Where to draw the line

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Qlevel
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Where to draw the line

Post by Qlevel » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:28 pm

So a while back, a friend (let's call him Ben) asked me if I wouldn't mind recording a friend of his for free (let's call her Sarah). He said that he wanted to surprise Sarah with a professional demo and that it would be her first opportunity to record for real. I felt like declining and explaining that I don't do this for a living and that my time is limited and so on, but I wanted to do the nice thing and kind of owed him a favor. So, Ben and Sarah came over, recorded a scratch track, and pretty much gave me free reign to build a production around the song as I saw fit. In the coming weeks, I took a liking to the song and put a lot of effort into giving it my best work. Sarah didn't give me much to go by as far as what direction she wanted the song to go in, but the melody was pop-rock and her voice was country-tinged, so I kind of guided it somewhere in between that. I was really happy with the result and sent off a rough mix to Ben and Sarah.

A few days ago, Ben sends me a text saying that Sarah wasn't happy with the production and that they'd like to come over and tweak the mix along with this other dude that I don't know (let's call him Chris). He said it sounded too "techno". I found this to be a little insulting, but whatever. I was mr. nice guy and said no problem. I had added a few pop clich?s to the song just in case she was looking for a more modern sound, but removed them as soon as I got the text. They then came over and immediately began pointing out things that they wanted changed, mostly Ben. Turn down the snare reverb, get rid of that slide guitar I spent hours on, replace that keyboardy-thing floating over the chorus with an electric guitar, etc. Not even in an organized manner. They kept making suggestions and talking over each other while I was trying to concentrate. Sarah was kind of shy about it and would whisper what she thought to Ben, then Ben would give orders about "what her song really needs". Meanwhile, Chris paced around the studio pointing out models of gear he recognized and noodled around on all my vintage guitars. He was mostly there to just check out the studio.

I knew that they didn't have much studio experience and probably didn't understand the amount of work it took to fulfill each of their requests, so I cut them a break and tried not to take the session too seriously. After all, I'm working for free, so they should be happy with whatever comes out in the end, right? Ben stepped out for a while and then I tried to get to the bottom of what Sarah really wanted. She said that her talent agent, vocal coach, guitar instructor, connection who's supposedly mr. big in the music industry, hairdresser, etc all listened to the rough mix and had a million things they wanted changed and that she was worried she couldn't remember everything. When I asked her what kind of sound SHE wanted to go for, she asked for the opinion of Ben and Chris. It's obvious that she's being puppeted by a lot of folks and doesn't have much sense of self as an artist. In a way, I kind of feel sorry for her, but I'm also tempted to quit this drama and tell her agents to pay for their favorite producer if they've got a beef.

Nonetheless, I'm a nice guy and want to finish what I started. I scheduled her next session in about two weeks to give Sarah and Co. time to sort it all out. I'm just trying to decide how to proceed. Maybe I should tell her that I have to start charging if this is going to be more than just a for-fun demo? Maybe I should tell Ben and Chris to take a hike? What would you do?

rockstudio
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Post by rockstudio » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:16 pm

At this point, you've already had her into your studio twice. I'd say you have fulfilled your favor to your friend. Instead of scheduling another session, this is what I'd do: print a .wav of her vocal and guitar or whatever she recorded as a scratch, note the tempo of the song, put the files on a disc and hand it over to her and say goodbye. This sort of thing happens way too often.

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:28 pm

rockstudio wrote:At this point, you've already had her into your studio twice. I'd say you have fulfilled your favor to your friend. Instead of scheduling another session, this is what I'd do: print a .wav of her vocal and guitar or whatever she recorded as a scratch, note the tempo of the song, put the files on a disc and hand it over to her and say goodbye. This sort of thing happens way too often.
Do that.

And if they bitch, give them an invoice for any work to be done from that point on, and watch them hit the road faster that greased lightning.

