I’m starting to run out of recording studio advice – the studio is an insular environment, and I’ve already covered several areas.
In the last 6 months, I’ve had more recording sessions than I had in all of the preceding years combined. I’ve installed some helpful new plugins and discovered some great new tracking techniques. One thing, however, has popped up a few times, and given me pause for thought. The inevitable, but always inconvenient, no-show.
I’ve worked with enough different recording clients over the years that I think I can pick out patterns in their behavior long before they’re clearly demonstrated. A band of five or more members will always contain one ‘control freak’ – the person who ends up calling all of the shots, over the rest of his bandmates and the engineer or producer.
There is always one member who is confused by perceived changes to the arrangement of the song (“Were you always singing that part twice? I thought we only played that chorus once… Okay. I could swear we’ve always played it differently, Keith. Let’s just do it.”). And there’s always one dude who insists that using his live rig, with a 5-foot cabinet and an arsenal of effects pedals, is the only way he can be recorded. This dude will always ask you to change his tone in post-production too. You can laugh on the inside when this happens.
But with all of those personalities in the group, at least one of them will be the taskmaster, and will make sure that the session happens. Solo acts don’t always have the same luxury. When I have no-shows, they are almost exclusively solo artists: singer-songwriters, rappers, that guy who just wants to record his new song “real quick”. This might be because they don’t have anyone else to keep them accountable, they have a poor memory, or they just don’t respect other people’s time.
Here’s the deal: when your engineer blocks off time for your session (Sunday, August 19th, 3-5pm), he/she has committed the studio to you for that block. They will likely end up turning away other clients who are interested in that same date, and when you don’t show up, they will want to put a hex on you. I’ve found two solutions for this problem, but neither of them are perfect.
Pay A Non-Refundable Deposit
Look, time is money in the recording studio. If you want us to hold a date for you, you might need to pay a deposit upfront, and if you don’t show up, you can’t have it back. The problem with this is that people always want to negotiate later: “Can’t you just put that towards my next session??” No, Roger. That was my compensation for sitting in an empty building while you were vaping with your friends in a parked car (I watched your Instagram stories). Every time you want a new date, you have to pay for us holding it, whether you show up or not.
Of course, all of this is excusable if you give your engineer enough notice. For me, I’m usually good with 24 hours, but that’s only because I don’t live off of my studio check alone. If you want to be a good guy, give your engineer at least 5 days notice, or ask to reschedule. At least 24 hours, though, unless you’re a monster. Sheesh.
Use A Calendar
Your other option is even simpler, but requires you to accept full responsibility for your own life (can you imagine?). Download a calendar app on your phone, and put your date on there! It’s so easy. If you’re not a digital person, I think you can find analog calendars made out of paper and such, at pretty much any store in the known universe. Put it next to your bed. Somewhere where you’ll look at it. Hell, if you don’t want to spring for the full calendar, tear off a corner from a sheet of paper and write:
3:00 PM PACIFIC
Tape it to your bathroom mirror. Look at it every day. Keep your commitments. You’re an adult.
Void message if you are a minor.