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a question of soundguy ethics

i'm starting up a mobile laptop based multitrack recording studio. the concept is dramtically reduced recording rates ($100 flat fee for 4 songs-tracked, mixed, and mastered) to allow small bands the ability to play a show or two and still cut a quality demo. i think it could change the dynamic of our music scene.

i've played in bands for a while and i've made good friends with the studio guys around here. my question: would it be wrong for me to ask to intern with one of them for a few weekends knowing that i could potentially be competition for them soon? i'm really not trying to take anything away from them, and i think our clients will be different altogether. i just know i could learn a lot from them; i respect them and i consider them friends.

what do you think?

regards,
cheatingatmath

Comments

CharlesDayton Wed, 05/10/2006 - 20:03
There is an inverse proportion rule; The less you charge the more they will take advantage of you. I would rather do a job for free than for cheep. If they are paying you "anything" they will want the moon. If its free, than you are doing them a favor, with all implied limitations. I have my own studio, and I freelance. When I'm at someone elses place, thats where I work. I don't mention my place or any other projects I'm working on. It's bad for business to steal clients. My freelance work fills in the gaps in my studio's schedual, I'd hate to screw that up.

JoeH Thu, 05/11/2006 - 21:30
I'm in Remy's camp on this. Charging too little gets you nowhere. Do a project for free, or for "love", but don't be a cheap whore about it. (The word "Shmuck" comes to mind, as in: Don't be one!)

At least if you're going to work for free for someone, get a receipt that you can use at tax time for a charitable contribution, because thats' all it really is.

there's an old Don McClean song (I think he wrote it, anyway), called: "The more you pay, the more it's worth." The inverse is also true. The less people pay you, the more they take advantage of you, and the freebies, favors and eventually insulting behavior just never ends.

Find good work and sharpen your skills as you go, but never give it away free, unless it's a project you want to be part of, and make sure no one's taking advantage of you. It's a fine line between being cooperative and being a doormat. You don't want to wake up some day at the tender age of 35 or 40 broke and depressed, wondering where the hell your youth went. :twisted:

I should point out that I'm a middle child, and that's served me well in life. I never needed to charge the most or be the TOP dog in town; nor do I want to crawl or beg and get stuck with every POS job that comes along. After 20 years at this, the good gigs are still here, thank god, and work continues to come in from happy loyal clients, who DO pay me a reasonable rate.

NEVER give it away. You can join the peace corps to do that.

BobRogers Fri, 05/12/2006 - 03:54
On the originial question, as long as you are not stealing customers while you are on the job I feel you are acting ethically. The whole point of any intern position is that you are expected to move on and get other work. If your plan is to start your own business, I don't see how that's different from taking a job with a competitor.

Thomas W. Bethel Fri, 05/12/2006 - 05:58
I think RemyRAD and JoeH were giving some very good advice.

Nirvalica, it sounds like you are the one with the problem. There are too many people today that are doing a real disservice to the musical community by charging too little and making people think that is the norm.

As a business owner who makes 100% of his living off of audio I have expenses that have to be met at the end of the month. I have to come up with that money to stay in business. I have to compete with people who are doing this part time and have a normal day job and have spent some minimal amount of money to "equip" their studio.

There have been too many real studios that have had to close their doors because the guy down the street is doing things for $20.00 per hour which if he or she was really "in business" they could not do. So the band or the musician may think they are getting a good deal but when they want to get some thing remixed later they find that the guy has sold off his equipment and is now making vinyl signs in his former studio or they find out the hard way that the guy was not even worth what they were paying him.

It is all well and good if you want to buy equipment and do your own thing or do favors for others you know but when you take the charges down to a level that would bankrupt a real studio then I think you are not doing anything good for anyone. If you are in this as a professional then you should be charging professional rates or if you are in this for fun then charge, as JoeH has suggested NOTHING but PLEASE don't charge a minimal amount for your services.

There are many examples of people around this area that for one reason or another decided to open a studio and charged a minimal amount for their services. It may have been that they were "just learning" or they thought they were doing a service for the musical community by charging rock bottom prices but in the end they found that they either had to go out of business or charge more if it was indeed a full time business since they could not pay for the heat, lights and other business expenses that they incurred once they decided this was their only business.

