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Is there a niche for location recording?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by therecordingart, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    In June I have to move to a condo (because I can't afford to buy a house) and that means that the two room setup I've spent the past few years putting together is coming down.

    My plan was to get an SKB case and rack up my SCA pres, A/D converter, and get both a rackmountable interface and rackmountable firewire hard drive. Connect that to a fast laptop, and I'm in business!!! I'd take the recordings back to my place for mixdown.

    I was thinking that my main business would be the local high school choirs, orchestras, and garage bands.

    I don't record to put food on the table...I do it because I love it, and I just want to find a niche that will bring a good amount of business and still satisfy my recording wants. I wasn't planning on charging more than $25/hr once I can turn out good/repeatable results.

    I was going to dedicate my entire condo to a mixing suite so I can take on mixing projects and small acoustic jams. Maybe even pick up a V-Drum kit and BFD to record demos out of the place.

    What do you guys think? Does it sound feasible or like a waste of money?
    What do you do about monitoring (good headphones?).
  2. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    That's basically what I've got going on, except my 1-room studio setup is in my house.
    Monitoring? You need monitors. Headphones are OK for some stuff, but you really need decent monitors in a decent acoustic to do the critical stuff.

    For working with headphones, I'm liking my Future Sonics in-ears the best lately. They're slightly dark, so I check with Grado cans (kinda' bright) to make sure the top end is OK. I rely heavily on my monitors to make sure stuff is right.

    Also, I carry a little more than a rack with me when I go out.
    There are a few bits missing from this shot - like a 100' snake and a second bag for mic stands.
  3. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Very cool! What type of monitors do you bring out with you?

    I was thinking of picking up either some old DA-88's or like an Alesis HD system because I don't think I can trust a computer in the field.

    Are you using a computer?
  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I don't monitor with speakers on location - I have Event 20/20bas at home. I have some little Klipsch speakers (SB1) that I sometimes take for playback, but I wouldn't mix with them. When you asked about monitoring, I thought you meant for mixing at home.

    To monitor on location I use my Future Sonics with custom molded sleeves and wear some 31dB ear muffs over them. I don't hear nuthin' (within reason) unless it's coming through the wires. Works great for setting mic positions in front of a choir, orchestra, band, pipe organ, etc.

    The black box on the far right of the picture is my DAW. I take that and a 19" LCD screen (in a Laptop bag).

    I also have a big stack of furniture pads that will go on the road with me if I need to control acoustics or make some gobos.
  5. stickers

    stickers Active Member

    Im mobile.
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    You're in a good place Arthur, if you're going to do it right, AND if you're not nec looking to make $$ right away.

    I'd strongly suggest a tape backup like the DA-88 series in addition to the laptop. I run a Laptop with Samplitude/Sequioa, a CDr, AND a DA-x8 in the field. I can go as long as 1 yr with no problems, and then all of a sudden, something odd happens, and I'm glad I have the tape running. I'd love to retire it (and save some $$$ on the blank tapes) but it's not ready yet....soon, but not yet.

    Where are you based, btw? Your location may indeed help you, depending on the situation in your area.
  7. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Me too Me too!

    I mostly do Garage/warehouse bands. I work with one band who rehearses in this warehouse complex that has 10 other bands there. Once word got out that there was a guy who would come to their warehouse and record them, I had plenty of business for a while. Many of the bands weren't that good but that doesn't really matter. I hit a lot of the local clubs too to drum up similar business. Some of the bands are in it just for fun/experimentation and others are more serious.

    I think there's plenty of that sort of business out there if you want it. Of course, it depends somewhat on how active your local music scene is.

    I've kept my rig pretty small. I bring a laptop P4 2.8 Dell with external hard drive for audio. I have a MOTU 828 MKII which handles all the inputs I need. A bunch of mic stands, mics, some "not so impressive" preamps, cables, connectors, and a DI box or two. OH...CD burner on the laptop is important. After recording, every band member will want a rough mix.

    On location I too just use headphones for monitoring, usually md280s...although I'm gonna have to try Zemlin's idea for more isolation.

    I also use a couple gobos that I fasioned out of some office cubicle dividers. I might bring them to try and "isolate" a guitar cabinet or drumset.

    At my studio @ home I'll do vocals, keyboards, guitars (if they are direct or acoustic) and mixdowns. It's also a MIDI production studio with a bunch of synths to fill my electronic music addiction.
  8. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    So there is hope for me! Nice!

    I'm located in the suburbs of Chicago (15 min outside of the city limits). So yeah...we have a pretty boomin' local music scene right now.

    Now to start going through my gear to see what I can sacrifice to raise money for the side steps with gear.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I'd recommend getting 2 of the Alesis HD24s as they are small, lightweight and at $1300 each, quite a bargain. I wouldn't mess with a laptop. That way you can have a second 24 track recorder for the same price. Then you have real backup. All you need is 3, 1U, eight channel microphone preamplifiers, a 24 x 48 splitter and you are under way!

