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A Classical music organization bitch session...
Old 14th October 2008
  #1
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Thumbs down A Classical music organization bitch session...

OK, I'm about 2 seconds away from selling all of my gear and getting a new profession. The Orchestra in my city (my largest client) is a complete cluster ***k. They constantly expect me to work for free (or close to it, as in not paying me for the total amount of work I do) and I finally put my foot down a few years ago after some very unprofessional behavior by the operations manager. The management, music director, GM, etc., are totally two-faced with me about issues that arise. Instead of talking to me directly, I get it second or third hand and never really know what the truth is. An example:

Last year I recorded one of their concerts that featured a new work by a local composer. As with every other concert I do for them, I mixed down and did some basic mastering, and gave them a stereo CD of the concert. I bring almost $40K worth of gear to their gigs and got paid $375. Fair enough, that was the arrangement. About 2 weeks later I get a call from the GM wanting my multi-track master to give to the composer of the new piece. I tell him that's not what he paid for and that if the composer wants the master disk that she can pay me for it and the material on it. I'm not giving away my Hi-rez master for free. I've never had an organization ask for such a thing and I was told by other engineers that I respect not to do it. Well, this started a commotion that's lasted for months, with the composer bitching about how I've taken "her work hostage" (she just happens to teach @UCF where they use Full Sail students as interns. Get the picture, as in free?) by not just turning it over to her. There's a lot more to this, but I didn't find out about the severity of it until tonight because everyone was talking about me rather than to me (yes, I know I should have a written contract, but this group never took it seriously enough). I'm pissed off because I constantly give more of my time and effort (which some of you have heard in my postings here) to them than I'm ever paid for, and by a large margin. I'm sick of being taken for granted, second guessed (every conductor seems to think he's an engineer), disrespected, and bitched at for wanting to be paid what I'm worth. The mixed messages I get from this bunch are amazing, not to mention the backbiting, gossip, and a total lack of professionalism. I'm just sick of it and maybe it's time to find a different line of work. I enjoy recording and have been a musician my entire life, and feel I have something to offer. Finding organizations that will treat me well and pay me for it is another story entirely, I guess. Thanks for letting me rant.
Old 14th October 2008
  #2
The "biggest orchestra in your city" and they don't have a contract?!

Perhaps they aren't as "big" as they think...?
Old 14th October 2008
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
The "biggest orchestra in your city" and they don't have a contract?!

Perhaps they aren't as "big" as they think...?
You'd be right about that. This whole city suffers from a "minor market mentality", with everyone thinking they're the big fish in the little pond. Half the players here wouldn't last 5 minutes in a major market orchestra. When they don't bring their "A" game, it's just a bad night. When I don't, I could get fired. What's wrong with that picture?
Old 14th October 2008
  #4
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As someone who is primarily a composer, I'll chime in that I've never expected nor received anything similar to what you describe. When I thought a situation warranted having a copy of the source material (e.g., I didn't like the edits or wanted to be able to work with some material captured at rehearsal/sound check), I've always paid for it. Some people feel entitled, though, and when it comes to our work, objectivity can seldom appear.

While a gamble, maybe you should insist on a contract or back out. If anyone in the administration has a discerning ear, one or two poor jobs by the interns/competition could shed a whole new light on your services and their value.

Keep your chin up!
Old 14th October 2008
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VukOnCrack View Post
As someone who is primarily a composer, I'll chime in that I've never expected nor received anything similar to what you describe. When I thought a situation warranted having a copy of the source material (e.g., I didn't like the edits or wanted to be able to work with some material captured at rehearsal/sound check), I've always paid for it. Some people feel entitled, though, and when it comes to our work, objectivity can seldom appear.

While a gamble, maybe you should insist on a contract or back out. If anyone in the administration has a discerning ear, one or two poor jobs by the interns/competition could shed a whole new light on your services and their value.

