Who makes money from the HOME studio?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by jeronimo, Oct 4, 2001.

  1. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2001
    Well, J, cost of living is a little better than it was in Austin, but I have student loans, a fiance, and a dog to worry about. You figure your facility costs (rent/utility/insurance/etc) and gear and maintenance costs (even figuring on dividing it over a lot of hours) and your hourly income, pre tax, isn't too high. And that's not giving much budget to upgrade your setup. In Austin I was thinking $35/hour would be the bare minimum, with good booking, to keep a bare bones place just running. I wouldn't have been able to break in at that rate when guys were advertising at $15 an hour.

    (Oh, and BTW, w/ what money do you upgrade before you raise your rates? Your future upgrades should be built into your previous rate.)

    The sad thing is that people don't think anything of paying a plumber, electrician, or mechanic a reasonable hourly rate for their services, but not for recording time. Makes more sense for a lot of people to have a day job where they're reasonably paid and record bands on the weekend.

    Bear
     
  2. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
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    J, don't be afraid to make a profit. If you are good, you deserve to be paid. If you are working too many hours... raise your rates. Check out what comparable studios with similar gear/facilities and talent charge and stay close to that rate. You can always cut block deals if you're feeling generous.

    How much do you really spend on your studio? Come on, be honest, I won't tell your wife! If you look at the real costs and your cost of living and add in future improvements/upgrades it should be fairly clear if you can make a go of it at your current rate.

    If you want to grow you've got to have good profitability, otherwise you'll always be stuck as a low-rate studio. You always need to be planning to get to the next level.

    I do a lot of voice recording, fairly simple set-up. The going rate in town is $125/hr. Believe it or not, clients are suspicious of ultra low rate cards. Do good work, build trust and you'll have long term clients.

    What I'm about to say is the kind of thing my dad harped on endlessly about when I was too young to care...but here it goes: Earn enough to have good insurance, save for retirement, have a family, have some nice things in life and treat yourself and spouse to a nice vacation once in a while.

    By the way, I can really relate to the plummer analogy. Had one in for eight hours roughing in the studio's new bathroom. Cost me $700 for labor and was worth every penny!

    Got to get back to work, good luck.
     
  3. RaGe

    RaGe Guest

    Hi Curious,
    I am trying to get into the ad biz, looking for different ways to generate some income, and maybe you could shed some light on some questions I have. Please bare with me, here we go:

    1. Do ad agencies usually look for one-stop studios (music, talent) or do they already have voice talents they like to use?

    2. Could you describe a regular voice recording session (if such thing exists :cool: !)?

    3. Would you recommend preparing a demo reel with fake ads?

    Any other thought or advice will be very welcome. I don't expect to make big bucks on my side of the country but I think it's worth a try.
    Thank you!
     
  4. Rog

    Rog Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
    Since I do this as my day job I'll try and help ...

    1. Do ad agencies usually look for one-stop studios (music, talent) or do they already have voice talents they like to use?

    Many agencies will have voices in mind but you would do the session from your studio via ISDN (this can be an expensive prospect if you don't get regular work - check out the situation in your neck of the woods. Other times you wil have to choose a voice - do a web search and request demo reels from prospective voice overs and you will start to get preferences the more you use different voices. I have a list of 30-40 I use regularly.

    2. Could you describe a regular voice recording session (if such thing exists :cool: !)?

    Phone and bok a time. Fax the script. Dial up and start discussing ideas, directing and then recording some takes. Keep going until you get what you want, even if it means 20 takes. If the voice talent gets sniffy at being asked to keep going, don't use them again.

    3. Would you recommend preparing a demo reel with fake ads?

    Possibly. Try going to businesses and getting a breif from them. After this, write a commercial (take your time, avoid cliches and do something interesting with sound .... a voice shouting "come on down to Blah blah for great deals on thingummy, lots of free parking at the rear of the store" will NOT do. Check out advertising festivals (Mobius awards, London International awards, the New Yorks, etc. for examples of award winners) Make this for free and go and present it to them and see what they think. Often clients who don't want to know and are only doing this to hear a free ad will end up coming back for regular business. Then you get your demo reel. Also, enter these awards a often as possible - great way of getting the attention of a new client and keeping old clients!

    Any other thought or advice will be very welcome. I don't expect to make big bucks on my side of the country but I think it's worth a try.
    Thank you![/QB][/QUOTE]

    This is the kind of thing you can dip your toe into. Don't sit around losing money and waiting for the phone to ring. It's better to work very hard on a few clients at first, get them on board for the long run and then look to expand.