One famous example was a studio that started out charging $20.00 per hour. The owner and only employee worked at GC full time and got all of his equipment at some percentage over cost. He was a good engineer and tried to do what he thought was a good thing for the musicians. He finally had to stop his job at GC since his business was taking off. Then he realized that the $20.00 per hour was not going to keep him in business for very long. He raised his rates to $35.00 per hour, then to $40.00 and finally to $65.00 per hour which is what he should have been charging all along. A lot of his clients thought he was price gouging but in reality he was only trying to make a living and could not do that on $20.00 per hour.

I hope this makes some sense to you.

FWIW and MTCW

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 08:44
the most expensive sound guy in this area charges $35, no cost for setup. this guy was a previous fulltime engineer for the b52s-not to mention countless other bands. his sound company (that he is the full owner of, not to whom he is solely contracted) has done the past 3 US Presidential Inaugurations-with him at the board. he records albums on the mixer used to record AC/DC's 'Back in Black' and owns the first ever monitors to hear that classic.

so if you're charging $65/hr, that's your problem.

if anything, i'll actually be giving local studios business. it takes alot of shows for a new band to record a full length album. i'm not in the full length business. i'm in the 4 song studio demo business. i'm giving a band a demo to put on their merch table.

show $$ + demo $$ = studio $$

regards,
cheatingatmath

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 09:53
cheatingatmath wrote:

if anything, i'll actually be giving local studios business. it takes alot of shows for a new band to record a full length album. i'm not in the full length business. i'm in the 4 song studio demo business. i'm giving a band a demo to put on their merch table.

show $$ + demo $$ = studio $$

regards,
cheatingatmath

I get it! It's not the band that's getting ripped off, it's the fans who buy the crappy demo. Very clever! With any luck, the band will have left town before anyone hears it :-) Maybe not great for repeat business or building a good rep, but if you can make off with the $200, what the heck, right?

We have a local guy here who bought one of those digital multitrack decks.... "everything you need" in one box. This guy can barely program his answering machine, but is now advertising his "fully equipped digital recording studio" at a rate of $500 for a complete album, regardless of how long it takes. He told me he's tired of seeing the musicians getting ripped off by the bigger studios....

Sigh........

BobRogers Fri, 05/12/2006 - 10:00
Tom-

With all due respect, I think you are making a big mistake thinking that other people should conform to your business model. I urge you to read your message and look at it from an outsider's (say an investor's) point of view. It doesn’t sound good. New technology has allowed thousands of hobbyists to get into this field. Lots of them are going to try different business models to make money. Most will fail. But none of them has any legal or moral obligation to charge certain rates as a “service” to those already in the profession. It’s one thing to warn someone that his model won’t work (which is probably correct). It’s another to say that trying to do it is a “disservice to the musical community.”

The musical community is going through some huge changes. It may well be that in the future people will look back at the years from 1920-2010 as a strange period in which lots of people could make good to great livings in the music industry. I hope that continues in the future, but it may not. It’s better to try to adapt than to complain.

Thomas W. Bethel Fri, 05/12/2006 - 12:32
BobRogers wrote: Tom-

With all due respect, I think you are making a big mistake thinking that other people should conform to your business model. I urge you to read your message and look at it from an outsider's (say an investor's) point of view. It doesn’t sound good. New technology has allowed thousands of hobbyists to get into this field. Lots of them are going to try different business models to make money. Most will fail. But none of them has any legal or moral obligation to charge certain rates as a “service” to those already in the profession. It’s one thing to warn someone that his model won’t work (which is probably correct). It’s another to say that trying to do it is a “disservice to the musical community.”

The musical community is going through some huge changes. It may well be that in the future people will look back at the years from 1920-2010 as a strange period in which lots of people could make good to great livings in the music industry. I hope that continues in the future, but it may not. It’s better to try to adapt than to complain.

I am not complaining or thinking that people should conform to my business standards. I am just stating what I see to be the truth. You can't stay in business if you are charging some minimal amount for your services. Try having a restaurant charge only what the pay for the food. They would not last two months before they went under. My point was that if you are charging such a small amount you have no money for expansion or money to pay for new equipment nor will you have enough at the end of the month to pay for things like your rent and utilities. If this is your business and it is how you make your living then you have to charge a living wage if you are to survive. If however this is your part time, do it when I can, and am in the mood gig, you can charge anything you like since you are not depending on the income to support yourself. If you are good at it and want to make it into a full time gig then you will soon find out how much it really costs to run a business in America today. Speaking from experience - it is not CHEAP!

