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Author Topic: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.  (Read 2476 times)


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Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« on: May 24, 2004, 02:16:04 PM »

Over the years, a lot of us have done "spec" projects - we believe in the talent, we see potential, we expect to get paid at some point, or whatever entices us to do the job without money actually changing hands.  I just commited to doing another "spec" job; two brothers that are great songwriters and players.  

To make matters worse, it's gonna be a Christian album, and we'll use the proceeds from that album to fund their rock album - the real goal.  When I say worse, most "religeous albums" I've done on "spec" have been disappointing at best, and recording nightmares at worst. None have ever been worth the time wasted or the money received.

So this has me musing about why I do "spec" jobs at all, what usually goes wrong, and why should I ever consider doing it again?

Usually, "spec" jobs fail because we believe in the talent more than the talent believes in themselves. Once they're in the studio, their enthusiasm diminishes quickly when they start flubbing it and no amount of reassuance can restore their wounded ego.

Another case is where they really are great, but as far as they're concerned, you should be honored to record them and they owe you nothing beyond that.

Finally, since they feel they have nothing really invested in the process, they sometimes don't appreciate the time or cost you want to recover, and they're happy with a couple of CRDs to hand out to friends and family.

It bothers me when I see someone with real talent and they're wasting it. It bothers me when they're not willing to try to make it.  It bothers me when they don't appreciate what you've done, or worse, when they badmouth you. (Yes, I've had that happen a couple of times.)

But still, I do stuff on "spec" from time to time.  Is it "pro bono" or am I just a machochist?
Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio


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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2004, 02:44:00 PM »


I've got a few "spec" projects. One is a band that I am playing in (possibly permanently but temporary for now).

The other major spec project is an old friend that needs it and falls in the "not putting in the work" category. He plays but he doesn't do that much promotion for himself or really push to play to further his career.

I may have picked up another where a friends wife wants to do some children's songs for use in music therapy. I think we're working out a barter as she is a painter as well and the studio needs some pretty pictures. Not exactly spec but as a hobbyist bartering is definitely cool.

The best thing about the spec stuff I've done is that they give me wonderful referrals. Everything I've done has been word of mouth from one of these spec projects so it's paid off in that respect.


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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2004, 07:23:13 PM »

I do spec jobs on occasion.  (Here's my latest: http://www.americaownsthemoon.com/ with their "Tiger" ep--the pre-pro sessions--available for download after clicking the logo...listen and I think you'll understand...)

I learned a long time ago to never expect any pay.  If I get something money-wise, then that's a bonus.  I do these jobs for me.  The other thing I've learned is to never fall for the "Man, we'll never use anyone else to record, dude!"  

If the music is so good it makes it worthwhile, then it *is* worthwhile.  

Then again, I make commercials for a living.......  Muisc is for my soul......
The Kooch
Rock and Roll Scholar and Gentleman


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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2004, 12:38:55 AM »

I never do spec work in any circumstance. I do streatch things a bit and even barter, but my time is only worth what I charge. If I do something for free it says to anyone concerned that my time is worthless.

I say it to bands all the time, "When you play for exposure, you are only exposing that you'll play for free."

I do work for charity, but I always get a tax reciept for it.

Robert de Buys
1818 28th Ave
Homewood, AL 25209


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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2004, 09:26:31 AM »

I do spec deals for one reason and that is fun. I don't expect anything to come out of them but fortunately i'm batting 1000 when it comes to getting recouped lately.

Here's a page of my latest spec deal, there's some rough mixes on the site. RLJ3

The project was a lot of fun.
"You can like it, or not like it."
The Studio

  http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewArtist ?id=155759887

Family Hoof

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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2004, 03:39:17 AM »

I've never used the term spec but recording for free got me started and was totally worth it. I knew it was time to start charging when the clients acted like Harvey describes and I was kicking myself after every session. Currently, the studio is closed and my regular clients aren't calling so I've taken some spec work just to quench my thirst. I can't not be recording, I go nuts. And it just so happens the people I'm recording are him and her. Their monstrous talent won't let me ignore it.
~Jens J.

Rob Darling

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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2004, 09:49:15 AM »

I've actually been using the word "spec" in a very useful way in the last couple of years in mixing.

As the quality of work (in terms of arrangement, production, and recording) coming to me has decreased in this era of   "I'll do it all myself,"  I've often run into problems where there simply isn't much to be done to make something better.  This is a problem if I am quoting full rate for mixing.  If I charge a thousand dollars for a mix, given that on a good production of a good song I can spend a day and half on it and make it sound great, to charge a thousand for something that can't get any better after just 5 hours of basic polish and compress, then I'm going to run into expectation problems.  If the client spends a thousand dollars, they want it to sound like a thousand dollars.  But if I can't give it to them, well, we have an issue.  

So I work on "spec".  If I don't know the client and the quality of the tracks, I give them a range of prices and tell them to bring me the tracks.  I load in, check things out, do some work, and give them a price.  They agree, or don't, and I do the work.  When they are done, if they like the mix, they buy it.  I find that it works well.  I'd rather make $2500 on an album of quick mixes with a happy client out there in the world than $1000 with someone trash talking me as a rip-off and a bad mix to prove it.
rob darling


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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2004, 01:59:57 PM »

I get lots of folks to do spec work for me.

Lots of great musicians in town (Austin), and many of them are friends. Thank god they have an adventurous spirit. I call, and they come over to sing or play or whatever. Just for the fun of it. Just to be happy. Plus, there is really no other way it could be done as I don't have much $$ in the first place.

Some folks do require a bit of $$, and that's OK.

The ones that do it for free know that if I ever make money on a project they participated in, they'll make good.

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

interstellar sasquatch

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Re: Why "Spec" Jobs Often Don't Pay Off.
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2004, 08:32:02 PM »

Wonder what you are calling spec? Is this a contract for future consideration on the recording itself? Or a higher payoff when the person gets the money? Were deals such as the PPX/Hendrix one spec? Think that was the name of the company. They released "Get that feeling" and got some kind of settlement based on Hendrix having signed a contract.

Mike http://www.mmeproductions.com
I'f you knew what I was thinking, you'd be me (paraphrase)-- Miles Davis

The only difference between me and a madman is I am not mad!!!-- Salvador Dali
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