Most project studios have the firepower to produce radio-ready tracks. But why is it that some studios stay consistently booked while others stagnate? Studio owners and engineers frequently focus on having the best studio gear, often overlooking the value of having good people skills. To help attract, maintain, and expand your clientele, implement the eight people-friendly practices listed below to keep the human element intact in your technical studio environment.
- SchmoozeThis term means going to places or events with the intention of making business contacts and meeting potential clients. After contacts are made, you begin to form alliances, presenting yourself as a genuine professional with whom clients can feel comfortable. Effective schmoozing is one of the cornerstones of building good people skills. Potential schmooze sites include local live-music clubs, hip restaurants, events sponsored by your local Recording Academy chapter (visit www.grammy.com for a list of chapters and events), and your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Put people at ease in the studioMost artists often base their studio choice on how well they get along with the engineer or studio owner/manager, not on whether the studio employs $1,000 or $10,000 worth of A/D conversion. Help shape their first impression by maintaining a good attitude and providing an environment that is conducive to creativity. Clients often hire someone that they can relate to, someone with whom they won't mind hanging out for more than 12 hours a day.
- Feed the troops“I know it sounds silly as it relates to people skills, but food is one of the most important things that affects a session,” says Geoff Gray, owner of Far & Away Studios in Boulder, Colorado. “People get so wrapped up in the moment that time flies by and hypoglycemia becomes a factor. Always have emergency rations around.” Also, never underestimate the value of unlimited bottled water and fresh coffee.
- Become a great listenerWhen clients want to share their recording hopes and dreams, listen to them with the same intensity that you would accord a playback. Can you break out of engineer mode for a few minutes and focus on what the artist is saying without planning brilliant retorts and comments at the same time? Being a good listener puts the artist at ease, benefitting the project and your studio's reputation.
- Immerse yourself in the project“I immerse myself in everybody's project,” says Gray. “I rev up to the same enthusiasm level as the client. Once your level of excitement matches theirs, you're in. I want people to be so happy that they can't believe it. Everybody who walks in the door should leave happier than they ever expected.” That kind of passion is contagious.
- Display infinite patience when an artist struggles with his or her creationWe all have bad days, artists included. Sometimes it's not an artist's best day for a particular performance on a particular song. “You can't get frustrated when they get frustrated,” Gray emphasizes. “You have to know when to pull the plug. Move on to another song before they can focus on the problem. When high expectations aren't met, get disappointment out of the building as fast as possible.”
- Broach sensitive subjects delicatelyThe decision to bring in studio musicians is one example of a sensitive subject; the way you approach that topic is a good indicator of your level of people skills. In this case, tell the client that you're willing to record his or her project until the cows come home, but that they may want to consider using studio musicians to get that perfect sound. In any potentially ego-bruising situation, try giving positive feedback first, then follow up with constructive criticism.
- Communicate between sessionsThis is the cherry on top of the client-cultivation sundae. Sending an email or calling between sessions hammers home the message that you truly care about the artist and his or her dream. Artists who believe that you consider their dreams as important as they do will generate a positive buzz surrounding you and your studio. And that positive buzz can propel your studio to a more solidly booked, people-friendly status.
Lory Kohn is a Boulder, Colorado-based technical writer, engineer, and producer and is a founding member of The Milkmen. You can schmooze with him firstname.lastname@example.org.