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Musician to hire vs artistic integrity

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by pcrecord, Apr 26, 2016.

  1. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hi gang,
    Sorry that I'm a bit less present these days, I'm in a few projects that takes me much of my time and energy ;)

    I was wondering if I'm the only one to get screwed every time I want to help a band or recording artist when it gets to integrity and artistic taste.

    Let me explain, I get these two guys comming to record an album. (once or twice a week)
    The first time they came in, to my surprise they arrived with no instruments. My small studio only have my personnal instruments in it and I'm a bit reluctant to hand them to anybody.

    So I got over it and let them play on my guitars and bass. (on which they play way to hard for how they've been adjusted and they just make them sound bad.. but it's another story...)
    When it came to the drums, I put a stop on it and suggested if they had no drummer, I could play the drum for them as a service to them and to me (to save skins and cracking cymbals etc)
    So to motivate them I decided to give them a very small price (40$ a song)
    The first two songs were ok, they liked what I did. But on the third song, they brought a drummer (another surprise) that asked me to change my playing to match his vision of the song. (good thing I did the tracking via a midi drum and it was easy to change stuff). That, I have all the respect. If he's their drummer and knows the song.

    Now where I get a problem is : Initially they told me they'd put my name on the album for the drum parts and that they had confidence in my playing and interpretation. And now the newcomer just asked for stuff a beginner would play and it is far from the kind of parts I'd want to present under my name.

    I asked for charts to help me record what they want but they would not give me any.
    So in the end I fear I'll waist my time playing nice parts that will be put down on the next twelve songs.
    I feel like they ask me to throw a rock in a lake and espect me to hit a whale in the eye.
    Please tell me what you want and I will deliver... Ask me to create from scratch without direction and complain it's not what they wanted.. DAWM !!

    Anyone had a situation like this ?
    How did you deal with it ?
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    You're going to get nothing, and use your own kit - and not even a credit. I'd get a nasty blister, or dig out an old split skin and put it on the snare - so they couldn't take the mickey out of your good nature.
    pcrecord likes this.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    At this point the project has good odds to crash before it's finished anyway...
    If I'm not going to get credit for the drum tracks, I might just give them the strict minimum and track myself a killer part on one of the songs just for my pleasure and when other customers ask for references..

    Well, at least they pay for the sessions.. Got to plan some strings replacement tho... ;)
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Hide a gopro in the room so there is some evidence you played on the recording - just in case it makes mega bucks!
    pcrecord likes this.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    funny you use the words integrity and musician in the same sentence.

    if Tom Hanks were reading this he would probably say, "There's no integrity in music." ....

    musicians (and especially today's musicians) are all about themselves. it's always been about self aggrandisement.

    as soon as those guys see how you are doing it, they will be gone and doing it themselves. that's the other side of the "affordable recording" coin. there's no value to the art in the music business any longer.
    audiokid and Brien Holcombe like this.
  6. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I feel for you Marco, and I hate it when some people just want to take advantage like that.

    I had a situation where I had agreed to record a band, of which one of the members I had played a number of years with in another band about 10 years ago, and the other members I also called friends as I have known them for years.

    What I quoted them was next to nothing, mates rates basically, that would have covered my fuel costs to travel the 4 hours each way by car to their location.

    Not to mention I was having to dedicate a 3 day long weekend for the task at hand, and basically pack up all my gear, cart it 400 kilometres down the coast and set up to record at their local studio, if you could be so kind as to refer to it as such. (Apparently it was more like the local scout hall with some gobos...)

    I was rather relieved when I got the call saying they were going to use the services of some local guy down there, they had jagged 4 hours recording time in the above-mentioned "studio" by some guy claiming to be an "engineer" for free.

    Hmmm...this will be interesting I thought to myself. Fair enough.

    Two weeks later, I get asked if I could mix and master their "album"...this so-called engineer had tracked 4 hours in what was basically an untreated room and just gave them a memory stick of audio stems to sort out for themselves, as their 4 hours free studio time didn't include any engineering apart from throwing a few mics up in the untreated room and running a few leads to an interface, then pressing record in the DAW....ooops !...who overlooked that small but important detail, eh ??? :oops:

    He had done nothing except export all the stems for each song to a memory stick at the end of their "free" recording session.

    I rightfully declined, in a language thats not really for print here on a public forum, informing them that I don't fix other peoples' mess, and if they had used my services as initially offered they would not be in the situation that they were in now....I'm a cook...not a cleaner.

    Now they want to start all over again from scratch and get me to track their sessions...No thanks I'm booked out on {insert date here}...

