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What Do You Pay For When You Book Time!?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Unregistered, May 20, 2011.

  1. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I just searched "mentor" on the main page here. It turn up some results about colleges and 'small town' studios. My initial post was going to ask who/what/how is a mentor exactly. But i noticed some things after the search, that stuck out. Here's a couple. Successful engineers can make good/great?? recordings on current average gear. There was a person saying that they 'took work' for $175 a day, and admitted it sucked.
    So i know the talent level varies vastly. But isn't it the job of engineers to 'get the best performance/song' out of clients.
    this seems to me like the engineer is as much a vocal coach, as vocal mixer, an arranger, a recordist, ect.
    i think people will pay good money to get the best they can do, with good/(hopefully) great sounds. I've been told that a hit song, is still a hit song regardless of the equipment.
    When is it appropriate to accept just OK? budget? talent? time?
    What if the 'best they can do' is not good?
    As a mediocre musician i would accept nice sounds on my average songs, w/ 'as good as i can do' takes. as an engineer i'd feel like i was stealing good money from a client, by delivering results that are not really good.
    there is no pluggin for this stuff, so, stories of experience seem like what the doctor ordered.
    Where do you draw this blurry line? and how do you cross it?
  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    In the far distant past, I would take on almost any project just to get the experience and the money. No more. There are just too many people out there with the talent of a slug, with nary a clue that they are rhythmically and/or melodically challenged.
    No amount of pro gear or room treatments will change that. These days, with my free time at a premium, I am very picky about what I will delve into. Life's too short to put up with people who suck at what they do...and don't know it.

    Pissed at 56
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Moderator Resource Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    I would agree with that to an extent.

    The indie artists I work with rarely have any management, label, or producer to consult. So before I start a project, I ask them very directly if they want me to engineer, or co-produce. We then discuss the difference between the two roles, because it's important that they are comfortable during the whole process. In either case I will give them the best mix I am capable of to highlight their musical talents (and minimize whatever shortcomings they may have). I want them to be happy with the finished product, and as successful as they can be. It makes for a happier workplace and repeat customers.

    If I'm asked to engineer, my job is to capture every nuance of their performance in the most accurate yet flatteringly way possible. But in the end, the artist alone will determine when a take is "good enough" and when the song is as good as it can be. [ and if I hear the phrase "that's good enough" after a lukewarm take - I'm not going to want my name associated with the project anyway ] On the other extreme, if their hyper-perfectionism is getting in the way - I do have to try to intervene there as well.

    If they want my input as a producer, then not only do I have to do the engineer's job - but I am at liberty to critique the various aspects of their performance and their song. I can make suggestions about re-takes, vocal delivery, guitar tone, the works.

    Some of them need a kick in the pants to give their best performance, some of them need gentle encouragement and TLC, and others just need repetition.
  5. hueseph

    hueseph Distinguished Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    It's the job of a producer to get the best performance out of the talent. There used to be something called artist development where a coach would take the time work out the kinks before booking the studio. For better or worse most bands don't want anyone "messin with their sound".

    It's a catch 22. A good coach/producer can bring out the best in a band. Conversely, the can bring out the most salability of a band.

    This is just one of the issues with the instant gratification generation. It's also the reason why so many people are pushing their mediocre productions on the web.

    They want it now and their "talent" alone will carry them.
  6. hueseph

    hueseph Distinguished Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Regarding the engineer's job. The engineers job is to capture the performance with the most fidelity. That is all. He doesn't have to make the band sound good. His job is just to capture the best quality he can. It's up to the band to perform well and the producer, if there is one, to draw the best performance from the band.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Your question is really a mixed bag actually.

