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Should I be getting paid for this?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by jordan2, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. jordan2


    Apr 2, 2011
    Hey guys, I want to know your opinions about doing recordings for other people in home studios and whether or not you believe that you deserve to be paid or otherwise compensated.

    Here is a little background info on my situation:

    I have a decent quality home studio with about $1800 or so invested in it (by no means pro quality). Recently I have been having friends asking to borrow gear or to have me record them. I would usually agree to do it for free because they are my friends but I'm starting to think a little differently. For example, in one project I am recording my friends rap group (something I don't have a lot of personal interest in). I was originally going to do it as a favor but since then I have realized that they want to record 14 songs. I have already put about 10 hours into it and we are nowhere near finished. At this point I feel like I should get something for doing this but I feel kind of strange about asking for money because I wasn't upfront about it in the beginning (to be fair I didn't know what I was in for) and also I am not providing a professional finished product. Basically I want to know your views on this type of thing i.e. should I get paid, how much, and so on. My thoughts are to say I will do one more song/recording day for free and then I want to be payed some flat rate for the rest.

    Also what do you think is fair when you are lending gear to other people to use with out your supervision. Should I be doing more then making them agree to pay for stuff if they break it?

    Oh and I am just a teen so the people I'm recording don't have tons of money.

    Thanks for your insight.
  2. biohazed


    Aug 31, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    I look at it this way ... if your asking a question like that than you already have your answer .... just pick a price that is fair.
  3. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    You are gaining valuable experience. Lesson #1, is to make everything clear, up front, about what you're willing to do and how long you're going to do it.

    Lesson #2, if you offer something for free, people will want even more.

    You should either do this for free, or cancel it. If you ask them to pay, they're not going to. Or they'll say they will, but they won't, and you'll keep working for free.

    Try to take something positive away from it. Such as, never again agreeing to do stuff for free.
  4. Exploiter8

    Exploiter8 Demons run when a good man goes to war

    Jan 18, 2010
    Commercial FREE!
    Never loan out gear, even for money, unless it was cr@p to begin with. Even if it's something your not using or need now, later on you will and you'll regret it.

    Yes, I AM selfish! There are two people that I trust with my gear. My 15 year old son and my friend of 45+ years that I started a band with in the mid 70's when we were both learning.

    He treats his equipment with care and respect as I do.

  5. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    The whole music industry is driven on royalties
    If the bands you record are any good then get credit on the recordings:
    "Recorded and Produced at My Studio"

    Start charging based on how well these first ones go

    Retain production rights - get a lawyer, your accountant will thank you.
  6. jordan2


    Apr 2, 2011
    seamonkey: I was originally thinking of doing this (and I could very well still do it) but I highly doubt that this group will get anywhere, and even if they did they would probably rerecord the album in a pro studio.

    and Exploiter8: I totally get what you are saying and think I am gonna really make sure that I am around for it.

    thanks everyone for the quick responses
  7. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    They should at least pitch-in some cash for you, and your equip. going to work for them.
  8. Since money was never mentioned, you're in a difficult position.

    If you really feel its a lot more work than you bargained for, just tell them.

    Maybe you can work out something where everyone is happy.

    Getting something for free or having to pay for it are two very different things.

    They may be willing to compensate you, but then they may be a lot more demanding about the quality of the finished product if they're parting with cash.
  9. extreme


    Mar 20, 2000
    Just get them a quick and dirty 3 song demo and be done with them. If they like that and want to do more, then you guys can discuss options at that point.
  10. Involved in a similar predicament, actually. I'd say it's valuable experience either way, but you definitely deserve some sort of compensation(even if just a few pizzas and beer during sessions) for that much of your time being invested. If you're wanting to charge in the future though, it's gotta be handled up front.
  11. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    For the project you are now working on, finish it for free. It would be unfair to suddenly start asking money while the recording is still in progress.
    You could, of course, explain your situation to them. If they are understanding, you may be able to work something out.
    // edit: or did they come up with the idea of recording 14 songs when you've already started recording? In that case, you might want to do the first couple of songs for free, and start asking about compensation for the rest. 14 songs is quite a lot to record and mix, and nobody's going to sit through a 14 song demo. You may also ask what they want to use the recording for, for the sake of your and their time. Are they just going to listen to the record at home for a couple of times and then disband the group? Personally, I like it when my recordings are actually being played on local radio, listened to on the internet or in any other way used outside of someone's bedroom :)

    For the future, it's probably best to decide for yourself what the conditions are for working with you. You could decide to work on a project for a maximum number of hours, charge by the hour, ask to have your expenses (travel, maybe food) covered, charge per day etc. Agree beforehand on when they will get the end result.
    It might be wise to ask for a little bit of money, just to keep freeloaders away.

    Also, talk a bit about the process. People who've never engineered often want to set up quickly and record a lot of material. This will leave you with a record that's hard to mix, because hardly any time was spent on mic placement; and a lot of wasted GB's of hard drive space (or tape?). Make sure they know how much time it takes to mix. Let them know what the end result will sound like by sending them something you've previously recorded. This will keep them from complaining that it doesn't sound like [insert reference to a famous record, created in a high-end studio]. Maybe unnecessary, but tell them rehearse their music well! It's no fun doing millions of takes waiting for someone to accidentally get their part right :)
    All of these things will help saving everyone's time and making the process a bit smoother.

