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Are there any freelance engineers left? Or have they al

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by isoloop@juno.com, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. I find it amazing that there are far more studio owners than there are freelance recording engineers and producers. When I tell people that I am an audio engineer, the first question I am asked is "Where is your studio?". I think that this is the real problem in the studio business today. It is driven by the dream of owning a studio, not by the market for studio time. The studio owners I know tend to spend their time and money on equipment and upgrades, not on marketing themselves and improving their skills.

    Most clients don't care much about the gear. They care to work with people that they can trust. This means that you need a solid personal reputation. If you have a good name as a professional engineer or producer, then it may be in your best interest to sell your gear and invest that money into marketing yourself. There are always going to be great studios that are willing to give you great rates. There are very few capable freelance engineers and producers around who can get the job done right, and who have the savvy to market themselves as the best person for the job.

    I know that my opinion is strong on this topic, but I would love to hear from you on the other side of this. I read so much complaining about surviving in the studio business and I wonder if any of you have strongly considered the other option. Do you have any theories on why we have so many studios, and so few freelance engineers?
     
  2. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    A LOT of engineers have a DAW these days, that makes them 'virtual studio' owners.

    Obviously a trend.

    Lord Alvin Wrote: "There are very few capable freelance engineers and producers around who can get the job done right, and who have the savvy to market themselves as the best person for the job"

    That is a bizarly provocative, boastfull, negative and frankly insulting statement. It is totally incorect and "engineered" no doubt, to pick a fight!

    :mad:

    What on earth are you thinking? That you are the only good freelance engineer in existance?

    Wow!
     
  3. stoneinapond

    stoneinapond Guest

    Julian,

    He obviously included you in that statement! As an ex-pat living in the states I can still sympathize with your reaction. Having "Lord" as part of your name can still inflame a British lad to take on a fighting stance, much like the proverbial red flag and the bull. Its time for a pint!

    Peace,

    Yorik
     
  4. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    Alas my poor Yorik I do not imbibe the demon drink, I shall have to contend instead with going upstairs and pushing a sleepy guard off the turrets into the moat for my amusement. It's all there is to do round here in winter you know...
    :D
     
  5. Julian Standen wrote:
    That is a bizarly provocative, boastfull, negative and frankly insulting statement. It is totally incorect and "engineered" no doubt, to pick a fight!

    What on earth are you thinking? That you are the only good freelance engineer in existance?

    Wow!

    Umm..., how did you get that idea? It was not meant to be boastful or insulting. What was so negative about it? I don't see what there is to fight about. If you disagree, I invited you to tell my why. I think you read the wrong tone into what I said. If my statement is wrong, correct my idea, don't judge my character. I don't mind correction.

    Jules, you are someone who I am sure could do very well without a studio to call home. I know that you have in the past, why would I think things are any different now? There are many engineers that could get along fine without a studio. My question is "Why do so many think they need a studio?" It was not a statement of my own superiority.

    Perhaps things are different elsewhere, but here there are very few freelance engineers when you compare them to the number of studios in the market. I have never claimed to have the whole self marketing and promotion thing together. In the town where I live, there are only about 5 freelance recording engineers, and among them, I am the only one without a home studio/DAW. Compare that to the vast number of studios in our market and it is quite shocking. I have spoken to others in various markets and I have heard a similar story. Too many studios, and very few freelancers.

    All I want to know is what drives people to go into massive debt to open yet another studio. It seems stressful and defeating to me. I am sure that there are good reasons for owning a studio, but for many, I think they might do better to work in the studios of others.

    yorik wrote:
    Having "Lord" as part of your name can still inflame a British lad to take on a fighting stance, much like the proverbial red flag and the bull.

    Sorry guys. My name is Craig Alvin, and a producer I work with started calling me Craig Lord Alvin as a joke in reference to Chris Lord Alge. Eventually the Craig was dropped and all that stuck was the nickname Lord Alvin. I know it is stupid, but it seemed funny at the time.
     