    Doin' it in the field
    Ms. Remy Ann David[/list]
  10. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I had three mobile systems
    ... now I have only one
    The other two were left in the houses where I last recorded with them
    the client loved the system so much they wouldn't let me take if back to the Factory.

    Talkback and Monitoring and simple patching all based around 001 and ADA8000 or Ai3's ... depending on requirements ... synth's vers mic's
    I leave a couple of my DIY mic-pres and they start recording using the methods I taught during the first record sessions.

    Then the tracks are taken to a Pro studio for mixing and the addition of plugs and or outboard.

    I find this the most efficient use of resources ... particularly money.
    Money is only spent on the songs that warrant it.
  11. Gilliland

    Gilliland Guest

    Do you multitrack and do a separate mixdown, or do you record directly to stereo? And how much are you able to charge for a live recording to a local band?
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    if you're going to be doing a lot of live recording, esp "Long-form" tracking and stuff (concerts, sessions, etc.) you'll be accumulating a lot of data in a hurry.

    That's going to mean storage issues, and plenty of time to get that stuff backed up and put into something easily workable. It sounds like no big deal NOW, but let me assure you that over time, TIME will be one of your biggest issues, should things get busy for you. (ANd it's likely they will, if you're good at what you do.)

    Direct-to-disc - Tracking with a laptop to HD (assuming you've gotten yourself a good, bullet-proof system going) is going to save you a LOT of time when going to post/overdub/mixdown back at the studio. Otherwise, you'll have to pay someone or yourself to sit around and do tape-to-HD transfers. (Trust me, it gets old, realllllll fast. You'll be screaming inside over the time being spent to do something twice....the original recording, and then the transfer.....all while you COULD have been doing something more productive with your system.)

    Meanwhile, your tape backups are just that: backups in case of disaster. Same with the CDrs. They will save your butt someday, but in the meantime, your Laptop and HD system will be the mainstay of your system, and it will save you money, time and space over the long haul.

    I LOVE going out on a remote, capturing the event onto HD, CDr and tape backup, and then going (Sometimes later that same night) back into the studio with my FW drive, hooking it up to my main system, and jumping right into the project with my studio DAW. For fast turn-around times, like concerts and time-critical things, you simply can't beat it.

    Once a regular/repeating client has filled up a 120 or 200 gig HD, I label it, put it on their shelf or in our warehouse, and then start fresh with a new drive. For about a dollar a gig nowadays (or less), it's gotten very cost effective to do this yourself, and not even bother the client about the cost of media; unless they want to buy-out the project someday. (Keeping their stuff archived for them has it's benefits as well; they always come back for something, sooner or later.....)

    I've done entire productions on a Friday night with full multitrack recording straight to HD, and turned it around for a Sunday afternoon b'cast on the radio. I'd never have been able to turn something like that around with analog tape transfers; the time alone spent copying & editing would have killed me.

    Several of my clients are considering the newest trend: Live CDs for folks as they leave the concert. We're planning at least one event in the near future where they will pre-sell a limited number of recordings of the first half of the concert, to be given out (packaged and even shrink-wrapped) at the door on the way out. Clearly, we'll need to have our ducks in a row on this one, but it can be done with the right preplanning and HD system.

    With direct-to-disc, you'll be faster, more responsive and best of all, cost-effective enough to challenge your competition.

    At least that's how it is for us. :cool:
  13. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    I record pretty much everything individually. Never really did any straight to stereo stuff. Since it's so easy, I just give each instrument it's own track. Hard drives are cheap, my interface can handle it, so why not. If they are just looking for a quick CD, I'll mix it down pretty much as is, maybe with few adjustments, to stereo and burn it. But I'll let them know that I've got a multi-track recording and if they want some studio time to really get a good mix, it's available. Some of the better bands will go for this which means more money in my pocket.

    I've only done a couple of live show recordings and those were free. More of a trade off where I said I'd record the band and give them a copy of their performance...if they let me do it. It was more of a learning/training process for me.

    As for what I charge I kind of gauge it band by band/project by project. Minimum is 25 bucks an hour which includes a quick mix CD. Some bands will have a full 45 minute set they'll play through and others will have a song or two and want to do overdubs and stuff.
  14. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    I LOVE this idea. This is huge! Talk about increased merch sales...this would be huge. If people can buy a CD from their favorite band from a show that they were at? And have it signed by the band? One could make billions!!!

