DIY’ers: You should be charging for editing music

It’s a fact, dance teachers and choreographers need to use edited music in their routines. Some choreographers edit their music themselves, others ask a friend or family member to do it, and others send it out to a professional. No matter how you do it, whether it’s yourself, or hiring out a professional to get it done, you should be charging your students (or your studio) when you edit or remix music for the routines that you choreograph.

music-moneyMusic editing and remixing is not free. It takes time, effort and skill. Your dance studio wouldn’t dream of giving away choreography or costumes for free, why would the time and energy to work music into shape for a routine be any different?

Your time as a dance teacher/choreographer is valuable. You charge students (or your studio) for your time in developing choreography and then teaching it to your students. You are paid for that service. When you devote time to creating or editing your music, that’s valuable time you are taking away from other activities, no matter whether that’s family time, time at another job, or time you could be spending creating even more choreography.

If you hire a professional to have your music edited, normally you would not absorb that cost; you should be passing it on to your customers, which in the case of a dance studio, are your students. Therefore, when you do the music yourself, you should still be charging appropriately for the service. If you don’t, you are short-changing yourself.

A good starting point for determining how much you should charge is to take note of the average time it takes you to edit a song. Say it takes half an hour to edit a song, and you charge your studio $50 an hour for teaching dance or creating choreography. In that case, you should charge the studio $25 for the song editing service. If you spend, say, two hours creating a complex song medley for a competitive group routine, then it would be appropriate to charge $100 for the music for that group.

If you are also the studio owner, you should be charging a music fee to cover not only the costs of getting the music into shape for the routines, but also to cover your ASCAP/BMI/SESAC fees. Smart business owners charge a mark-up on services purchased on behalf of their customers to cover the employee time and expense involved in procuring the goods. Studios do this as normal business practice for procuring costumes.  The same should be true for procuring quality music. Say your studio has 100 students, and you pay $600/year in ASCAP, BMI and SESAC fees. This means that the base cost of providing the music licenses to your studio is $6 per student per year. If the studio then charges $9 per student per year as a music usage rights fee, then the studio is covering the cost, plus making a few extra dollars as well.

The same concept applies no matter if you edit your own music or send out a remix to a professional. If you spend $199 to create an exciting and original remix for a group routine with 15 students in it, that works out to $13.33 per student. If the studio charges $15 per student as a music remix fee for the routine, then not only does the studio cover the cost of the exciting remix, the studio is also making a small profit.

The bottom line is: Don’t sell yourself short.

And when you need a professional to get your music right, Squirrel Trench Audio is at your service. We are thrilled to have helped hundreds of dancers around the US and all over the world, have spectacular music for their routines. And since we understand that cost is often an issue, and costs need to be kept to a minimum in most situations, we have a catalog of music that has already been edited or remixed, and is available for immediate purchase at a price far less than custom editing or remixing.

Savannah Ballet’s Little Mermaid

IMG_1624I am extremely honored to have helped the Savannah Ballet with the music and sound design for their production of The Little Mermaid. The premier performances were this past weekend (April 24 & 25, 2015), and received rave reviews from those that attended. Managing Director Abby McCuen asked for my assistance in assembling a collection of about a dozen songs into a cohesive 45-minute set for Act I of the ballet. It was an exciting and challenging project, and Abby received several compliments on it. Here are a couple of photos from this beautiful performance. Click on either one to enlarge it.

For more photos, view Savannah Ballet’s photo album on Facebook.IMG_1780

 

Uptown Funk – Super squeaky clean version

uptown white carResponse to Squirrel Trench Audio’s clean versions of Uptown Funk has been overwhelming. It’s wonderful to know that dance teachers, fitness teachers, school recitals, hip hop classes, and more, will all be enjoying a clean, school-age appropriate version of this instant classic hit. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have come up with an amazingly fun, funky, and catchy tune.

In addition to the full-length clean version, we now also offer a super-squeaky clean version of Uptown Funk, with the words “sexy” also removed in addition to all of the other objectionable lyric content removed. This version also has the exciting intro as played in the band’s Saturday Night Live performance from the fall of 2014. Take a listen to the super-squeaky clean version:

This version now complements the many other clean versions Squirrel Trench Audio has created for you. Here are links to all the other versions and lengths:

4:28 (Full length, regular clean)2:582:46 • 2:322:151:59

If you know you need a shortened version, but aren’t sure which one to get, you can get every version in this clean Uptown Funk collection here:

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

In addition to having just about every clean version of Uptown Funk you might need, we have also done customized versions as well. If you need a clean Uptown Funk, but with something modified, we can get that done for you. Just use this Request Form, and we’ll make it happen.