I agree with all the other points you are making. Any yes technology is wonderful and it has helped us all do lots of things that we could not do before because it was just too expensive or the cost of the equipment was just too high for the average person to afford it. It has also let people take hours, days, weeks and months to finish up an album and do it for very little. Just like the days when Word Processors on personal computer made their appearance just having a computer and a word processor does not make you Mark Twain or Dan Brown. If you think that just because you spent $XXX.XX at GC you are suddenly a recording engineer or producer you will be sorely mistaken . You also have to have some experience and some talent both of which can be hard to come by.

With respects to your message and to you!

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 13:29
Thomas W. Bethel wrote: I think RemyRAD and JoeH were giving some very good advice.

Nirvalica, it sounds like you are the one with the problem. There are too many people today that are doing a real disservice to the musical community by charging too little and making people think that is the norm.

As a business owner who makes 100% of his living off of audio I have expenses that have to be met at the end of the month. I have to come up with that money to stay in business. I have to compete with people who are doing this part time and have a normal day job and have spent some minimal amount of money to "equip" their studio.

There have been too many real studios that have had to close their doors because the guy down the street is doing things for $20.00 per hour which if he or she was really "in business" they could not do. So the band or the musician may think they are getting a good deal but when they want to get some thing remixed later they find that the guy has sold off his equipment and is now making vinyl signs in his former studio or they find out the hard way that the guy was not even worth what they were paying him.

It is all well and good if you want to buy equipment and do your own thing or do favors for others you know but when you take the charges down to a level that would bankrupt a real studio then I think you are not doing anything good for anyone. If you are in this as a professional then you should be charging professional rates or if you are in this for fun then charge, as JoeH has suggested NOTHING but PLEASE don't charge a minimal amount for your services.

There are many examples of people around this area that for one reason or another decided to open a studio and charged a minimal amount for their services. It may have been that they were "just learning" or they thought they were doing a service for the musical community by charging rock bottom prices but in the end they found that they either had to go out of business or charge more if it was indeed a full time business since they could not pay for the heat, lights and other business expenses that they incurred once they decided this was their only business.

One famous example was a studio that started out charging $20.00 per hour. The owner and only employee worked at GC full time and got all of his equipment at some percentage over cost. He was a good engineer and tried to do what he thought was a good thing for the musicians. He finally had to stop his job at GC since his business was taking off. Then he realized that the $20.00 per hour was not going to keep him in business for very long. He raised his rates to $35.00 per hour, then to $40.00 and finally to $65.00 per hour which is what he should have been charging all along. A lot of his clients thought he was price gouging but in reality he was only trying to make a living and could not do that on $20.00 per hour.

I hope this makes some sense to you.

FWIW and MTCW
im sorry, but i think this is really funny. It's not wrong for him to not charge much, its his business. Its like someone saying because you don't have the same monitors or mics as the surrounding studios, your doing it wrong. I understand your point, you feel threatened. Its just like if a guitar center moved next door to a small local music store. ofcourse the small store owner would be pissed since he probably can't compete with GC's prices and selection, but they fact that they can sell stuff cheaper than him doesn't make their business bad. You gotta understand its competition... whoever offers more for less is gonna get the customers. and if he is really good, and he decides to raise the rates, im sure his customers will stick with him.my guitar teacher was the cheapest around....$18 for a half hour, but he recently raised the rates to $20 just like the rest of the places around, and im not complaining....

Thomas W. Bethel Fri, 05/12/2006 - 14:39
Nirvalica wrote...


im sorry, but i think this is really funny. It's not wrong for him to not charge much, its his business. Its like someone saying because you don't have the same monitors or mics as the surrounding studios, your doing it wrong. I understand your point, you feel threatened. Its just like if a guitar center moved next door to a small local music store. ofcourse the small store owner would be pissed since he probably can't compete with GC's prices and selection, but they fact that they can sell stuff cheaper than him doesn't make their business bad. You gotta understand its competition... whoever offers more for less is gonna get the customers. and if he is really good, and he decides to raise the rates, im sure his customers will stick with him.my guitar teacher was the cheapest around....$18 for a half hour, but he recently raised the rates to $20 just like the rest of the places around, and im not complaining....

