Hi, my name is Joe Salyers and I am the owner and operator of Music Factory Studios. I am a Producer, Mixing engineer, Mastering engineer, merchandise specialist (T-shirts and CD’s), and an artist . I am glad to be a part of the Produce Like A Pro Family. If you have any questions that I might be able to help you with feel free to E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So the biggest question I hear from up and coming engineers is: “How do I get someone to pay me for studio work?”
The bigger question should be: “How do I build my brand in an already crowded market?”
The short answer is diversity and allowing yourself to be different things to different people. Whatever the job requires you should have the skills to do the task at hand. Let’s say a band wants to record a 7 song EP and they are looking for a producer and a room to record in but you have only advertised your services as a mixer because that was the cool buzz word to use when you started in this industry. More than likely they will go somewhere with a reputation as an all in one studio (tracking & mixing) with an in-house producer. Why would they do that, you ask? Because it’s convenient and they usually get a discount for more services provided (package deals and specials). I have no audio speciality.
When I started, no one had a speciality! We wore whatever hat was needed; only the engineers in Nashville, New York, and L.A. had special fields of engineering like Mastering and Duplication, but no one had ever heard of just a mix engineer; unless you were working on a major label record and then it was guys like Andy Wallace, Chris Lord-Alge, and Bob Clearmountain, who were on only the biggest albums of the time! But more often you read names of engineers on records with only the credit as Engineer and Assistant engineer, so in essence, the person behind the desk tracking was also the person mixing the records. Speciality has become popular in the home and semi-pro audio market only over the last 10 years and I feel young engineers are missing the point of what it means to be a quote “STUDIO RAT” I have no audio speciality.
Now you ask, why did I explain all this? It is because I have a few tips on how to grow a home business in the crowded audio industry and this is how I did it. Sorry, there are no presets you can use to get you there faster! I started with nothing fantastic, gear wise, but I loved recording. As a young musician in bands, I loved the studio more than playing live. I could play multiple instruments so I was always finding work as a gigging musician So as a youngster I would pay for time at the local music store’s after hours 8 track studio in the 90’s at a whopping 10 dollars an hour. Which for a 13-year-old kid was a lot of money. I learned a lot from those days and I asked a lot of questions on WHY things were being done not HOW. I was naive to gear. I spent a lot of money tracking songs all by myself in that tiny little music store, but I loved what I heard. Being on that side of the glass as the musician gives you a perspective you would not have if you haven’t been in the hot seat as a musician trying to cut a track or a vocal. But those days introduced me to a world of possibility and as I became an adult I knew what I wanted to do. OWN my own studio for the selfish reason of recording my songs. But along the way, I found that equipment can be expensive and very hard to come by so I had to figure out a way to record people for money to buy simple things like microphones and the big money pit: cables. I still had no audio speciality.
My first client was a friend I played in a group with during high school she has an amazing voice along with an uncanny ability to write catchy lyrics, but she could not play one instrument so she asked me to help her. I was able to toke her ideas from something she heard in her head to something she heard come out of the studio monitors. This was my first time in the producer’s seat and after her demo was done I knew if I put my mind to it I could make records as good as the studios in the big 3: Nashville, New York, and L.A. I still had no audio speciality.
So I sought out the biggest studio owner in my area and annoyed him almost daily for a chance to learn from him; he was very reluctant to help me, which is understandable because who wants a 19-year-old kid messing around with your life savings of expensive gear. But after a few weeks of bugging him, he let me hang around for a session with bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley. (He would go on to tell me later he thought I would leave him alone if I sat in on a session. OH, how wrong he was!) The studio in the little town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia was like Ocean Way, Criteria, or Blackbird to me. It consisted of a large format MCI console JH-636 and 2 synced 2-inch tape machines, also MCI JH-24. The sound that came from playback of those machines was just heaven. There were lights, buttons, knobs, and faders everywhere. This is Disney World to a musician. He gave me awesome little tasks like rolling cables and sweeping to teach me about work ethic and more fun stuff like picking microphones for instruments to gauge where my ear was at, or doing fader rides on mix down to our 2 track machine which was an ADAT digital machine. After about a year of working there, he let me book my own gigs and only if it didn’t conflict with the schedule he had. I did a lot of late-night demos for high school bands on the weekends, but I loved every minute of it! This along with the many lessons he taught me have shaped me as an engineer and self-proclaimed “studio rat.” But, I still had no audio speciality.
I became hooked; like a junkie needs a fix, I needed the studio and every moment I could spend there, I was there (for free) all the while recording local groups and artists late nights in Big Stone and at my home studio to earn extra money. I wouldn’t trade my path for anything in the world; it shaped me into becoming the engineer I am today. I learned how to not only make records but how to be professional in doing so. I still had no audio speciality.
But in the end, I learned that the more you can diversify yourself the more opportunities you will have, so I never became known in my local cycles as Joe “the mixer” or Joe “the producer,” I was just Joe over at the studio. I learned as much as I possibly could from those who had more knowledge and found that the more you can do the better your chances to work and earn a living are. I have no online internet presence with my studio The Music Factory but yet I make a decent living. I can put food on the table and pay my bills doing the thing I love most: Making Music!!
In Part 2, I will give a more detailed look into how I have diversified the studio and things you can do to help you bring in more potential clients, and in turn, earn a living from this wonderful world of audio recording. I still have no audio speciality.
I specialize in giving the client everything they want!