    What really pissed me off, is that I know this band, I know the players, I know their sound, I know their songs from spending many nights jamming with these guys and also watching them gig on many occasions, I know how they should sound recording wise...but they went with somebody who had never heard them before the session, had no idea of their ability, style or technique, who was unfamiliar with their material and whose only interest was getting them in and out as quickly as possible because he wasn't getting paid, over someone who already knew how they should sound and could make the most out of the time dedicated to the task and who could present their sound in the very best possible way...all for a few hundred bucks to cover my costs of travel.
    You know, you just can't put brains in statues.

    Musicians and integrity...go together at times like Coke & Mentos
    pcrecord likes this.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, I'll give you my opinion, based on how the studio process is supposed to work...
    You are my pal here on RO, and I have a great deal of respect for you, Mon Amis' - and I think you know that I do -but I have to tell you that in this scenario, much of this is of your own doing, Marco.

    It's been in my own experience, that almost any time I got screwed over the years, it's because I allowed myself to get screwed. Most of the time, this happens as a result of lack of communication between engineer and artist, or, between producer and artist. Your clients won't know the difference(s), so you have to explain it to them, and when dealing with the typical mental capacity of most novice musicians, this often requires the use of visual aids; like hand puppets, play-dough, and children's coloring books. ;)

    Seriously though, as an engineer, your job is not to challenge - or even to create "artistic taste". As an engineer, you are responsible for providing good gear, setting up mics; you are acting as a knob-twister and a fader-pusher. Your only responsibility is to record their taste - and whether their taste is good or bad doesn't even enter into the equation - your job is to get the tracks that the "artist" performs to the DAW ( or to tape) with the best sounding audio possible. If the client sucks, then you give them the best-sounding recording of a terrible performance that you can. That's where your responsibility ends.
    Now, if you are acting as a producer, or have been hired as such, then those artistic decisions ultimately lie with you. But - as the producer, it's also your responsibility to bring forth the best possible performances that your clients are capable of, to put them in the best light possible. If they have hired you to produce, (and in this case it doesn't sound like they have) then it's made clear up front, before you ever hit the "R" button, that you will be controlling the sessions - technically and artistically - and while you'll be happy to listen to their suggestions and input, the final decisions are yours.

    Small price or not, you're now acting in the capacity of "musician for hire" - you are a session player. As such, while you can offer up parts you think are right for the song, ultimately, your client has the final say. Your client could be their producer, or it could be the artist themselves. In this case, I didn't get the sense that you are actually producing the project, so in fact, the client is; and they are the ones that have a final say in what you are playing as being acceptable. You may or may not get credit; this is something you'd want to work out before hand when you are making the deal to play on their tracks. (Again, hand puppets will help).

    Definitely their fault. If there's something in particular they want you to play, then they need to be specific about it, and charts are the easiest and most widely industry-accepted way of being specific.

    Next time, don't make your instruments available if they aren't included in your studio's services. Keep the stuff out of sight. There's no reason that a musician should show up and expect to use anything more than a piano or B3, instruments that are very difficult to move... but even then, you need to tell them what they can expect - or shouldn't expect - to be able to use.
    Some studios do make drum kits and amps available, but guitars - or any stringed instruments -have always been off limits. So, put them away before the client arrives. Outta sight, outta mind. And if they really are expecting to use your gear, and if you decide to let them, then make it clear that you're happy to make certain instruments available - for an extra fee.

    Most of the time, these situations occur out of lack of communication beforehand. From now on, find out what your capacity is, and make it clear to the musicians what they should - and shouldn't - expect from you.
    I can lend you a few hand puppets if you need them. ;)

    It'll save you loads of hair pulling and migraines. ;)
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i feel for you Marco. it's tough to run a small commercial studio these days. it's even tougher to find clients that have any redeemable qualities. it's the main reason many seasoned pros are abandoning the studio business.

    that said, i would have tossed those guys the first day when they showed with no instruments or when they showed up with no charts.
  9. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I have to agree with Kurt, it is a tough game, especially when you are a small operator not competing with the big guys who tend to attract much of the talent.

    Your clients tend to be more on the peripheral, who most likely have never cut their teeth in a live venue where you hone your ability and performance as a musician, have less money to spend and in most cases have an unrealistic sense of their ability and an unrealistic expectation of your ability to turn mediocre into the sound of their favorite bands' CD they bought along as a reference.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    What I ment by integrity was the respect of myself and the quality of what I'm used to deliver.
    Doing something nearlt free is something. Being turned down to mediocrity is not something I want.

    I aim for the best quality of recording, but many (most) customers don't know about quality.
    I got a bunch of very cheap drums in the studio over the years.. most of the time, nothing but drum replacement could be done.. but even then it would sound like crap (cymbals and hi-hat...)

    Thanks for the good words guys, it helps to enlarge my perspective about it ;)

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