I think you are missing the point,

It is not about who is cheaper. It is about providing the same EXACT services for less. If two people are fulfilling their client's needs and one is able to charge less then people should go to the one that is providing the best of the same services for the money. However is one of them is doing this full time and trying to make his or her living from it and the other person has a full time job and is doing this on the side to earn some extra money then they are in it for different reasons and have different economics to deal with.

No one is saying that you should simply charge more but you have to recover your costs and if you are doing this full time and it is your only job then your fees have to cover a lot of things like rent, heat electricity and insurance. If you are dong this as a fun thing then you are not working with the same business model.

A person who takes an old car and makes it run for their own enjoyment can do it for a very small amount of money. If you take that same car to a dealer or a garage then the fee for working on it suddenly becomes a lot more. The garage, besides paying their mechanics has to fork over money for taxes, workman's comp, utilities and shop supplies and other fees that the hobbyist, working at home, does not have to contend with. It is a different scale of financial involvement and if the car breaks down the day after the hobbyist repairs it so what but if the garage fixes a car it better stay fixed or there will be a very dissatisfied client to deal with and if something is wrong with the car a possible law suit.

Anyway I understand your points, I don't feel threatened but I do have negative feelings about someone who is not playing on a level playing field taking away business when they don't have to contend with running a real business and are only doing this as a hobby or as a part time occupation.

FWIW and MTCW

BobRogers Fri, 05/12/2006 - 17:25
I don't think this is funny at all. I know a lot of people in this business and things are certainly in flux. I really have no idea how people are going to make money making music ten years from now. I don't think it is smart to dismiss the observations of people currently in the business ors the people trying to get in through nontraditional way

I think Tom (and other Pros who have commented) are giving very sensible warnings. But the fact is that when new people go into a business they routinely do lots of things to make the playing field "unlevel." Some of them are even honest, like working full time at GC so a guy can undercut the competition and get the business that gives him the experience that makes him worth the going rate. When my father was alive he told the story of his first year in law practice - made $93 more than his secretary's salary. (Mom's salary kept the family and the law practice solvent.)

One hundred years ago, music was mostly an amateur activity. Both of my grandmothers were excellent piano players in the 20's and 30's. (Same as many of the women of their generation.) Never made any money by our standards. Could be that way again. We (or all kids) will see.

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 17:39
Thomas W. Bethel wrote: Nirvalica wrote...


im sorry, but i think this is really funny. It's not wrong for him to not charge much, its his business. Its like someone saying because you don't have the same monitors or mics as the surrounding studios, your doing it wrong. I understand your point, you feel threatened. Its just like if a guitar center moved next door to a small local music store. ofcourse the small store owner would be pissed since he probably can't compete with GC's prices and selection, but they fact that they can sell stuff cheaper than him doesn't make their business bad. You gotta understand its competition... whoever offers more for less is gonna get the customers. and if he is really good, and he decides to raise the rates, im sure his customers will stick with him.my guitar teacher was the cheapest around....$18 for a half hour, but he recently raised the rates to $20 just like the rest of the places around, and im not complaining....

I think you are missing the point,

It is not about who is cheaper. It is about providing the same EXACT services for less. If two people are fulfilling their client's needs and one is able to charge less then people should go to the one that is providing the best of the same services for the money. However is one of them is doing this full time and trying to make his or her living from it and the other person has a full time job and is doing this on the side to earn some extra money then they are in it for different reasons and have different economics to deal with.

No one is saying that you should simply charge more but you have to recover your costs and if you are doing this full time and it is your only job then your fees have to cover a lot of things like rent, heat electricity and insurance. If you are dong this as a fun thing then you are not working with the same business model.

A person who takes an old car and makes it run for their own enjoyment can do it for a very small amount of money. If you take that same car to a dealer or a garage then the fee for working on it suddenly becomes a lot more. The garage, besides paying their mechanics has to fork over money for taxes, workman's comp, utilities and shop supplies and other fees that the hobbyist, working at home, does not have to contend with. It is a different scale of financial involvement and if the car breaks down the day after the hobbyist repairs it so what but if the garage fixes a car it better stay fixed or there will be a very dissatisfied client to deal with and if something is wrong with the car a possible law suit.

Anyway I understand your points, I don't feel threatened but I do have negative feelings about someone who is not playing on a level playing field taking away business when they don't have to contend with running a real business and are only doing this as a hobby or as a part time occupation.

