Pay for staff assistants
LivintheDream
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#1
14th March 2007
Old 14th March 2007
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Pay for staff assistants

I'm finishing up an internship and I'm trying to decide wether to go for a staff job in nashville, or try to be independent and have a day job too. Does anyone know about how much a staff engineer in nashville makes? I've heard its as low as 18k a year. Throw some numbers at me.
#2
14th March 2007
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It really depends on the studio. I would expect to not start out making a whole lot, but if you are a good assistant at a big studio you can end up making a decent amount, especially if you are hourly and work tons of overtime.
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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are most staff jobs hourly?
#4
14th March 2007
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Just starting out-- totally go for the staff position. You will get your name out there, and then you can also freelance on the side. Just be sure to let people know your skills and areas of expertise.

I think you can learn a lot in a few months as a staffer. You can always freelance on the side. If you are not learning anything at you staff job, then tell them you want some additional training experience. Don't let potential problems boil, you will need to communicate in order to get what you want.
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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GTR - do you know anything about staff pay? This is a concern as I want to have a job that allows me to survive.
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14th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LivintheDream View Post
GTR - do you know anything about staff pay? This is a concern as I want to have a job that allows me to survive.

welcome to the music business! haha

I might check the Sound Kitchen... I pretty sure their assistants are payed like $7.50(don't quote me on that) an hour and then they also get a day rate when they are actually assisting. When I've worked there its around the $150/day mark for an assistant.

Hope this helps...

Might also try Blackbird... I have a friend who was(is??) an assistant there and he definitely wasn't starving for food.
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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how does one land those jobs without interning there? I have a full-time job and can't afford to do another internship. Is it worth it to try for a staff job?
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14th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LivintheDream View Post
how does one land those jobs without interning there? I have a full-time job and can't afford to do another internship. Is it worth it to try for a staff job?
Go to each studio and ask to talk to the studio manager... and have a resume ready... don't just mail/email in a resume, you'll just get tossed to the side like everyone else. Seeing someone in person is much more appealing.

Is it worth it? Sure... my same friend at blackbird got it real good with John McBride and that has definitely helped him alot as McBride is a good person to know... you meet alot of people if you have a staff job at a studio with a lot of foot traffic and alot of stuff can happen, sometimes fast, usually not though...

I've managed to make, what i call, my living through just freelance stuff right out of school. Record a band here and there to pay the bills and actively persue getting hooked up with an engineer whom you admire and get things rolling that way.

At any rate, you've got to be willing and ready to have a potentially long trip ahead... its a 7 year industry...
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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I think the way to go for me is freelance. How did you find people to record? Just go to shows and solicite, or did you advertise yourself, or was it word of mouth?
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14th March 2007
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Does $18k sound low? Yes.
Does it sound low for a staff assistant? Unfortunately, no.
I think people have to stop being so desperate for audio jobs.

I got my start freelancing during college. At first I was one of those guys who would record for next to nothing, then I was $10/hr, then I was $15/hr, then $20 and $25, cutting people breaks and working for less sometimes, just to get the gig!

All that experience freelancing at different studios put me in the running to start freelancing as an assistant at a couple of bigger studios on bigger projects. I got to cut my rates to $10/hr, and plug things in for other engineers!

Funny business, eh? At least I never had to work for free. I don't believe in interning. I think it devalues us all. (I did work a day job for quite a while though)

Assisting is great experience and great for networking (as long as you're confident and good!). I could never do it exclusively though.... the hardest part is stifiling my opinions!

Sometimes I just want shove everyone out of the room and just start twisting knobs, and sometimes I'm extremely humbled by someone else's ears, outlook and experience.

At 25 years old, assisting just seems to make sense to me... but I feel I may have learned more as a freelancer on my own sessions. Interning is ********. Just say no!
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14th March 2007
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started out some stuff for free with some friends bands just to get my chops... then once I had a decent enough product, go to songwriters night, get a myspace account going with some catchy production company name, sponsor a battle of the bands, use every resource you can to shamelessly promote yourself and it'll start to snowball...


and I will say, the freelance road can be a longer road sometimes because you do have a 9 to 5 to fall back on if you aren't being successful at first, but push on!!! and go ahead and prepare yourself for the day you step into 100% of your income coming from freelance... i think i pee'd my pants... twice, that day. haha
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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gibson, did you ever do any overt advertising... as in newspaper or magazine, or did you just rely on networking through songwriter nights and friends
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i did do the battle of the bands thing. at first, it didn't seem to have any affectiveness... but after the 2nd or 3rd sponsoring, all these bands started knowing who i was and, this year anyway, I can't keep em off me. haha.

