Let's talk...security.

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by mixandmaster, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Any tips? Any stories? We've all got lots of money just sitting around waiting to show up in a pawn shop/ebay/wherever. Not to mention the personal security issues. I admit to always being a little nervous around new clients.

    The first studio I ever worked at, the owner never went ANYWHERE without this big, mean-ass german shepherd. And the dog wouldn't let anyone (and I worked there for over a year) within like 20 feet of the guy. It was probably the only place where I've worked where there hasn't been any funny stuff.

    Then there was the one place where we would basically hire muscle when there was a lot of microphones set up. Just to "get coffee". 8)
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    My NRA Life Member certificate is on the wall to my right... :shock:
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Security is something you have to deal with EVERYDAY. One problem is that most studios today are staffed by a single person and lots of sessions go late at night. You want to be safe and have a safe area for your clients. This means you have to have a security system with a panic button (sometimes known as a "silent alarm") in case things get out of hand. You also have to be careful about certain client actions. I am always careful when a client, I do not know, books a late night session on a weekend. I am also careful when someone wants to come over and "look around" since that maybe a harmless request or it maybe a shopping trip to see what is available. I also limit the number of people who can attend a session. I don't want to be outnumbered 6 to 1 even with the panic button (it pays to keep on good terms with the local police department since they will be, hopefully, quickly responding to the silent alarm and make sure you don't have a lot of false triggers or they will assume this is just another one.)

    I typically want to know more about a client before they walk in the door so I ask where they recorded their stuff and if I can have the phone number of the studio (if they did not do it in their basement). I give the studio a call and ask how the performer(s) were to work with. I also don't schedule last minute clients late at night and ask them to stop by during the day for a discussion when I have my interns around. I don't have any weapons around and find that in most cases that you read about the weapon gets used on the person who is trying to protect their property plus there are liability issues that preclude me having a weapon.

    I once had a group of teenagers come into do a session. They arrived drunk and stoned. They kept going out to their car and getting more and more drunk and more and more stoned. They became belligerent and started scuffling with themselves and almost knocked over a chair. I though it time to stop the proceedings and get them out of the studio. So I asked them to leave and come back when they were sober. They politely left but their were three of them and one of me so I am not sure what I would have done if they said NO. I got the cars license plate and their addresses and phone numbers in case their was some follow up. I did not want to see them drive away drunk BUT at that point I was concerned with my own safety and that of my equipment. They came back later without the alcohol and drugs and we got a very good product out of the session. Another time I got a client with his buddy coming in to do a session. The "artist" was GREAT and we were getting a lot done. Then he decided to go to his car and do a "couple of lines" and came back to the session out of it. We tried to continue but were unable to since he was in a very combatant mood and challenged everything I did including turning up the volume control.

    I have friends that have been ripped off and have lost everything from a new microphone to mic clips to microphone cords. They were in the control room and the band's "hangers on" were in the studio when the microphone disappeared. The band paid for the replacement but it could have turned out differently. I also know of studios around here that were completely ripped off and when the owners came in on Monday morning there was nothing in their studio except some dust. Vigilance is the key to preventing theft and having all your equipment insured can be a welcomed thing if you are ripped off. Make sure you have business insurance and are not relying on your homeowners especially if you are using the studio for profit making ventures since most homeowners policies will not cover equipment used in a business. Best to check with your insurance agent if in doubt. A good security system is a must and a panic button hidden on your person or under the console is good insurance if things do go wrong. Keep late night sessions to a minimum and try and not book new clients for evening sessions without finding out more about them. Also if the band has a lot of "hangers on" try and keep them in an area that does not have a lot of "pocket sized" items in it and try and keep them and the band in the same room if at all possible. If in doubt hire an extra person for the session as a security measure with the understanding that their main function will be to "watch" the equipment.

    Best of luck!
  4. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Yeah, the alone thing is the what sucks about branching off on my own. It's been almost a year, and so far so good.

    The other thing that's taken a while to get used to is that as I've shifted from doing full production on CDs to just the mastering, I work with WAY more people, but know them WAY less. When you work from start to end on a project, you obviously know the artist very well by the end. With mastering, it's "hi, my name's Chris", work work work. "thank you, come again." And then I hear the clients outside arguing with somebody about money on their cell phone...well...makes me wonder.

    I think I'm just kind of struggling with the adjustment was the point of this post...I just kind of always feel on edge. I've actually thought about taking my boxer with me. But then he wouldn't be protecting the family.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I'm in agreement with most of what's already been said; I just posted a short tale about a lost/missing/Stolen AKG 422 mic over on the Acoustic music forum (under the "Oktava mics" thread) and it's very similar, whether it's in a studio or out on location.

    I was working in a commercial studio years ago (late 80's) when rap was in its infancy. A client's hanger-on stole a B&K 4006 mic (just one - there were two sitting there) and it was eventually recovered via the insurance co. due to its cost and serial number. It was pretty funny, too, since we were sure the kid who took it was probably wondering why it didn't work with his pocket cassette recorder, or whatever he had at the time back then.

    But even these days, you can't be too careful, and I have a great respect for people who's facilities are open to the public. I'm lucky in that I'm NOT open to the public by any means, and every session is private, with a limited number of clients present (max 2) and I usually know the person by reputation or referral.

    I have a few simple security rules myself, and so far it's helped keep problems minimized:

    1. NO actual address listed on the website. (I see mixandmasters's web page is similar to this: it's a PO Box, email and Phone #)

    2. Make sure your phone number is NOT listed on google or the other search engines with your name and address. (Try entering your phone # in the search line and see what comes up...you might be surprised!) You can have it "un" listed if you prefer.
    I've removed mine for security reasons.

