Not long after I first opened my recording studio, (some 20 years ago, when people actually booked time via a landline), I got a call one day about a booking request.

Client: "Hi, we'd like to book every Sunday for six months, for 4 hours a day."

Me: "I really try to keep bookings, especially weekends, to full days."

Client: "But we just want to come in and jam. Then we'll pick out the best takes for an album."

Me: "But it'll take at least an hour or two for us to set up."

Client: "Oh, we're quick."

Me: "I'll need to set up microphones, get levels…"

Client: "Yeah, but once you've done it the first time, it'll be faster."

Me: "Sure, but still, what if I get a booking asking for that whole weekend?"

Client: "We're offering to book a lot of time."

Me: "Yes, but I will be telling projects for six months that I cannot book a full weekend."

Client: "But add up all the time."

Me: "But I'll be making half as much on every one of these Sundays!"

As one could hopefully surmise, I passed on this job. And guess what? I booked a lot of bands for full weekends and sometimes full weeks which is something this piecemeal session would have messed up.

Occasionally I'll talk to engineers, producers, and small studio owners and find out they do a lot of short "after work" sessions during the week, or partial days on the weekends. I get it; a lot of my clients work day jobs, have children, or sometimes simply need to finish off a session with a quick overdub or mix. On occasion if it is part of a larger project, and if the clients remain flexible and understand that you need to make a living, this can work out great. I've had days where I've wrapped up several different artist's mixes, given studio tours, and tracked vocals on an elusive take for a project in the evening. But I don't want every day to feel like that!

Even in a casual home studio setting, it's important to value your own time (I know, I started there). Honest conversations and clear communication can help set proper expectations for the recordist and the client. But never sell yourself short. Don't box your time in with months of 2- or 4-hour sessions. Don't let every evening of your week turn into 1-hour vocal sessions.

I've had clients hover over my shoulder as I've looked at my personal calendar, while they pointed at dates and exclaimed, "That one's open. We'll take it!" There was absolutely no regard as to whether I'd be working 30 days in a row, or flying back from a trip the day before. How is that supposed to keep me inspired?

Protect yourself. Budget time smartly. Set boundaries. In the end, everyone you record and collaborate with will benefit as well.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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