Keep your chin up!
Thanks, Vuk. This is what I've tried to explain to these people, but they think they should own everything because "they paid for it". I'd like to see them get another engineer with my experience and gear to give them the same results for the same money. The problem is that most of the people in the organization don't have a clue about what sounds good, with the exception of the music director, who has a huge ego just like most of them do. Before I started with them over 9 years ago (loyalty should count in here somewhere, shouldn't it?) they were using a video guy with 2 AKG 414's and a minidisc deck!
Old 14th October 2008
  #6
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I'm really sorry to hear about the way they are behaving. However, one finds this pretty common in orchestra management. It starts at the top like this: the music director is very demanding and he gets whatever he wants. The top managment, having now buckled to the super demanding (but fraudulant) music meister, now take it out on those below them in the organization. Dumped on, the now aggrieved operations people give you the shaft and get all demanding and up in your face by wanting the multi-track masters.

They are not entitled to them. Not only did they not pay for them, but these are work product for your use. I would ask the composer to come over to your work room where she can work with you in getting a version she likes. Of course, this is done on the clock at a premium nuisance/beotch rate.

I think that you should triple your rate to record the orchestra, get a contract in writing and remind them about the loyalty angle. If they balk or get nasty, walk away from them fast.

I had some similar problems with a major American orchestra that paid me handsomely. They brought in a new manager and it was all down hill from there. He was a supreme prick and game playa. Keep with your honor and your sense of fair play. When those are assaulted, one sometimes has to maintain what they know is right.

These are indeed challenging times.
Old 14th October 2008
  #7
Triple your rate?! That wouldn't fly with most (or all) of my current clients (maybe one day!). How about bringing LESS GEAR instead?

When I first got serious about starting a business, I asked around to see what people were charging. One wise engineer from NYC said you should always charge at least %3 of the value of the gear you are using (plus an hourly rate for people).

%3 of $40,000 worth of equipment is $1,200!
Old 14th October 2008
  #8
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Rant? Can I join in?

I just hate people.

Not the people here...the people who don't know what the F*** we do. Who don't think we are as valuable as a plumber. That we don't deserve 80/hr, or a measly 500 for a hard days work. I rented a set of five schoeps mics to a one of NY's premiere orchestras for a MONTH and charged them only $600 as a "favor" and got a nasty letter from the GM. I suggested they rent from Flynn instead to see what a responable rental price actualy was and so that they might appreciate what I was doing; they ended up hiring an out of town consultant to specify their mic package- which cost them 50k for mics alone. WHATEVER!!!

Old 14th October 2008
  #9
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hughesmr's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tenor39 View Post
About 2 weeks later I get a call from the GM wanting my multi-track master to give to the composer of the new piece. I tell him that's not what he paid for and that if the composer wants the master disk that she can pay me for it and the material on it. I'm not giving away my Hi-rez master for free. I've never had an organization ask for such a thing and I was told by other engineers that I respect not to do it. Well, this started a commotion that's lasted for months, with the composer bitching about how I've taken "her work hostage" by not just turning it over to her.
Ask the composer to hand over the original score of her composition to you, for free, so that you can do whatever you want with it. See how receptive she is to that idea.

Sorry to hear of your troubles, Mike. You do fabulous work if the body of your output is anything like what you post here on occasion, so don't give up. I agree with Plush ... price yourself commensurate with the quality of your product. When they balk and then use someone else, I predict it won't take long for them to realize that "Mike wasn't so bad after all". And dealing with "organizations" such as this .... contracts are essential.

Good luck!
Old 14th October 2008
  #10
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Mazo Audio's Avatar
 

Add my voice to the show of support for you, Mike. I've listened to some of the stuff you've posted here, you do good work! I can identify with you, it seems our classical music friends leave us feeling under appreciated sometimes. Most do not have any idea how much work is involved and can be really difficult to deal with. Man, it's good to know I'm not the only one that runs into this. This is a great job but it comes with a lot of pressure and unnecessary head ache.
Old 14th October 2008
  #11
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
Triple your rate?! That wouldn't fly with most (or all) of my current clients (maybe one day!). How about bringing LESS GEAR instead?

When I first got serious about starting a business, I asked around to see what people were charging. One wise engineer from NYC said you should always charge at least %3 of the value of the gear you are using (plus an hourly rate for people).

