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A simple question...How do you guys afford all this stuff?
Old 31st May 2017
  #1
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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A simple question...How do you guys afford all this stuff?

A simple question but I am wondering how the other members of this forum afford all the wonderful gear you post about?

Here in the middle of a cornfield in Ohio no one wants to pay for remote recording anymore. They either use their ZOOM type recorder gaffer taped to a mic stand or their IPAD put on a stand so they can also record the video of the performance. Our rates were low to begin with and then we lowered them to get some business but it seems no one is the least bit interested.

Just wondering how people here afford to purchase and use all this expensive equipment that you seem to have. Is this an expensive hobby or are you really getting enough business to justify the cost of the recording gear?

Thanks in advance!
Old 31st May 2017
  #2
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I decided early on that vital organs are the only ones I really need.
Old 31st May 2017
  #3
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
I buy used gear on Craigslist / Kijiji / Fleabay that professionals who no longer get enough paying gigs are selling off
Seriously tho, I don't know how the audio gear business model can sustain itself - if pros like Tom find it hard to justify buying the latest pro gear, who the heck is buying all the Nagras, SDs, the latest high quality mics, etc.?
Old 31st May 2017
  #4
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Plush's Avatar
We know that amateurs are making a lot of amateur sounding recordings. And these are good enough for them. They use a shaver and some Chinese mics.

The main problem is that they don't charge for their work or they charge $50 or $100 for the job. The are "contributing to the cause of art."

To them, the above is true. But to real recording people it takes our job.

Only those in culturally rich big cities have the opportunity to afford and run a stable business. I'm afraid that the days of only doing music recording are fading away.

The OP speaks of "here in the middle of a corn field in Ohio. . . "
I don't think there is any possibility for a real recording business in that location.
Just the occasional run out.

I have always relied on a tripod of business to make my way-- Recording, broadcast, and music publishing work.

As far as the question about the equipment, buying used is perfectly fine. Also a caution not to go big with the latest digital schmigital set up. It will not be saleable at a later date.

I stick to high quality analog gear and Nagras. They have served me well and the new ones don't have any moving parts.

Buy cheap digital and get cheap digital sound. Buy the best digital and surround it with the best analog and you always have the possibility for the best sound.

European recordists have a richer cultural landscape to mine. There is much more music than in the United States.

Currently the minimum rate for a recital or location recording STARTS at $600 here.
Old 31st May 2017
  #5
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

Some thoughts...I've been at this for over four decades, so I didn't need to buy a lot at one time to accumulate a fairly respectable collection. Many of us have (or have spouses who have) a day gig - this covers health insurance, which is otherwise a huge hit. Also, I've reached the stage where I'm generally fine-tuning my setup rather than adding to it, so selling the old equipment (plus buying used where possible) keeps the outlay manageable. It also helps to be in a large metro area - especially for classical music there's a certain "critical mass" both of musicians and audience before an ensemble can afford to exist.

The really high-end guys, e.g. Plush, Tony Faulkner, NorseHorse, mpdonahue, are generally willing to go where the business is, whether that's Atlanta or Australia. That plus a reputation helps a lot.

I realize jimjazzdad's first sentence is tongue in cheek, but a lot of us older recordists are retiring or dying off and there are deals to be had. Schoeps have been making the Collette series for many decades and there's nothing wrong with buying a 20-year-old one!
Old 31st May 2017
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

It seems pretty obvious to me - and with all due respect to all on this forum - that most on this forum do not do this professionally for their livelihood; it is an expensive hobby. Lots of folks using thousands of dollars worth of equipment and basically donating their time and effort to record an amateur group in a poor acoustic. It's not a viable business model. But I think that's the key - it's rarely a business any longer. For better or worse, the technology has changed the industry.

Case in point, last week we had a top-flight jazz pianist in for a session. He liked the sound we captured so well that he asked what mics we used and how to capture, etc., as he wants to record himself at home, so I shared what I could. He's not a struggling musician and spending a couple thousand on a rig to record his practice/rehearsals is easy for him. Years ago he probably would have needed to pay someone to at least set up a rig and possibly operate it. But no longer.

There will continue to be room for the best, like my friend Steve Remote and Plush and others. But it's not the gear that will make their business, it's their knowledge and connections and ability to adapt. The gear is just a tool.

Myself, I work in broadcast and am fortunate to be able to work with some of the best musicians in the world. That being said, what we do is changing. Less and less we pull out the 'big rig' to do live broadcasts. It's more about quick captures and then mix in post. And I probably only spend 25% of my work time on that kind of work. I also oversee tech operations for the entire broadcast plant, including IT and web stuff, etc.

