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Is this fair for my time and my business?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by BigTrey, Mar 19, 2006.

  1. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Hey RO'ers, I need some perspective on this. About a year ago I started my own small indie label (Battleground Recordz) and have been in the process of acquiring artists that are dedicated and serious about their craft. I specialize in hip-hop and R&B. When I first started I decided to give away free studio time in order to get local artists to work with me and my label, but over the past year I have noticed that most of the guys come through the studio "when they feel like it", and I get the feeling that they really don't want to work with my label on a professional level, but just to get some free studio time, and look out for themselves. In response to that I have decided to implement fees for my time, because I have dedicated myself to getting this label started. I have implemented a fee of $20 per song (includes recording and mixing w/three hour maximum), with additional fees of $15 per beat that I have produced in my studio. I have also implemented a fee of $150 per album that any artist wants me to produce for them. I realize that these prices are extremely low, but we all have to start somewhere, right? I want to know from you all if these prices are fair for a small time operation such as mine. I wanted to start to set prices for my time in order to weed out those who are dedicated to their music from those who just want to get something for nothing. Is this a good way to go about this? My logic is simple: Those who just want free time will eventually stop coming to my studio and wasting my time because I have begun to charge fees for the tracks that they want to record. I set the prices per song/beat because I understand that most of the artists cannot afford to pay an hourly rate, but they might be more able to pay on a per song basis. Some of the people that I work with ask me about when am I going to offer them a contract, and I haven't offered them one because I don't feel as though they are serious and have the dedication to get the finished product completed, and as a person in business I don't want to invest in artists whom I don't think will allow me to recoup my investment. I spend 365 days in the studio trying to perfect my craft and get better at it and I expect the people that I work with to have the same, if not more, dedication. Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    BigTrey~CEO/Battleground Recordz
  2. jonnyc

    jonnyc Member

    That isn't bad at all, I'd actually say make your rates higher. I've only been recording a year and a half and get anywhere from $100 to $175 per song and plenty of people have been willing to pay it so far. If you want to do the label thing and people wanna come in you can still do that but you have to have some restrictions. For example if a "prospect" is coming over tell him to have an original song ready to perform live for you. If they suck tell them no thanks, I mean you're the boss right? If they're good whip out a contract that you had a lawyer draw up and sign them. Just make sure you work it out to where you still get paid. Also go out and scout for people. I go to concert 2 and 3 times a week and find bands to pitch my services to and you'd be surprised how many are actually looking for a place to record. Sounds like you're dedicated to doing this so by all means try like hell to do it just cover your own ass.
  3. backinthelab

    backinthelab Guest

    Yes, I agree, you could and should charge more. I was in pretty much the exact same spot as you, now I really don't have the urge to work with the whole hip-hop crowd (tracking live instruments is much more fun anyways!).

    I understand your aim of trying to attract those that can't afford beats. There are a couple problems with this, though. One, if you're too cheap, the perception you give off to others my make them think that's what kind of recording they'll get. Two, bringing clients in for that price will not yield a very professional clientelle. Someone coming in at that price may not be familiar with the recording atmosphere and it most likely will induce take after take after take, which can get frustrating to you and the artist. Serious artists may be hard to come by. Lastly, you're not going to make much money, which you may or may not care about.
  4. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Jonnyc & Backinthelab,

    Thanks for the response guys, that's a good idea, I think that I will charge more for my services, because that's what it is a service. Based on what you all are telling me I think that I will up my fee to $75 to $100 per song and start scouting for bands that are looking for a studio to record in. Although I have a very modest PT setup I have learned to use it to make a professional sounding track, or at least to get it mixed down real well so that a person can take it to get it mastered. I've worked real hard to get the experience that I need to be a competent recording and mixing engineer (and I still am learning new things everyday. Thanks for the advice and I will definitely raise my rates as of today, I think that it's only fair for my time, my business and myself. What is y'alls fee for doing an album for someone? or do you just keep your rate on a per song basis? Do you have any discounted prices or package type deals? just curious. Thanks for the perspective fellas.

    BigTrey~CEO/Battleground Recordz
  5. _Mikael

    _Mikael Active Member


    Sounds like you have a good thing going on there in old GR. I lived in the area for a long time, doing a very similar thing to what you're doing.