    Check out radio stations - you need to advise on the cost of airtime, rotation details, the target demograpic etc. The commercial may be amazing but if it runs when the target audience does not listen (say aimed at school kids and it goes out in school time, etc.) then you are basically ^#$%ed and you'll never see that client again. DON'T leave schedules up to the station, you need to know this stuff yourself.

    Hope this helps!
     
  5. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Home Page:
    RaGe, Rog did a fine job of answering your questions. I started at a voice house in Philly that we called the deli of sound (3 rooms, no waiting) and for the first 8 years of my career recorded nothing but commercial work. As a result, I knew what to expect and had made a lot of contacts by the time I opened my own studio.

    Here are a few thoughts:
    Besides your studio gear, the basic tools you need also include a nice stock music library (which you can buy or license) and stock sound effects... lots and lots of 'em! Only a few of my clients budget for custom music. Don't forget a stopwatch too!

    Being associated with a video facility can be a great help. Most video houses need audio engineering talent whether or not they recognize it! Agencies doing TV/Video work like one-stop production.

    I don't pay voice talent, that billing is done separately by the talent. I often make recomendations and have a fairly extensive list of voice samples to choose from in mp3 format at my website. In the states, talent comes in 2 flavors: AFTRA/SAG and Non-Union. Find out what talent are hot in your neck of the woods and network with them, they can help you in a number of ways:
    1) They can make referrals to your studio
    2) They can help you to create your first demo. Offer to help them with putting together demo tapes. Create a spot from scratch with them for that tape (most of what they'll want on their tape will already have been produced). Take the scratch spots you recorded with them and "Poof"... you'll now have a demo from your studio you can shop to agencies and production companies.
    3) They can create "buzz" about your studio. The talent will shop their demos and mention that you helped put it together for them... win/win. Eventually you may be charging to create voice demos for other talent.

    I like talent! They are creative people and can make or break a spot. Get to know them. Learn how to control a session so that you protect them from directors who are insensitive. Be aware of their needs in the booth: good talkback, water, lighting and air circulation. Take care them, they are NOT cattle.

    A generalization on sessions:
    A typical voice session is under 2 hours for a :60 radio spot with music and sfx mix. Everything must happen fast and can often be stressful. I often judge a new talents voice, decide which mic to use and set it up while everyone's doing the meet and greet. For the first few years I only used MD421's and RE-20's (lol) they are fine mics for v/o work.

    Every session is different so learn to read the situation. Sometimes a client wants to spend all day recording (you pick up the lunch!). Others are constantly watching the clock, sweating, nervous... remember that cooler heads will prevail!

    Different work breeds different client personalities. Political consultants are radically different beasts than corporate marketing directors who are not at all like producers of CD/Web based training programs... learning to work comfortably with all these folks and gaining their trust is what it's all about.

    Check out your local professional organizations. In Philly, there is an Ad Club and a production club (ITVA). There are local trade publications and even a local Creative Directory which lists all your prospective customers. These can help you get a good start.

    I've rambled long enough, hope this helps!
     
  6. RaGe

    RaGe Guest

    Rog and Curious, first of all thank you for your reply, its very informative already.

    Rog, the way you describe things it seems like you are taking a pretty hefty part in the production (where it means making decisions) and even the "marketing" (QUOTE <DON'T leave schedules up to the station, you need to know this stuff yourself.> )of the ad.
    I would assume that it'd be the agency's producer role? For instance I did a voice for a TV ad once and the producer was making the calls while the engineer/composer was just doing his job. I understand that each situation is different though.

    Curious: How well does library music stacks up against what I call "Acidized music"? Don't clients prefer an "original" music bed instead of one that may be already in use somewhere else? My point is that it is fairly easy and fast to assemble a track with ACID, so maybe that would be a good selling point, waddaya think? Now I would much prefer to write from scratch but I guess the radio world is too fast paced for that (2hrs for :60, wow!).
    Also about the sound FX, do you think "Hollywood SFX" (you know the 16 CDs set) is a good investment?

    In any case I appreciate you guys helping me on that matter, I will probably bug you for more :D ... thanks again!
     
  7. Rog

    Rog Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
    Originally posted by RaGe:
    Rog and Curious, first of all thank you for your reply, its very informative already.

    Rog, the way you describe things it seems like you are taking a pretty hefty part in the production (where it means making decisions) and even the "marketing" (QUOTE <DON'T leave schedules up to the station, you need to know this stuff yourself.> )of the ad.
    I would assume that it'd be the agency's producer role? For instance I did a voice for a TV ad once and the producer was making the calls while the engineer/composer was just doing his job. I understand that each situation is different though.

    It really varies and it would certainly help you to find out about this stuff. The result is a happier client, more money for you and repeat business. In my experience, agencies vary from the ones who know what they're doing and those which don't have the first clue (don't forget that radio spots are way down the list of priorities in agencies - everyone wants to do the big TV work and the radio spots usually get left to the new guy to write) if you encounter the latter, you'll be prepared.

