Hello again, Produce like a Pro Family from the Music Factory Studios from the rural outskirts of America, in part one I discussed how I began my audio journey and came to the conclusion that having no specialty in audio was most important to my career so I could diversify my portfolio, and in turn, bring more work to my studio. So I have devised a list of the things I do that I have helped me to supplement my income while pursuing a career as an Audio Engineer.
1. I offer almost every conceivable Audio Engineering delight a musician could want: Tracking, Producing Mixing, & Mastering. I came from a time when you had to do everything because that is what the client expected. No indie band or artist wants to spend unnecessary extra money, that they have worked hard for, on something like a mix engineer. (Yes mix engineers have a place in the major label world, but I live in the world of indie releases and only about 1 in 50 hire a second engineer to do work on the record and almost always it’s for mastering, NOT MIXING) I’m not picking on guys & gals who want to be mixing engineers but let’s be practical about this if you are recording a 5 to 7 song EP more than likely the reason for that is a budget constraint and not because EP’s are the thing to make money nowadays, so the artist expects you to do the heavy lifting as the studio owner and on-site engineer. So don’t limit yourself when starting on this wonderful path as a “studio rat” learn everything you can and I promise you will become a better, more well-rounded engineer and when you have worked your way into making a living from a specialty and want to move to it full time go for it but until then learn all you can. Never be dismissive of new engineers because we are all in this wonderful world of audio together and you might be surprised about the cool things you can learn from other engineers.
2. I offer audio services to other persons besides Musicians. This will not sit well with some of my friends and a lot of musicians but I offer audio restoration and audio clean up service to Local Police. When a wire tap has gone wrong and a case is dependent upon the audio to allow the officer to get a warrant they come to me and I usually am faster than the State police’s Crime lab who is normally backed up quite a few months, and frankly, I’m glad to help. Also, beyond the pay I receive for the work, there is something gratifying about helping people in my community recover stolen items and know that their children are safe from all sorts of criminal activity. I have also restored many old family member’s high school “glory day” recordings over the years and the sentimental value of the restored audio is always very heart warming to see in a father who’s daughter recorded a song in the late 60’s at a local radio station a year before she passed away in a terrible car accident or the 50 something guitarist who played in a rock band in high school in the 70’s who’s house burned down and all the vinyl copies he had of the bands single were lost but he had the original 1⁄2 inch mix down Reel and I was able to restore it and give him a better more clean digital version of his glory days recording.
3. I offer my clients duplication services such as CD’s, Jewel cases and professional inserts at a below average price. Why you ask do I still offer this service in 2016, the answer is simple the client asks for it and I oblige. But you will see how this falls into #4.
4. Offering merchandise such as custom T-shirts, Wristbands, Business cards, Hats, Bumper-stickers, and almost anything else you have ever seen on a band’s MERCH table when attending an indie concert. On the flip side from doing this, I have learned over the years to help bands gear the merchandise more towards the female market. Next time you go to an indie/small show when the band’s set ends and they head for the merch table look at the line and every time you will see what I mean, the line is over 70% female. If a guy becomes a fan and likes a band he will by himself a CD or T-shirt but that’s all. But if a female becomes a fan and likes a band or artist she will buy 2 T-shirts, the CD, 2 wristbands and a hat. Why did she buy more than one of each you GUYS are asking, think about it, fellas! Who bought you your last concert T-shirt? Think about it. I’ll wait………….That’s right your girlfriend, Sister, or your Mom. Guys don’t buy things at concerts and shows, but the ladies do and thank god for them! If it were not for them, we would have a sea of dudes to look at when playing the local dive bar on Saturday night and a truckload of merch to re-load into the truck after the show. As not only an audio engineer but a working musician I see this at every show I attend, whether it is as a fan or as an artist. Let’s be 100% honest guys, women like to buy stuff from the bands at the bar and guys are saving their money to buy the ladies drinks. (I see this every weekend and it holds true no matter what state or country you live)
5. I offer music lessons and audio engineering classes to those willing to pay and some who can’t afford it but show a real desire to learn the audio field. I do 2 classes of audio school, each 2 weeks long to guys and gals from all around each year in my slowest time February and November. I also teach guitar, mandolin, piano, drums and bass lessons here at the studio and my students become interested in the audio classes just by being in the studio for their lessons.
6. Next is one of the most fun things I get to do but has also proven to be a very stable part of my business. Live sound and lighting this is almost my favorite thing to do besides recording. Yes having an investment in a P.A. large enough to do a local city festival isn’t cheap but it paid for itself in the first 6 months and I turned a profit from it within a year. I invested in things musicians want, as well, like in-ear monitors (I also wanted them myself for my band so I didn’t have ringing ears all night after a show and as a recording engineer I want my hearing to last me as long as possible.) Besides the personal needs as a working musician for a sizable PA, I in turn, get front row access to hang out with the coolest people on earth, MUSICIANS and watch them do what they do best and that’s play in front of a live audience. If they like the sound that day, then they will normally start to chit-chat with me and I slip them the old 1-2 punch of “Yea, you guys sound great, I would love to get you over to the studio sometime to record, here is my card” This is the best way I have found to discover new clients and make money at the same time, it’s a win-win situation.
7. Last but not least, a few tips on things you can do to keep clients coming back. Don’t be a time reminding clock Nazi, if you are like me then you hardly ever have more than one client a day. So be liberal when you can with time, understand the client is under a lot of stress just being in the studio where all their flaws and warts are there for the world to see, analyze, and hear. You telling them they have 5 minutes left when you know it will take at least 20 minutes to get the take will only make things worse. Don’t be that guy who tacks on an extra hour just for 15 extra minutes. Invest in your studio with room treatment and microphones first and instruments second before thinking about buying any outboard gear. The people you want to record love to play on new instruments when they come to the studio to get a sound they only hear in their head . Having several guitars, a drum kit, and couple of basses around always helps. Some musicians will come to your studio solely on the fact that you have instruments there and they don’t have to bring their own. I have had musicians come in and ask if I had a guitar they could use for the session. I have yet to have one call me up and ask if I had an 1176 or a Pultec because they just can’t record without one. My point to all this is to prioritize your studio because sometimes the shiny new toy isn’t always the best thing for business. Sometimes the best thing is that boring old acoustic guitar at the pawn shop or music store all the guys at open mic night were talking about that will bring in an extra 2 clients. Also, don’t be afraid to offer your services to potential clients on trade. I can’t tell you how much gear and studio related things I have accumulated over the years by trading studio time, which if I’m not booked costs me pennies for thousands of dollars worth of gear and we all know the best gear is the gear that we didn’t spend money on. And on that note, I think I will bid you a farewell!
Till next time, remember I am always available to take your questions and feel free to E-mail me, Joe Slayers, at email@example.com and I will do my best to answer them or head over to the Produce Like a Pro Students Facebook page and interact with our wonderful community including myself and Warren Huart until next time Happy recording for producelikeapro.com Have a great Day!