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Studio equipment, who's liable for damages?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by buttertooth, Jun 7, 2004.

  1. buttertooth

    buttertooth Guest

    I was doing a session at a high $$$ studio this weekend and when I went to press what I'm positive was the talk-back button but it sent what I would consider to be mild feedback into the studio and control room and cans and I guess their mains blew out as well as some other damage (they claim but I dont know for sure if thats true)

    Well now the owner is saying I owe ALOT of $$$. Is it true that there could be a button a Neve that could do that? Should I really have to pay to maintain there equipment? There's no way I can afford it anyways.

    I'm really pissed off cause the owner made me look like a dumb@ss in front of everyone saying I "had no business touching the console"?

    Thanks for your help, I love this place and have really learnt alot.

  2. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Auch! Shound't there be some sort of insurance in a studio?
  3. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    Re: Who's liable for broken gear?

    It's possible that if someone had a pair of headphones hanging around their neck or somewhere not on their head that when you hit the talkback button it would cause feedback if the monitors were turned up loud.

    As for who's at fault that's debatable, was it your fault for hitting the talkback or was it the artists fault for not having their cans on or was it the engineers fault for having the volume so loud.

    For a short burst of feedback to blow a set of mains would take quite a high amount of volume.......it would be so loud that playing back music on it would hurt my ears considerably and most studios that I know of...especially high end studios have limiters to prevent such actions from happening, not to mention the speakers own built in protection ( a cut off when the input voltage hits a certain point to prevent speaker damage). For it to blow the mains it would have to be so loud that it would cause damage to someones ears....

    If I were you I'd get a lawyer...
  4. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :D :? Generally, the talkback mutes a bunch of stuff, unless he had the mains dim switch in and you hit that one. Mains dim is an attenuator to the mains, it reduces its output by several db, and lifting it could do it depending what was open. With high power amps, it won't take a lot to trip protection. I hope it is nothing serious, and they are just overeacting.

  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If, as you say, the feedback was mild then I doubt you could have "blown" the mains. Maybe you blew a circuit breaker or maybe a protection circuit in the mains but not the speakers themselves.

    What is your general relationship with this studio. Are you on good terms with them? Is this your first visit with them or are you a regular client? The reason I am asking this is to see if they are trying to end the relationship or to get some additional money from you for some reason.

    I have a clause in the contract that my clients sign at the beginning of the mastering that I do for them saying that they take responsibility for their actions and if they damage equipment they are liable for that repair or replacement of that equipment. Most of my clients are GREAT and would never damage anything. I have had clients that were less than careful when it came to equipment and this is the kind of stuff that the contract attempts to cover in case there is a problem.

    I have had people put their muddy shoes on the furniture, I have had people nervously swinging headphones around by the cord until the cord breaks, I have had people damage chairs and furniture and drop liquids onto my carpeting and onto my furniture. I have had people back into a rack of equipment with their chair(s) and knock off a knob or two. I have had people knock a piece of equipment off a shelf when they started doing some "air guitar" while listening to their music. I have had people try to turn up the level of the music when they are sitting in my chair listening and it one case someone grabbed the on screen faders and suddenly took them up 10 db which over drove the speaker for a brief second but I have never had to invoke the equipment damage part of the mastering contract.

    When I was in the "recording" phase of my career I did have people trip over mic cords and pull down microphones or reach for the master fader on the console and try and boost the level causing some pain in the ears but no one, to the best of my knowledge, ever really damaged a piece of equipment on purpose and no one blew out any speakers with the talk back button.

    The one thing that I always do at the beginning of each session is to set the bounds of the session. I tell the clients what my responsibilities are and what are theirs and what they can do and what I will do. It helps clear the air. If they push the boundaries and start doing what they are not suppose to do I will gently remind them of that fact. If they persist I will be a little sterner in my admonishments and if they continue to be a problem I will end the session.

    The biggest problem with dealing with clients is that they are providing your livelihood and if you don't have clients you don't have a business. The clients are, for the most part, very understanding of their boundaries and would never, on purpose, damage anything and most "damage" is done by a client when they are showing off or not thinking. I have not had a Pepsi melt down yet because I do not allow clients to have beverages at the mastering console but if they sloshed Pepsi into works they would have to pay for the equipment that was ruined or a the very least for the professional cleaning it would require. Since none of us were there when this happened we are only hearing your side of the story and don't know what else went on. Based solely on your description of the event it sounds like the studio over reacted and there maybe other reasons that they are being pissy!

    Hope this helps.....
  6. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Would you be willing to share the contract you use for your clients. I would really like to get something put together like this for my studio and having one to copy from would be a great start.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    You don't mention if you were the engineer or not. Were you supposed to be touching the console? If you pressed a button and feedback ensued, it is apperant that you pressed the wrong button.. and perhaps you should not have been futzing with the console.

    If someone had had headphones on, you could have hurt their ears .. seriously. This is not something that should be easily dismissed ..

    In the future, ask the engineer to assist you.

