The truth about working for a large studio... revised

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Lucky Tinitus
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The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by Lucky Tinitus » Sun Sep 21, 2003 11:55 am

Mostly I am given jobs working with hip hop artists because of a recent the three month block out by two major hip hop labels at our establishment. I also have my own 24 track studio and produce bands, commercials and tv themes in my spare time.... which isn't very often because I'm always working. The Studio I work at sucks (the equipment is the best but it is six floors of hell) Most of the clients are rap artists and although I like hip hop or at least find it tolorable,I'd like to move on to a more rock oriented studio in the NYC area. The only way to move on to an engineering position
is to leave because if you are a good engineer it is in the best interest of
the owners to have a knowledgeable assistant that they can pay $9 an hour an keep their clients happy. They don't have to pay professional engineer prices to (30-50 dollars an hour). Dispite common misconseptions assitants many times have to know the equipment better than the engineer. If an engineer asks you to swap a channel or make changes to the automation more times than not he is asking you to do something he or she isn't as familar with as you. Many engineers I have worked with are gracious, fun and sharing people but many are hacks hired through friends and aren't around for a lot of the session. In other words, you are engineering the record for the artist but getting paid a fraction and working extremely difficult hours tearing down, making backups and coming early the next morning to set up. I hope this makes other prospective engineers aware of what some of the bigger studios do to save money and keep their best talent from moving forward. Management in these type of studios have no intention of ever moving you up because they loose a great assistant (sometimes better than the first engineer hired by the artists or labels) who work for peanuts. Sadly that is the reality of my particular studio and many others. Dispite my great contacts and the friends I have made, I am stuck in my current job
in order to pay the bills until I have the time to go searching for another less sweat shop like studio. Rent in NYC is crazy. All I'm really tring to say boys and girls is choose the studio you want to work for wisely
Once you start it's hard to move on unless you are a trust fund kid. Besides, most of the time you are staying at your studio because it doesn't make sense to go home for three hours of sleep. Sorry if this message is a little erratic but I'm writing it while waiting for a artist to finish his Mortal Kombat game. I haven't slept for days. and the studio is dicking us around now saying they don't want to pay when we do backups, M.O.'s, tearing down, normalizing the board, returning rentals, etc. In truth, I choose this career and am doing what I love but there are six studios all under the same management and roof here and it is a souless. But like my boss said the other day, " It's the music bussiness" Don't work at a factory if you can help it! Go where you can find a mentor
Last edited by Lucky Tinitus on Tue Nov 25, 2003 8:17 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Electricide
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio

Post by Electricide » Wed Sep 24, 2003 8:02 am

a good way to dick the studio is to get a good relationship with the producer or client, and try to get some side work with them. Many have their own studios and such, and would love good, cheap help for small projects, even if it's just editing or transferring. these contacts should help you get a first engineering job at a studio other than your own.
Make the engineer and producer aware, in a nice way, that you are doing most of the leg work, the stuff like documenting and backing up that could really screw the project. Not as a threat, but as a "here's my number if you ever need help" because it's obvious you work hard to make sure their time in the studio goes smoothly.

Of course, finding time to work on the side is the bitch.

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by smojo » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:42 pm

wow... just yesterday i was trying to think of ways to get out of my major studio assistant job and move on to something about which i feel positive.
i spent the afternoon writing fantasy cover letters to all my favorite producers. that was fun and definitely got me through the day. i highly reccomend it. i'm doing up a resume today, and looking into government grants to maybe try and get my own small set up or something.... I hear that up here in canada they dish out grants to women in male dominated industries pretty easily.
Fingers crossed. I can't stay up for 24 hours working on shit i hate for less than minimum wage ever again.

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by smojo » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:44 pm

oh, and $12 dollars an hour????
you lucky jerk.

cookiekixx
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by cookiekixx » Mon Nov 03, 2003 8:08 am

Ahhhhh Times Square. We're all in this together.