To answer the question - we don't spend money on all the latest gear. It's rare that we make big investments. Our biggest investment is in mics, and we've pretty much had the same roster in the more than decade I've been here. I slowly add one or two to fill out certain needs over time. Several years ago we invested significantly (for us, a non-profit) in new mic pres, which also changed our digital workflow a bit. But as Plush says, all the digital stuff will just be out of style in a couple years. It's like photography - put your money in lenses, because the camera is kind of a throwaway item.
Old 31st May 2017
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
who the heck is buying all the Nagras, SDs, the latest high quality mics, etc.?
Those who have found revenue streams outside of the traditional recorded music industry, where budgets are higher, income more regular, while still experiencing growth year-on-year (i.e. film, television, gaming, live broadcast).

Workflows in these fields are also changing rapidly (especially in terms of incorporating immersive audio, IP-centered audio and video facilities), and large investments are currently being made to enable these changes to remain relevant for the next decade, hopefully two.
Old 31st May 2017
  #8
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
We know that amateurs are making a lot of amateur sounding recordings. And these are good enough for them. They use a shaver and some Chinese mics.

The main problem is that they don't charge for their work or they charge $50 or $100 for the job. The are "contributing to the cause of art."

To them, the above is true. But to real recording people it takes our job.

Only those in culturally rich big cities have the opportunity to afford and run a stable business. I'm afraid that the days of only doing music recording are fading away.

The OP speaks of "here in the middle of a corn field in Ohio. . . "
I don't think there is any possibility for a real recording business in that location.
Just the occasional run out.

I have always relied on a tripod of business to make my way-- Recording, broadcast, and music publishing work.

As far as the question about the equipment, buying used is perfectly fine. Also a caution not to go big with the latest digital schmigital set up. It will not be saleable at a later date.

I stick to high quality analog gear and Nagras. They have served me well and the new ones don't have any moving parts.

Buy cheap digital and get cheap digital sound. Buy the best digital and surround it with the best analog and you always have the possibility for the best sound.

European recordists have a richer cultural landscape to mine. There is much more music than in the United States.

Currently the minimum rate for a recital or location recording STARTS at $600 here.
By trade I am a mastering engineer. I also do audio and video restoration work. I have done over 3500 live recordings in my lifetime. This area use to be a great place to do recordings and for the first 20 years I was in business I made a good percentage of my income off doing recordings for local groups. I paid my interns and had enough money to buy some "decent" equipment. About 5 years ago with the rise of the "shaver/zoom type recorder some of the groups we did decided to "go it on our own". Then the local college decided that for their faculty/students they would do remote recordings at local churches for $25.00. They also put audio and video recording equipment in all their concert halls, recording studios and classrooms that were accessible to faculty and students. So we no longer got called. Then two of our biggest clients decided that we were too expensive for them and decided to go in another direction with different providers. Our charge for audio and video of their concerts was $500 per. I have no idea how much their current providers of service are charging them or what they are providing. For the $500 we did a two or three HD camera shoot and the audio and did all the video editing and syncing up of the audio and video. We also did all their DVD and CD production and all the graphic work for the CDs and DVDs.

All that is gone.

Lately one of our previous clients contacted us about doing their work again but still nothing on paper. Time will tell.

Recently we did do some recording for a local semi professional orchestra but when they started doing concerts 50 miles away and never wanted to pay over $200 (audio and video recording) we parted company rather quickly.

So today I do a lot of restoration work, voice over work, transfer work and generally keep myself busy. I am sure that in the not too distant future that restoration work will probably become a DIY endeavor with the proliferation of USB turntables and all the restoration plugin available on Audacity®.

So that is the way it is in 2017 and honestly it does not look like it is going to get any better with time. I am always amazed at what equipment people here have access to and how they can afford to purchase it which is why my original question.

FWIW
Old 31st May 2017
  #9
Lives for gear
I suspect the Great recession pushed some clients towards penny pinching, and once that started, then it tends to follow that path. But based on the cars I see people driving, money is flowing out there.

I also suspect some are happy with a cell phone recording. And I see some churches doing live streaming in house. There is more technology change than just shavers at work.
Old 31st May 2017
  #10
Lives for gear
Also, when Tom mentions USB...don't forget that many if not most new digital mixing desks come with in-built USB recording.

Many churches, schools and colleges have a replacement schedule for mixing desks, which are offering more "features" at lower cost with each passing year...thus committees and boards don't baulk at these acquisitions, they are in the budget estimates.