  6. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2001
    Originally posted by Lord Alvin:

    Most clients don't care much about the gear. They care to work with people that they can trust.


    actually, I find that bands are more interested where they record, than who records them. They pick a studio that has the most gear out of the yellow pages. That's why you hear badly produced shitty sounding stuff.


    Also if you're doing alot of production work, it makes sense to have your own studio. Because then you can spend more time on aprohect, whether it's in the budget or not.

    That's what I do.
     
  7. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2001
    All I want to know is what drives people to go into massive debt to open yet another studio. It seems stressful and defeating to me. I am sure that there are good reasons for owning a studio, but for many, I think they might do better to work in the studios of others
    *******************************************
    This is completely logical and makes good business sense; so what!

    Anyone over 30 can remember when studio ownership was a fantasy attained by very, very few. When those same guys can now afford to purchase a Studer A800 and a Trident 80b for a combined price of less than a new VW Beetle, is it really surprising that folks are ignoring any sound financial analysis?

    When we were young, a home studio was an unusual luxury and yet it only meant a Teac 4 track. The $20k that I have spent on mostly used equipment over the past few years has purchased equipment that originally cost around $50k back when $50k was an obscene amount of money. In this current gear market, a hobbyist can easily have gear that only pro studios and a few rock stars could have even dreamed of back when.

    That's only one reason. Then there is the change in music styles. I have never been interested in any music produced by an individual alone with his multi track. I want to listen to a band blowin' hard. But the rest of the world no longer feels that way and everyone thinks that they can produce phat hits in their one man studio.

    Those two reasons probably account for a good share of the "need" for engineer's to have their own studios. I's sure that there are others.

    steve
    lex125@pacbell.net
     
  8. MadMoose

    MadMoose Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    When I was starting out I tried the freelance thing for a while and it wasn't very pretty. Most of the bands I found wanted to record for $15-25 an hour and I wanted to make $100 a day. It was tough to find a place to work in for $50 to $150 a day. Eventually I did find a little place in a garage with a 1/2" 16 track for $50 a day that I called home for a while.

    After a few months of buying gear to compliment what he didn't have which was lot's of 57's, one reverb and one mono compressor I realized that all I needed was a tape machine and a console and I could keep the extra $50 a day for myself. It's been a huge snowball from there.

    If I could sell my console and MCI tomorrow and make a living as a freelance engineer I would do it in a second. But I think that it's not possible right now. Too many bands look at the gear first and the engineer second. I blame the magazines for that.
     
  9. Produceher

    Produceher Guest

    Great Topic.

    I was in the middle of a conversation once with a Famous Producer and my boss (Studio Owner). My boss was teasing producer because he didn't own all this great gear that he had.

    Famous Producer laughed and said "I don't need gear. Bad producers buy gear to get clients. I get clients because I have something you don't. My Name"

    I never forgot that and I now know the importance of My Name. A&R people do not care about gear. I never see record company presidents at AES checking out new plug ins.

    Never forget "Make Them Pay For You"

    And let the inept producers buy and maintain all that gear. :D
     
  10. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    Hmmm it would be a pity if EVERY post on this thread here turned out to be a "my way is the best, everyone elses' is crappy" post.

    Survival IS favorite!

    Lets keep it positive!

    There is no 'one right way' for an engineer to behave or direct his carrear path.

    :)
     
  11. dave-G

    dave-G Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2001
    Location:
    Florida
    Home Page:
    I think to a degree this is happening. For better or for worse, the proliferation of the "guy-with-DAW" studio, and the lack (disappearance) of production budgets makes the gap between the top freelancers and the audio middle-class much greater than the gap between the audio middle-class and the home studio/hobbyist. . Many freelancers who used to take their favorite gear from studio to studio in racks now are parking it at home or in a space of their own and becoming . . "studios" . . . . I think this is happening, in part because recording budgets are small, and the average self-financing client is often unable to afford both a good studio and a good freelance engineer. Thus, it seems like lots of business goes towards one of these scenaros:

    1. engineer/producer brings out-of-pocket client to his/her own price-inclusive studio..

