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Fergies Watch 14th October 2018 11:47 AM

Working for free or cheap

I’m looking for a bit of advice from seasoned studio pros.

So I have my dream one room studio now functional to record a full band and I have started recording with a semi pro band. We have cut 2 original tracks so far and bar a couple of tweaks the band are really happy with what we’ve done so far.

I started on the premis as they don’t have much cash that I’d be happy to work for either very little or free if I could lean on them to contribute ideas or advice for my own songwriting material. All good so far, after a bit of a break we’re in touch again and they want to continue recording and do the whole album.

I’m really happy about it as it shows I’m improving as a recording and mix engineer. I have stated that I’d be happy to work through the album and at the end they can just raise whatever funds they have or think is valid.

I want to build up my resume as an engineer so i can get more work moving forwards. I do this in my spare time and work full time so I work around life.

Do you think this is the best policy?, I do want to build relationships while crafting my skills in real world recording and mixing scenarios rather than being jack of all trades when I’m writing my own stuff. I figure that building up a list of contacts aro7nd music will be of more benefit for me for the stage I’m at, rather than focusing on making a quick buck or two.

Do you have any advise to share where you have been in my position?

Would you do anything differently, knowing what you know now?

All the best


pencilextremist 14th October 2018 12:16 PM

it depends, if you're working for free treat it like education and learn from all the mistakes, the problem is though is that there's a lot of bands out there who are ONLY interested in engineers and studios who do the work for free, the same bands always inevitably end up paying somebody to do it again or mix what you've recorded, sometimes the pros do a worse job, you wouldn't believe how terrible some pros are out there, just because you charge for something doesn't mean you're great.

For that reason I'd focus on the quality of your work more than anything else, that's what stands you out from everybody else!

RedBaaron 14th October 2018 12:31 PM

Like the man said: "if you're good at something, you should never do it for free."

If you're still getting to that point, I don't see the harm.

Swing 14th October 2018 01:02 PM

From my own experience I'd recommend you charge money for your work. Even if it is not very much right off the bat for a few projects I think it is important that your clients understand how the relationship works.

I first made the mistake to follow an approach you are considering a long time ago in the US. It became difficult for me to break the collegial relationship I had with some musicians who almost treated me like one of themselves and a part of the band. And then I made a similar mistake here in France.

Looking back I could have saved myself some grief by charging at least some money right off the bat. When clients pay any money they listen better. When clients pay from the beginning it is much easier than moving to a fee relationship later. Gear is a heck of a lot more affordable when your clients' projects are paying for it, and so you can fill in the weak spots in your equipment much quicker.

I accept almost all of my projects because I know and care about the musicians and their music. I don't care at all about building a brand and I probably could be busier if I did. But I like very much being invested personally in my projects, even if the musicians understand they must also invest in me for the work I do for them.

Jaybird 14th October 2018 03:30 PM

If I was working for free, id want to get paid in advance.
I once had my credits removed from a "Free" project that I did (Guitar player put him self in the credits)

Swing 14th October 2018 05:43 PM


Originally Posted by Jaybird (Post 13570719)
If I was working for free, id want to get paid in advance.
I once had my credits removed from a "Free" project that I did (Guitar player put him self in the credits)

Almost as bad is when I sent over a very quick mix of a recording session for which I was paid, modestly, and made clear the mix was not close to final but that I preferred some decisions on a few points I thought important for the musicians to make instead of me. The band released the mix as it was but with some similarly rough mastering and while I received credit I'd have much preferred to be ignored.

Jaybird 14th October 2018 06:00 PM

I once laid out the CD art with 5 choices and when I got up to get something they snatched the CD master with out paying (On a free gig!!)

How do you take something thats a free?