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Affordable Recording

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by audiokid, May 9, 2014.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I followed up on a new member that just joined, then saw this article on the website and instantly thought about Kurt. Affordable Recording, Open up the pearly gates, woopee, we're all going to die lol.

    $40 an hour for a facility, and all the gear and education many of us have. What do you think? Feeling all warm and fuzzy?

    lets go back to memory lane. I loved this song. Makes me smile even when you know you are going to die.

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDXIB6lrB30
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Country Joe and the Fish. Obligatory listening if you were a student at Kent State from 1968 - 1978.
  3. thewonders

    thewonders Active Member

    Ah, yes, the FISH call. ;-)

    Sent using Tapatalk
  4. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Chris, you're right that with all the investment we have made, getting only $40/hr to do what we do is a sad state of affairs. As the article points out, the wide availability of recording gear & software has created mass armies of do-it-yourself recording engineers and has effectively "cheapened" the value of what we do.
    However, I myself started out as one of those do-it-yourselfers, and I know now, after decades of work, that the results I was getting with entry-level gear set up in a spare bedroom and with little knowledge/experience were marginal at best compared to the results I achieve today.
    Hopefully, as these do-it-yourselfers continue, some will arrive at the realization that there are many trade-offs to be made in order to do-it-yourself, not the least of which is the quality of the result.
    I just recorded a local band that included two such do-it-yourselfers. They had come to realize that my facility, equipment and experience would give them a better result than they could achieve otherwise. However, they only had me do the tracking, and they took the resulting tracks back to their own computers to do the editing and mixing. Time will tell if they ultimately end up needing my help with that, but either way it was encouraging to know that they were aware of their own limitations at least to some degree. I charged them $40/hr.
    If recording were not my passion I think I would be in a different business. I'm certainly not making much net income and seriously doubt that the dollars I have invested will be recovered via revenue in the foreseeable future! For the love of the art... oh well.

    Thanks for posting the link to the article, confirms what I imagined to be true... and loved the Country Joe clip!

  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    ahhh Country Joe .... used to see him and The Fish play at provo park in Berkeley. they also were the "house" band at the Straight Theater in the Haight 66 - 67 .... those were the days. i had a girl friend named Susie whose parents were close friends with Joe, although i never got the chance to meet him. they owned a head shop on Telegraph near the campus. she told me that "Colors for Susan" on was written for her ... she sure was a hippy chick sweetie ...

    the cats out of the bag and has been for a long time. i question if we even need a studio proper for most of the music that is out these days. only the uber privileged get the opportunity to have access to a studio proper any more and all the stepdub, psycho noise and dance stuff can be done with a kaos pad and a simple daw ... no one even knows what great audio sounds like now.

    i'm just happy i was alive to witness first hand and participate to a small degree in the golden age. getting long in the tooth and will probably check out of this mortal plane within the next 20 years at best so what's the point of getting my boxers in a bunch over it any more?

    my only regret is that a lot of the old gear / consoles are being scrapped or left sitting / deteriorating in dusty garages and warehouse’s never to be resurrected in favor of disposable china / asian junk hawked by exploitative business people who have no vision other than amassing a fortune so they can buy a yacht.
  6. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I don't care if CLA opened up a $40/hr studio right next to mine. I would not feel threatened in the least. (Well maybe a little:). You can't loose a nickel per unit and make it up in volume. Studios operating in deficits have become the norm and they close themselves down as fast as they set themselves up. You just can't make a go of it at $40/hour and you don't want clients that want to only pay that.
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I couldn't agree more with Paul, you are blessed Paul, and a smart business man too. (y)

    Some of us are in geo area's where the economy is different. I couldn't possibly understand what its like to compete in LA compared to the Island but I'm pretty sure I would rather be on the Island lifestyle any day. I can only imagine its not as easy to make a cherry living in those natural spots though, its all relative. The Island is where a certain style of musician gather but don't have loads of cash to spare. Its all a trade off, all relative.
    I love being in a position where I can help people. That would be a good feeling and where I am headed now. Damn money and trade offs never end.
    Paul999 likes this.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm so very selective in whom I work with these days - most of the clients I work with can afford my production rate of $80 per hour (engineering alone is $50). There is one client I am working with right now who is pretty much broke, but, he's an old and dear friend, who's time on this earth is limited due to a progressive illness, and I want to help him leave a musical "legacy" of sorts. Funny thing... and this is a first for me...I work harder on his project than any other paying project. These sessions are a reminder to me of just how passionate about our craft I am.

    These days, it's more about the talent and personality - these are things that matter more to me than the money. Yeah, we all need to keep our studio lights burning, but there's a time and a place when you feel like you have to give more of yourself than what would be considered worthwhile. I'm at that point in my life right now. I nickel and dime the regular clients, and manage to keep the majority of the bills paid, but it's not really leaving much left over for big gear purchases. Like anyone else, I have my "dream" gear - a cabinet full of awesome mics, a Neve or Trident console, great pre's, peripheral compressors, EQ's and Limiters... but, at least for now, that stuff will have to remain a dream, and I don't really ever foresee a future where it won't be.

    I have some decent gear now - nice mics, guitars, amps, drums, a decent DAW platform, etc., but for the majority of my clients - wouldn't know the difference between a Great River and a Tascam Pre anyway - I work with what I have.
    That doesn't mean that I can't hear the difference, because I can. I just can't do anything about it right now. LOL.

    So, I make due; I mean... what's the alternative? Wait until I have the dream gear before I record another note? Nah. I don't think so.

    I just finished up today (Sunday) after an 8 hour session, and I didn't make a dime... and ya know what? I feel great. I got to work with an awesome musician and writer, I was allowed to experiment and toss out production ideas, we both had fun today, both musically, session-related and, just in general.

