Building up your own clients

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SonicReducer
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Building up your own clients

Post by SonicReducer » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:05 am

It seems like freelancing is the only way to engineer anymore. As far as I can tell, the only way to have any future in this business is to get your own clients, do you agree?

That said, do any of the more experienced engineers out there have any tips for someone looking to build up their own client base? I've been trying to network like crazy, through bands I know, and Myspace (:hammer:), and Ive been checking craigslist daily.

Any creative methods I'm missing? Any tips would be really helpful, thanks.
-Mike

Oh yeah, I also joined the freelancers union. Anyone part of that?

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Post by TapeOpLarry » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:35 pm

It's Catch-22. If you haven't recorded records that people like then you won't get work. I would look at developing a relationship with a studio/owner/manager to take advantage of their space and gear and help them by taking on work they won't be doing themselves. Plus bring work to them and they will be happy with you and pass you more work.
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Post by chris harris » Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:18 pm

do ^that^.

and, go to lots of shows. meet lots of bands in your local music community. show a genuine interest in their bands, and not just their business. build trust. the best thing I ever did to accomplish this, was to take on some low paying live sound gigs. That's a great way to earn the trust and show them that you care about how they sound.

Good luck!
Last edited by chris harris on Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by signorMars » Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:35 pm

Be PERSISTENT. Try not to be obnoxious, but don't just talk to a band once. I have had several projects take well over a year to come to fruition. Be an honest fan of the band, not just an up and coming engineer who wants to make a buck and build his discography. There are a ton of new engineers trying to get started and a lot of them just pitch to every band they find or send out mass messages via mySpace pitching their GREAT DEALS for PROFESSIONAL QUALITY recordings. I've found bands are much more convinced by someone who is truly enthusiastic about their music. In the end, even if you don't end up working with them, you've made a contact in the local scene and they may refer you to others in the area. I know one musician who I've only done one small project for, after probably 3 years of back and forth over whether he wanted to do a record together, and it was a disaster. But, he has referred several great clients my way and those clients have kept me busy for certain periods of time over the last few years and allowed me to work on projects in genres I would have no ability to pursue without the referral. So try not to get frustrated and try not to work for free (once you've done it once it's hard to charge for future projects... lots of bands will do the free record for you and pay someone else when they get money and THAT is frustrating). be flexible to work within a band's budget and like i said, be enthusiastic and remain visible. Don't just talk to the band once and then wait for them to call. Go to their shows. Keep in touch with them.
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SkullChris
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Post by SkullChris » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:03 pm

Join a band, and play with other bands. Last year, I started a band that played one show, and from that I got interest from two bands that opened for us. Imagine if I continued? -Chris
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SonicReducer
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Post by SonicReducer » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:36 pm

thanks for all the good advice guys.

like you guys said, I do genuinely show interest in a bands music, not their money, so hopefully that will lead to more good things in the future.

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Post by xhavepatiencex » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:44 pm

SkullChris wrote:Join a band, and play with other bands.
yes, all of the bands I worked with at the start, where bands my old band was playing with, bands I was helping book shows for. I work with alot of punk/hardcore bands. They like to know you are on their side.

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Post by TapeOpLarry » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:47 am

Yeah, I got a lot of early gigs because my bands had "demos" that I recorded at home and didn't suck. Plus playing the shows, doing a little live sound (not too much!) and going to gigs ALL the time paid off. Before that (pre-Portland) I was in a band for 8 years that toured a lot and we met all sorts of folks, many of whom I ended up recording once my "chops" were up.

Even back when I wasn't recoding, I spent 90% of my time hanging with groups and other musicians, because I felt comfortable around these people and enjoyed it. When I realized that all of a sudden I was recording full-time, it was apparent that this "hang" was one of the most important qualities I had.

What not to do is to build an expensive studio, know no artists in your area, post pretty high rates on line, and sit in an empty room and wonder why the "scene" doesn't trust you. This shit goes on SO often - I wonder why people keep falling for it.
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Post by T-rex » Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:22 am

Exactly above, I started out recording my own bands demos and someone heard them and liked them. That led me to recording preproduction demos for a band on a label which led to more work. So having a good recoring that gets heard is great.

There was a really good quote from Steve A. when someone asked him how to become an engineer. I don't know if it will help you but I really think it hits home. Here it is:

I can only advise you in the manner that I eventually became a full-time engineer. You should start by hanging out with people whose music you understand, and who think like you do. Make yourself available to them, and those people will let you help them make recordings.

First you work for free, then they cover your expenses, and eventually you will become valuable to a peer group who also compose your client base. Through word of mouth, your work will eventually become worth something (in real money terms) to them, and they will pay you what they can afford.

