a question of soundguy ethics

Discussion in 'Recording' started by cheatingatmath, May 10, 2006.

  1. 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 alot from them; i respect them and i consider them friends.

    what do you think?

  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Well, if it "feels" wrong, then just tell them what you're up to and offer something in return -

    Cash, coffee, pizza, lugging around gear, etc. Then the ball is in their court and you have no guilt.
  3. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    i don't know where your scene is, but around here, 4 songs cut for $100 bucks would be of no consequence to any serious engineers. A real studio album done right will always sound better than a live demo cut in who knows what venue with who knows what sound reinforcement.

    I did intern for a well known engineer in this town, and I would say we have the same target genre and I still don't think that I am direct competition for him. He has been making a name for himself in this scene for 10 years, and I am just getting started.

    I wouldn't worry about the competition factor. Just don't do anything sketchy like solicit their previous clients, or bad mouth the person who helped you out and you should sleep fine.

    my $.02

  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    cheatingatmath, I don't think you will find many studios that will accept you as an intern without a qualified recording school behind you? Just the way things are these days, with so many kids going to so many recording schools.

    Perhaps the best thing you could do would be to put a band together and book time at that studio, posing as a producer, to observe your engineer and what he is doing carefully? Then it's a win-win for both parties. In that way you'll have the engineers complete and undivided attention to you and answering your questions in the process. Fast cheap good education and you don't have to make any coffee!

    $100 for 4 songs tracked, mixed and mastered? I'm sorry son you are selling yourself wait too low even for a beginner. Something for nothing is worth nothing and whatever comes to recording, that's nothing! Not everybody cares about the price, most people want a decent product and the price you're charging would indicate that you may not be able to deliver a decent product? It's just too damn cheap. You denigrate our business this way.

    Now get real! I mean reel!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. StevenColbert

    StevenColbert Member

    I agree
    I did the live demo thing for a few months, for less than $100 bucks. :x
    Mostly to see how good it would sound.
    It always ended up sounding VERY live, and the close miking of vocals and instruments was not always a plus. Don't get me wrong, it sounded good, but not THAT good.
    Certainly NOT as good as tracking in a studio.
    Not long after that learning exp I sold my live board for a recording console, so I could make some REAL recordings.
    Another problem was that all the clubs around here are made of concrete and steel, with ceramic tile floors. The sound bounces sooo much that alot of the drums end up on EVERYBODY else's mic's as well. In addition the stages are sooo small that everybody is jammed packed on stage real close together.
    Good luck reguardless
  6. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    not to be a smart ass, but it sounds like your threatened by the low price and the fact that he may take yours (or people like you[s?]) business. if he wants to charge $100, i'd say its fine. it will appeal more to the poor kids that want something better than what they can do themselves or just want to capture their live energy. It'd be great for highschool bands. my friends band recently recorded at a studio and it ended up costing like $600 for 6 songs mixed and mastered. the sad part is, first that they just can't play at all, and second that the guitarist used his crate amp, so it sounds like $*^t. i feel bad that they spent that much on horrible recordings. i think it would have been awesome if they had an opportunity like this to get 4 songs for $100. once i get decent recording gear, ill record my friends and whoever else wants recorded for dirt cheap. i know alot of people here that would like to be recorded but don't wanna spend alot and/or can't find a good studio (or any studio) nearby.

    and i wouldn't feel guilty for that. im sure he's gotta understand that you wanna learn this stuff to compete with him somehow. its not like you wanna learn live sound just for the hell of it.
  7. whoa there cowboy

    You do realize that an engineer can only do so much when recording right? The whole crappy gear + crappy band equation is most of the reason why they have horrible recordings. Until they can work out the gear/band situation, their recordings aren't going to get any better. You can only polish a turd so much.
  8. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    i know. its not just the crappy gear. it just doesn't sound professionally done. i guess you'd have to hear it. and you think he would have maybe recorded the guitar direct and then reamped them on a nicer amp or something.
  9. i appreciate everyone's comments. i've spent the last few days reading massive amounts of information here and i have a new wealth of knowledge to apply to a better end product. i can't say thank you enough.

    i think my concept was misunderstood. i'm not recording live shows as demos. that would be a nightmare. my concept is recording studio 4-song demos (out of my home-so makeshift studio) for $100. the goal is to give new bands the ability to play a few shows and use the money they make to track with me.

    i don't have decades of experience as an engineer. i've been in alot of bands and have sessioned in other studios quite a bit. i hope to use what i've seen, what i've read, what i've done, and what i know to provide an affordable service to bands who don't have a band fund to afford $45/hr + DATs. i took out a loan to purchase equipment to suppliment multitracking to my DAW. yep, i'm gonna be one of those weenies.

    although i plan to make the most with what i have (which is quite a bit of decent hardware-not to mention marshall amps and gibson guitars to use in leiu of a Crate and a Squier), i know my quality won't be what one could expect for $45/hr. i can, however, give a young band 4 songs on a cd they can DIY dup/pkg and get on a merch table. hopefully, they can sell enough of them to visit one of you fine folks. i know i'll be taking a hit in the end...but i'm a computer guy. i only care to make enough on the weekends to cover the loan payment-the rest is for the love of the trade.

  10. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    sounds like a good idea. its providing a convenient service not normally available and is not taking potential studio customers, cause he's catering to the poor kids and beginning bands
  11. CharlesDayton

    CharlesDayton Active Member

    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.
  12. thank you. i'm really excited for this chance at something i really enjoy. i'm gonna have alot of noob questions-so brace yourselves. ha.

    i'm glad to be here.

  13. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    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.
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Blacksburg, VA
    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.
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    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
  16. 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 $$

  17. road_weary

    road_weary Guest

    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....

  18. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Blacksburg, VA

    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.
  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    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!
  20. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    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....

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