    3. Never answer "new" calls from clients, esp if the caller ID is blocked. (I know this can be tough for people who are hurting for work - the tendency is to take anything that comes down the pike if times are tight.) Always get the number first, verify it, and THEN call them back. (it's also nice to give the impression you're busy, perhaps TOO busy to pick up the phone whenever any ol' tire-kicker is calling to get you rates. (Sometimes it's just your competitor calling to get info, as well!) Take a moment and think about the call, what it means, who it could be, and IF you even want to deal with it at all. If it's just someone looking for trouble, they'll move on to the next victim.

    4. NEVER allow off-the-cuff, non-scheduled walk-throughs, regardless of the time of the call. These situations are usually just people who are looking for items to steal, or just to case your place.

    5. Invest in a security alarm system (or at least put STICKERS up saying so.)

    6. Tag/inventory your gear, and if possible, etc. your information somewhere inside of the gear, out of the way, that you can open and show to the police (should it ever get that far) in a stolen-goods recovery situation.

    Remember that you're offering a valuable service, in a unique setting, and the more you position yourself as such, the more respect (and less hassle) you'll get from trouble-makers masquerading as clients.
  6. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    WHOA! I've started a thread chock full of good advice!
  7. Digitonic

    Digitonic Guest

    Hidden cameras and cameras that are out in the open are a plus for when your Neumann just happened to walk off. A copy of the drivers license helps when they set foot in the studio...Steven
  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I've worked in studios where clients have walked off with office computers, keyboards, gold records off the wall, mics, leader tape, clients reels. You name it, it gets snatched. I too am solo and I have an assistant. When I have new attended sessions I do these things. One, I get a phone number. Two, I get a deposit upfront, theives are a little less likely to put down cash before hand. three, I have my assistant there. four, I find out where they got my name from and talk about their project in detail. five, I have 24 hour security at the entrance. So far nothing has vanished.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    One tip I forgot to add to my previous post that was told to me by my insurance agent. Take pictures of all your gear either with a still camera or a video camera. This should be done with a camera or video that records the date and time it was shot. Then store that information along with all your serial numbers off the property in a bank safety deposit box or at a friend's or relatives' house. (I know of one studio here in town that kept very accurate records of all their equipment, unfortunately it was all stored on a lap top that got stolen in a robbery and they had no back up.) Keep accurate records and when you get a new piece of equipment one of the first things you should do is add it to your insurance list.

    I just got a security check list from my insurance agent. (that and a calendar are about the only things he ever sends me) Most of the ideas have already been covered here. A couple to add is to make sure you have outdoor lighting that comes on when someone approaches and some that is on a timer or photocell that is on all night long. (robbers do not want to advertise their actions) Also make sure you know who has keys to your property (some people have professional cleaners or a janitorial company that may have keys to their establishment and employees have been known to make a quick copy for their own uses) Also when an employee has to be let go or quits it might be a good idea to re-key the outside doors in case they have a copy of the key in their procession. Good locks and good jams on your doors are money well spent. Once a month run a security check by walking around your building inside and outside to see any possible ways someone could break in or use the cover of night to gain access to the building. (In one case near here a studio in a remote location was broken into by someone using a chain saw to saw though the wall of the building and since the studio was away from other houses no one noticed. The thieves got away with a large multitrack recorder by pulling their pickup truck up to the building and hauling it away though the hole in the wall. ) There are other ways of getting into a building besides the windows and doors. There are roof hatches and roof top ventilation equipment that can be breached by a thoughtful thief. There are also people who know enough about security systems to be able to jumper around them so a number of PIR (passive infrared) detectors along with perimeter intrusion alarms is a good idea. Employee theft or "white collar crime" is on the increase and is one area that gets very little attention. Maybe spot checking equipment on a regular basis with your employees watching may not be a bad idea. It shows them that you know were stuff is. When firing an employee for some reason make sure you get him or her out of the building soon after the firing and don't let them hang around for a couple of hours to "gather up their things" since they maybe in a mind to rip you off or sabotage your equipment since they will no longer be working for you - Just some additional ideas from the security check list.

    Hope this helps...
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    GREAT stuff, Tom! (Someone should write a book on this!)

    I forgot about the "disgruntled employee" (what is the opposite of this if they're happy? Gruntled? :twisted: )

    I recall a coworker being fired for a long list of insubordinations by the owners of a studio I worked for in the 80's. Unknown to me, he had been caught doing quite a few shady things (that no one told ME, a coworker, about). They made him sign a form that stated he knew the next time he pulled something, he'd be out.

    On the day it finally happened, he showed up for work at the studio (which was part of a radio station facility) and found all the doorlocks changed and passwords/combination locks reset. They walked him in to the boss, showed him his own signed letter, handed him his "box'o'stuff' and then literally walked him back out the door. Gone!

    As we all know, it rarely ever goes that smoothly or cleanly, and the more someone is allowed to hang around, the more damage can result.

    I knew a very evil guy who figured out that a single straight-pin stuck through a mic cable (or any other cable) could render it useless, and unrepairable to the naked eye. (Stick the pin through and through the wire, then clip off the excess with diagonal cutters: Instant dead-short, useless cable.) Guaranteed to cause some kind of lost-time or failure, either in the session/concert, or back at the shop trying to figure out where the short is. (Very often it's best to just toss out the cable.)

    But theft and thuggery can happen almost anywhere, any time, and while we don't want to look like an armed camp, it's better to be safe than sorry.

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