Money SignWould you like to make money as a recording engineer? Of course you would, but you’re quick to throw out excuse after excuse for why you can’t make money as a recording engineer.

I want to take a few minutes to briefly debunk some common excuses I hear, and I want to encourage you re-think what you’re doing.

“I don’t have good enough gear.”

This may be true, but I doubt it. Chances are you are completely capable of recording something. It doesn’t have to be the most pristine audio you’ve ever heard. Find an up-and-coming musician who’s never recorded anything before and record him/her. Having never recorded before, the musician will be impressed with whatever you bring to the table.

Having “cheap” gear forces you to work hard for a good sound. This is a really good thing. You’ll learn how to get good at recording. You’ll hone your skills. Get as much work as you can, and when you eventually have enough cash to upgrade to better gear, go for it.

In the meantime, become a better engineer.

“I’m not good enough.”

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may not be good. Nobody’s good when they first start out, but the only way to improve is to do it. Do some free recording sessions if you have to. Improve your game, then start charging for it.

“Musicians won’t pay for recording.”

Some musicians won’t, but there are plenty of musicians who are dying to record their music, and they don’t want to bother with all the technical aspects of recording. Enter you. You’re offering to create a product for them. They can sell this product, so it makes sense that they pay you for the product.

“I don’t know any musicians.”

The response to this seems painfully obvious. You’ve got to get out there and meet people. Plain and simple. And don’t forget there’s this big thing called the internet that can help you connect with people.

“I don’t feel right charging for my services.”

What if every professional said this? What if no one charged for anything? It’s a ridiculous concept, right?

Just because you love music and recording doesn’t mean you can’t make money from it without selling your soul. I love to do business with people who are passionate about what they do. If you’re passionate, and you offer value, it only makes sense that someone would pay you for that valuable service.

What say you? Leave a comment.

[Photo credit – neubie]

  • Matt

    Ive been trying to start making money recording for a while, I have lots of demos and good projects but I just can’t find clients, How can i get the word out and start getting some clients

    • Hey Matt. It’s always good to start with people you know. Take a night to list out musicians you know and people you know who might be able to connect you with musicians. Then methodically, slowly connect with each person on that list. Be real. Be cool. But let ’em know what you’re trying to do.

      Joe

  • curtis

    Man, I just got out from reading various sites in regards to audio engineering. Most have quite decent views but they sure can shoot down this profession or desire to pursue it. I’m married and have 3 little girls and though I realize the countless hours it takes and endless knowledge needed to stay current with the “In Thing” I’m willing to push forward. But by the sound of it, I’m going to lose my marriage, go broke, and be hating what I’m doing before long. Don’t even try ( is the theme) Well, Duh! Don’t try if you’re not passionate enough about what you’re doing. Hey, I didn’t quit my day job but I can at least plan on the possibility of building to that later on. Don’t kill my dreams totally, it takes time. If I lived in the negative like a lot of these popular guidance sites ( You know them ) Id be so depressed and never do anything I was ever passionate about! Hey recording music and having your hands in all aspects of the industry will require SERIOUS commitment. So like Joe and Graham both hammer out a positive outlook on this career, Stay focused and don’t lose sight. How Hungry are you? You too can be the best. Hope I didn’t overkill this post, It just came fresh off the skillet. Joe thanks again for the encouragement!

    • Thanks Curtis. And make sure you focus on developing your skills as well as your passion. Passion won’t pay the bills. And that’s a GOOD thing. 😉
      Check out this book I read last week. Really cool:

      http://www.joelikes.com/sogood

      • curtis

        I sure get that. I’ve been spending most of my time trying to familiarize myself with my DAW. Just an extreme amount of nearly terrifying information. lol Anyway, I will certainly keep my perspective and do my homework. Thanks again for what you do.

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  • Ms.L

    OH thank you so much for this article. Simple and informative.I am currently a music engineer and a local studio and am terrified of discussing rate with the ceo because I DONT KNOW the normal rates.I know for a fact i’m getting beat in the head because ill work 60 hrs a week and only make like $40.(don’t laugh) and my list of clients are growing! Also as a producer and this is the reason why I haven’t been promoting/selling my music. smh.

    • maximum love

      well done , there is nothing to laugh. If u wanna be somebody . we need to wake up and pay attention.

  • I agree 100% with you
    My brother is an engineer also.

  • Quest

    I own a home Recording Studio with prety ok equipment, like  avalon 737, neumman tlm 49 mic, 003 digidesign, and the most upto date plugins to use. Iam also on  the end of my school year at Full Sail University but am having problems with the charging issue, can any one let me know whats a normal price to charge for traking and mix.