    Bottom line , the way I read it, as a former studio owner, I would have done the same thing ... and I think you should pay for the damage you caused ... If you can't pay for something, you should not be touching it..
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Can you email off list? My email address is in my profile....

  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I guess what you are saying is "if you don't know what it does and you have not gotten permission to do it - DON'T DO IT!"

    That is good advice anytime but especially when you are in a studio that is not yours.

    I have been in sessions with some rather big name producers and they all seem to have some good vibes with the engineer and reach across the board all the time to hit the talkback button without any problems but maybe they have been part of the same team for a long period of time and they know what they are doing and when to do it.....

    Again if what you are saying happened I don't think you RUINED the speakers permentantly but I was not there and don't know what the real story was. I use to have a sign that was in German that basically said "keep your hands in your pockets and watch the blinking lights) which pretty music sums up Kurt's post.
  10. Chance

    Chance Guest

    It sounds like the talk-back might have been selected to "slate" in which the TB mic is directed to all 24 tracks. If the 24 tr return faders were up, OUCH ! It's not feed back as in mic feedback but some other loop. Occasionally do this, however my monitor output is usually around 80 db. The cans ? Well thats another story. I have woken up a few vocalists by forgetting that the slate was on.
    I have seen in my time, the center driver fly right out of the speaker cone
  11. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :) That is very possible! I remember having a worn out TB switch, if you were not deliberate when pressing it, there would be a slight squeal before the mute contacts could connect. But that was more like a chirp than an outright feedback.

  12. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    I once had to throw a client out for overusing the talkback. He would hold it down throughout an entire take so he could snap his fingers to give his players the "beat". Of course that also involved a lot of body motion and he was shaking everything and wearing out the contacts of the button. I asked him to stop and he just laughed at me (musicians can be incredibly rude sometimes).

    However, I must say that having done 100s of sessions any studio should know that the talkbalk button should be foolproof. I would say that the vast majority of the time a client is on that thing before the engineer even has time to think about it. If it has the potential to do that kind of damage then they should have some kind of protection on it.

    I would like to more about this situation. Was it the first time it was pressed during the session? Exactly what state was the button in when it was pressed (was it set to 24-trk slate?, a very uncommon position). Did the client ask permission first? etc...

    I would not say this is a slamdunk for the studio. It is the engineer's responsibility to ensure the equipment does not get damaged. If the client had been using the TB and the engineer had just decided to print some tones he had just patched in an oscilator he needs to tell people not to use it for a minute.

    "I have not had a Pepsi melt down yet because I do not allow clients to have beverages at the mastering console but if they sloshed Pepsi into works they would have to pay for the equipment that was ruined or a the very least for the professional cleaning it would require." Dealing with clients is tough. I once had someone drinking sugary red wine at the desk. I asked them to take it outside but they PROMISED me they would be careful with it. Of course a glassful went down on the console. I realized they couldn't afford it even if I did ask them to pay for it, so I cleaned it as well as I could and learned my lesson.

    I agree, you must establish ground rules and have a contract, but you also have to realize that this business is full of rule breakers, scofflaws, and penniless artists who are basically children in many respects. A studio has to take responsibility for its own well-being.

    It also goes both ways. When you start getting tough on clients you're raising the responsibility bar. One the worst things I ever did to a client was when I had just wired up my new studio and still didn't really "know" it. I had forgotten I had set up my cue to need patch cables. I couldn't figure out why a guitarist wasn't getting his cue mix - everything was "on". I remembered the cables and pushed them in before I turned the cue amp down and it sent a feedback to the cans that was horrible, The guy's ear was actually bleeding. he could have sued me and ended my studio business with my very first session, but he didn't.

    So, before you start getting too tough, think about what clients can do to you as well. It pays to have some tolerance with people, we all make mistakes.
  13. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    I wanted to tell this stiry here because it reminded me that engineers are human, too.

    There is a true story about the Steely Dan Gaucho album. The album was going to be named after another song, but the rhythm track for that song got erased by an engineer who thought he was recording tones on a clean pad! I worked at the studio where that had happened, I came on staff about 2 years later. Of course there were some politics at the studio between the engineers, some liked me better than others. I didn't know which one had done it, and I didn't say anything about until I had been there for a few months (I had read the story in Rolling Stone which mentioned the studio but not the engineer by name).

    There was one guy who usually had a chip on his shoulder who always made it tougher for me than everyone else. One day we were alone and he was dishing a lot of dirt about everyone at the studio, so I asked him, "by the way, I heard about this incident, who did that?" All he said was "where did you hear about that?" and I said "an article in Rolling Stone." He had not known about the article but I could tell by his body language and the way his face turned 6 different shades of red that it was probably him.

    All he asked me was, "the article didn't say the name of the engineer?" and I said, "no, just the studio." Turned out I was right that it was him, another engineer told me. He never had the cajones to admit it, he just wanted to pretend it never happened.
  14. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    That's a great story Paul!

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