Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Pros and Cons of the Retainer Fee

Here at Love, Entertain, Live, the creative is number one.  It is only right to discuss a major issue with the artist once the art has brought in considerable capital.  All artistic professionals, graphic designers, painters, sculptors, musicians, vocalists, and even celebrity and sports figures have one thing in common: they have a team of professionals working day and night to keep them relevant and successful.

What’s this “retainer fee” you speak of?

Creatives need professionals like publicists, managers, accountants, and lawyers working behind the scenes.  Some professionals ask for a retainer fee for their services.  A retainer fee is a monthly or annual fee, paid out by the client.  It is a flat rate fee that usually ranges anywhere from $500 to $3000 monthly, depending on the extent of work and the quality or reputation of the professional providing the work.

The Pros to hiring someone on retainer:
1.     There is no limit to the tasks that need to be done. Once both parties agree on the extent of work and the retainer fee, the publicist or lawyer contributes accordingly.  Based on the Huffington Post, the publicists job is to present the artist to the world. 
2.     The retainer fee is usually a discounted amount, compared to the hourly rate.  Myclientspot.com says that  as long as a client is using the discounted amount calculated hours, the retainer is worth it.  For example, if a lawyer requests a retainerfee of $3000 per month, at 10 hours per month, but the client only uses 5 hours a month, it may be cheaper if the hourly rate is only $350 per hour.
The cons to hiring someone on retainer:
1.     The employee does not have a vested interest.  If a publicist is hired to work on commission, that publicist is required to show results in order to receive payment.  In other words, if the artist does not make money, no one makes money. 
2.     It is expensive to have an employee working on retainer. It should only be done if income is steady. 

So what’s an artist to do? Start out simple.  Offer an affordable flat rate, with opportunities for commission throughout.  This allows both parties to test the waters and prove their dedication to the art itself.

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  1. Hey Rashaunah,

    As a freelance publicist, I ensure that before I go any further with a prospective client I state what my retainer fee is and then provide them with other rates for additional services. However, I must disagree with you when you stated that if "the artist does not make money, no one make money". There are some instances where the artist participates in public appearances and other publicity events and will not receive monetary gain. For situations like that the publicist must be paid whether or not the artist received money.
    Otherwise, I like your article, I don't read about this as much as I should.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Jheanelle!

    Thanks for the feedback! In regards to publicists who only "make money" when the artists make money, that applies for the publicist (or any other hired professional) working on commission only. Flat rate, fee based and retainer members of the team do, in fact, receive payment regardless of the artist's income.

    I support a system of project/fee based with an opportunity to earn commission. Retainer positions can get sticky if all terms are not spelled out in the beginning. Thanks again for the feedback!