he found a website where you can hire vocalists online. So far, so good…
The poster was disappointed with the poor quality of the recording he received back. If you follow the link above to the post you can actually hear the files received.
The poster also made a couple of casual references to the fact that he normally uses musical freelance websites to find musicians and then conducts business with them outside of the website (presumably because he thinks he is saving a buck or two. A short sighted move that achieves nothing other than losing any help whatsoever when there's an issue).
The post seemed to escalate from there with a lot of people jumping in to throw mud on said website, much of it unfounded but such is the nature of Internet forums. At one point the owner of the company stepped in to defend his business, and although his reply did seem heartfelt it didn’t seem as though a lot of the concerns raised were addressed.
I actually felt for him because as a business owner in the same space I know how hard it is to thrive in this difficult market. On top of that, it is damaging when people have negative comments about something you have poured your heart and soul into. I believed the owner when he said that he started the website to help people, and the same is certainly true of Kollab.
So why were people so angry and disappointed with the website? What did they do wrong?
I personally have never used the said website, so I can’t comment whatsoever on the quality of the output or service. I did recognise some of the complaints however, because I have experienced them myself when using work hire websites in the music industry.
Here’s the pitfalls of freelancer websites and also how Kollab has overcome each one. It should be noted that these issues are specific to most websites that offer remote recording musical services, freelance musicians for hire or an online studio service.
(Side-note: As a full-time musician before founding Kollab I have used many of these sites personally, both as a buyer and seller. I have been involved in remote recording services for a few years now and can speak from personal experience on these matters)
1 - They operate as a marketplace
It is noted in the forum post that on the website in question anyone can create a free account. The reason the original poster received back a file that was not professional standard is probably because whoever recorded it is not a professional. In a marketplace environment, anybody can create a profile and start selling. I could literally go onto Fiverr right now, create a profile in seconds, and start offering my services as a digital marketing 'expert' who speaks ten languages. Laughable, but a real problem...
Some websites offer premium packages which is supposed to give you access to a higher level of talent, but the fact remains that on any marketplace website I have seen anybody can create a profile and start offering services unvetted.
N.B When we started Kollab we also had this issue, and quickly realised we had created the very business model we set out to destroy (e.g. a race to the bottom, lowest bidder wins model).
How did Kollab overcome this?
In 2018 we culled our 'marketplace' from over 500 registered musicians, producers and vocalists to around 50. We also ditched the marketplace concept and now project manage everything in house. This leaner model means we only work with the best talent; trusted and vetted industry professionals we either handpick or have worked with in the past. We aren’t interested in trying to make a quick buck charging people for premium packages either - our aim has always been to offer a solid, reliable service.
2 - They are largely automated with little to no customer service
The majority of work for hire websites in the music industry seem to be either stock Wordpress templates that have little human intervention, or automated processes and dashboards that basically allow the buyers and sellers to sort everything themselves. This might seem like a great idea to a part time business owner or ‘lean entrepreneur’, but why should the customer (or indeed, the musician) have to do all of the work?
How did Kollab overcome this?
At Kollab, we are not so arrogant that we expect a commission for letting the client and artist do all the work for us. We project manage EVERY SINGLE ORDER, dealing with all enquiries from the client and picking up any slack we can so that the musician does not have to chase reference files, ask what key the song is in etc. We follow up every order with the client to ensure they are thrilled with the result, and rectify any issues if necessary.
It’s a full time commitment for us to micro manage every order in this way, but we do it because we want to offer a PERSONAL service that no other freelancer or online studio website can. That’s why we have a 100% happy client base that come back to us time and time again.
3 - They don’t protect or support their customers
There is a great contribution in the above post from a vocalist who tells a story about being asked to work for free at first on the promise of a royalty split. Eventually, he ended up carrying out a recording job for probably half of the deserved fee, after doing numerous re-takes, only to realise that the buyer had the full budget all along. This raises a few questions:
Who is protecting the musician in this instance?
Is the client in the wrong for trying to save some money?
Is it fair that the musician had to do re-takes? How can this be agreed/controlled?
It’s a shame nobody asked these questions earlier, because in this situation nobody wins. The musician has lost faith in the website/process and the buyer is probably equally frustrated.
How did Kollab overcome this?
We’ve seen all of this before, and our solution is to have clear terms of sales for each order that the client agrees to. These are legally binding, so our artists can be 100% confident that once their parts are delivered they will not have to deal with these kind of issues. Further to this, we understand the terms for each job can be different (for example some artists are happy to provide numerous revisions, others are not), so we create a bespoke order and terms for each individual order that goes through Kollab. This is all done by our team to protect our artists and also the client. A clear definition of all terms are given (what will be delivered, deadline, revision info, royalty definition etc), which is better for both parties in the long run.
A final thought
We put our neck on the line in 2018 by offering a money back guarantee - that’s how confident we are that every order delivered will exceed the customers expectation. This might sound like bold sales patter to some, but this is the reality of running a business close to your heart. We literally check every single order that is recorded, which is very time consuming and some would say impractical.
While other website are automating processes so they don’t have to be as hands on, we are taking the opposite approach. The result is we have better relationships with our clients and we know that our output is solid every time.