Do you charge for "doing homework"?

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by zemlin, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I have what sounds like a choral concert (live) recording later this spring. It is at a venue I've never recorded in before. They have a number of mics hanging about the place - don't know the details, but I recall seeing a jecklin disk and a decca tree and at least one conicident pair.

    Before the recording I need to get in the joint and scope it out - decide where I can setup, if any of the existing mics are worth using (if they'll let me plug them into my gear) ... etc.

    If this was your gig, would you charge for the time spent on-site before the job getting the details in order? It seems reasonable to me - if it were my day job we sure-as-hell would - but that's a different market.
  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Usually try to fit it in the cost... In the end, though, even if they can't pay me for it, if I have to do a site survey, I do it. Better to know and be prepared so you don't look like a moron than not do it because of money and look bad at the gig.

  3. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest

    I agree with Ben's comment. Being prepared is key, paid or not.

  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Doing it was not the question - I'm not going into this one cold - it's just whether or not it's a line item on the invoice. I can always pad the production time if I want to get my time back without invoicing specifically for the investigative trip.
  5. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    My basic principle, whether a new customer or hall/or a returning customer in a hall I know very well, I always meet with said person for an hour at the venue a few days before the session (if for a record session always with the producer). This for deciding on what strategies to use at the session, which order to record the music etc, and not least for me to scout the premises. I always add this time with that I specify as “Rigging time” on my invoice. If the customer by any chance asks for a complete hour by hour specification (Which has never happened) I’d still specify it as “rigging time” – because that is what it is to me..

    For recording a Record I always tell the customer that besides the hourly rate there will a charge for 4h setup at the beginning of the session, 2h for tearing down when we’re done and half an hour before starting sessions every new day (given that I can keep my stuff in place!). I also tell them to set aside the first hour setting the sound.

    For recording concerts I usually quote 3 hours + dress rehearsal + 1 hour + the concert/concerts + 2 hours “tearing down” time.

    As a short answer to your question; for me, scouting is a part of setting up, hence falls under that line on the invoice!

  6. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Scouting is HAVE to know how many feet of power cabling, where you are gonna sit, how many miles of mic cables, best spot in the rooms to set up mic stands, where the bathrooms are, where the HVAC vents are in relation to where you are gonna be, etc...

    I usually don't charge for this directly, but it is factored in to the final costs.
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I doubt that the hall will allow you to use their microphones especially if it is a union hall. Best to ask FAR in advance. The standard answer when confronted with this question when I worked for a college was "why do you want to use our microphones?" "If you are doing the recording for pay and you want to use our Neumann, AKG or B&K microphones hung in the hall there is an additional fee and we assume no responsiblity for the recording quality or technical problems you encounter" This was put into place AFTER we had an outside person come in and wanted to use our microphones so I patched them into a mult box for his use and went to do some other work. Later he came down to my office and started screaming that our microphones were all dead and he could not get any sound out of them and it had ruined his recording session and he was out of time and could not reschedule the session and was going to sue for damages and loss of income due to our microphones not working. I asked him if he had "turned on his Phantom Power" to which he replied "what is that" and right there I knew this person did not know what he was doing and why he wanted to use our microphones was because he did not know anything and assumed that if he use the best microphones he would get a GREAT recording. He went to see the dean but got no where. So we put in a policy of charging and not taking responsibility for the outcome of the recording.

    With the vast number of people coming into a hall with unknown equipment and unknown phantom power supplies I would think that most halls would not let you use their equipment or at the very least they would assign their audio engineer to your gig for a fee or do the amplification and powering of the microphones and send you a line level, transformer protected signal.

    Best of luck on your sessions.

  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Putting it as a line item in my invoice would fly like lead balloons with about 95% of my clients... For me, all concerts are package deals and sessions get charged daily (with hourly for editing/mixing/mastering). The cost of my checking out the room gets factored in to all of that...