Sorry to hear your woes, but i know where you are because I work at the studio across the street from you as a tech. The assistants over here get 8.50 per hour and in this climate, there is very little work. My reaction to your statement is this.... stick with it man. It is a total drag but being in that enviornment can be an amazing springboard. While you are being shafted on an everyday basis, you are building some amazing skills that will come in handy in years to come.
I see alot of assistants come and go, but by the time they go, they have seen so many engineers work a room that they are an encylopedia of different methods making them very powerful and versatile engineers. Another thing is that you are constantly around producers and if you work the social aspect of the job, you can become a producers favorite assistant, then become their favorite engineer. It is an extremely difficult path, but with determination, you can take these skills anyway in the world. Do you realise how many 9000j series consoles there are in London?
Good luck man,
Chris Coady
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NewYorkDave
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by NewYorkDave » Sun Nov 23, 2003 8:45 am

smojo wrote:oh, and $12 dollars an hour????
you lucky jerk.
$12/hour might be a king's salary in Calgary, but you couldn't live on it in NYC.

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by smojo » Mon Nov 24, 2003 11:52 am

Oh I know it. I've seen rent quotes for "affordable" manhatttan neighborhoods.
12/hour tis hardly enough to survive here either. But at least it's above the poverty line, which is better than I'm doing right now.
But it's not all saddness I suppose. I'm learning and such. And growing a thick skin. mmmm... scales.

magnito
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by magnito » Sun Jan 04, 2004 4:55 pm

Listen to cookiekixx. We all know what we got into here. Remember - the studio business doesn't reward hard work. You are in a situation where you can actually pay the bills in argueably the most expensive city in the u.s. Think of what you have over what you don't. Every qualified assistant can do the work and engineer, not every assistant is fun to be around an mellow enough to work with consistanty. Keep a good attitude and ride the wave. If you need a life and descent pay, get out and go work at friggin macy's.

Oh, and it's not just about being in the studio turning knobs. Every day I have off I'm getting calls from worried musicians that are falling apart under the pressure of the next record, or trying to reschudule 'cause somebody freaked out, or trying to find a descent string player for cheap, blah, blah, blah.... did I mention pre-production? I used to be in your shoes - It doesn't get any easier. Enjoy it or change your life.

Here's to prosperity!

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by thekid » Mon Jan 05, 2004 7:13 am

i've been working for about a year as an assistant in a NYC studio. it's a small studio, but it's run by high-profile engineers and mixers(whatever that means?), so we get high-paying clients. i work 60+ hours a week, and make a salary, regardless of hours, which, for the most part, breaks down to about $4/hour. i am the first one in and the last one out of the studio every single day. when we have a paying client in the door, we make about $5000 a day. i am the only paid employee in the studio aside from the two owners, and quite honestly, i do a HUGE chunk of the work.

i am fully aware of the "pay your dues" mentality and that's fine, but it seems to me that the older, more experienced cats like to shaft you the way they were shafted, as though they're seeking some sort of revenge for their past. just cause they let themselves be treated like a slave back in the day, does not mean they should do the same to me. i mean there are plenty of ways to pay your dues without being subject to the BS that seems so common in studios these days. there has to be a better way. perhaps i am a special case, and my bosses are not the nicest, but they're always telling me how easy i have it, and how difficult it would be for me to work at bigger studios around town. i don't know what to say to this, because this is the only "professional" studio i've ever worked in. personally, i decided that working in the big money studios was not for me, and i've since moved on. i love making records, and i continue to do so, but i'm not gonna do it for a living, at least not at this point in my life.

so what are you thoughts on this? any experienced folks want to offer me some insight? any other assistants want to share your tales of woe?

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antilog
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by antilog » Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:29 am

I record because I love it. I have a "day job" to pay the bills, and record in my free time. I can't imagine being happy in a big commercial studio.
"Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact." William S Burroughs

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by magnito » Mon Jan 05, 2004 2:12 pm

I moved out of assisting in '96, but I think you'll get a kick outta this one - 'scuse the typos...