%3 of $40,000 worth of equipment is $1,200!
Yes, rates should be high for orchestra recording. For a concert cycle, I recommend a minimum fee of $1200.00 be charged. I'm assuming here a dress rehearsal and two concerts.
Single concerts I think are worth more than $375. I say at least $600.00

I realize that various regional constraints are in play. Also, someone new to the business cannot command top dollah.

If they don't pay that well, then give them a stereo recording. ( Here, I mean a two mic recording direct to cdr.) That is all they've paid for.

Now, I never do favors for presenters. It has been proven over the decades that they do not appreciate it. Or they may appreciate it but they forget about it when it is time to raise the fees. Presenters are very strange. Talent is getting paid. Why shouldn't you be paid out as well? Usually it's the engineer who does not ask for enough money.

By the way Norse, I would cut out any requirements that specify what you should do in your new proposed contract. No requirement to run a back-up, no requirement to do any specified certain things, no requirement to make a refund. Of course you DO go ahead and make a back-up and take other responsible actions. You just don't put it in writing. The reason is that you paint yourself into a corner when you specify what YOU are required to do. You're being way too nice. Get a tough thick skin and strong back and strong calm assistants. That is the recipe for success in the business.
Old 14th October 2008
  #12
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Thanks, Plush, Jim, and the rest of you guys. I'm so dismayed that the music that I love to perform and record has so many narcissistic morons in it. You hit the nail on the head, Plush. I should be getting more for what I do, but the market here probably won't support it and there is a lack of perceived value. I guess these butt-munchers think I'm a trained monkey and that anyone can do it. Full Sail has filled the world with graduates that can't wipe their noses, yet BS their way into the audio world. That, combined with the complete disprespect and abuse I take from some of them (in the orchestra) makes me want to quit the business all together. I believe I could do good things for the right organization or University, but those jobs are hard to come by. The Executive Director is supposed to contact me tomorrow... we'll see what comes of it. The trully laughable thing is that the local composer's piece is being used for a cell phone video download! The music director acts like I need to give him a perfect audiophile rendering, with no audience noises (it was live, after all), all for a highly data compressed Flash video (of the concert)! These people are completely ignorent of the format they are working with and they think there will be a possible award for the piece. As I told the music director, different formats require different renderings. I have about 15 hours (for which I was only paid $400) into editing, mixing, mastering, and then changing things again for the third and fourth time because the director thinks I should be able to work miracles. Sorry, I don't have $5-10K for a CEDAR system. This is the reason the composer wants the multi-track. She wants her Full Sail flunkies to note-***k the piece for free. I need to get out of this town.
Old 14th October 2008
  #13
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I think that copyright law says they own the music, you own the recording. You have supplied them with a finished recording for which they have paid you.

You tale is a caution. 1) Get it in writing. That way all parties know the deal. 2) Hold them to the contract. 3) Charge more. You deserve something for this nosebleed of an outfit. I have seen it before on this board that if you work for cheap the work you like a rented mule. And the mule gets more respect.

Oy!
Old 14th October 2008
  #14
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Smile

Hi tenor,

Plush hit the nail on the head.

I thought your rate was OK, until I realised it was in Dollars! - I would have said *double* that would have been a more reasonable and fair rate for your expertise and that value of kit. Microphones excepted, a lot of modern kit depreciates pretty quickly and needs to be updated often, s you need a fair rate for the job.

At the price you charge you are actually doing it at well under what it is worth and are, in fact, subsidising the orchestra for doing it so cheaply.

They are paying you for your time, *not* for the master.

I would calmly and politely put it all down in writing, explaining how you have been subsidising the orchestra by doing it so cheaply all this time. That you are upset by the slanderous rumours going around and asking that they desist from blackening your good name.

Explain, very clearly, that the mechanical copyright in the recording is yours and copies can only be made with your permission, which you have generously allowed free of charge in the past, etc.........

If you allow the master to go, I would not charge less than $1,000 for it and with the condition that, as the copyright is yours, that you are credited on any commercial release and you negotiate a royalty.

Etc....................

I'll leave the rest to you; be polite and have a signed contract for any future recordings.

Good luck.

I feel for you.
Old 14th October 2008
  #15
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Kyle S's Avatar
 

sounds just like here except they used to expect me to bring 5k worth of stuff out to record for a free meal.

now people talk about me all the time around here about how i dont support the scene.