The time lapsed between the first free demos I recorded for bands and the moment I could afford to quit my straight job and work in recording full-time was about 8 years. I don't see how I could have done it faster.
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SonicReducer
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Post by SonicReducer » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:38 pm

Thanks guys, this is a great thread. I guess sometimes its easy to forget how long it takes to break through... and the current climate can be sort of discouraging, especially when you have to wonder if you're gonna make rent this month

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Post by 8th_note » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:08 am

The quote from Albini is very interesting. I've been recording for about 8 years now but because of my stage of life there's just no way that I could consider living off the income that I could generate from trying to do it as my sole source of income. Here's a few other thoughts;

Sorry to be repetitive but I can't agree enough that a major key is to go to shows. When you get a couple of projects make sure you go out to support those bands when they play live. I've even had bands dedicate a song to me during the show. You can't buy publicity like that.

I don't know what your situation for recording space is but you don't have to spend a huge amount of money to get usable sound. If you try to start out by going to well equipped commercial studios you will find yourself having to charge professional rates when you don't have a reputation yet - the catch 22 referred to by Larry. If you save your pennies and buy right you can put together 12 to 16 channes of decent recording quality for under $10,000 or so, including microphones & computer. If you you want to listen to the songs on the Myspace page below it might give you a point of reference. There's not a single piece of gear that cost over $500 except the computer. Since about 5 years ago most all my work has come by word of mouth. As bands have split up and members joined new projects they have typically come to me for the new recordings. It would be a huge transistion to go full time from where I'm at but at least I've got a nice base of clientele built up. If you can even get three or four good sounding songs up on your Myspace page it will really help your credibility.

The other thought is if you can come up with an inexpensive way to record there can be a clever way to get your foot in the door by watching for any "battle of the bands" type of competition in your area. Find out what bands are signing up, contact them, and offer to record a couple songs for 50 bucks each to put up on their Myspace page. Charge by the song and put in whatever amount of time to make these recordings really shine. You might even look at cosponsoring the event and tie that in with a special low price recording deal. That can get you some work and exposure in fairly short order.

Good luck! There's several ways to skin the cat but they all take time.

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Post by losthighway » Fri Feb 20, 2009 12:44 pm

I really think it is important to look at other studios/engineers and find what you can do to make yourself stand out. My main pull has been my improving gear, experience, with a stable price. Sure, there are a couple studios in town that make a lot more dough when they do sessions, but they hurt for sessions in a worse way. Then again, part of my secret is having a combined studio/living space.

The other thing is just talking to bands you like. Find bands you want to record because they're awesome. They'll probably like the idea more if you seem interested in their music (someone kind of already said this). A lot of times with people I give a price and mention 'demoing' some stuff with them to see what they think. Sometimes a rushed three song day and a half session develops into many hours on an album a couple months later.

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aurelialuz
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Post by aurelialuz » Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:56 am

subatomic pieces wrote:the best thing I ever did to accomplish this, was to take on some low paying live sound gigs. That's a great way to earn the trust and show them that you care about how they sound.
totally agreed. plus, you learn a ton about your own abilities in an "under the gun" environment.
"While every effort has been made to ensure optimum sound quality, priority has been given to historic content and importance."

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Post by Cobiestudios » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:52 am

Wow!, it?s good to know other people experience. I was trying to figure out how to bring bands into my project studio, and finally I found this thread.
I always said to myself I have to go to gigs and see bands, get close to them and be part of a circle.
Try to work with band?s budget, it?s another thing I refuse to do, but I?ve learned to be more flexible.

Alfonso

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ott0bot
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Post by ott0bot » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:09 pm

Great comments so far. I totally agree with getting to know a bunch of people who are into the same things you are and network. Going to shows and doing sound can help...especailly if you have a mobile recording rig and you volunteer to record their performances.

It's funny because right now I have too many people that want to record. I just have a humble home studio, but i have a lot of friends who are eager to record but can't afford a real studio. Most of them are friends so I don't charge them much but a dinner or some drinks, but eventually I'm hoping some of my recordings will actually make money! The cool thing is...if someone actually can afford it I know a few places I can rent for a decent rate and bill what I need to. Thus the benifit of getting to know local studio owners and intern where you can.

The problem is...I have no time. I'm trying to juggle full time work, school, a band, and a new marriage....so time is not pletiful. Once I'm done with school, i'm sure that'll help.

But keep meeting people, you never know when that guy you met at a show or at school will need an engineer. And you'll be thankful when you he calls you.

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