FWIW and MTCW
seriously, you guys are wrong. im sorry, but if this guy has found a way to charge $100 for 4 songs w/o losing money, whats wrong with that?! the points you are arguing may not apply to him. your looking at this like little school children trying to win a game of baseball. your team both have the same amount of kids, but the other team has a metal bat when you only have a wooden one. You cry, "Thats not fair!"

sorry, but the world isn't fair. you really seem jealous or something, cause your not making much sense to me. of course remember, im looking at it from the consumer standpoint, cause i don't own or run a studio. your arguments come down to "you can't charge that little, you won't make enough money. (assuming he owns a studio)" or "you can't charge that little because you'll make more than us because we have to pay taxes and all of our other little fee's (assuming its a little side project)" chill out. this one guy is not gonna change the music business and put you out of jobs...

BobRogers Fri, 05/12/2006 - 18:02
Nirvalica-

I'm with you part of the way, but for the most part everyone is just assuming that the guy is not Mark Cuban and has to turn a profit eventually. If Cuban decides to give up on the Mavs and starts offering cheap recording services the world changes. But cheatingatmath (I'm a Math professor - this is tough for me) isn't proposing something that no one has thought of before. I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with what he is proposing but they may be right - it might be unsuccessful. They have been there and their opinon is worth a listen.

MadMax Fri, 05/12/2006 - 20:44
OK, I'm bustin' everybody's balls here.

Tom, you're dead right. This Wal-Mart mentality is going to continue to put a LOT of very qualified and talented people in the damn poorhouse.

By under valuing the engineer, gear and experience, it cannot possibly end up being good for the market as a whole when anyone with $500 can throw out a shingle and call themselve a "recording studio".

By the same token, the fact that you can go out today and spend 25% of what major studios spent 15 years ago and have as good a quality line of gear... well, it's damned tempting for someone new to try it doncha' think?

Don't misunderstand me. I didn't just say that $500 is going to get you a full on studio of 15 years ago.

When someone calls me and tells me that there's a guy schlepin' gear around for $100 for a 4 song demo... I usually just tell em' to go out to banjo center and get one of those $500 all in one job's and do it themselves, cause their liable to get as good a quality as what the guy's gonna be able to deliver. Why? Because he's schlepin' that exact same $500 piece of junk that they can buy. There's NO WAY that $100/4 song demo studio has invested the money for soundproofing, acoustic treatment, decent pre's, decent mic's, good stands, good cabling, etc. to get a decent recording.

Let's do some simple math. Let's say you've got a paltry $5,000 invested in gear. (Including tax, title, tags, destination charges, insurance, etc) In the retail rental market, the rule is 10%. So for the rental of the gear ALONE, that means each rental is $500. So the fact of the matter is that $100/4 song demo is what?... $25/rental? Applying the 10% rule, that means that you're really only getting $250 worth of gear?!? Can you see why I can safely tell the low-dollar client why they're better off buying the stuff and doing it themselves? BECAUSE THEY ARE!

I'm a SMALL potatoes operation struggling for part-time work... but for OTHER reasons that I can go into, but not right now. I've got well over $75k invested and still have over another $75k to go before I'll consider my studio on the verge of viable. That puts me in at a fairly smallish $150K. I'll end up doing 5 song EP's for around $1500-2K. I'll be struggling like hell to make ends meet. Why? Because the Wal-Mart mentality that "cheaper is better" has devalued the real investment of what it takes to make a PROFESSIONAL recording. But, I WILL make ends meet... long after the schlep at $100/4 songs is out of business. (Of course there's some question as to whether the schlep was actually ever IN business in the first place.)

The reason why I'll still be here, is because I've built my studio with dollars that have been paying for the gear as I go. e.g., my shit's paid for. Right now, I don't owe a dime on it. Sure, I could go out and charge $100/4 song demo, but why the hell would I? Why should I? I'm worth more than that.

I have earned the right to charge as much as I can. That's ANYBODY right. It's called free enterprise. The market in many ways keeps me from overcharging. What becomes the issue... which is what I think Tom's point centers around... is that when cheap pricing becomes the focus, then there is no value associated with higher quality.

If you want to see the economics in another way, look at a full blown ProTools rig. You mean to tell me that you can actually make a viable business out of $25 songs when you're carrying a $40,000 note, PLUS finance charges? AIN'T NO FRIGGIN' WAY!

