The “Middle Man”

Good Morning,

While reading through your comments, I came across the following:

“I’m part of a string trio that regularly plays for weddings. In the past we’ve always dealt directly with and negotiated terms with the clients. Recently, we’ve started getting calls from event planners wanting to book us on behalf of their clients. Since we’re not used to dealing with a “middle man”, we’re having a hard time creating solid partnerships with event planners in the area. In your experience as an event planner, do you have an umbrella service contract for any vendors that you find for your clients or do you have your clients sign each vendor’s specific service agreement? Do event planners expect to get a percentage of the rate that we charge their clients for our musical services? If so, should that come out of our pockets or their clients’ pockets?”

We have all been there at one point or another (and if you are one of the few who have not, you will be). Like you, I love dealing directly with my clients, but this is not always be possible. Thanks to conflicting schedules and the enormity of some of the events, it’s often necessary to work with others who are also servicing the client.  On many occasions, I have also been hired by outside planners. There are times when we ourselves are placed in the position of having to hire vendors while acting as the planners and producers of an event.

As with everything, there are benefits and downfalls of being a middle man.

Benefits

-By agreeing to take on this role, you will likely get more jobs.  This is especially true if you have good partnerships with a network of planners.

-You will have the opportunity to develop relationships with a number of vendors which will enhance your network.

Downfall 

– You have limited (if any) direct contact with your clients.

Been the hands-on person as I am, I find this difficult.  My years in the industry have underlined the importance of having an open and honest dialogue with my clients. This can be difficult when someone else is filtering information. If not managed properly, utilizing a third party can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Still, no man is an island, right?

So, in light of the fact that planning and executing an event is a team effort, I would like to address your questions specifically.  Note: This is simply my opinion on the matter. As always, you must follow your own guidelines.

Do I have an umbrella service contract for any vendor’s that you find for your clients?

In honor of transparency, I usually have my own contract with with my clients and suggest they have separate contracts with each vendor.  This allows my clients to pay us individually and helps to avoid confusion.

Do you have your clients sign the service agreement for each vendor?

Yes, I do. While my clients might hire me to supervise outside vendors, I ask that they have their own unique contract with each vendor.

Do event planners expect to get a percentage of the rate that we charge their clients of our musical services?  If so, should that come out of our pockets or their clients’ pockets?

This is applicable only in cases where the event planner is charging their clients a percentage of the whole event.   Your services are part of the whole event. Therefore, they should be paid by the client not you.

In closing, I would like to note that I have formed many successful relationships with many vendors, regardless of who hired whom.  As with all relationships, communication and respect are the key elements in working with or as a “Middle Man”.

Do most of your clients come directly to you?   Have you had any bad experience being a “middle man”?

(Photo courtesy of Condé Nast)

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