So an organization's tech guy/gal can do some rough gain setting at rehearsal, set the USB to record (at least stereo if not multichannel) and extract it at the end of the night....then give it to a hobbyist member/student or spouse/friend to mix down.

Most concerts and rehearsals could get recorded this way, with no outsourcing to nor engagement of 'outsiders' like many of us here. So when concerts are tied to these digi-desk equipped 'performance halls', the recording process becomes increasingly (and literally) in-house.
Old 31st May 2017
  #11
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Also, when Tom mentions USB...don't forget that many if not most new digital mixing desks come with in-built USB recording.

Many churches, schools and colleges have a replacement schedule for mixing desks...
The church my partner's associated with is about to buy a JoeCo Black Box. Same thing without having to replace the desk, and the box can travel.
Old 31st May 2017
  #12
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Also, when Tom mentions USB...don't forget that many if not most new digital mixing desks come with in-built USB recording.

Many churches, schools and colleges have a replacement schedule for mixing desks, which are offering more "features" at lower cost with each passing year...thus committees and boards don't baulk at these acquisitions, they are in the budget estimates.

So an organization's tech guy/gal can do some rough gain setting at rehearsal, set the USB to record (at least stereo if not multichannel) and extract it at the end of the night....then give it to a hobbyist member/student or spouse/friend to mix down.

Most concerts and rehearsals could get recorded this way, with no outsourcing to nor engagement of 'outsiders' like many of us here. So when concerts are tied to these digi-desk equipped 'performance halls', the recording process becomes increasingly (and literally) in-house.
Finding that more and more. PreSonus just released such a desk. Almost the same price as their desk that cannot record. The list of desks that can record in either stereo or multi-track is growing by leaps and bounds and so are the venues that are using them.

Why pay someone to come in and do the recording when the FOH engineer can do it all. (of course he/she is not going to be paying attention to the stereo mix since they are primarily there to do live sound). But if the multi-track is going to be mixed later by someone else (for free) what difference does it make?

Most of the churches we use to do recording in had nice audio and/or video equipment. What they did not have was anyone who really knew what they were doing as most of them were volunteers. I guess in this current scheme of things it is all about cost and expediency and not about quality or knowing what you are doing.

Oh well...
Old 31st May 2017
  #13
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Its an expensive hobby for me.. I don't have a lot toys frankly compared to most, but what I do have has been accumulated over the last 30 years. I look for the gear that no one wants after they move on to the next greatest thing ever. I find gear that ain't sexy or trendy but works. You won't find Neumann, Neve, API or Pultec in my gear list but you will find Ashly, Kel, Mackie, Focusrite and Warm. I don't have a building designed by Acousticians, just a cinder block room with DIY absorbers.

I think the biggest hurdle is coming to grips with the concept that you don't need perfect rooms with C12's and 67's to make a great recording. They certainly help and do add something to the proceedings but not having the best of everything simply cannot be a reason to not do something. I did my first recordings with a two Realistic cassette decks, Realistic mixer and a battery powered electret condenser mic. I spent about 80 bucks for the lot. A few years later I found a Tascam 8 track cassette unit for $200. It felt like I bought Abbey road at the time that's for sure.

I have slowly added as I found deals, sales, trades etc. While I like to think I have gotten decent at this by now, that never really matters. I love doing it. I am probably only one of a handful of people who get seriously pumped over scoring an old Ashly EQ or compressor for cheap. They are not the best EQ or comp ever made and I am sure people here will line up telling me to buy something else or use a plugin etc. (because they already have! LOL) and they are probably right. But on the other hand, drums, guitars or whatever else recorded in my room through my gear will not sound like anything else. That's a good thing as far as I am concerned and is something I think we have lost collectively.
Old 31st May 2017
  #14
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AudioWonderland's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
I buy used gear on Craigslist / Kijiji / Fleabay that professionals who no longer get enough paying gigs are selling off
Seriously tho, I don't know how the audio gear business model can sustain itself - if pros like Tom find it hard to justify buying the latest pro gear, who the heck is buying all the Nagras, SDs, the latest high quality mics, etc.?
It's the amateurs who have always sustained the MI market. That much is more true now than ever
Old 31st May 2017
  #15
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bixby View Post
It seems pretty obvious to me - and with all due respect to all on this forum - that most on this forum do not do this professionally for their livelihood; it is an expensive hobby.
I think a lot of us are somewhere in between. I do this professionally (i.e. I get paid and my business turns a significant profit) but not for my livelihood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
For the $500 we did a two or three HD camera shoot and the audio and did all the video editing and syncing up of the audio and video. We also did all their DVD and CD production and all the graphic work for the CDs and DVDs.
Holy carp! If I had to charge that little I'd be out of business. I operate on the edge as is - I know the budgets of some of my community based clients and a full quarter of it goes to audio recording (me). There are some pretty frank discussions of what I need to survive versus what they need to keep to survive themselves - so far we've been able to work something out. Thank goodness they see the value in my work - two of them have tried the shaver/iWhatever route and come back.
Old 31st May 2017
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPC View Post
I think a lot of us are somewhere in between. I do this professionally (i.e. I get paid and my business turns a significant profit) but not for my livelihood.
Out of curiosity, when you say you make a significant profit - you're accounting for all the costs of the business? Not just what it takes to buy the gear, but also (obviously) your time, other equipment costs (transportation, for instance), insurance, etc.? Your other gig isn't subsidizing any of those costs? If so, that's great!
Old 31st May 2017
  #17
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Old 31st May 2017
  #18
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by RPC View Post
I think a lot of us are somewhere in between. I do this professionally (i.e. I get paid and my business turns a significant profit) but not for my livelihood.