OK, you don't have a $40K note. I understand that. You got $250 worth of gear.

If you really want to do yourself and the bands a service, charge em' $100/4 songs PLUS 10 points. Put $1k in capital in them and get them some bookings, merch and gas. Do that about a dozen times a year.

At the end of the year, you'll be out the $12,000, all the merch and gas PLUS the original $100.

The point we're trying to make is this. If you have any REAL money invested in a studio, there's no reason why you can't do it for free. But unless you are independantly wealthy, there's no sound reasoning to doing work BELOW cost either. Granted, the old saying goes something like this... Wanna' make a million bucks in the recording industry? Start with two million.

A good businessman I know once gave me a piece of wisdom that I'll share here... No Business, is better than bad business.

Oh, and to answer the original question... You ought to know that while there's a lot of folks in the business, it's not unusual for folks in a market to talk to each other occassionally.

Be up-front. Tell the potential owner your plans/ideas. Don't hide em. If you came to work for me to get some experience just so you could then go out and torpedoe the margin's in the local market... you'll either end up needing a LOT of bridge-work, or you'll be looking for another market to move to.

By being up front, you might actually find a studio owner who's willing to take a risk on hiring someone with what appears to be a mis-guided, but at least aggressive desire.

X

Thomas W. Bethel Sat, 05/13/2006 - 05:25
Nirvalica wrote.....

seriously, you guys are wrong. im sorry, but if this guy has found a way to charge $100 for 4 songs w/o losing money, whats wrong with that?! the points you are arguing may not apply to him. your looking at this like little school children trying to win a game of baseball. your team both have the same amount of kids, but the other team has a metal bat when you only have a wooden one. You cry, "Thats not fair!"

sorry, but the world isn't fair. you really seem jealous or something, cause your not making much sense to me. of course remember, im looking at it from the consumer standpoint, cause i don't own or run a studio. your arguments come down to "you can't charge that little, you won't make enough money. (assuming he owns a studio)" or "you can't charge that little because you'll make more than us because we have to pay taxes and all of our other little fee's (assuming its a little side project)" chill out. this one guy is not gonna change the music business and put you out of jobs...


Please define "losing money"

There are costs of doing business. Many of them are hidden but they are something you have to deal with if you are in deed "in business". If you are doing your business dealings under the table and not telling Uncle Sam that you are doing business meaning you are keeping everything you charge out and not paying taxes on it then you have 20% more to play with. If you are doing this as a business and paying taxes then 20% or more of everything you make goes to paying taxes. So in this instance $20.00 of the session is already spent. Then you have gas and depreciation on your vehicle to get to and from the gig. At today's gas prices and considering a short drive (say 10 miles in each direction) you have just spent approximately one tank of gas or $3.00. Then you have to pay for the equipment ( and if you bought it with a credit card and are paying it off you have finance charges PLUS the principal to pay off) and any expendable supplies like CDs of the gig for listening copies and for the masters. If you are doing this in someone's space you should have some kind of business insurance in case something happens to your equipment or to the place where you are recording. Let just add a couple of more dollars here and already of the $100.00 we are at $70.00 in real money coming in. So without walking out the door your $100.00 has been devalued to $70.00 or less.

Still not bad but you did say you were doing four songs for that amount and you did not specify how many hours it would take to do the four songs. In classical recording we usually figure 10 minutes of recording time for every minute on the CD so lets say 4 three minute songs which is 120 minutes or 2 hours. Then you have to mix it all down and we use to figure about 1 hour minimum per song so with 4 songs we have 4 hours plus the two for recording (and that is figuring that there are no overdubs or backup vocals that could take longer) so we are now at 6 hours PLUS for the recording and mixdown of 4 songs. If we figure the $70.00 that you are really getting divided by 6 hours (less if we add in your drive time and setup time) we get the figure of approximately $11.67 an hour and this assumes that everything goes as planned and their are no problems (like the lead singer not showing up or the drummer forgetting his stick bag and having to drive back to his place which is one hour away) So your per hour may be minimum wage by the time you are all done. If you love music and this is fun and if you never expect to grow and only use the equipment you have and never have enough extra money to purchase more and you don't have to pay for rent, electricity, water, heat and or food for yourself or you have a day job that pays all the bills and for your equipment then I guess this is a good business model.

