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Finding my "niche" -how involved to get in a clients song Desktop Synthesizers
Old 17th July 2014
  #1
Exclamation Finding my "niche" -how involved to get in a clients song

So wouldn't consider myself a "newb" when it comes to recording knowledge and the amount of mixing/editing/tracking I've done, but within the last year I've bridged the gap from doing pre-production/ghost writing for bands to building my own professional project studio in my house and putting out records and eps (room is fully treated, fully loaded computer, apollo duo, uad 2 card, d-box, api and heritage pres etc etc; this thread isn't about my gear, its about how I approach working with my clients.

I work with a lot of smaller local bands, and they come to me, and I ALWAYS do pre-production, and when we do it, I end up tearing their songs apart and pretty much writing the whole damn thing. But THEY LOVE IT. My clients end up stoked, with a product that sounds good (to them, I'm never fully happy with my mixes) and songs they wouldn't get if they went to someone bigger who would just hit record.

Now, this hasn't been the case with every client, I've done stuff with bands who write awesome stuff and I just add/subtract/suggestions/mix and do a lot of production, ya know, the NORMAL role for a producer.

But with the other bands, I'm only SOMETIMES getting compensated for the writing... but how do you quantify the value of writing a bands songs when you've agreed on a project rate beforehand? And I want to record for a living, and if my niche becomes the guy makes smaller younger bands have interesting, structured, and well thought out songs, how do I make a living when most of the time they wouldn't be able to afford what I would REALLY want for the amount of effort I put into the music?

So, in short, as a 23 year old recording/gear slut and someone who's just invested about 20k into their first space, and is SERIOUS about making this my job, should I just be the guy who hits record? And just put out as much material as I can and focus on getting better and better, and only write when a band asks, and make it known to them that they have to PAY for it? Or be the guy that gives a **** enough to really dive into a bands songs and make them the best they can be, without them having to pay 50$ an hour while we sit there til 9 am writing a song? TBH I wouldn't be complaining if I had labels sending me bands knowing they're going to leave with GOOD songs (I play in a touring band, and I know some pretty popular bands on big labels that are full time touring acts that didn't write a single song on their record)

I understand compression knees, polar patterns, mic impedance, and could tell you every damn revision of an 1176, but I still am trying to find my place as an engineer/producer. Any lifers out there willing to give a young cat some words of wisdom?
Old 17th July 2014
  #2
Lives for gear
I think you need to decide what you want to do and talk to the bands about it upfront to see what they want.

If you only want to record/mix stuff that you also produce, then you may ultimately limit the amount of bands you can work with.

If the band decides they don't want you to produce, and aren't paying for that, then giving your input in that regard is kind of overstepping the bounds of an engineers role.

In that case, at best the band ends up with some free input, worst case you irritate whoever is actually calling the shots.

So IMO, engineer and producer are two seperate roles which should have seperate fees/rates. It seems you're really talking about producing, but you may want to consider being open to simply recording/mixing as well if you want to accommodate the largest number of potential clients.
Old 17th July 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
I think you can be whichever you want, but I think it's up to the artist(s) as to which role you actually will play for their project. If they decide they want you to produce up front, then great for you and them but I think out of respect to the artist, if that type of input isn't asked for then that may be a line you really should not cross because you may come across as arrogant and condescening. Oh, one more thing, all of the things that you've said you are famliar with in your post doesn't necessarily give you a license to produce. Those are all general knowledge items that most people on GS are very familiar with. Sometimes (and I'm not excluding myself from this conversation) we attach more value to ourselves and our skill sets than what is actually there. There's a lot more to understand about production/engineering than polar patterns, compression knees and the various differences in the revisions of the 1176. Nice information to have non the less but I don't see that it adds value to your capabilities. Practical application of the knowledge you say you have is what will increase your value and your potential. Stay humble, remember your performing a service for the artist. I like to refer to it as Quiet Confidence. You're young, you have a good start. Keep learning your not even ankle deep in this ocean yet. Good luck.
Old 19th July 2014
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rockinrob View Post
I think you can be whichever you want, but I think it's up to the artist(s) as to which role you actually will play for their project. If they decide they want you to produce up front, then great for you and them but I think out of respect to the artist, if that type of input isn't asked for then that may be a line you really should not cross because you may come across as arrogant and condescening. Oh, one more thing, all of the things that you've said you are famliar with in your post doesn't necessarily give you a license to produce. Those are all general knowledge items that most people on GS are very familiar with. Sometimes (and I'm not excluding myself from this conversation) we attach more value to ourselves and our skill sets than what is actually there. There's a lot more to understand about production/engineering than polar patterns, compression knees and the various differences in the revisions of the 1176. Nice information to have non the less but I don't see that it adds value to your capabilities. Practical application of the knowledge you say you have is what will increase your value and your potential. Stay humble, remember your performing a service for the artist. I like to refer to it as Quiet Confidence. You're young, you have a good start. Keep learning your not even ankle deep in this ocean yet. Good luck.
Thank you for the advice- and you're right, I was mostly trying to show that I'm not a complete idiot in the world of recording- albeit in a comical way. I am surely ankle deep, and I never meant to come across as cocky as arrogant, I know that the most indispensable quality to have in this industry (especially mixing) is your ears, and that's not something you can buy from Sweetwater, it's something that comes from years and years of doing mix after mix after mix. It's like wisdom, and it takes time and patience to acquire.. and I'm fully committed to that notion. Hence why I posted on here, and why I'm a member here, because I know I can get advice from the guys that have been doing this day in and day out for 15-20-1000 years. That's invaluable to me. And as far as separation between the engineer and the producer, I understand that those things SHOULD be separate, but a lot of the clients I get want that input, whether a little or a lot, to some degree or another.. and I'm always doing everything, tracking, mixing, mastering (unless the client wants someone else to do that) but I do feel that the lines between engineer, producer, mixing engineer, and even mastering engineer have become very blurred; smaller bands that haven't recorded at a lot of different studios want to come in, get everything done, and leave with a product they're stoked on and hope will further their career. Not every band has management or a label who knows that the more people involved in a recording, in most cases, the better it will be. But thanks again Rockinrob and unity music for the input, I will certainly take your advice and really make sure that the project ground rules are established with the artist, well before the computer is switched on.
Old 21st July 2014
  #5
Lives for gear
There are several very good mixers who are engineers as well. Joe Barresi comes to mind right away. I do agree the lines are becoming blurred maybe not so much for mastering as there is nothing better for a good mix than to have a professional mastering job done on it. The price of mastering is pennies on the dollar compared to mixing. I wasn't trying to rain on your parade at all. This world of audio engineering is a passion we all share on GS and I'm on here for the same reasons as you. I want to continue to learn. Keep mixing.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rockinrob View Post
There are several very good mixers who are engineers as well. Joe Barresi comes to mind right away. I do agree the lines are becoming blurred maybe not so much for mastering as there is nothing better for a good mix than to have a professional mastering job done on it. The price of mastering is pennies on the dollar compared to mixing. I wasn't trying to rain on your parade at all. This world of audio engineering is a passion we all share on GS and I'm on here for the same reasons as you. I want to continue to learn. Keep mixing.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #7
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DougS's Avatar
 