I thought about advertising in a select mag or 2, or other resource, but man... its not worth it.

the market has to see your advertisement an average of 11 times before the actually even acknowledge it for a company they don't recognize... you'd need an advertising budget for atleast a year which is very costly.

and i wouldnt suggest doing a marketing campaign around nashville. this town is so flooded with it, you'd probably get nowhere.

word of mouth, sponsor a battle of the bands... be there at the battle of the bands. I was the only sponsor there to talk with the bands... don't try to sell them a record right there, build a relationship with them, that's what they want. what band doesn't want to talk about themselves??? if you can, become familiar with some of the artists there and go and talk to em, build that relationship and then casually slip in the comment, "well I love your stuff and would love to work with you."

See, bands/songwriters record for 2 reasons:

1.) To make and put their art onto a medium which they can then sell.

2.) MOST IMPORTANT!!!! They record because they want the ride. so you give it to them. make em feel like a million bucks. out of towners coming to record?? hire a limo to pick em up! find a great studio for a great price on the row and record there. they want VIP treatment while they're recording in magical nashville. it may sound crazy, but it works. they want to feel like they are the most important project you have going all year(and once upon a time, for me, they might be the only project i have all year - haha).
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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So what is the cost for being a sponsor for a battle of the bands or a similar event? And what do you get out of it? Do you just get a banner at the venue or what?
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14th March 2007
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all of that just depends on the event itself.

usually promo on their website and at the event. and offer a "discount" to all bands that enter.
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14th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LivintheDream View Post
This is a concern as I want to have a job that allows me to survive.
If that is a concern, find another business or do a day gig and freelance at night. I'm not being coy or joking. I'm dead serious. Studios are dropping like flies, budgets are 1/3 of what they were less than 5 years ago which is less than they were 20 years ago, and there are plenty of people willing to work for free - or in some cases even paying for work. All this combined with the cost of living skyrocketing. This does not create a good working envrionment - even for established engineers.

All the creative arts seem to be in the same boat right now. I have no idea how this is going to shake out in the long term. Wish I could tell you....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
If that is a concern, find another business or do a day gig and freelance at night. I'm not being coy or joking. I'm dead serious. Studios are dropping like flies, budgets are 1/3 of what they were less than 5 years ago which is less than they were 20 years ago, and there are plenty of people willing to work for free - or in some cases even paying for work. All this combined with the cost of living skyrocketing. This does not create a good working envrionment - even for established engineers.

All the creative arts seem to be in the same boat right now. I have no idea how this is going to shake out in the long term. Wish I could tell you....
large studio have dropped like flies...their are probably mor studio out there than ever now..

10 yeas ago we paid 10 hr..you only got paid for being on sessions or coming in to do busy work, you had healh care and you could NOT freelance ..of course we closed in 2003
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I pay between 28-33/year for assisstants. Had to let my last 2 go, though.......and I thought that was low. But it was all I could afford.
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14th March 2007
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that probably is low for new york city. but even adjusted for cost of living, 18k in nashville is damn near poverty.
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14th March 2007
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After a good 3 yrs of UNPAID interning at various studios around town while I was in school, my first staff gig I landed offered a flat weekly rate of $300 for (most of the time)60+ hours. Kicked my ass, but it was worth every penny. It was all uphill from there. Long days and long nights, I rarely saw my wife, little sleep and right back into it.
That's the name of this game. Don't let them take advantage of you, but don't think you're too good to start out working for little. If you got the right stuff, it won't be long b4 your makin some good "bill payin'" wages.

Good Luck!
#21
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If you're in it for the money, you're in the wrong business.

The choice of "whether to try freelancing or not" is easy: Is your phone ringing with gigs?

If it's not [or not consistently enough for you to feel you can rely on it], go for the staff gig. They're great network builders & stepping stones. You can never have too many contacts or people who know and trust you. After a time --if you're worth your salt-- the phone will start to ring...