For a few years during the Seattle grunge boom, I worked at a studio that was getting tons of action from the likes of Don Was, Brendan O'brian, Gerry Harrison, Steve A, Don Gilmore (before he was huge), etc. It's a mid size studio with two employees tops, big budgets mixed with small. I was working 80 hrs a week as a tech/assistant/studio manager for $200/week. Do the math. I had to take the shaft 'cause there was probably 150 people in the city who would've taken it in a snap. The rule of hiring for studios like these is that the willingness to take the shaft presides over mental capacity or quality of work. You end up feeling like you're running a ship with no rudder, and your boss sees all the high profile clients and convinces himself that he's gods' gift to humanity for letting you work there.

So during a time, we were going through some major construction that at times interns would be goaded into helping with (not like pounding a nail, I mean pouring frikkin' concrete and all that). Anyway, so there's rebar everywhere, and forms with 4x4 or 2x4 holding them vertical up to 20-30 feet. To get from my office to the door out was about a 60 foot desent through a minefield of workman's comp lawsuits. So one night I'm leaving for the evening, taking the usual route in the usual lighting (none). At the end of the route, there was a ramp that elevated to about 3 feet and stopped with about a foot and a half gap (crevasse) just over which was the landing to the door. So I'd have to get a bit of brisk walking momentum to hop over the gap to the landing. It just so happened that this day, the construction had erected another series of support beams right at the door. Of course, no one let me know what was going on, so I catch my head of steam, make the hop to the landing, and at the apex of the leap of faith, get taken out by a perfectly placed (center of the forehead) 2x4. I wake up on my back on the floor of the construction zone in the pitch black, wondering where the hell I am and who hit me. It took a good few minutes for me to figure out where I was while grubbing around on my hands and knees feeling for some direction and the door. I still get this big, disgusting boil on my forehead every once in awhile from that 2x4. That job left me shafted, and scarred - literally scarred.

One of more stories than I could possibly type - stories with the sort of ending that makes people with regular jobs feel somehow smarter than us idealists.

SERENITY NOW!!!!

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antilog
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by antilog » Mon Jan 05, 2004 4:03 pm

uh

what happened after that? did you get compensated? sue? leave? stay? boss kiss your butt?
"Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact." William S Burroughs

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by magnito » Tue Jan 06, 2004 1:34 am

Kept working there, but it was that accident that started my push to leave the studio. I left for another assistant job at a different studio like 6 months later. Glad I did my time there tho, learned a ton from those producers.

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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by thekid » Tue Jan 06, 2004 7:09 am

It's a mid size studio with two employees tops, big budgets mixed with small. I was working 80 hrs a week as a tech/assistant/studio manager for $200/week. Do the math. I had to take the shaft 'cause there was probably 150 people in the city who would've taken it in a snap. The rule of hiring for studios like these is that the willingness to take the shaft presides over mental capacity or quality of work. You end up feeling like you're running a ship with no rudder, and your boss sees all the high profile clients and convinces himself that he's gods' gift to humanity for letting you work there.
are you my long lost twin brother?

magnito
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Re: The truth about working for a large studio... revised

Post by magnito » Tue Jan 06, 2004 12:01 pm

You've got TONS of twin brothers and sisters. I had my head so far up my ass for that job that I totaled my car out on the way to work and ended up having the wrecking truck drop me off AT THE STUDIO with my smashed car in tow!!! You should've seen the looks on the guys faces when I pulled up in the truck, ready for work after having narrowly avoided death. At 80 hrs a week, I had no other identity. Home, studio, home, studio - to infinity.

I lived in NY for awhile doing the thing there, also. Electric Lady seemed to work best. I sure I was swayed some by the history of the place. I toured a hip hop place at times square with a 9000 and an 8068. Maybe that's the place you guys are talking about. The place didn't feel right to me. The 68 room had cedar walls and was a bit undersized. It's in New York that I learned platinum producers at age 55 with 60,000 freq flier miles a year and part time families can be pretty unhappy people. Be careful what you wish for...

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