Congratulations to Ausia Jones!

Ausia Jones is an incredible 17-year-old dancer, and our congratulations go out to her, and her choreographer Ebony Williams, for her winning routine, Reflection. Reflection won the First Overall Senior Contemporary at the Dallas regional competition of Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Ausia was accompanied by music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio, from a piece titled Rostro by the artist Murcof.

Congrats again Ausia! Enjoy her amazing performance:

The economics of a competitive group dance routine

1902765_10152284887868103_160835853_n.jpgIt’s pretty amazing how much time, sweat, rehearsal, effort, and money goes into putting a competitive group dance routine on stage. I think it’s terrific and amazing that so many dance parents are able to give their kids the experience, discipline, camaraderie, and excitement of performing an intricate routine, complete with music, choreography, and costumes. While the kids on stage and the choreographers are the ones who get the medals and awards, really it should be the parents getting the awards for making it happen!

One thing I am always surprised about is how often these amazing routines go on stage, and are performed at competitions, with less-than-perfect music. Often times the music for these routines have jarring clicks, jumps, awkward timings, and mis-matched phrasing. While competitive dance is not judged on the quality of the soundtrack, bad music edits can make counting and choreography more difficult for the dancers since musical phrases can wind up with nonsensical timings like 9.7 beats instead of 8!

It surprises me that so much music with significant issues winds up on the competitive stage when you consider how much time, energy, and money goes into each dance. After all, the music is the foundation of the dance, and great music serves as the inspiration both for the dance teacher/choreographer as well as the dancers themselves. There are some studios, such as Mather Dance Company in the L.A. area, that go so far as to have original music commissioned for them by professional recording artists. While understandably, that kind of budget is out of reach for many studios, working with a skilled music editor is quite reasonable, especially when you think about the finances that go into each competitive routine that is put on stage. After all, we wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage with a wrecked costume, so why would be put them on stage with wrecked music?

So let’s take a quick look at the cost to put one competitive dance on the stage. Oftentimes a unique music remix can be created for $199 or less, so I will wrap up our analysis by looking at that music cost as a percentage of the total cost of putting a routine on stage.

To make this calculation, I’m going to use conservative estimates. For many studios, the costs might be much less, while at others, they might be far more. For this example, let’s use a group routine with 15 dancers. If each of those company dancers is paying an average of $180 per month in studio tuition, and is in a total of 8 competitive routines, then their combined total studio fee, on a per routine basis is: 15 kids x $180 x 10 months / 8 total routines = $3,375 combined cost per dance. No matter if a guest choreographer is brought in, or the studio’s own teacher creates the choreography, that takes considerable effort, so we’ll budget $500 for the choreography. Next, costumes can easily run $125 per, for competitive routines, so that is another $125 x 15 = $1,875. But we haven’t even gotten to entry fees, let alone hotel and food costs that dance parents incur. If a competitive routine is entered into three regionals and one nationals, the entry fees can easily be $40 per regional and $50 per national. That is 15 x ((40 x 3) + 50) = $2,550. We are up to $8,300 for the combined routine cost, and we haven’t figured hotel or travel expenses yet.

Let’s assume that one of the regionals is near enough to the studio to not require a hotel, and let’s use a conservative estimate that the other two regionals will require one hotel night, and that the nationals will require four hotel nights. That’s a total of six hotel nights, so our calculation is 15 families x 6 nights x $110 / 8 routines = $1237. Let’s just round up to $1300 when you figure in food on the road. We’re also going to assume that families don’t have to purchase air fare to get to Nationals.

So our total cost, to put one group competitive routine on stage in all competitions is $3375 studio time + $500 choreography + $1875 costumes + $2550 entry fees + $1300 hotel costs = $9,600. Now imagine spending even as much as $200 for a spectacular custom music remix. That $200 represents 2% of the total cost in putting the routine on stage. Some would say that that is money well worth it. But I might be slightly biased as a music professional. Even if it’s not worthwhile to spend $200 on the music for a competitive group routine, it’s still very much worthwhile to spend $40 on having smooth and seamless music edits handled by a professional.