BTW = I have had this happen once. And I gave them nothing that I recorded, because legally I own that. This pair of untalented persons were basically wanting a complete production, without being able to come out and say so. And they had absolutely no talent whatsoever. After one session where the female singer basically half assed a verse and a chorus, all the while dropping the (cheap) mic down about two feet from her mouth every line, and wondering when she was going to get her "starbucks"... I happily pointed out a Starbucks 2 miles away, asked them to come back when they had the lyrics done to the whole song, and that next time it would cost 250 bucks per hour.

I wonder why they never came back?
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: Where to draw the line

Post by cgarges » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:32 pm

Qlevel wrote:After all, I'm working for free, so they should be happy with whatever comes out in the end, right?
No, you're working for free, so there are absolutely no expectations.

If you asked someone to do you a favor and they agreed, that doesn't mean you have to like what they did. It just means that as a decent person, you should say thank you and if you're not happy, bail or explain to them what you don't like about it, but then offer to move on. Or offer to pay them. But you don't have to be happy about what they do.

I'm not likely to be doing much stuff for people for free, since my mortgage and car payment aren't free, but if I did find myself in a similar situation, I'd cut my losses as quickly as possible. I don't think anyone can fault you for that if you're indeed not getting paid for your work. In fact, they might appreciate that you're not wasting any more of their time and you should probably be happy that they're not likely to waste any more of yours. If they want to keep working with you and want to pay you for your time, then that's cool (hopefully) and you therefore have an obligation to try to deliver what they want. If what they want is something with which you're not comfortable, you should probably explain that to them and let them opt to work with someone else. It will likely save everyone some hassle in the long run. In fact, I just did this with a project where I realized fairly quickly that I was the wrong guy to work on it. The artist was happy that I told him that early-on and in fact, we worked out something that wound up being a really good arrangement for both of us.

But if no value is put on your time or effort, it sounds like they're going to treat you like your time and effort has no value. It's a bummer that it's gotten this far already, but cut your losses before it gets to be any more of a hassle for you.

Good luck!

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC

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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:28 am

Everything that was said above is accurate and true, and is probably what you should do (end it).

BUT-- If you find that you like Sarah, and her song(s), and have a burn to finish what you started, I would suggest a private meeting (or at least a phone conversation) with her. I would explain everything as honestly as you did here with us, but I'd also be patient and polite. I'd explain all of the possible options for proceeding-- 1) cutting both of your loses and bailing, 2) moving forward with you as an engineer only (paid; this presupposes that she will get another producer with experience involved who is not Ben or Chris, or a hairdresser, or a Non-existent Un-named Major Industry Mogul [tm] ) 3) moving forward with you as producer (paid), or 4) either one of those options unpaid if you are so inclined. I'd tell her that to finish her project, she needs some kind of vision, that writing, producing, arranging, and mixing by committee generally doesn't work, and especially when the committee is just a sea of faceless nameless nobody-that-you-knows'... I'd tell her that under no circumstances are Ben and Chris going to be helpful to you if you're involved. And even if you don't take some kind of hourly or per-project pay, I'd try to work out some kind of production agreement/points/back-end deal, etc.

As Chris G. pointed out, if there is no value attached to your time, and there is no structure to your agreement or plan for the sessions, you will continue to be taken advantage of. I would also say that any scenario above that would include you as a producer or engineer would really benefit from some solid pre-production meetings (what does she want to sound like? who are her influences? what records would be your benchmarks/references? what genre does _she_ think her music is in? etc., etc.)...

GJ

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joelpatterson
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Re: Where to draw the line

Post by joelpatterson » Sat Sep 29, 2012 3:51 am

Qlevel wrote:...for free... pretty much gave me free reign ... put a lot of effort into giving it my best work... Sarah wasn't happy ...a little insulting... immediately began pointing out things that they wanted changed... probably didn't understand the amount of work it took ... connection who's supposedly mr. big in the music industry... doesn't have much sense of self as an artist.

I scheduled her next session in about two weeks... What would you do?
I feel like with only a little translation, you'd probably find this same story in pictographs on the wall of a Stone Age cave in France.

