One part of running a recording studio is dealing with the booking of studio time, fielding the phone calls and talking with "potential clients". Most of this is fine, chatting with folks about what they are planning to do, what their needs are and how you can work together. It takes some time out of your day if you're an owner/operator, but you just have to do it and there's nothing better than a full calendar. But sometimes you get calls from folks that either are so far removed from reality or so confused about what a recording studio does that it's a bit confusing to deal with them. Here's my list of warning signs that have come up while I was dealing with potential clients, and what you can do if this happens to you.

1. "It's not really a band, it's more of a project." This one can go both ways, as a very talented person can pull people (or themselves) together and do something no "band" could achieve. Unfortunately, many times this is something akin to a house built out of toothpicks, and just as fun to try and construct. Pick carefully.

2. "My sister and I are singers and we're really good." This is usually delivered in a high, pre-pubescent voice. This is because you are listed in the phone book. The child will have no music to sing to and has learned her chops by singing along with the radio. When you call back you will get a confused adult on the line. Ignore.

3. "We're so tight that we'll knock out 12 songs in a couple of hours." While a clueless male might boast of his sexual prowess while drunk in a bar with friends he shouldn't bother to tell his doctor. Book carefully, with extra time in reserve.

4. "When you hear these songs you'll want to work on this." Usually voiced with the implication that you may forgo your already ridiculously low engineering fee. Book them, but find another engineer to do the session.

5. "Can you remove vocals from a song?" I know where this one is leading. It's always some sap that wants to make a present for his girlfriend or sing at some special occasion. Apparently these people have never heard of Karaoke or something. Avoid.

6. "I've got these songs but I can't sing and don't know any musicians." Unless you live in Nashville (where they do this every day) this can be scary. Do you want to play producer (even if you get hired as "just an engineer") on a session where some hack "songwriter" tries to make "production" calls on things he has no experience with? Refer to other studios in town or "producers" (friends of yours that need the dough more than you).

7. "I'm trying to get my son to record these songs because I think he's really talented." I have to admit that one of my favorite projects came this way (Hi Dustin, this isn't about you!) but in general here's what's going on. Number one: Parents can be completely blind in their support of their kids, especially when it comes to recognizing quality songwriting in genres they don't even listen to. Number two: Many times these supposedly talented offspring don't really want to come record, as they might know they aren't ready or that all those great songs mom heard them play are all covers. Be very careful. This could be a decent gig but remember you're not dealing with the artist directly.

8. "I've been wanting to break into the music business for years." This usually comes from someone who has been entrenched in a mundane job for ages (I get a lot of bus drivers) and is under the illusion that your studio is a golden door into a fabulous music career. They are also under the illusion that the music business is fabulous. God help me. Danger. If you let this person into your studio you will end up blowing their illusion. Tell them you are booked up for the next year with Grammy-winning artists.

9. "We'd like to book four hours every Sunday for the next three months." What? For a small studio, weekends are guaranteed bookings and you can't book partial days and stay afloat. A band that wants a bunch of short sessions probably has no idea how much setup time is involved or how much momentum they will never gain. Try to talk some sense into these folks. "Hey, why don't we start with a full day?"

10. "There's gonna be guys from Toto, Guns and Roses and Yes playing on my solo album and I heard you had a cool vibe." I really heard this once. Then the guy blew off several "meetings" in a row and I never heard a peep again. I never heard about this session happening in another studio in town either. Either the guy was a liar or he moved back to L.A. Money up front, add extra for the deli tray, hire a freelancer and go on vacation.

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

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