    Ahhhh, mentoring. A mentor is simply someone that has not only inspired you but cares enough to give of themselves. Some of these people we financially compensate, others we don't. Most however are related to the industry we are pursuing. And this is a two-way street. For instance, my mentor was released from Johns Hopkins 23 years into his bio electronics career. I had met him a couple of years earlier through a friend of the families. In 1972, I was already a talented & FCC licensed radio production professional, with a 2 day per week radio show but at the ripe old age of 16. Well while calling around town on the phone, looking for engineering gigs. Of course this job hunting experience wasn't too difficult to deal with in 1972 since, there were all of 5 and the whole of Baltimore Maryland. Unbelievable to me, I was offered chief engineer of maintenance position at the same studio that George Massenburg got his break at. While I was extremely driven to succeed, there was this thought I had that this kind of responsibility for a 16-year-old was it that much. So just like my mentor was helping me to better understand electronics, I recommended that they should hire him. I enjoyed the thought of them taking advantage of my advise and hiring my mentor. A year later, I got that production oriented job I wanted more. There was no schools nor degrees precisely in this field in the US. Electronics or communications was about the closest you could get. And those were different times. It's a whole new ballgame today. We might not be the best computer gamers but we know how to make recordings.

    Producing. A lot of this is dependent upon budget. Your local poor rock band generally doesn't have much in the way of budget. This is when many of us find ourselves not just the engineers. But that really depends upon the band. Personally, I rarely work with a musician or band that tells me how to make the recording. I don't tell my mechanic how to fix my car. I don't tell my dentist how to clean my teeth. The exceptions to the rule, however I might tell my OB/GYN I don't like a speculum. But then, I don't have an OB/GYN so it's just a DIY/GYN. Which might not be as effective if somebody else produced that but on any indie budget you might have to make do or whatever her name is? Mentors like other things in life just happen. You really can't go hunting for one but sometimes. A mentor is only a mentor because one wants to be a mentor. That's why many of us waste our time here to help other folks understand the art of making good recordings. You glean as much as you can from everyone that you meet & listen to. Hopefully, you won't be dissuaded from making good audio because of marketing or other false prophets. We were all equipped ultimately, with 2 really fine gifts. But that's next ears story.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm an under achiever and proud of it. There are many other folks who are much more academically influenced in their professional interpretations. Again this is where theory and practice frequently cross boundaries. I think you'll also find there are 2 different kinds of recordings? Those that are technically accurate & superb and those that you can listen to easily. Yup, we all like the good expensive equipment in whole or in part. But I don't care what is put in front of me when people want a superb & consistent product. Sure if the equipment is not to our liking we bitch. But you also know that nothing is going to change. This forces you into delivering the same quality of product regardless of the tools provided. This is from my broadcast background more than anything else. And the two really go hand in hand even if nobody realizes that.

    Successful, big-time engineers, just like the gold/platinum folks they are engineering also have their own managers/management agencies. And their attorneys work out there contracts. Most of us goofusses have to deal with the rest of the goofusses on a simple hourly or package rate. Smart are the artists that realize that they have come to you because you can do a better job of it than they can. Which of course we can. When I go to a professional, I want them to use their professional prowess/experience to improve my life in some financially compensated way. And the old adage you get what your pay for is not 100% applicable in our business. Sometimes I become the coproducer because I'll be making suggestions to otherwise less than their constituents which are not ready for "prime time players". The smart ones listen. The others are just, well, the others. I also have problems working with producers that call themselves producers that aren't really producers. Most intelligent people that have to deal with in a tight group, usually want to surround themselves with other quality people. When you do this, you bring talent rather than beginners, together. Interestingly enough, many producers were never engineers but many engineers today are producers.

    Then there are really a couple of different kinds of producers. There are those of us that can coach the best out of a person's performance while perhaps introducing certain suggestions. Then there are those " producers" that are more writer arrangers. They end up playing everything for someone.

    Do I record people at the highest fidelity? No way. That is to say, I don't engineer based upon printed specifications, advertising or marketing hype, genuine imitation emulations or fixing it in the mix. Sure, we'll make corrections, within reasonable limits. I cannot work with people that have no talent but $$$ instead. I have a certain level of integrity that I must maintain. Other folks want the experience or, any opportunity.

    I thank my lucky stars for Tom Bray.
    Remy Ann David
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    How subjective this set of questions is.

    Its different for everyone.