  9. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    which is what I would expect - but it won't hurt to ask.
  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    As everyone else here says, I think it's important to do a scope out. Maybe I'm into making money a different way, but I don't charge for a scoping session. I consider this basic consultation and is something that I include in all my packages. Just as if I were going to a car dealer to buy a car, I wouldn't expect the salesman to say - "okay, here's the final price and payment for your car, but there's an additional charge of $75 for the test drive..."

    I do charge for set-up and take down (1 hour for each is included in my fee - any additional is billed incrementally) and if there is anything extraordinary that I need to do, I will let the customer know in advance that I will need to bill additional time for it. I always tell the customer in advance what I will need to bill, that way there is never a surprise when the invoice is presented.

    FWIW, I bill 1 hour of set-up time prior to the concert, and rarely do I ever charge additional despite the fact that I'm there and working a few hours before the concert. The truth is, I can set up and be ready to record within an hour. Everything beyond that is my choice and therefore, I don't hold the customer responsible for that. However, as I mentioned above, if I'm required to go above and beyond, I will let them know that it will take more time and therefore cost more money.

    I'm with Tom too, I don't know that I would want to use their mics. First, you're making a big assumption that they even work correctly and that they are placed well. Second, if anything happens to those mics within a week after you using them, they will blame you whether it's your fault or not. (I know this from personal experience as I was recently suspected of causing almost $100,000 of fire-damage to a lighting system simply because I asked the stage manager to turn it off a week before the fire happened.)

    Now, one thing that I do charge for is excessive editing or "fixing." Though basic editing/mastering is also included in my rather affordable packages - excessive noise reduction, cuts/pastes, etc is billed at $75/hour. Of course, I find that it is of utmost importance to be honest with this time-charging. If I could have completed the work in 1 hour, but I was going slow or being a little lazy and it took 2, I will only bill for 1.

  11. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't assume - I'd test and compare to what I was able to setup.

    There's no way in heck I could be hauled in, setup, taped down, and ready to go in 60 minutes. The times I quote are more in line with PRT - although I can be setup in 2 hours, that's working my tail off and no margin for error.

    At this point I charge $30/hr. I'll raise my rates when I have the material to prove I'm worth more than that. I operate on a principle similar to yours - I charge the client for "quality time". A project I'm working on now has been very troublesome for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with the client or the material - while I have probably 30 hours into it (I stopped tracking) I'm only billing for 10 - I should have been able to do the work in that amount of time.
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Seems like there's a consensus here: Most of the time, one can't charge for a look-see, at least if it goes towards knowing what you're doing the day of the event, and what gear you'll need. (The cost of doing business, eh?)

    And of course, once you've done the gig and know the place well, it goes onto your list of "We know the hall" bragging rights. If all goes well, you get to meet and (hopefully) make friends with the house crew. (I said HOPEFULLY, remember! ;-) They may even recommend you someday for similar work.

    I had to do the same thing a few weeks ago in Trenton NJ (about 1/2 hr from here in Phila.) and the time was well worth it. Turns out the two house sound guys are Samplitude users, as well, so we bonded almost immediately after they asked what I will record & edit with...hehehe. I didn't charge for the scope-out session, but the time was well worth it.

    Of course, every situation is different, and if the client is really beating you up about what's necessary to make the gig happen, you may have to add a few things. But for me, I either eat it and smile, or work it somehow into my costs in the long run. (Yeah, that's what I keep telling myself...It all works out in the end! :cool: )
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well, I guess assumption is the mother of all F**k ups. But still, I wouldn't use them - just too much to go wrong. I guess I'm cynical and don't trust anyone.

    I used to have problems getting set up in less than an hour, but I started doing things that make me much more streamlined. First, I use a big-ass cart to get my stuff in and out. I also strategically load my truck so that loading up the cart takes me no more than 5 minutes. Then, I carry all the stuff in within one trip and unload. I take the cart to the front of the stage and drop of my mics, large stands, and cables. Then I take the cart to where I'll set up and unload everything else.

    I then have a procedure which I use everytime. I set the mics on the stands and affix the cables - making sure if I'm using a stereo bar, that I can easily tell which is right and left without having to do back-end investigating through solos and headphones. I then run all of my cables to the center position (directly under the main/center mic stand). At this point, I use a custom snake to take all the mic channels back in one cable run. It makes it A LOT quicker and much easier to tape everything down. This whole process takes maybe 10 minutes.