    2. studio attracts out-of-pocket client to use price-inclusive staff engineer

    3. client with advance money and/or small-label budget makes similar decisions since they want to keep what little money they have in-hand.

    So goes the new economy ?? yeesh.

    I'm amazed when I find reluctance on the part of some of the better studios to make sweetheart rates available to freelancers who would keep things going with small-budget cllients.

    If I thought I knew the "best way" I'd probably keep it a secret :D But on a "positive"(?) note, I think that alliances between small studios can re-invent the concept of freelancing: One guy-with DAW (GWD) studio may have a great tracking space, while another GWD has a better room for monitoring and mixing. I think collaboration between GWD's offering each other complimetarty access deals can help define a new form of freelancing and will help build a more solid professional community. Spread the love, share the resources. ;)

    -dg
     
  12. Dan-O

    Dan-O Guest

    Indeed! I find that relationships of this sort enhance my ability (and theirs hopefully) to produce the best results possible. I swap gear and time when applicable, and enjoy that type of community effort. When it happens that is. Would be nice if it happened more. More often than not, I find it somewhat competitive and protectionist in practice.

    Now if I can only find a way to turn it into some real money.

    Dan-O
     
  13. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    I think with A&R depts risking less on new ventures and cutting back artist development and instead sinking the cash into a few 'sure bets' , the DAW studios that many Pros, previously freelance, have run to - are the 'hot houses' for the next generation of new emerging talent - and thank god for that!

    Clearly whatever gets done in these mini studios will eventually have to pass scrutiny by industry power weilders to get anywhere in the marketplace, but it could be said that the "project studio revolution" is where 'it is happening' at the moment. I am sure A&R dept - traditionally lazy, appreciate all the efforts made by the previously freelance and experienced! (and other newcomers but we are not discussing them here just now)

    In parallel with this 'retreat' to the back room, I believe many previously freelance producer engineers are boning up on 'swinging deals' as opposed to the strict 'gun for hire' system of old.

    With ever closing big & mid level studios the evolved freelancer - project studio is more and more CARRYING THE RECORDING BUSINESS ACROSS TROUBLED WATERS!

    - So don't knock it! :)

    As for the straight engineer with no production
    skills / experience or , I imagine they HAVE taken a fairly heavy hit... The transition from Neve / SSL driver to Pro Tools Jockey might not suit many of them I dont know, perhaps we can hear from some of them here.

    Rave on...

    :)
     
  14. damster

    damster Guest

    If you are the right man for the job I am almost certain one could make a perminent home of a big room in a big town.Most of us won't though.I Think that owning a studio in an ideal situation for a producer or engineer would be to have a setup customized for one style of work and having a decor that would be comfortable for you to work long periods comfortably in(Like your own office or something like that).
    Going from the basement to my first commercial facility has been a challenge.Working alone downstairs was at best....a trying experience.The juggle between engineering and production/creative enhancement duties could be overwhelming.However there was little choice otherwise for me and my desire to work in this profession was what kept me going.My ENGINEER has been the most helpful addition to my team.He is the pilot of my aircraft and allows me much more freedom to apply my creative energy(Fire the guns and drop the bombs)as well as the finer technical points(mic placement,choice of mics,acoustical enviroment treatment etc.)I guess you could say my role blurs the line between producer-engineer but the working vibe feels right.My engineer is involved in all of this so as he can pick up on my knowledge and include it into his own skillsets.One day he will run the show training someone to do his current job(I'm glad he was'nt an SSL man before this gig) while I move on to legal matters and possibly sales.

    However you get the job done.......I'm sure glad you ARE!Keep sharing. :)
     
  15. danchilde

    danchilde Guest

    "...Hmmm it would be a pity if EVERY post on this thread here turned out to be a "my way is the best, everyone elses' is crappy" post..."