I've been discovering that being willing to starve a bit to build your resume/discography is absolutely expected in major markets. Even assisting at the big name studios around here is a poorly paying gig, if all you're counting is dollars. [The value of the credits, otoh, is all in how hard you hustle...]

If you don't want to play that game, get a day job & look forward to your projects on your days/nights off. There's no shame in being fat & happy!

Yours truly,
Skinny & Abused
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One more thought:

If you're going for a staff gig, weigh carefully *where* (i.e. what studio). What kind of business do they get? What have the previous staff guys gone on to do? Are the people languishing, or moving up & moving on?

There are lots of dead-end staff gigs in the world. Some of them pay well. Hell, that might be perfect for you!
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14th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by six_wax View Post
If you're in it for the money, you're in the wrong business.
I guess I can agree with that to a degree, but I think it is not unreasonable to expect your job (whatever it may be) to pay you enough to be able to live and eat. Should anyone really have to work 80+ hours a week just to make ends meet? I'll never buy into the corporate mentality where the people at the top have ridiculous salaries while the people right under them are starving and can barely afford their rent.
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I worked as a staff assistant at a busy 4 room facility just off music row for about 15 months in 98-99. I was paid $15k/year. I doubt the wage has increased much since then. The pay sucked, the hours were long, the experience was priceless. I don't regret it for a minute.

The thing is, at the time, most studios didn't employ staff assistants. I'd imagine that's still the case.
LivintheDream
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14th March 2007
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erick: how did you survive on 15k a year? Did you live in a box? Did you have a spouse that was working? This is what I'm talking about when I say I want to be able to survive. No one can survive on 15k a year.
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14th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DontLetMeDrown View Post
but I think it is not unreasonable to expect your job (whatever it may be) to pay you enough to be able to live and eat.
Agreed, but after 20+ years, accolades, a grammy, and a killer studio with pretty much anything I could ever need or want.....that's exactly what I'm finding. And it's not just me. Every buddy in the biz that I'm talking to is having the same issues. The biz has changed.....for the worse. Making a decent living is definately the exception not the norm any more.
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15th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LivintheDream View Post
erick: how did you survive on 15k a year? Did you live in a box? Did you have a spouse that was working? This is what I'm talking about when I say I want to be able to survive. No one can survive on 15k a year.
It wasn't easy. She's my wife now, but we weren't married at the time. She could only find measly retail jobs. We definitely weren't living comfortably.
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15th March 2007
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Just as a perspective, both of my daughters, 17 and 18 work reception jobs at a local
real estate office.

Both have excellent dual platform computer skills and are fluent in MS Office applications, correspondence, phone duties etc.

They both started at $10.00 and that's the least they would accept for their skills.

They are great with customers, show up ON TIME and get along with the rest of the staff.
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15th March 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LivintheDream View Post
that probably is low for new york city. but even adjusted for cost of living, 18k in nashville is damn near poverty.
It really is near poverty. Simply my student loans alone (thanks Berklee!) would take all of that after taxes, etc.. Hell, my father pays 14,000USD/year in health insurance alone (cancer survivor).

I guess it really is a supply/demand thing. There's a huge supply of "potential engineers" now, and no one wants to hire them, so subsequently they are paid less than illegal immigrants mowing yards or building our roads.

18K wouldn't be as bad IF:

The studio provided 100% health insurance coverage, and reimbursement for deductables. Group rates for life insurance/dental would be good too. Yes, I know many of you have said here how you all feel that you should just save, and insurance is unneeded. I disagree, and on 18K/year you aren't saving much.
The studio has a good record of quickly increasing wages (for competent employees).
The studio is near public transit (nearly nonexistant in most part of the South last I checked), and helps the people get cheaper subway/bus passes.
The person who is hired has regular hours so that they can do other work on the side.
The studio allows the assistant to book sessions and take a portion of the money when the studio isn't booked.


18K is ok for like 6 months, but really... it's 9/hr. I've had grocery store jobs pay that, or nearly that. Your average secertary makes FAR more (like 30-70K or more a year).

I don't think that anyone should have to work 80+ hours a week to survive. I do think that a company should pay a person enough to reasonably live.
LivintheDream
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15th March 2007
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so here's a question for all you "accomplished" slutz who actually make a living recording music. Did all of you hold staff jobs at one point? I'd like to hear someone's story who got out and hustled gigs on their own without going the staff route.
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