**** the scene.

now they got a guy that charges out the ass for subpar vanilla work and he runs his mouth about me and how he makes "the money."

i really just dont get it. dont really care to get it either. i just wish he'd shut up about me. he gets drunk and talks about me at bars all the time and i got to hear it 2nd and 3rd hand from people about him showing his ass.

maybe i should open the doors to the public and run his ass out of buisness.
Old 14th October 2008
  #16
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Roland's Avatar
I hate to say it, but most of our job is a people management exercise rather than a recording exercise! Don't expect too much of people as they will never fail to dissapoint. In earlier days I had one or two problems with clients, but I can honestly say these problems were my fault, not that I failed to deliver, not that my work was unprofessional, quite simply I failed to "handle" the client.

In your situation I would do one of two things, either say that I'm sorry I can deliver the individual master tracks as I don't keep the copy or alternatively, that I'm happy to delivery the tracks and that the cost for doing this is "so much". If they then argue, I simply point out how much time it is going to take to to organise, check them and supply them in a suitable format and (depending on the client) assign them my future rights.

The risk is with a situation like this is that you come across as being unreasonable, what you want to do is come across as professional, if then one of them decides to "bitch" about you it is them that is seen as being amateur/unprofessional/unreasonable.

When asked for individual masters, I would at first ask why? This put's them on the backfoot, if at that point they claim that they paid for that, calmly point out that they paid for a finished recording which you supplied. If they then claim they are unhappy with the balance, sound, etc, again ask why. Offer them the chance to rebalance with you (at your commercial rate) if they then state for some reason they want to go elsewhere, do it themselves, etc, say fine and give them a price for buying the files off you to cover your time etc, this I would suggest be at least the same as the original concert recording fee. If at this point they choose to walk as a client, then there is little you can do about it, some clients are bad and just not worth it, whatever you do, even if you are upset or annoyed about the situation don't show it.

Good luck!


Regards


Roland
Old 14th October 2008
  #17
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videoteque's Avatar
We have all passed through this, I think. But when I read...

Quote:
I bring almost $40K worth of gear to their gigs and got paid $375. Fair enough, that was the arrangement.
...I really think you are half responsible for the situation you found yourself now, if you agreed to those conditions.

To record and edit a real concert with a real orchestra for 375$, do as Plush say, go with a 2 track recorder + a matched pair of mics. And don't make too many edits if you want to actually make money out of it.

We are living a crisis period, so we have to manage low-budgets in a way we still make money and it's worth to do a job. thumbsup

I am addressing as much myself as Tenor39 in this message!!!
Old 14th October 2008
  #18
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Mike,

I really enjoyed reading your rant... Why? Because it's nice to know this kind of thing doesn't happen to me only...

Seriously, though, I've been through the same kind of stuff more than once... You have my full sympathy, and I also fully agree with Jim's statement.

Oh, and forget about loyalty - having worked for a choir or orchestra for years doesn't count much usually, esp. if conductors or management change. They just don't give a damn.

Are they your main/only customers? Is there anyone who could make recordings of similar quality in the vicinity? If not, tell 'em you won't work for them unless things change for the better.

Daniel
Old 14th October 2008
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Oh, and forget about loyalty - having worked for a choir or orchestra for years doesn't count much usually, esp. if conductors or management change. They just don't give a damn. Daniel
This is one of the most exhausting things about our business. We spend a lot of time, as Roland says, being people persons and playing politics, and then to suffer a staff change, whether it be orchestral management or security/parking/back of house, and have to start ALL OVER AGAIN. The new staff know nothing about your history with the building, the orchestra, the knowledge of how things are/were.

This is what pees me off the most. The rebuilding of relationships. Hang in there Mike, not being valued is part of the engineers life. Think of all the dills in the world who take electricity in the wall, or airflight or roads/bridges for granted.
Old 14th October 2008
  #20
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Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by videoteque View Post
To record and edit a real concert with a real orchestra for 375$, do as Plush say, go with a 2 track recorder + a matched pair of mics. And don't make too many edits if you want to actually make money out of it.