It seems that in spite of your generosity, the haziness of their intentions more-or-less guarantees a fizzle-ness to the whole endeavor. The main thing they don't get is that production has an arc-- it isn't flippety-floppety, this 'n that, add/subtract-- it's prepare, rehearse, and then DO.

Me? I'd bag the studio stuff. Offer to record her two songs at an open mic. She, you, everyone concerned would be much better off. You'd be starting her actual career, not flailing around, you wasting alot of effort, them feeling like no request is too ridiculous.
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Smitty
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Re: Where to draw the line

Post by Smitty » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:06 am

cgarges wrote:But if no value is put on your time or effort, it sounds like they're going to treat you like your time and effort has no value.
Exactly this.

This is a very hard lesson I myself learned the hard way in my capacity as a graphic designer. I've lost friends over a very similar themed kerfuffle when I was trying to do them a favor doing their album art for free and it turned into a horrible fiasco and resentful time-suck.

I find that an hourly fee, even a small one, has amazing abilities to focus the mind. :D
"I try to hate all my gear equally at all times to keep the balance of power in my favor." - Brad Sucks

Greener
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Post by Greener » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:47 am

Lines technically have no end and are impossible to draw... I don't care who you are if you want to prove me wrong enjoy yourself...

What we need to focus on is segments.

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joelpatterson
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Post by joelpatterson » Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:57 am

Greener wrote:... prove me wrong ...
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Greener
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Post by Greener » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:01 am

Bland Sauce.

Mix one cup bland with four cups of fruit...

Stir fruits and sauce together and viola... Some bland fucking sauce.
Last edited by Greener on Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MoreSpaceEcho
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:26 pm

greener.

that shit is fucking up the page and making it unreadable. please fix it.

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Snarl 12/8
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 4:56 am

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:greener.

that shit is fucking up the page and making it unreadable. please fix it.
Dude. The troll has been fed. I think we can expect at least a fortnight more of these anti-social, drug addled non sequiturs.
Carl Keil

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Greener
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Post by Greener » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:42 am

[quote="Snarl 12/8"][quote="MoreSpaceEcho"]greener.

that shit is fucking up the page and making it unreadable. please fix it.[/quote]

Dude. The troll has been fed. I think we can expect at least a fortnight more of these anti-social, drug addled non sequiturs.[/quote]


At this point in time even you have to pay me for my opinions...

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Post by teleharmonium » Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:09 am

My standard response is that people do not respect that which they do not pay for, and there is no end to the egomania that exists at the bottom of the talent food chain.

No matter what is said at the beginning nor how long you have known them, once people see that attention is being paid to them and hear themselves coming out of the speakers, your relationship with them is just one of the first casualties of their ballooning narcissism. At this point they are in need of some painful lessons and my preference is that they learn them on their own time.

Don't make the common mistakes of assuming that their deranged expectations and escalating demands are somehow the fault of your communication skills, or that they will quickly subside and you will end up with grateful, happy friends who will cherish your generosity. How many grateful, happy people can you recall who just finished their first studio recording ?

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Post by Greener » Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:32 am

[quote="teleharmonium"]My standard response is that people do not respect that which they do not pay for, and there is no end to the egomania that exists at the bottom of the talent food chain.

No matter what is said at the beginning nor how long you have known them, once people see that attention is being paid to them and hear themselves coming out of the speakers, your relationship with them is just one of the first casualties of their ballooning narcissism. At this point they are in need of some painful lessons and my preference is that they learn them on their own time.

Don't make the common mistakes of assuming that their deranged expectations and escalating demands are somehow the fault of your communication skills, or that they will quickly subside and you will end up with grateful, happy friends who will cherish your generosity. How many grateful, happy people can you recall who just finished their first studio recording ?[/quote]

A response judged by what you've said would be to say every person I've helped make that first studio recording is a friend...

A lot of my customers are friends too, some are special. Some are fucking retarded...


My standard response is to ask how you intend on paying for something you want then take it from there... What do you want?

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