    Then, I patch my gear (some of which I keep permanently patched. - For example, my Pre's are always patched into my A/D box and all of the power is already hooked up - I just need to plug the UPS in) Patching of the gear takes about 5 minutes.

    Then, I get the computer out and fire it up - about 10 minutes. The remaining time is spent checking levels and channel activity and then some housekeeping such as labeling mixer channels/channel assignments within the software and creating a log file.

    Of course, I prefer more time to set up, but usually, an hour is all I need.

    Just out of curiosity, what is PRT? (Probably something I should know, but is skipping my brain right now...)

  14. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    a typo - should have been "ptr" - username about 4 replies down from the top of this thread.
  15. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    ptr is me,

    to amend my previous post, I usualy only include basic editing when recording live concerts. For record sessions I am fortunate that both the recording producers I work with the most, are also "virtuosic" Sequoia editors so I leave most if not all of the editing to them.

    I also differentiate what I charge depending on the type of job it is, the bulk of what I recorded used to be students and I've always tried to cut such clients lots of slack, but always letting them know just that. That when it becomes professional, the price goes up. 85% of the work I do are returning clients.

    I never use inhouse equipment, mostly because of the reason already stated here; You never know in what condition it is and no matter what fancy label it is, it will always be more time consuming to check it's reliability then using your own stuff.

  16. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I'll be recording a choral CD later in the year. I'll charge 600 euro (approx $780) per day, plus hire of mics etc. However, due to certain problems with the venue, I will be attending and recording rehearsals, but I won't charge for that, and I anticipate a huge amount of post-production work I won't charge for, unless I'm asked to do something time-consuming that I think I shouldn't have to do. Technical difficulties are my problem, so that doesn't come into it.

    Another project will need overdubs, and in this case it will lead to lots of logistical headaches, test recordings and meetings. I won't charge for these, but I'll probably charge more per day during the recording sessions because I'll have to deal with co-ordinating a lot of equipment that I wouldn't normally as part of my normal duties.

    Thankfully they like my work to date, and are offering me the big gigs :D

    The fun part is that I'll have any mics I want, but I'll hire these out of my own pocket for some of the rehearsals. The reasoning here is that I don't think they should have to pay for me to try out these mics, as they are entitled to expect that my choice of mics is based on my level of expertise. I will be recording some organ recitals free of charge so I can get a better feel for the venue -the only problem is that the organ in this place isn't the best.

  17. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Depending on the "gig" we normally don't charge for a "look see or walkabout" at the place we are going to record UNLESS it is a considerable distance from our studio in which case I will charge for mileage and my time since the drive time is very non productive. For halls we know well a simple walk though is unusually sufficient. For hall we do NOT know I have a check sheet that I made up early in my career that I go though with the client and the hall people. Things like what kind of power is available, are their grounded outlets, what type of dimming is used in the hall ( a good trick is to take a small AM radio along, de tune it and have the house and or stage brought to 1/2 and then walk around to see if you are picking up AC hash from the dimmers) Things like emergency phone numbers, cell phone numbers, fire codes and where the bathroom are round out the check list. I also want to know what time we can get into the hall and what, if anything, is following our gig. I also want to make sure that the people that we are talking to are going to be the same ones that will be at the concert since there seems to be a lot of miscommunications between the supervisors and the workers around here. If it is a union hall I also want to make sure the sponsor is covering the cost of having a union worker "shadow" me because this can be a considerable cost.