    It was a gorgeous 77 degrees outside, my studio windows were open, a balmy breeze was blowing through the room, and from my back window, I watched a Mama and Papa Goose herd their babies into my pond for their first swim... all while making great music and great recordings.

    Believe me guys, I've had far worse days working in sessions with clients who signed over a fat paycheck at the end of their session, but who left me feeling like I needed a 2 hour shower just to wash all of the BS off of me. ;)



    Paul999 likes this.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    It's always disappointing to know you are competing with Beringer basements.
  10. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Many of thes behringer basements are clients in waiting. They are the writing studio and demo facility. We are the final product facility. It's not a competition. It's complimentary.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's very similar to the way I look at it as well. While many will never reach beyond their home "studios", and are satisfied with the results (or in many cases, a lack thereof) - quite a few eventually end up coming to me, or people like Paul, when they reach that point of self-realization, where they realize that their gear limitations, and their lack of knowledge and experience, is hindering them.

    I don't look upon these studios as competition. I did look at them that way for awhile, until I realized that very often these were people whom I didn't really care about working with anyway. I have zero experience with Rap, Hip Hop, Death Metal or Dub, and truthfully, I have the same zero desire to explore those genres at this time in my life, anyway. In short, there really isn't anything I could offer them - either with gear or in experience - that would be of any help to them. I want to work with musicians who rely on real instruments, and not just copying and pasting loops, samples, stabs and pre-existing music onto a timeline.

    My specialization now (and for the last 25 years) is with solo artists. The singer-songwriters who come in with a rough outline of a song, and who simply need a bit of guidance and polish with production and arrangement.

    Because I'm very good with vocals, drums, guitar and bass, and fairly good on keys/synth, I can help them realize their goals of turning those rough ideas into a reality - with very nice fidelity. Many of these clients come to me with not much more than a chord progression and a few lyrics written down on a scrap of paper. They're often very talented, (and often not) but they just need someone with experience to help guide them in turning those rough ideas into a finished song... this entails the engineering side, as well as assistance with arrangement, performance coaching and production. I really do enjoy this part of the business. It's satisfying to see the look on the artist's face when they first hear the playback of the final mix.(y)

    No one (or very few of us) is gonna get rich at our craft, at least not anymore - and truthfully, even back in the days before the home recording boom hit, not all that many real studios were getting rich, either. Unless you were The Hit Factory, Western, Criteria and had those major label contracts, you probably weren't gonna be driving a Rolls Royce from what you made either working at or owning a studio. And, if you were like me, every spare penny you made (after rent and utilities) went towards upgrading our gear. I drove a 1976 Chevette (with a whopping 52 HP!) into the ground .... just trying to save up money for more mics, EQ's, Compressors...

    Very few of us got - or ever will get - rich at this business. But for me, there's just no other alternative. Even if I end up just doing this for myself and my music, I know that I'll still be doing it - probably right up until the time that they pound that last nail into my coffin. ;)

    If we did a survey of audio cats whom are now 45 and older, I'm fairly confident that you will find that most of us originally got into this business because we were interested in it. And, because we also didn't want to have to pay studio rates at that time for our own material - which in those years could have been as much as $150 per hour - or, because we bought the gear for ourselves and figured that we might as well help pay for it by recording a few people here and there.

    I decided to go to school, studied privately for three years under a professional engineer who had just left Caribou Ranch in Colorado and moved to Ohio to work for Audio Technica. I studied my ass off, and recorded and mixed everything I could get my hands on. I would even record commercial releases off of Vinyl, and mess around with the EQ and GR. I was a sponge. I soaked up as much as I could, worked low-level positions in regional studios, making coffee, organizing cables and sweeping the floors. And when I wasn't doing that, I was silently watching session after session, taking in as much as I possibly could. I was as quiet as a mouse - a fly on the wall of the control rooms - simply watching and learning.

    There were many days that I left work with my head spinning, so confused, thinking that I'd never get it. But... there were also those days where a lightbulb would go off in my head; because I had learned something very important.
    I had crossed yet another line and things were starting to make sense. Little by little, I started to "get" it. The journey took off from there, leading me to meet people and visit places I'd never even dreamed of.

    It's been almost 37 years (since 1977) when I first started recording 'clients" in an attic with a 4 track Teac Reel to Reel, a Biamp mixer and an SM57...

    Yup. It's been quite a ride ;)

    Paul999 likes this.
  12. natural

    natural Active Member

    In regards to the article-
    Well, isn't that a perfect example of mixing apples and oranges?
    The article couldn't be more vague by mixing home and commercial studios together.
    The article first says that the average is between $40.00-$3000.00. Well. Thanks a lot for that useless margin. That tells us absolutely nothing.
    It then goes on to say in Ca. the average is between $40-$60. (or as in San Jose between $80-$150) Again, I would have to assume they are combining home studio's in with commercial studios.
    However, home studio's typically include the engineer while commercial rates often only include the room . Engineer, producer, equipment rentals and assistant engineer fees are completely separate from Studio rates. (and the article is supposed to be talking about Recording Studio rates
    So, viewed in that light, if you're working out of your bedroom, with virtually no overhead, you should be able to charge $40.00/hr. (seems fair to me)
    If you have a commercial studio, you're probably charging $60.00/hr plus the client will pay another $25-$35 to an engineer. (also in the ball park- Exactly what my mid-level commercial studio was charging back in the beginning of this century)
    If you're a well known studio and recording commercial releases then you're probably charging even more.

    So the only thing the article doesn't say is what the average recording studio rates in the USA are.
    Shawn Newman deserves a spanking. (or at least a good ol' fashioned taunting!)

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