    • No one can tell you what to charge. If you’re good, you can charge more. If you don’t have much experience, start at $10-20/hour and go from there.

  • jose

    I think that a lot of times we say we’re not good enough because we try to get a professional sounding recording the first time we record and get too involved in making it perfect. through you i’ve accepted that we learn as we go and eventually will get better recording. Dont dream of a master piece with out actually recording something first and learn from it.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Thanks Jose!

  • Jon B

    I have recently started recording ‘professionaly’ (charging ~10-20/hr) and couldn’t be happier. im just doing it in my home and im having absolutely no trouble finding enough clients to keep me booked (im booked a month in advance!)

    stop making excuses.
    start charging to record people that aren’t you or your friends.
    use that money to eat/sleep/buy more gear.
    repeat.

    thats my m.o. baby

    • Awesome, Jon. Awesome.

      • Carlos.A

        HEY THANK YOU JOE ,

    • Ivan

      Im having trouble making an acoustic envirinment that’s worthy of charging people for…I live in an apartment any suggestions?

      • Stanley Watkins

        Think portable solutions such as gluing acoustic foam to movable surfaces such as partitions. This will help some. I know this thread is old but it may help someone.

    • Quest

      what about mix, how much to charge for mixing

      • I’d say start cheap and go from there. You can always raise your prices once you have a lot of clients.

  • about2flip

    My excuse is I think its too late for me to attend school to be a recording engineer. I wanted to be one since I was 19, but never followed it, and to this day I still record, and still want to be a engineer. I’m 38 now, is it too late?

    • marvyn leblanc

      Not at all dude. I’m 36 and I’m half way through my course. I say do it before you die. At least you’ll go out with a smile on your face knowing you tried. I’m putting my all into this new profession and I have to say that I hate the fact that I waited this long and having so many excuses to hold me back. Believe in yourself.

      • maximum love

        great

    • maximum love

      I don’t agree with you , remember that each single day we learn something. while you have the divine life there is time for everything . if you love what you wanna be then be It. fight for it and you gonna be it.

    • Stanley Watkins

      Plenty of information on youTube

  • Doing is indeed the key to success in anything! Producing your friends’ bands for free (or in exchange for guestlists at their gigs at least) is a good way to build expertise, and it may help get your name out there when you’re starting from scratch… if you do a good enough job, then people you don’t know may later seek your services, and be prepared to pay for them…

  • “I don’t feel right charging for my services.”

    Generally people don’t appreciate what they don’t have to pay for so charging also ensure that they appreciate and value your work and effort.

    I also say don’t sell yourself cheap for the same reasons. You are only a valuable as you see yourself sometimes so if you see yourself as a cheap bargain basement alternative you will become a cheap bargain basement alternative and that is the product they see you selling.

    Think.. what is the difference between a Soviet Lada and an Italian Fiat. Not a lot in reality (both designed by the same guy’s and look much the same – and in fact have interchangeable parts) ..
    Which one would you own of choise if you had to choose between the two?
    The Fiat..
    Why? Because it sells itself as a good quality car and Lada sees itself and a “car of the workers”. Both work but one is upsells itself and thinks highly of itself and so is the car of choice and people pay way more for it.

    (BTW it doesn’t mean don’t occasionally do a freeby as a loss leader etc)

  • I’ve had some success spending some, often painful, nights in the local clubs and bars hunting for bands with good material.

    If I see a group that looks like they have some potential I’ll offer to record and produce a song for them at my expense. It very often leads to a working relationship with the band.

    Trying to make a name for yourself is very Catch-22, so offering to put in a little time pro-bono can go a long way to building your reputation. I just try and make sure that I don’t give too much away for free and only make offers to bands I think I can help as a producer as well as an engineer. That way I’m building two reputations at once and get to work on material I enjoy.

  • Love. This. Blog. Great advice.

    Another good way to find musicians is seeking out music students who need to make audition CDs. Put up ads in your local music school or college music department. You’ll get some hits.

  • Wayne AKA wilbury69

    I have recorded people in the past on analog 16 trk. I recorded the last band I played in and got two songs recorded and broke up. You do have to do some marketing of yourself and get your feet wet. I agree if you get someone that wants to record you should be able to make some money. Just remember Winners never quit, and quiters never win. Make some money so you can support your problem with GAS LOL!!!!!!!!

  • WILLIAM JONES

    I think I’ve made all of the above excuses. And they are all a load of crap. If you give in to all of those lies, you sell yourself short.

  • Brandon Morgan

    Another good excuse:

    I don’t have time to record people

    rebuttal… then why are you wanting to be a recording engineer?