Holy carp! If I had to charge that little I'd be out of business. I operate on the edge as is - I know the budgets of some of my community based clients and a full quarter of it goes to audio recording (me). There are some pretty frank discussions of what I need to survive versus what they need to keep to survive themselves - so far we've been able to work something out. Thank goodness they see the value in my work - two of them have tried the shaver/iWhatever route and come back.
We use to get complaints all the time from clients asking why we were over charging them or they would keep mentioning that they really didn't need/want the gold plated version, just a simple three camera shoot <GRIN>. Honestly at $500 a concert with two or three hourly paid interns involved and all the post production work we were basically losing money on every concert. Not a good business model.

When we were doing the semipro orchestra the conductor kept asking if we could shave our prices to maybe $100.00 per concert. I guess the next thing was to ask if we could do them for free. Of course at the same time he wanted video recording added and started doing concerts in places that took us an hour to drive to and from. Also not a good business model.

I am pleased that there are people here who are actually making money it gives others on the list some hope.

FWIW
Old 31st May 2017
  #19
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

It's all relative, today's studios cost a fraction of what it cost 40 years ago.

I produce and write music for television, I do this professionally, but budgets have tanked and royalties have gone down - so when I'm buying, I'm buying what I need, the essentials - I don't over spend on shiny stuff.
Old 31st May 2017
  #20
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bixby View Post
Out of curiosity, when you say you make a significant profit - you're accounting for all the costs of the business? Not just what it takes to buy the gear, but also (obviously) your time, other equipment costs (transportation, for instance), insurance, etc.? Your other gig isn't subsidizing any of those costs? If so, that's great!
Well, per TurboTax and the IRS I'm making a significant profit - the kind of money that pays for half my kids' college. (We're talking state schools here, not Ivy League, but still...) And (trust me on this) my spouse would look poorly on the recording gig being subsidized by the day gig! As I noted previously, my health insurance gets covered elsewhere - if recording had to fully supply that I'd instantly become a non-profit.
Old 31st May 2017
  #21
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
It's all relative, today's studios cost a fraction of what it cost 40 years ago.

I produce and write music for television, I do this professionally, but budgets have tanked and royalties have gone down - so when I'm buying, I'm buying what I need, the essentials - I don't over spend on shiny stuff.
I could never afford the "shiny stuff"

Budgets everywhere are shrinking, demands for quicker and quicker turnarounds are growing and the producers don't want the quality to slip.

Not a good setup for success.

I see stuff on TV now that when I was in college studying RTV would have been considered BAD in terms of production values but I guess it is now all about the money. Someone is making a lot others are hurting.

Must be the way things are now. Not good!
Old 31st May 2017
  #22
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One piece at a time, over the course of 30 years....

Old 31st May 2017
  #23
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I could never afford the "shiny stuff"

Budgets everywhere are shrinking, demands for quicker and quicker turnarounds are growing and the producers don't want the quality to slip.

Not a good setup for success.

I see stuff on TV now that when I was in college studying RTV would have been considered BAD in terms of production values but I guess it is now all about the money. Someone is making a lot others are hurting.

Must be the way things are now. Not good!
It's an apples vs oranges comparison.

In the 70's, the entire industry was controlled by a few people running a few big corporations in a few big cities - namely, Los Angeles, NYC, London, Nashville, perhaps Detroit up until Motown moved to LA - and that's probably about it. Everything you heard on the radio, television and movies was the product of that system. If you "got in", you were connected to someone somehow, either legally, illegally or illicitly.