    Also, its up to you how you wish to position yourself in the market. You can try to get work just as a production guy (be prepared for lots of work and little pay) if you can write good copy then add that into your job description and expect more money, etc. It's up to you to identify your strengths and play to them.

    I work in a radio station as a producer. I know people who freelance writing spots, I know people who have a (very) modest setup writing, producing and everything else and they seem to get by OK. I know people who work for a wage in a big studio doing radio spots to supplement the companies income in addition to the big TV work they get. I don't know anyone who has a small studio and makes money just on the production of agency scripts but I'm sure there are people out there who do just that.

    In any case I appreciate you guys helping me on that matter, I will probably bug you for more :D ... thanks again!


    No worries, let me know how you get on!
     
  8. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Home Page:
    RaGe,
    Unlike Rog, I only record and mix. I leave media buying to the media buyers. In Philly they are very professional and very competitive and the big buyers get great discounts from the stations because of volume that would put guys like me at a disadvantage. The buyers are paid well so if you want to go into media buying... On top of that, some agencies buy their own media and would percieve my interest as "workin their turf". It's different everywhere so check out your market! I'm really not interested in being a middleman on things like media buys, talent payment/signatory obligations. What works for Rog in his market and what works for me in mine will be different for you... do your homework.

    I think that Rog hits the nail on the head when he says that:
    "it would certainly help you to find out about this stuff. The result is a happier client, more money for you and repeat business. In my experience, agencies vary from the ones who know what they're doing and those which don't have the first clue"

    For a guy who loves recording and needs to find a way to make it a full time gig the ad work for tv/radio/video and the corporate and web work is extremely lucrative ($100/hr) compared to the guys struggling to bring in $20/hr. Remember, I'm working out of my basement here!

    SFX libraries: "Hollywood Edge" is a great library. I also have an extensive collection of "Sound Ideas" sfx. You can also buy fx ala carte on line now. Many video post facilities have libraries (@48k) stored on hard drives (I'd really like to transfer my fx libraries to drive someday!).

    Acid is great, I've wanted to get a pc just for that and gigasampler but I just did the mac/mix+ upgrade and am currently poor. Acid is still custom music and you should sell it as custom music and not worry that your skills and software allow you to do something quickly. Tv tracks have a longer production window and budget and custom scoring often comes into play. I've done sound design projects for :30 tv that billed 15 hours (a nice chunk of change).

    You'd be suprised at how conservative the agencies are (generally) so stock music is good to have on hand. A needle drop/laser drop arrangement can be a good way to start until you're selling enough to commit to a license and make stock music a profit center.

    Good luck with it!
     
  9. RaGe

    RaGe Guest

    I would also be more on your side of the business Curious. Rog, how do you get to be so involved in media buying? Is it the standard in UK for audio prod. houses?
    Curious, congrats on the Mix+! I've been using Giga since it came out and never looked back. Of course it's not the tool of choice for radio production.

    About the music you eventually end up writing do you usually license it for a one-time, per-play or is it included in your hourly rate? I've found some resources on the web on that subject but they confused me even more.
    Unfortunaltely no Ad Club around here, unless it's very well hidden! I am currently setting up the business (licenses, etc) and will soon start looking for voice talents as well as make a first contact with the local agencies. I also got in touch with some radios but no luck ... didn't think of them as competitors at first! Lately I learned that many stations were doing their own ads (usually the station's rep himself).

    Thanks you guys, you've helped me a lot already, I appreciate your time. (watch out, I might spring up for more ;) )
     
  10. RaGe

    RaGe Guest

  11. Rog

    Rog Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
     
  12. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Home Page:
    RaGe,

    You wrote:
    "About the music you eventually end up writing do you usually license it for a one-time, per-play or is it included in your hourly rate?"


    Sound design is hourly rate. Custom music beds are negotiated directly with client and based on usage and budget and are generally a buy-out. The going rates will vary market to market. A lot depends on the # of musicians hired.

    Rog,
    You wrote:
    "IMO the quality of the commercials I get from these agencies can range from absolutely terrible (in terms of both the writing and the production) to the reasonable (never the good) There again, where as we charge anywhere between £300 - £800 per commercial, these people rarely charge more than £150. You get what you pay for."

    It's scary isn't it! :)

    Thanks for the discussion guys!
     
  13. Rog

    Rog Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
    Originally posted by Curious G:
    RaGe,

    Thanks for the discussion guys!


    It's been fun! I wonder if audiokid would set up a forum for producers and engineers involved in the radio industry?
     

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