This is a subject that has been brought to my attention over the past week that a few producers wanted my thoughts on. The correct etiquette in a studio is important, especially if you want to be invited back. Below I have listed a few helpful pointers to bare in mind when working in another artist or engineers studios. Etiquette varies from studio to studio. Not all of the below mentioned points are rules I have in place here at Audio Animals studio but may be put in place in other studios. General rule of thumb when working in another producer or engineers studio is, treat it with the utmost respect like it was your own new born baby. To many of us studio enthusiasts our studio is our baby.
Always remember this studio is often someone else’s pride and joy. Be respectful of the studio and it’s surroundings. Respect both the owner and the equipment.
No Food Or Drink In The Studio
Even if the engineer or producer you are working with has a sandwich and glass of water on a table next to him while he works, doesn’t mean you should also. If they spill a glass of water over a £20k console they are to blame and will have to stomach the repairs themselves. If you spill a glass of water over a £20k console, guess who is getting the bill. It’s generally good practice to keep all liquids away from studio equipment, in your own studio and in others.
Don’t ever presume just because you do something in your studio that the owner of the studio you are in will do the same. For instance you may smoke in your studio. That’s fair enough but never assume you can smoke in others. Any professional studio will have a no smoking policy and it’s generally good manners to smoke outside.
Don’t Touch Their Knobs
No not like that. Don’t tamper with equipment adjusting different parameters without the engineers knowledge. I had this happen to me before. I had a session set up and someone had come in a set up their session on the console even though the studio was mine and I’d just walked out to make a phone call. This resulted in me having to mix the track down again from scratch which no engineer will be impressed with.
Inviting friends the engineer or producer doesn’t know isn’t ideal. Always ask permission first before doing so. If you are given permission to invite a couple of friends don’t bring 10 with you. There is often a reason for this and the reason being that the engineer may not know or trust them in his studio. The only people who need to be there are the people involved in the work.
Manners go a long way. In the studio and in life in general. You are in someone else’s studio so always be polite to them. Nobody wants to work with a rude arrogant musician, doesn’t matter how much of a huge star you may be.
If you are paying for the session, make sure you have the money. Don’t say at the end of the session “one second I’ve just got to pop to the bank get the money out.” many studios will take cards or an online transaction. Find out before you arrive which method of payment is required or preferred.
Take your phone calls outside. Most engineers or producers will stop playing audio if you take a phone call during a session. This will frustrate most for many reasons. The flow of the session can be lost, time is money in some cases and by taking a 20 phone call means the engineer has to wait, eating into the session time. If you are working on an hourly basis this time only costs you money.
If you have be given permission to bring your friend or production partner into the session with you. Don’t sit behind the engineer talking while the engineer is mixing. It’s very distracting for an engineer trying to concentrate on the mix with someone talking behind him. Also worth noting that whilst an engineer is trying to listen carefully to audio, try not to engage him in small talk on matters that are not to do with the project in hand.
Be On Time
If you have booked a session for 10:00am make sure you get there for 10:00am. There’s nothing worse than sitting around waiting for a client to turn up. A lot of the time especially in a studio using analogue equipment, you can’t just move onto the next session and save the session for when you eventually turn up.
Stay In Contact
If you are going to be late get in contact with the engineer. Chances are it won’t be a problem if you let someone know. If the engineer knows when you will be arriving he will be able to make other arrangements to fill in the time waiting for you.
Asking Too Many Questions
Asking questions is fine. Asking question after question after question can be time consuming and delay the creativity within the session. If you are in a session with an engineer, he may turn around and say to you this is a mixing session not a tuition session. Often tuition rates are far more expensive than mixing rates.
Questions Regarding Studio’s Signature Sound
If the studio engineer or producer you are working with has a signature sound he is known for, try not to pry into gaining his secrets. This may not be something he wishes to discuss as he doesn’t want his secrets getting out. He may be willing to share his knowledge with you but chances are he will want to keep this signature sound exclusively to him. I’ve personally seen a producer cover his monitor and himself will a towel whilst programming a synth patch as he didn’t want anyone in the room to know how he made it. I still to this day think he just didn’t want anyone to know he used a preset.
Asking For A Copy Of Producers Sample Library
Often producers have spent time and money building up their sample library, so don’t expect them to give you their sample library simply by asking politely. Often part of their sample packs licensing agreement is that they are not allowed to share the sample packs. So technically you are asking them to break the law.
Keep in mind that you are in someone else’s studio. If you are left alone don’t take it upon yourself to look through draws or boxes. Your curiosity may be mistaken for attempting to steal something.
An obvious one but worth noting. Don’t steal anything while the engineer or producer is away from the desk or not looking. Most studios have cameras set up watching all areas. If a studio owner notices anything is missing once you have left, he will check the cameras. I’ve seen a few cases of producers being exposed for this on facebook. Which has resulted in being black listed from most studios and lost a lot of respect from their peers. Big NO NO!
Taking Pictures Or Video
Not such a big deal but it’s good practice to ask permission. Some studios may not want their equipment posted online for security reasons or the engineer or producer may be trying to hide his identity publicly. Just something to bare in mind, not such a biggy this one.
Arrive Baring Gifts
This is a personal one for me and a few close producer friends. Digilantz always arrive with a box of crispy creams and 100me always arrives with a cake his missus has baked. This goes a long way especially with me.
Written By Paul Ashmore ( Mixing And Mastering Engineer At Audio Animals )