    Most walk abouts are simple affairs and are easy to do so we do them for our own uses (so we don't charge for them) just to make sure we are not caught off guard by something that we did not foresee. One problem we run into is concerts that are sold out or have assigned seating. If we put up a couple of microphone stands in front of someone's line of view we may make them somewhat upset. In one concert we did recently a patron took our microphone and moved it four feet from where we had set it up so he could see better. Of course this is NOT GOOD and we had to have the management involved with getting the microphone back to it's rightful place. When we set up we surround the microphone with some yellow cord so that people will not sit near the microphones but in a sold out house sometimes people just pick up the yellow cord and sit there anyways. This can lead to having the microphone stand bumped and in one case the patron moved the stand in so doing caused it to topple over bouncing our microphone to the floor. This is also NOT GOOD. We try to foresee all the problems that can or may happen but , of course, things never seem to go the way you planned them.

    The gigs that seem to go better are the ones that everyone has participated in the planning of BEFORE the concert. We recently did a gig in a church. There were the people that we normally work with and a guest choir. We knew everything that was going to happen from our side and from the group we normally work with as we had a good walk through and talked out all the problems. What we did not know was what the "guest" choir was all about. I tried to call their director on numerous occasions, he never returned my phone calls. I tried to get him to attend the walk through but again he never returned my phone calls nor did he show up at the scheduled time with the director of our choir. When the concert finally happened he showed up, late, with about 40 high school students and basically took over the concert. He started issuing orders, decided that he and his group were going to process down the main aisle of the church (where our microphone stand was) decided that he did not like the arrangement of the risers, was not happy with the public address system in the church, and basically changed around EVERYTHING that had already been decided upon and setup. Then he started giving the choir director, that we work with, grief over the pre concert snacks that were provided (for free) decided that he did NOT want his part of the concert recorded, ask that we not record the massed choirs at the end and basically made an A$$ of himself. To top it all off his rehearsal went right up until the concert with people starting to walk into the church and he turned around and told them to "keep quiet" Needless to say he will not be invited back to any concerts very soon. The whole thing was a disaster and our choir director was NOT AMUSED.

  18. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I've seen term 'union hall' here several times. What does this mean?

  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    A "union hall" is one that is controlled by IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada). You can read more about them here

    Union Halls are halls that are controlled by the union and "outsiders" like myself and others on this list can work there but with a lot of restrictions. When I record the Cleveland Opera the hall that they use is located in Downtown Cleveland and is controlled by the Cleveland IATSE Local #27. I can work there doing the recording but I have to have a "shadow" IATSE employee who is paid to help me. Many times this person knows nothing about audio and his or her main work maybe Props or Moving Crew but since I am there I have to have him as I am "replacing" one of their own that "could" be doing the job. I am allowed to handle my own equipment but I have to have the IATSE employee handle my microphones and the cable(s). I can do the mixing but I have to have permission to be on the stage and cannot touch the microphones, the stands or the cables while I am there. The person who is helping me usually is very nice and a willing worker but knows little of what he is being asked to do. They follow instructions well and in most cases are very helpful. They do not stay with me during the show and go to a "ready room" in case they are needed. Depending on who is in charge of the IATSE crew the problems can be few or many. IASTE employees are most times very professional and as long as you know the ground rules things can go very smoothly.

    I did a gig in New York with the college choir and there were so many unions involved it made no sense. There were the people who drove the bus from the street to the loading dock, then the people that took the equipment from the bus and put it on the loading dock, then the people who took the equipment from the loading dock and moved it on stage, then the people who set up the equipment. Each was from a separate union and each had separate charges that had to be paid for their portion of the work. The whole thing was repeated when we left. I believe that just for the union workers the bill was well over $2,000.00 for about 20 minutes of work. Again they were all very professional and each knew exactly what they had to do and how far they could go into each others "turf" The guy who drove the bus from the street into the loading dock was AMAZING he maneuvered what could be considered a WHALE in a kids wading pond and did it with literally inches to spare and never even broke into a sweat.

    Hope this answers your question.
  20. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The degree to which the recordist (us) is allowed to operate normally varies qutie a bit.

    Here all the theaters in which I record are union, but you'd never know it by watching what happens. I handle all gear, adjust all mics, run all cabling. They are there because they are paid to be there. One of the guys is the sound guy and we work amacably, with him often taking splits off my micpres (thank you Truse Systems and Isoblock!).

    After i have packed up they even help carry gear to my vehicle!


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