‘Another Article on Freelancing’
The thought of no more 9 to 5, lots of free time, and working “for yourself” are tempting as well as deceptive. Leaving ( or getting fired from ) a regular job may result in self-pay or non-existent health coverage, piecemeal income, and your now-extensive free time may be mostly unpaid and often unbillable.
As a professional musician and writer I accept these conditions ( with varying degrees of tolerance) as facts of life, as do most of my colleagues across the career spectrum . Let’s start with this :
Directions : Read the following paragraph and answer ( if you can) the question at the end.
You ( a freelance engineer/producer type) are doing your usual shtick –hanging out and guzzling caffeine , checking your email, and listening for your cellphone to either buzz, bleep or ring. You receive a message (in one form or another) to engineer/produce a gig/session from someone who says he got your name via a mutual colleague who can’t do the gig and needs a sub. You show up and meet the bandleader/record label rep/studio owner. You’re paid in cash by somebody else and get told by yet another somebody else “I’m sure we’ll use you again some time.”
Who actually hired you?
a) the person who contacted you
b) the colleague you subbed for
c) the bandleader
d) the studio owner
e) the record label rep
f) the person who actually paid you
g) the person who said they wanted to use you again
h) all of the above
i) none of the above
j) some of the above
k) Santa Claus
Silly, you say? Follow an actual scenario from awhile back as to what happened to an independent producer (IP) when he got involved ( musically, that is) with two artists (A1—who was signed to a label) and A1’s protegee A2 ( who was signed to A1). The whole sequence of events is interesting if for no other reason that it involved other professionals –a mobile studio owner (MSO) and a keyboard player (KP).
Our story (much abbreviated) opens with IP—a respected producer with a lot of airplay in the UK to his credit– getting a call from A1 asking IP if he would be interested in working with him on a demo for A2. IP definitely was, and asked MSO and KP to participate, assuming that monetary arrangements for all three of them would be straightforward and timely. IP knew A1 socially and didn’t anticipate any bullshit; therefore he had no hesitation in contacting both MSO and KP.
At the appointed time A1 and A2 didn’t show up , but called and came 6 hours later. (Since no hourly rate had been negotiated, only a “project” rate, this became a lot of unbillable down time.) A1 said,” Sorry for the inconvenience—don’t worry , I’ll take care of it.”
For whatever reason A1 and A2 decided not to use most of most of MSO’s audio work, even though they said they liked what he did . Then they took IP and KP to a big well-known studio and recut the tune. Shortly afterwards , IP read in the trades that the tune was being co-produced by someone else in another location. Both A1 and A2 were unreachable by phone. IP, MSO, and KP were never paid for their work. IP’s chance to co-produce with a really big name turned into a momentously embarrassing non-event. And everyone was royally pissed. In retrospect IP said, “Confirm your credit line and ask about the payment procedures before you do anything. I should have asked who A1’s business manager was since I never knew who was really responsible for paying us.”
IP’s last statement is worth examining and taking one step further . You work for yourself. You might not feel this way…until a few things backfire and you realize you identified too much with the (record) company/project or the artist that hired you. When you forget you’re working for yourself, you tend to make hasty short-term decisions, rather than long-term ones.
Another thought from IP: Don’t get “seduced” by big names; their projects can collapse just as much as anyone else’s. The old-time movie business truism “It’s better to have 3% of something than 6% of nothing” is unfortunately still quite relevant…
Rosanne Soifer is a professional musician and writer in NYC. She can be reached at SRJRSD@aol.com.
Adapted from previous article in Modern Recording & Music
The views and opinions featured in this article are those of the guest contributor