    Recording friends and local groups is a great way to get some experience and if you keep learning, you might run a (semi-)pro studio one day. If that is your goal, it might be wise not to turn down too much work, as recording would be valuable to both you and the people you're recording.

    I also have some low-budget recording equipment and I'm in similar situation. My work is not professional, yet better that some of the cheap local studios. I only work with the musicians I play with and I always play on the recordings I make. I've always recorded for free and agreed with the leader of the band that they'd try to get some gigs using the recording. Which in turn, brings in money for me.
    I might change that policy to remove the chance of someone using me for the recording, but asks someone else for the gigs.
    For myself, I'm very much interested in different recording techniques, but I'm not an aspiring full time engineer. I'd like to focus on recording the music that I make, and not on knowing every single recording technique to be ready for any session that may come up.

    And for lending equipment, be very careful! The problem with audio equipment is that all kind of little things can get damaged, for example an audio interface with a bend input jack, which may still work, but it's not nice... Or getting a microphone returned and having to ask yourself 'did this mic have little bit more high-end before I lent it?'
  12. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    At that level, a couple of starter guidelines:

    • Don't lend any gear you wouldn't be happy to just give to borrower.
    • Be explicit up front about how much time you can put into free jobs.
    • Don't agree to free projects unless you'll either learn something from them or make useful connections.
    • Don't agree to free projects unless you're fairly confident you'll be proud of the result.
    • Don't agree to track and mix more than 1-3 songs with a band for free.
    • Listen to bands and the songs they want to track before you agree to work with them
    • Make free projects fit your schedule. This is not only so that you don't give away time (say, Friday and Saturday nights) when you would likely be billing studio work or gigging. Just as important is that if the band has to juggle things a bit to come in on your schedule, they tend to better respect the time you're giving them. Don't be a jerk about this, but don't give a freebie project carte blanche over your weekends.
    • Preproduction is especially crucial with inexperienced bands (for example, I always want at least informal pre-production during which the band solidifies the song's arrangement and picks some commercially released songs that they want to use as targets for the sound of their own song).
  13. jarrydee


    Oct 22, 2011
    I recorded manily rap in my studio also, I did the "free for a few friends" a lot, but without sounding like a d***, I have to say it is not a good idea, those rap guys will try and get anything they can for free, then their friends start to expect it, it is never ending. I had to put a stop to it and started charging 15 bucks an hour and what do ya know, they paid it! i did all the music, mixing and mastering so I had a whole lot of time invested in free sessions! Just be nice about it and tell them that the gear bills are getting harder to pay and unless you charge a little you will have to sell it..dont have to be true but is just a nice way of telling them they need to pay without offending them! Good luck!
  14. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    finish for free, but if they plan to somehow make some money off CD sales via CD Baby or home-burned or whatever, I think it would be appropriate to ask for a percentage.
    If it's just a demo for distribution, then forget it and chalk it up to education/experience.

    I have friends who add bass and drum tracks for modest fees using their home studios. There's more and more movement toward collaboration in the home studio, so there are ways to get a little money to pay for software upgrades and the obsession with ever better microphones. Or even more free experience.
  15. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Sure, just be fair with pricing and keep expectations in line with your equipment.

    My buddy has some "okay" recording equipment and thinks it's perfectly viable to charge people hundreds of dollars to lay down a quick song. Needless to say, he's never done any recording for other people. Heck, he probably hasn't used any of it for years at this point. It just sits, wasted. If he tried charging significantly less money, he could try to record someone once a week or so and would have recouped his initial investment and significantly more.
  16. jordan2


    Apr 2, 2011
    Wow, great responses. So at this point I think I will offer to do one more song for free (the 5th) and then ask that each member pay me something really low like $20-30 if they want me to continue. My goal isn't to make the kind of money that I would as charging a normal hourly rate but just to get a little money for maintenance of gear and stuff. It will also keep people from thinking I will do anything for them for free.
  17. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I approach it this way; if there's money involved then payment is appropriate.
    What I mean is, if the project is being sold for profit then the studio players should be paid. If it's a project for personal fun, especially for a friend, then no.
  18. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    As for charging a percentage of what the band makes in sales, there are different opinions out there on this.

    The common procedure is that the producer/recording engineer works with the band on a record, has creative influence and therefore gets a percentage of what the band makes by selling this creative product.
    However, if you see your job as strictly technical and all you do is capture the bands live sound as good as you can, some may argue that it's more ethical to charge a flat fee.
  19. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Working with the level of local bands likely to be recording in a $1600 project studio, you're probably better off to charge a flat fee in most cases.

    Profits from digital sales are likely to be negligible, and you won't be tracking the band's receipts for CDs sold at gigs.

    Even in the unlikely instance that you track something magical that has "hit" written all over it, as soon as there's a prospect of real money, nothing keeps the band's management from insisting on having the band re-track it (especially if you have a generous points agreement).

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