We are living a crisis period, so we have to manage low-budgets in a way we still make money and it's worth to do a job. thumbsup
This brings upa good point. Classical per service musicians and management think they are the only ones in the concert picture that are underpaid. They rarely think about the recording engineer who brings close to as much gear as the percussionists (and they get cartage fees). Unfortunately were I used to live, NYC/NJ metro, $375 is on the high end of the pay scale for concert recording. Most classical musicians that hire an engineer don't care that your mic pre's cost $1,000 per channel and your mics 2-3,000 a piece. The reality of our business is that some people are working (regardless of quality) for less or in some situations for nothing and we have to compete with that. Sometimes we are forced to self promote to clients (BS for lack of a better word), cut rates (at the start of a new client) and educate exactly what we do.
Yes, in the clasical world it is sometimes difficult to deal with clients. It's all part of being successful in the business.
Old 14th October 2008
  #21
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I deeply appreciate the comments and support, guys. To the crux of the issue, I think I'm just tired of being treated in an unprofessional manner and I'm waaay past the days of doing free gigs, unless it's a charity event (which I did for the orchestra to support a Katrina fundraiser) or a favor for a friend. A craftsmen should be paid for his work and the art of Classical recording is a dying one. I'm also sick of the political nonsense and childish behavior from people that should know better. If that's what I'll have to put up with to stay with this group, I'm out. They only do 10 concerts a season that I record. Most of their own musicians hate them, too.

There comes a point where the stress and bad feelings no longer make it worth the effort. I'd rather go work at Home Depot and get some benefits than get nickel-and-dimed to death and crapped on because I want to be treated in a professional and courteous way. I guess I should have expected this, but for some reason I keep thinking that maybe "this time things are different". My experience in the performing arena (Opera) should have taught me otherwise. I suppose that my midwest Chicago upbringing made me into a handshake, my word means something, good work ethic kind of guy. That means nothing to people down here. Well, thanks for letting me vent. I believe I'll have some cheese with my whine... I'll keep you posted on what transpires in the coming days.
Old 14th October 2008
  #22
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How much for the multi track master?

Did the composer pay the $375?


IF the composer paid $375 for the recording charge $125 for the master plus media costs.

IF the orchestra paid the $375 --- , charge the composer $275 ---- that's hardly keeping it hostage. How much did the composer pay the orchestra to play her stuff?

I'm a composer and a guy who records classical with high end stuff.

This is a great time to get a contract written up and write in upcharge items -- editing, multi track masters --- ect.
Old 14th October 2008
  #23
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Mike don't let yourself down!!!! thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
Old 14th October 2008
  #24
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tenor39's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
How much for the multi track master?

Did the composer pay the $375?


IF the composer paid $375 for the recording charge $125 for the master plus media costs.

IF the orchestra paid the $375 --- , charge the composer $275 ---- that's hardly keeping it hostage. How much did the composer pay the orchestra to play her stuff?

I'm a composer and a guy who records classical with high end stuff.

This is a great time to get a contract written up and write in upcharge items -- editing, multi track masters --- ect.

Since I've never had that request before, I don't know what to charge for the multi-track master. I don't think $500 is unreasonable.

No, the orchestra paid for the stereo recording, not the composer. I offered to sell the composer the files, but she just bitched about it to the director.

The orchestra has made her a "composer in residence" for this year as a way to look better. I have no idea what the financial arrangement is between the two parties. The Executive Director has all but told me that if I don't just hand over the master for no aditional charge, that they will replace me because the next concert in Nov. features another one of her works.

Again, this is an organization that has no clue as to how things are done in the rest of the music world. They expect the world for nothing and writing up a contract like the one some of you have described would be laughed at or rejected outright for the reasons I've spelled out. When there is a problem of perceived value you have no leverage. To answer Daniel's question, no, there really isn't anyone here that could do as good a job, but that doesn't mean much. The orchestra recently did a recording of a piece by another local composer (who paid for the recording) and it was done by a studio that handles mostly pop music and jingles. They had about 30 mic's on the stage and it sounds completely 2-dimensional, but very "Hollywood" (as the GM put it), as in compression, EQ, etc. I get a better sound with 6 mic's and very little processing, but more must be better, right?
Old 14th October 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenor39 View Post
Since I've never had that request before, I don't know what to charge for the multi-track master. I don't think $500 is unreasonable.