    Time to find a durable CD duplicator.
  15. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    You are in a similar situation as I was faced with recently. Had to move out of the rental, couldn't afford to buy a house, couldn't afford to rent a house without picking up a roommate that I may not know/trust. For some reason, I loathe the idea of hauling my gear to the smelly local bars to record; and most of the recitals I can think of are at universities with their own recording departments. So.....I decided to buy a house (hopefully it passes the bank's appraisal/inspection). :lol:
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Always good advice on this forum.

    My only caveat would be to do a good business plan first and lots of thinking about what you want to do. I can relate a couple of stories,

    We got underbidded recently for recording a local "Not for Profit" client that we had been doing since the early 1970s. The person doing the recording was $25.00 cheaper. Well he lasted about one year and went under and took all the archives he had recorded with him when he folded. He was trying to do it all, recording, mastering, duplication, graphic design and web site design and hosting and he was low balling it all in hopes that someone would take him up on providing it all. No one bit so he folded and we got back the job.

    Recently we got a client that demanded we purchase a lot of equipment that we did not have. I had him sign a contract with us to provide recording for at least three years so we could pay off the equipment. So far he has stuck to his word and we paid off all the equipment the first year - so we are in the clear.

    There are one or two really nice live on location recorders around here. They offer good services at reasonable prices. There are also a couple of really bad on location recorders that offer lousy quality at not so cheap prices. One of these places underbid us for a recording. We normally bring about $6 to 10 thousand dollars worth of equipment and 35 years of experience to the recording gig. This guy showed up with two SM58 microphones a pair of Shure mixers (should be called while noise generators) a DAT deck that was a consumer deck and a pair of RAT SHACK headphones. He charged the group 200 dollars for the recording and $15.00 for each CD and they had to agree to purchase so many CDs at this price. This was worse than a joke because the people got screwed and this was a once in a lifetime concert.

    One more story.

    We are doing multiple recording sessions for a musician client. He had a concert at a local college where they will be playing all of his music. I call up the college and ask if we can help or do the recording. The person who is in charge says no we have a perfectly good recording department here and we will not need your services. I went to the concert at the behest of the musician and it was a very nice concert. Then I heard the recording and it sounded like it was recorded on a RAT SHACK microphone hung in the middle of the hall. The musician was upset at the quality of the recording but could do nothing about it.

    If you are going to go into the business make sure you are prepared both with the best equipment and with a good set of ears and a lot of business savvy since this seems to be a place were lots of people that really don't know what they are doing are working.

  17. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    There's an outfit here in Indy that sells low-ball recording services. $25 for setup and no charge with a minimum CD purchase. Hell, it takes me 2+ hours to setup for a live choral recording, and that's if I don't have to fly the mics.

    My daughter sang at a concert that was recorded by these jokers - it was at a small, to-die-for concert hall here in town. I'd (almost) kill to record a decent choir in that space.

    We bought one of the CDs to:
    A) have one, since our kid was singing
    B) feel out the competition

    There are a bunch of mics hanging in that hall - I don't know what they recorded with, but the end result was total crap. Folks like that give small recording shops a bad name.

    Regarding the bit about recording a concert and having live CDs available for purchase after the show - that's no small undertaking!!! I think you'd need several fire-breathing DAW setups - each one driven by a hot-shot engineer - and all the engineers would have to be able to mix to get a comparable sound without having time to reference what the others are doing. Just the time involved in calculating a mixdown, chopping up for tracks, editing out breaks, etc. - you'd have to be damn fast and damn efficient to pull that off with any sort of quality.

    Even if you have enough outboard compression and other effects to run a separate mix for the recording and record only a stereo track - even a minimal about of prep work before burning CDs would be tough to pull off without having folks waiting around for an hour after the show to get their CDs.

    The last few live CDs I've done have turned around in about 6 months. That's a schedule I can work to.
  18. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Surely you jest? I would have people all over me for their stuff if I took that long, even with multitracking/overdubbing, test mixes, etc.
  19. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    If I needed to turn them around quicker, I could. That's just how these have worked out. The clients haven't been in a hurry, and this is just an after-hours gig for me.

    The most recent one took 6 months because it took the band 5 months to decide they wanted to finish the project. :-?
  20. Gilliland

    Gilliland Guest

    I like to work at that pace as well, when time permits. I'm often amazed at how much better I can make a mix sound if I'm able to walk away from it for a few weeks, then listen with fresh ears.

    Fortunately, with the kind of recording work that I do, I get to set my own schedules. Unfortunately, I don't make any money. I do live concert recordings for my own radio station and several other non-commercial stations here. I put a lot of work into making them sound great, but it's a labor of love, not profit. (I do occasionally earn a small honorarium.) I get paid in accolades, respect, prestige, and the fun of getting to work with some incredible and renowned musicians. But no money to speak of.

    I often tinker with the idea of trying to turn it into a business, but I usually conclude that I'd wind up enjoying less - perhaps a LOT less. Maybe once I retire from my day job....

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