Pro Audio Files

Yes But You Have To Pay Me

When I first started getting really into audio engineering, I knew a more experienced producer who I used to talk production topics with all the time. Everything from the tools we liked, to new techniques, to daydreaming about gear we couldn’t afford. He was getting to be a pretty well known artist in his genre however, so over time we talked less and less.

Which is a nice way of saying he just stopped answering my emails one day.

I knew he was getting busier and it was taking all of his time just to try and stay on top of his new music career, not to mention other life issues too I’m sure. Still, it was a little upsetting in a way too, he had been a good source of knowledge and help, not to mention just plain enjoyable to talk to.

Now many years later, I find it interesting to be in his position.

I get sent a lot of music from people who want me to listen to their songs and let them know what I think. And not client work, just random musicians who’ve heard about me one way or another. On average I’d say I get between 10-20 emails a day from people asking me if I can listen to their song and let them know what they need to improve on. And for years I did, maybe not all of it, but most. I got to hear a lot of cool music, talk production stuff with like-minded people, and offer some advice on how people could improve their songs.

But lately…

The flat out truth is that while I’m incredibly lucky to do this for a living, it takes all my time just to do so. As a professional mastering engineer, my days consist of working with my current clients, thinking of ways to attract new clients, doing accounting and website upkeep, and the whole social media time suck. Any musician knows what I’m talking about, because being a professional audio engineer requires the same commitment of time to be successful.

Just like bands fight to become famous or self-supporting, other professionals in the audio field need to work equally hard to just be a viable business too. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it takes a constant state of vigilance and an extremely high work ethic to stand out these days.

As I slowly got busier and busier with the business side of things, my free time for listening to other people’s music became more scarce. Often I’d try and tell people I was just too busy to help, so at least they heard back from me. But that takes time too.

So for awhile I just stopped answering emails, just like what had happened to me years ago. At first it was a little depressing, I hated having to just ignore people to get my work done.  But slowly I just realized that’s how it is for any professional, really. An athlete or actor can’t spend all day replying to fan mail, or else they’d never be able to get anything done.  They wouldn’t be able to maintain the skills that got them famous in the first place.

With this realization came the idea to turn my track listening dilemma into an opportunity. I launched a track consulting service as part of my studio’s services. For a small fee, I can provide production and song writing advice to producers or bands looking for help with their songs. Instead of just ignoring emails from people asking me to listen, I can say “Sure, but you have to pay me!”. Well, I say it a little nicer than that of course.

My only regret is that my friend didn’t have the same idea back then.

Share your own experiences with this in the comments!

Missing our best stuff?

Sign up to be the first to learn about new tutorials, sales, giveaways and more.

We will never spam you. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
Erik Magrini

Erik Magrini

Tarekith is owner of Inner Portal Studio, a Seattle-based studio focused on providing mastering and mixdowns for electronic musicians around the world.  With over 14 years experience mastering releases from producers like Autechre, John Tejada, Venetian Snares, and Ben & Lex, Inner Portal Studio was also featured in the September 2011 issue of Electronic Musician magazine.

Free Video on Mixing Low End

Download a FREE 40-minute tutorial from Matthew Weiss on mixing low end.

Powered by ConvertKit
  • Lonnie Bedell

    If your friend had said it back then, would you have paid?

    • For his advice and how much it was helping me at the time, yes.

  • Brandon Lackey

    Makes sense to me. Good advice is worth it. Thats why people talk to lawyers. Where can I find rates etc? Thanks!

  • Igor Zelen

    Generally speaking, if it’s an artist/producer/band you admire and respect musically I think it’s well worth it paying for a sincere advice on your music or concrete aspects of your productions. It can iron the learning curve in a significant manner, make you realize concepts that otherwise would require a lot of experience, especially if the consulted person takes proper time to listen and explain. I think it’s an awesome idea and a fair deal. Both parts benefit, especially the consultant, so I see nothing wrong with it.

  • cloudmixstudio

    Fair enough.

  • Art Moore

    I actually have a band coaching service. I’ll come in before you hit the studio and work with you on your music. I also charge for this service. When you have a service like this your telling your client, “You will get my full attention and professionalism!”

  • Transparent Mastering

    It’s also important to establish clear boundaries. Mix consulting is not producing. Its a very blurry line between someone asking what’s wrong with their mix and asking questions like “do you think the kick drum suits this song?” Especially for a mastering engineer. I try to establish that my critique will be a technical one, and not an artistic one, but that’s hard to define as well. My enthusiasm for helping people out ends up with me spending hours on listening and emails when my per track rate is only supposed to involve an hour or two of work realistically.

    • I totally know what you mean, I find occasionally I run into that situation as well. Kind of like when a client asks me “What did you think of my song?”, and I have to explain that I don’t think about the stuff I work on that way. There’s definitely an artistic side to it, but part of what we do is about being above that as well and focusing on the technical side of things too. Drawing that line without offending a client is not always easy, luckily it’s not something I have to deal with that often either.

/> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> />