    Keep this in mind: the vast majority of musicians are lazy by nature. Many are wanting something for nothing. As a label, it's in your best interest to find folks with talent AND the drive. Releasing a successful record is always a team effort, requiring excellent communication and 100% dedication from all parties involved. If a record tanks, who does the artist blame? Not his pot dealer!

    That being said, don't sell yourself short on the studio end of things, either. You know you're good at what you do, so make sure you're charging accordingly. You can always negotiate...just make sure you leave yourself some headroom! There's nothing wrong with getting paid for providing a service.

    Personally, I charge by the hour or by the day/session so as to maximize the return on my time investment, and while I don't "discount", I definitely will negotiate. Fortunately, I now live in a market that supports such a practice. If the artist is serious about putting out serious product, they will have no problem with paying appropriately.

    In fact, if you're releasing these records, you could contractually arrange for recoupment of time and materials through unit sales. This is usually attractive from the artists' point of view, because not only do they pay little or nothing up front, but the responsibility falls back on the label to actually push the record properly in order to sell more. This way, the label is forced to figure out how many units need to sell in order to break even.

    This all boils down to getting everything in writing. If a contract scares off potential clients and artists, I believe you're better off letting them work with the guy across town, or making their own records. Don't be afraid to be choosy as hell!

    Strictly speaking from a label's point of view, there's no shortage of "artists". Artists worth your time and money might be little harder to come by -- but they're almost always worth it once you find them. Everyone benefits from a good professional relationship.

    Good luck!
  6. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member


    This is true, I tell my wife this all the time and she seems to agree. It seems as though the guys I work with want "something for nothing". I spend a lot of time outside of the studio pitching my services just to find the artists that are dedicated to doing what they do, which is making good music. Yes good artists are hard to come by and I have ran into a few who are good but at the same time they are lazy when it comes to getting the work done in the studio. All of them seem to think that the only part of making music is coming into the studio and laying vocals to the track and that's it. But I can't seem to impress upon them the fact that there is so much more to it than that. You say that you lived here in the GR area for many years, did you have the problem of local people not showing any love to artists in this area? I seem to hear from a lot of people that many don't embrace local talent around here. Because of the way things are going I thought about closing shop, but I can't seem to let go of something that I have invested so much time and money into. Looks like I'll be pulling out a lot of contracts from now on and get to the point where I am choosy as hell as to who I want to work with from a label standpoint. There is a lot of talent in this area and it's my job to go out there and find it. Thanks for the advice and the encouragement.

    BigTrey~CEO/Battleground Recordz
  7. _Mikael

    _Mikael Active Member


    I moved for that very reason: no audience, no "scene". While I'm more of a rock guy, I actually played several shows with some r&b and hip hop artists (at the old Intersection). Regardless of the bill though, we were always hard pressed to get more than 30 people through the door despite heavy flyering and radio promo. As a result, fewer venues are willing to support the local scene, because after all, they're losing money by not having a DJ spinning top 40.

    Myself and many others tried for nearly a decade to create a music community in West Michigan, but no matter how hard we tried, no matter how good the talent, we saw a pathetic amount of support from the so-called "west michigan arts community". As I type this, there are only two bars in the entire area that have regular local rock shows, and even then the acts are cookie-cutter clones of the top 40 flavor of the day. So, you're not alone in your feelings about the area!

    I made the difficult decision to leave for greener pastures, but I sincerely hope you find success in that area! Like I said, talent grows everywhere...
  8. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member


    At least I am not alone in my thoughts about the way the local community shows their support for people who are trying to make something out of themselves. The intersection is still rocking, I was just there a few weeks ago. I'm dumbfounded that to be the second largest city in Michigan there is no venues for local artists to get their music heard. The old Wealthy street theatre does some hip-hop events about once a month, but that's basically it. I'm originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana and we have more love for local artists there than they do here. But that won't stop me from doing what I am trying to do, which is to put out a hip-hop group that can go mainstream from this area, something that hasn't happened in GR before. Thanks for the advice and perspective about the local scene here. Much Love.

    BigTrey~CEO/Battleground Recordz

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