Failed agency responds to Private Eye claims

The British publication Private Eye has reported that former artists of the crashed agency Hazard Chase are being pursued by its liquidators for commissions on future engagements in order to support their former personal managers. Some of the artists are barely surviving from one week to the next.

James Brown, the former head of Hazard Chase, has issued the following rebuttal to Slipped Disc:

‘The article is misleading. The commission applies only to the diaries of the artists as they were at 20th March 2020 when HC closed, and commission is only due if the events take place and the fee is received. There is no request for advance payment whatsoever. That statement in the article is entirely false.’

James Brown now runs his own management company, as do several other ex-HC agents.

Artists are invited to let us know of they are being chased – sorry – for unearned commissions.

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  • Hmm… I’m afraid I don’t believe him. Too many well known and respected singers on social media attesting that the Private Eye article is true.

    • Artists on the continent left in the lurch by disappearing managers who then pursued percentages on future work have successfully argued against paying anything or possibly a much reduced amount. Arguing that the manager had not ‘managed’ the full servicing of the contract in advance of productions or during the rehearsals and performances. And neither completed or fulfilled the manager’s obligation to represent the artist during and after the engagement overseeing career development, pursuing return invitations and other future opportunities. In effect, the gig in the diary is only one part of the work of a manager and they can’t ask for a full percentage for an unfinished job.

  • I love Private Eye mag, but it’s annoying the contributors aren’t named. So the music news hides under the pen-name Lunchtime O’Boulez

  • What is uncomfortable here is that Mr Brown having thrown Hazard Chase to the wolves has somehow engineered himself back into the scene. It is unclear why he should be even commenting on this matter if the liquidators are dealing with this at arms length. The fact that he is back in business under a different name and with a clean sheet having dumped the debts of Hazard Chase, is disturbing as is his ongoing involvement with the work of the liquidators. If the former agency no longer exists and cannot provide any further support to the artists, it’s a moot point as to what if anything may be due to the liquidators once the bookings have matured. My inclination would be to tell the liquidators to “go to hell”. They will not have resources to follow up every engagement and moreover their case in law is far from clear.

    • I would imagine he feels the need to put the facts straight because the contents of this article has resulted in Hazard Chase’s name being dragged through the mud by the social media witch hunt that has emerged from this – even though the company’s affairs are entirely in the hands of the liquidators.

      • Entirely in the hands of the liquidators. True. The liquidators appointed by James Brown. The liquidators who are using as their agent for collecting the commission they estimate they are entitled to – James Brown Management. Be interesting to know if James Brown Management are doing that for nothing? All questions worth asking I’d suggest.

  • I’m sure James Brown is stating what the actual rules are (or are supposed to be).

    That doesn’t mean that some liquidators (or agents claiming to act on the liquidators’ behalf) aren’t trying to shake down artists for commissions that aren’t, in fact, legally due.

    James Brown may be in no position to know whether that’s happening or not. I can certainly believe that it is.

    Artists who are getting shaken down should record the attempts and post them on social media.

  • What the artists aren’t understanding is that most of the staff at Hazard Chase didn’t receive much redundancy pay, especially the younger staff members. Because the company went into liquidation the government were the ones to provide the redundancy pay which did not cover the two months notice that was written into the staff’s contracts. So the staff were expecting their next pay cheque the Monday after HC fell but that of course didn’t happen. Any redundancy payments then took 6 weeks to arrive. So there is 2.5 months worth of bills/credit card debt etc to be paid off which I would assume any redundancy money was used for immediately leaving nothing or very little left over. Also, the amount the staff earnt was pennies in comparison to what most of the artist’s earnt. So any commission being asked from the artists is to go towards people receiving redundancy payments they were entitled to but still haven’t received.
    I know it is hard for the artists and managers setting up on their own are trying to help as much as possible, but artists need to understand that 30 people lost their livelihoods suddenly and are trying to sort out their lives as well as helping out former artists.
    A big issue is the lack of clarity James Brown gave the staff and the artists with the situation, had there been more transparency perhaps there wouldn’t be as many negative feelings or hurt around.

  • Debtors of a collapsed company are being pursued by a liquidator to enable that company to make redundancy payments to its employees. Doesn’t sound quite so shocking when you put it that way. Strong aroma here of musicians not reading their own contracts and then being outraged when said contracts, in certain circumstances, no longer suit them.

    There’s something that would be risible (if it wasn’t so blinkered) about the way a certain type of artist leaps on their moral high-horse when their own money is concerned but see no contradiction at all in denying other people (in this case, the people who gave them a career) their right to earn a living (or in this case, receive a decent redundancy payment). The liquidator’s duty is to the company’s creditors, not its debtors. If you agreed to the agent’s percentage and were paid for the job it seems clear-cut. You signed a contract; it served you well until suddenly it didn’t. That doesn’t invalidate it, even if you are very good at singing. Sorry.

    • I don’t suppose the artists are paid until they fulfil their part of the contract and do the gig. If the agency made a habit of making advances they’d run into cashflow problems PDQ.

  • As far as I understand it, the contract between an artist and an agency usually comes with a notice period for termination from either party . That notice period is needed and used to establish what bookings, at the point it is given, in the diary are real and what are not. That then is worked through in that notice period and agreed by both sides at the end of it. In those circumstances (non-Covid or normal change or agency) that seems fair. To try to claim commission on anything when no notice can have been given (even if the speedy disappearance of the company meant that was not possible) smacks of pure – and pretty desperate – opportunism to me, and surely can’t be legal?

    Maybe I have this wrong? Perhaps ask Mr Brown. I do hope he is attempting to apply all the same “rules” as assiduously to former Hazard Chase clients now represented by James Brown Management?

  • The article is misleading and clearly inaccurate, as some artists on the HC roster have confirmed – payment is only being asked when fee is received. And a reduced commission at that. That is pretty standard in the industry. Much, though not all, of the manager’s work has been done, often for years before the first drop of income arrives. Liquidators asking for it is less standard of course… and clearly there were some serious communication and transparency issues. But I agree with XXX above, a large number of people lost their jobs, just like artists have, and it’s in no artist’s interest to start vilifying individual managers or the profession in itself, who have a very specific and valuable set of skills and contacts, and for the large majority are extremely hard-working and massively underpaid. I’m sure there are changes that need to be made to how agencies (and the industry in general) work and it’s perhaps a good time to review the services agencies provide and what/how they are paid for those services. But artists, agents, promoters etc all are part of the same very fragile classical music industry where there is so little money around even in good times, and each part of that needs to be supported if this ecosystem is going to survive.

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