    When someone comes to me ,cold, and asks if I'll record them, I have to hear what they are capable of doing before I will commit to anything. I've already done the 'babysitting' for those that, as Remy says, "dont listen" . ....and I dont want to do that again. Moon talked about working with the 'ignorantly talent challenged' and having seen this first, second, and third hand, I dont need to go there again. While I understand the desire to play music and create something beyond oneself, there are those who arent capable of this in any even semi-passable way, and THEY REALLY DONT KNOW IT!!! Its a cruelty thats unexplainable and I'm not sure whether the joke is on them or the long-suffering family members who have to nod and smile with every listen.....

    So choices for me, are about the talent level. Sometimes its the hook in the song, sometimes its the 'promise' of a talent buried and not quite there that gets me involved. Does this make me a mentor? Only they can say.

    I recorded a band several years ago that had a member who was a friend of mine and we had worked together years before and fairly successfully. He is a very very good musician and assured me that they were raw but there was something there in the songs and talent. He was right but what he didnt ever get was the huge egos attached to their semi-finished project. They didnt listen. They chose badly. And all of the problems stemmed from their lack of vision and their opinion that they were already at the top of their games and only needed to capture the instant magic they were working. Decent songs but half-way there....I made the mistake of trying to help them and the reaction was puzzling even to this day. It was like I was asking them to change the color of their skin. Gentle persuasion didnt work...nothing...so I gave up and recorded the material as best I could. No onne showed up to mix it with me so I was given the task of providing several mix version for their approval. None of which were acceptable. I offered to allow them to mix it but that wasnt good enough either. Even for free.

    So, I wont be doing any favors for friends.

    I do like working with versatile and professional people and this is what I strive to get in my room. At some point I will offer the right person a producer deal and take points on a finished product.

    The answer , for me, to the OP question is, You Get What You Are Willing Give.
  9. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Thanks all. My question of mentoring stemmed from my reading of books about famous engineers basically using that word to describe a person that taught them the ropes. My boss used this word, to describe part of his role, the other day when we were discussing some matters of his new-ish studio. He and the senior engineer fit the description remy gave. Which makes me feel really lucky, because they are successful (grammy/top 40 hits), and love music enough to help me get where i want to go. I don't pay them. Boss pays me. He sure does get every recommendation i can give, and i try to go the 'extra mile', as to both earn my keep, and show appreciation. One day i'll be able to make the quality recordings i expect to, or i will fail trying!
    Great quality recordings of talentless artists, is not my goal. Bottom feeding isn't my idea of making a good live living. although my 'tax professional' friend may disagree.
    Checking the songs out BEFORE i say 'what time is good for you?' is a lesson learned, and confirmed.
    As a staff engineer, I just don't have the clout to turn down many people, if i want to cut my teeth. I ain't gettin the bigger gigs, and i don't think i deserve them, cool thing is, i can be there during them. I usually get gigs that i book, or things the guys don't have time for.
    co-producer- interesting. i've been wondering how/when to address this. It made perfect sense to me, to address this, in the meeting(s) prior to scheduling.
    so i'm getting the vibe when i tell a person to 'dig in to that chord' so i can hear that pleasant tube amp breakeup, it's more of a producer's role. or "try a low harmony for this phrase".
    I guess when i book time (vise-versa) i would expect a nice sounding room, with good equipment that works, and a knowledgeable person running it. Well off to the last of the 'recording bad songs, really well sessions'! hopefully, but doubtfully the last of those kinds of sessions. Thanks everyone.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    You 'could' spend a few moments and complete a registration to this site. Music professionals are always welcome and the input from live, hands on, work, benefits our up-and-coming demographic to a tee.....Sorta like 'mentoring'.....
  11. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    yeah man, i did register a few years ago. i wanted to post anonymously to get the most unbiased opinions i could get, from people who really know. i wanted to take my previous posts/gear profile out of the question. (my personal gear profile doesn't reflect the modest pro setup i use at the studio.) I bet you guys woulda said the same thing either way! thanks!
    My client and i have decided to make this project more of a snapshot of time (i.e fives or six takes comped). This is mainly a budget based decision. i will take notes to make sure i have reasonable takes of each part of the song. Thanks! GO RO!

    -kyle 'kmetal' gushue
    my middle name is really peter.

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