    Ahh c'mon Julian, be more like me. :D

    Love, D
     
  16. Irene

    Irene Guest

    This is the way it's going.. in the UK

    The transition's tricky but I like where it's heading. A lot.

    Renie
    :)
     
  17. Hollywood Steve wrote:
    This is what I love about studio owners. They are passionate about what they do. Because of this feelance engineers never need to worry about finding a good studio at a decent rate.

    Hollywood Steve went on to say:
    Funny. You just described me (over 30) and my previous studio(Trident/Studer). I finally left the business because my business partner and I had differing views on why one should own a studio. I was trying to make great sounding recordings and feed my family, he was endlessly trying to aquire more gear. He never did engineer or produce a record in the 3 years I was there. Funny, since he was the one with the audio engineering degree from a big school. I wouldn't mind that so much if he wouldn't have put his lust for more in front of my need to pay rent and buy diapers.

    Julian Standen wrote:
    There are advantages and disadvantages to both freelancing and studio ownership. We are simply discussing them. Must every emphatic statement, or antecdote like Produceher told, be accompanied by an apology or disclaimer? Freelancing works for some, and it doesn't work for others. We all know that a philosophical statement made by one person doesn't have to be 100% true for everyone.

    Julian Standen later wrote:
    I believe this to be true. I further believe that no one here has said that there was only one right way for an engineer to direct their path. Without studio ownners, where would the freelancers all work?

    dave-G said:
    I have actually started doing this with a local studio. They have PT mix plus, and a Russ Berger room with a vintage Neve. I have a 2" Otari, 1/2" 3M 2 track and a lot of outboard and mics. I am letting them use my gear in trade for some free time every month. I also help them with projects that require some extra experience or manpower. In return, I get an equal amount of studio time. I am hopeful that this arrangement will help make ends meet by allowing me to charge full studio rates and pocket all of the cash for a few days out of the month.
     
  18. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Home Page:
    Interesting thread!

    Philly is a staff engineer town. I haven't run into too many freelancers here. Many of these staff guys, myself included, have started up our own shops to:
    1. Get away from the typically low salaries offered by local facilities.
    2. Get some control over their work environment, and purchasing decisions.
    3. Have an opportunity to use the studio's natural down time to work on projects that excite us.

    I've been doing this on my own since 1989. Two new studios opened here in the last couple years that are spin offs of the main studios in town. If those studios had addressed the 3 concerns I noted above maybe they'd have fewer competitors today.

    The cost of putting together a basic studio today is so small that not having some kind of production capabilities seems odd if you're working for hire. Seems to me that you'd be turning away small budget work all the time, or sharing that tiny pie with someone else. Then there are the tax advantages of itemizing, assuming you're making money. ;)

    I think a lot of people are dreamers. I think this is a good thing. Survival for small studios has always been tough for the "music only" guys. It's even harder for the musicians I know. I don't think that's ever going to change. In todays market it may be easier than ever for talented/experienced people to succeed in the studio business.
     
  19. zboy2854

    zboy2854 Guest

    Another reason could be that a lot of producer/engineers are also musicians and/or writers, and having a studio or rig of their own allows them to not only do other projects, but work on their own stuff. I would probably fall into that category, as I am the main staff engineer at an established large studio, but also have a personal Pro Tools rig and production setup at home for my own projects and writing and producing for others.

    Ultimately, though I believe it is still is and will always be about the "indian" and not the "arrow". While pro quality gear has become cheap and ubiquitous, pro quality engineers will always be valuable and make the difference in quality recordings.
     
  20. mixfactory

    mixfactory Guest

    On a different note: Lord Alvin, what did you think of the Amek Media 51? I got a session on it coming up and I was wondering what were your impressions of it? I'm doing the Pro Tools to Amek Media 51 thing.
     

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