Seriously everyone should think about how much it really costs to do something BEFORE they post rates that are so low they may actually be losing money on every gig that they do which is certainly NOT a way to stay in business and more importantly leave NOTHING to put away for future use or for growth. It is not just a here and now kind of thing. If you are serious about what you are doing you should sit down and make up a business plan. Figure out your costs versus what you will be able to bring in and if it does not look good it probably isn't. When you do your business plan ask all the right questions and also ask the hard to answer ones like "why am I doing this?" "what do I hope to accomplish with this business?" "what will be the outcome if I chose the wrong charge out rate?" "is this something I can make into a full time business and actually live off of it?" If you can't come up with good answers to all the hard questions then you should think about how to answer them BEFORE you actually hang up a shingle and advertise yourself as a recording studio.

MTCW.

Thomas W. Bethel Sat, 05/13/2006 - 06:19
cheatingatmath wrote: the most expensive sound guy in this area charges $35, no cost for setup. this guy was a previous fulltime engineer for the b52s-not to mention countless other bands. his sound company (that he is the full owner of, not to whom he is solely contracted) has done the past 3 US Presidential Inaugurations-with him at the board. he records albums on the mixer used to record AC/DC's 'Back in Black' and owns the first ever monitors to hear that classic.

so if you're charging $65/hr, that's your problem.

if anything, i'll actually be giving local studios business. it takes alot of shows for a new band to record a full length album. i'm not in the full length business. i'm in the 4 song studio demo business. i'm giving a band a demo to put on their merch table.

show $$ + demo $$ = studio $$

regards,
cheatingatmath

I don't know where you are located so it is hard to say what is the normal hourly rate for an engineer. Here in Northern Ohio rates per hour range from $15.00 to $200.00 per hour and up. If you can take the equipment out of the equation you can probably get lower rates. If you have to factor in bringing in $X,XXX to $XX,XXX of equipment then the rates would have to reflect that "investment". I am sure this guy is not doing recording for $35.00 per hour with a large investment in equipment unless the equipment was all paid for previously by high paying gigs like the Presidential Inaugurations. Maybe he is doing the gigs for $35.00 per hour to fill in his schedule or because like many of us he enjoys working with musicians and likes to keep his skill levels high. He is NOT having to pay for his living expenses with what he is charging out for recording local groups and obviously has bigger events that really "pay the rent". So this maybe a hobby type occupation for him to do in is "down" time. This is NOT a typical business model especially if he is using top flight equipment and with his skill level.

As to you "giving local studios business" How? Let's say the band is so taken with your work that they want to hire you to do the whole album. Are you going to say NO! or are you going to think it over and say SURE!. It is what I would do if I were in your place. So instead of "giving local studios business" you will be another supplier of recording services in an already crowded market place and what about the engineer that is doing things for $35.00 per hour. Is he going to be "happy" with another person moving in? Don't know maybe he loves company.

Slighty OT but still relevent to the discussion

There are about 5 to 10 local sound companies in this area. Some of them are very good and charge accordingly. Some are so so and try to get the bigger rates with less equipment and know how and some are wantabees that are just starting up and take just enough of the low end business to stay in business but they have their eyes set on the big boys. One of the middle companies use to do a lot of work with the college I was affiliated with. They had some really big acts that they were doing and a lot of smaller systems. They would come here, always charge the same amount, but one time it would be a 56 input Midas console and all top flight equipment with a real audio engineer and the next time they would send out a 24 input Mackie. some crap speakers and a couple of 100 watt amplifiers with somebody who was a Guitar tech ( no offense meant but he had probably sat behind the console as much as someone in the audience) on the road and got drafted to do the sound here because everyone else was on the road. Same price for the gig but definitely not the same quality. In the FWIW category.

Pro Audio Guest Sat, 05/13/2006 - 08:44
You all are making assumptions that he has to pay off gear or that he only has $250 worth of gear. Maybe he bought some stuff for himself to mess around with or to record himself and the price of that gear justified spending some money on gear. maybe he paid it all off. maybe he inheireted (sp?) some gear. maybe he got some good used stuff for free. The bottom line is you have no idea what his gear is worth and what he has and how he got it or anything, so you are making assumptions. like i said before, if he found a way to make this work in his favor and he is happy enough doing it, thats fine.
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