Today's market isn't controlled by anyone, it's a complete free for all, anyone can "get into the business" - the music industry has been completely democratized. Sign up your submissions for library tracks and you're on your way.

Depending upon how you look at it, that's either an incredible development guaranteed to allow for the kind of undiscovered talent the former gatekeepers would've never found (or allowed in), or a guarantee of the lowest common denominator squeaking by the now unguarded pearly gates of musical dreams .. guaranteed to produce nothing but junk.

I still believe the cream rises to the top, but it takes a lot longer and it might be harder to find - it's also possible that things are on their way to a sort of "normalization" of what one can expect to earn in this business. The only reason people bemoan the loss of recording budgets in the 6 figure range is because for a few short years, thanks to circumstances, they existed, and some people became very rich, but who's to say that was the norm and not an aberration.

Like automation and its resultant change to many manufacturing industries, technology has changed the music (and entire entertainment industry), it just is what it is, and what it'll become - only we, the artists, can make it better.
Old 31st May 2017
  #24
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Also, when Tom mentions USB...don't forget that many if not most new digital mixing desks come with in-built USB recording.

Many churches, schools and colleges have a replacement schedule for mixing desks, which are offering more "features" at lower cost with each passing year...thus committees and boards don't baulk at these acquisitions, they are in the budget estimates.

So an organization's tech guy/gal can do some rough gain setting at rehearsal, set the USB to record (at least stereo if not multichannel) and extract it at the end of the night....then give it to a hobbyist member/student or spouse/friend to mix down.

Most concerts and rehearsals could get recorded this way, with no outsourcing to nor engagement of 'outsiders' like many of us here. So when concerts are tied to these digi-desk equipped 'performance halls', the recording process becomes increasingly (and literally) in-house.
Yes, good points. And those recordings are often good enough for the schools and the church. However a recording is not a recording is not a recording. By that I mean that engineers are not interchangeable.

One engineer's results are not the same as another engineer's results.

This is the whole basis on how the better engineers get hired.

Same with mixing.

The client DOES BELIEVE that the engineers are interchangeable.
Old 31st May 2017
  #25
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Uncle Russ's Avatar
The "music industry" existed until sometime between about 1985 and 1995 and then faded away. I guess today you could compare it to the horse carriage industry: Some people earn a living at it, a few may earn a very good living but, as a mainstream avenue of employment, it is gone. Today music is a poor stepchild of the entertainment industry.

We talk about the "hobbyist" taking work from the "professional" but that's not exactly the case. The demise of the music industry has taken away that work and the hobbyist is the only one able to charge foolishly low prices or work for free.

If you are a musician, composer, arranger/orchestrator, audio engineer, anyone primarily involved in creating or recording music, you must think about business differently than, for instance, a carpenter (who almost always can work no matter where he lives).

Today if you're breaking in or trying to revive your business you need to be lucky, in the right place at the right time, a good salesman, very likable and flexible, and perhaps exceptionally skilled ... in that order. That's the unfortunate reality.

Times change and not always for the better.
Old 31st May 2017
  #26
Lives for gear
There has been much discussion comparing declining record sales to increased broadband penetration. It impacts firstly by having created another form of home entertainment. Think of the hours people spend on Facebook instead of watching TV or listening to music.

The other aspect is someone will have posted a cellphone recording of the concert before you even get your mic cables rolled up.
Old 31st May 2017
  #27
Gear Head
 

I've accumulated gear over the span of many years. Most of what I own, I've bought quite inexpensively (or even trash-picked or been given) in non-working or partially-working condition. With a background in electronics engineering, I'm not intimidated by repairing my own gear. Some of the pieces I've acquired for free have had nothing more wrong with them than cracked solder joints on input or output connectors. It is rare that I buy anything new (whether it be audio gear or anything else -- in fact, I've never owned a new car).
Old 31st May 2017
  #28
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
Interesting survey of where it is best to start a career or a business. Cleveland, Ohio is 149th out of 150 . Something I have long suspected.

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst...a-career/3626/
Yeah, but Columbus is 68th! Go west, old man!
Old 31st May 2017
  #29
"Too many mixers, not enough fixers".

I first heard that back in 1973.
Old 1st June 2017
  #30
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Ok, it's not what it was, the location recording music biz. Yes, much of what I used to do--live concert recordings of bands etc who are using an FOH sound system, is now handled by "onboard" track-per-input recording by the FOH engineer. So....then? Concentrate on work that does not involve that sort of "auto-recordable" setup, and work with people who actually want to work with me, because I can also do the post as well as help them with their live show. Technology moves us on.
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