No, the orchestra paid for the stereo recording, not the composer. I offered to sell the composer the files, but she just bitched about it to the director.So she has paid nothing? I'd be surprised if she paid nothing but.... then again if she did not she has little idea of the deal she is getting with YOU and the ORCHESTRA.

The orchestra has made her a "composer in residence" for this year as a way to look better. I have no idea what the financial arrangement is between the two parties. The Executive Director has all but told me that if I don't just hand over the master for no aditional charge, that they will replace me because the next concert in Nov. features another one of her works.
I have experience with such organizations. Often the ED goes over the board's head and can get nutty in decisions.

This is what I'd do ---- after I cooled off from being so pissed off.

If your goal is to get work then do this:

Apologize, with a smile, offer the master for free with a smile (with an hourly charge for your time involved) and write up a contract for the next year. Better to guarantee coming work and have things BE CLEAR with upcoming work. I'd lighten up on the gear. Do the recording with a stereo set up and find better situations. Offer an upcharge for more mics in the contract. Be nice but assertive.



Quote:
Again, this is an organization that has no clue as to how things are done in the rest of the music world.
Typical.... you should see what happens on the boards of these organizations. Talk about clueless. Now imagine how government works.....dfegad
Old 14th October 2008
  #26
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Exclamation

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
Typical.... you should see what happens on the boards of these organizations. Talk about clueless. Now imagine how government works.....dfegad
And multiply that by 10 fo find out how government *really* works (or doesn't - as the case may be). dfegaddfegaddfegad
Old 14th October 2008
  #27
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tenor39's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
I have experience with such organizations. Often the ED goes over the board's head and can get nutty in decisions.

This is what I'd do ---- after I cooled off from being so pissed off.

If your goal is to get work then do this:

Apologize, with a smile, offer the master for free with a smile (with an hourly charge for your time involved) and write up a contract for the next year. Better to guarantee coming work and have things BE CLEAR with upcoming work. I'd lighten up on the gear. Do the recording with a stereo set up and find better situations. Offer an upcharge for more mics in the contract. Be nice but assertive.

To be honest, piano, I'm not sure that I want to work with them anymore. I've put up with this crap for years and I'm tired of it. My gut tells me that my fate is already in the can, so all the political "smiles" won't change anything. If I bring less gear, the music director will complain that he's not getting what he used to, so it's a no win for yours trully.
Old 14th October 2008
  #28
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I have done (and still do) a good deal of underpaid work. Some of that has paid off eventually, e.g. when after ten years of documentary live recordings for a festival, someone hired me to do a major-label CD recording (the "Haydn in Italy" thing). Also, these recordings do have a certain fun-factor (where else would I get a chance to record Trevor Pinnock or Emma Kirkby etc.?).
I've also done 4 years of regular recordings of almost all the concerts of a german "B-category" symphony orchestra for a fairly small fee per show. It did add up, though, as there were three to four shows a month - paid half the rent. And I also got to record nice repertoire and soloists. When a new conductor came, he began working with someone else, some pop studio who have no idea of classical music. But they were there, I had moved away in the meantime (not far away, but far enough). Now someone in the orchestra sometimes makes recordings with two simple LDCs...

Anyhow, as long as the money and the fun factor make it worthwhile, go on. If not, move on... heh

Daniel
Old 14th October 2008
  #29
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tenor39's Avatar
 

Remember, Daniel, I only do 10 concerts (sometimes less) a season for them. I've been there over 9 years and they've never offered me a CD project or any other sort of bigger project. I've gone out of my way to promote them on my website, on local NPR radio, and to my industry friends. Yes, it is fun to record famous soloists when they come here, but that only happens once per season. If I was making good money, or even if I was just treated well, I would tend to put up with their temper tantrums. But neither are in evidence, so what's left?
Old 14th October 2008
  #30
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It sounds like you've made your decision to me. If it's any help, I had to make a similar decision recently, and it's paid off greatly. One of the dates I turned down with this amateur orchestra was almost immediately booked by a top-flight symphony orchestra . . .
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