I'm by no means one of the 'guys' with a thousand years of experience you are looking to hear from. But Sylvia Massy is. When I read your post I remembered reading this little gem from Sylvia - so I looked it up and it seems to be right on point. This is from "Q&A with Sylvia Massy" in the "Expert Questions and Answers Achieves" forum. Hope this helps.

Quote:
I can think of an important "light bulb moment" that completely changed the direction of my career.

Back in early 1992 I was scheduled to engineer Tool's debut album. I visited their rehearsals to discuss how we would record. I had not been asked for production advice from the band, but after several hours in rehearsal, I realized they needed help. They needed a tie-breaker, someone who was not in the band to make judgement calls. In that way Tool's inter-band politics could stay out of their delicate decision-making process.

A loud bell rang in my head when I realized they needed me. This was that "light bulb moment." I was filled with ideas and immediately jumped in to offer help. Having previously been trained to "have no opinion" as an assistant engineer at Larrabee Sound, when the opportunity came to help guide the project, I was ready. I had many opinions!

That was the turning point in my career when I changed from just being an engineer to being a producer. I loved this band. I loved their music. I knew how good the album could be. And now I could help to steer the ship. Tool is an amazing live group, no denying that, but more than just documenting that stage energy with audio photographs, I was painting their portraits with my own style, directly choosing colors and textures.

Since the Tool records, I am not intimidated by big hairy mean-looking tattooed rockers. Nor am I intimidated by fame. Everyone needs someone they can trust to tell them when they suck. When to try harder. When they've reached their peak performance so they can move on.
__________________
-Sylvia
__________________
sylviamassy.com
My 2 cents: I'm from the "Add as much value as you possibly can school of life". Eventually you will be recognized and then you'll find a way (or invent a way) to monetize the value you bring. But if you never add the value - well then - you never add the value.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
I'm by no means one of the 'guys' with a thousand years of experience you are looking to hear from. But Sylvia Massy is. When I read your post I remembered reading this little gem from Sylvia - so I looked it up and it seems to be right on point. This is from "Q&A with Sylvia Massy" in the "Expert Questions and Answers Achieves" forum. Hope this helps.



My 2 cents: I'm from the "Add as much value as you possibly can school of life". Eventually you will be recognized and then you'll find a way (or invent a way) to monetize the value you bring. But if you never add the value - well then - you never add the value.
This is so awesome man, thank you so much for taking the time to look that up and throw it my way. Super helpful... And your 2 cents is totally something I agree with. If a band doesn't want any opinions, I'll respect that-but I want to be known for not only making a bands songs sound good, but for making their songs better. And I truly believe no matter how good a band is, an outside perspective is mandatory. I've written two full lengths with my band thus far and went to two different producers, and their objectivity made the records so much better. From the smallest little details, to completely gutting out a song, it matters. So at this point in my career I'm going to approach each client AS a unique client, and not worry so much about the monetary value of my input until my door is getting knocked down for it.
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