Congratulations to Joleen’s Starz of the South (again)

Joleen's Starz Pirate Life

A Pirate’s Life performers with their Group of the Day trophy

Winning is getting to be a habit for Joleen’s Starz of the South dance studio. Congratulations go to their small group routine, A Pirate’s Life. A Pirate’s Life features a soundtrack created by Squirrel Trench Audio, and was not only the winner of the 12 & over Small Group category, but also achieved the high score/Group of the Day in the 12 & over category at the 2015 NYLA Dance Competition Biloxi Regional. Way to go, ladies! That is an impressive VICTORY!

In addition, the Starz of the South routine Land of the Free was the winning 11 & under team/production routine for the same NYLA regional competition. Land of the Free also features a Squirrel Trench Audio-created soundtrack.

Joleen's Starz of the South - Land of the Free performers with their top production award

Land of the Free performers with their top production award

We look forward to seeing videos from these terrific routines as well as other Starz of the South routines for which we’ve done the music editing and remixing! Thanks as always to Joleen for choosing Squirrel Trench Audio to create so much of the music used for Starz of the South competition routines! We can’t wait to make more for you next season!

Maleficent has her Vengeance

In December of last year, I received a request to create an original music soundtrack for a Maleficent pointe routine; combining several elements of the Maleficent motion picture soundtrack. The pointe routine was entirely the creation of Brennan Kolbo who choreographed the concept from scratch, and she performed it last weekend at Rainbow Dance Competition in Omaha, Nebraska.

Enjoy this unique interpretation of Maleficent, featuring costuming from JEM Creations, and soundtrack by Squirrel Trench Audio. Congratulations to choreographer and performer, Brennan Kolbo, for creating this unique and wonderful Maleficent interpretation!

Run The World Girls (Ultra Clean Version)

Who Run The World SquirrelsHappy to announce our latest addition to the Squirrel Trench Audio catalog of cleaned, edited and remixed music on Legitmix: Who Run The World Girls (Ultra Clean Version) by Beyoncé. While there exists a clean edit on iTunes, the clean edit may not be clean enough for many dance or fitness teachers. This Ultra Clean version removes all instances of the word “Mutha” as well as all instances of “F. U.”.

This Ultra Clean edit of Who Run The World Girls is available on Legitmix for only $4.99

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

A YouTube preview is here:

Don’t Let Your Audio Degrade

clean_music_by_fatihakgungorWhen editing, cutting or mixing music yourself, don’t let the audio degrade. Be careful when you do audio editing. Sometimes I get requests to fix or clean already-edited songs, and when I hear the edit supplied, it sounds like a bunch of squirrels have gotten in and trenched the music.

There are many reasons audio can get degraded, and many different types of problems that inexperienced music cutters can create. When you put degraded music on stage, it’s really not much different than putting a dancer on stage with a tattered costume.

Here are just a few things to watch out for:

  • Don’t let the volume drop. You don’t want your music to be far softer than everyone else’s. Trust me, this happens.
  • Don’t turn up the volume either. You may not hear the distortion on your laptop or iPad, but when played on a large sound system, the distortion sounds terrible and piercing. I’ve heard this in competition a number of times as well.
  • Don’t make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of an mp3, or get the audio from YouTube. People think that you can make a copy of a digital audio file, and it will never degrade. That’s true of AIFF or WAV files, where all of the audio information is retained in the file. But mp3 degrades the audio a little bit every time it’s saved. So when you make a copy of a copy it gets worse, just like a cassette (though not as dramatically worse of course). One generation of high quality mp3 is not that much worse than the original. But several copies like this, and it sounds awful compared to the original.

There are many other pitfalls that inexperienced music editors introduce into audio they are creating, including fade-outs at strange places, pops, clicks or irregular jumps in the beat, copying bad audio from YouTube, and more.

Of course you can prevent degraded audio by taking advantage of the services offered by a professional music editor/remixer who has years of experience manipulating audio. One service springs to mind as someone who specializes in understanding the musical needs of competitive dancers. But if you already have edited your music, and you need it fixed up or cleaned, we are happy to help.

All You Need Is Help From Friends

the-voice-judges-finale-performance-with-a-little-help-from-my-friendsRecently a dance teacher requested a mix of songs, for the benefit of a little girl fighting stage 4 cancer. This teacher wanted to use the song All You Need Is Love combined with others for a 2.5 minute routine. I added the Tom Petty song I Won’t Back Down and wrapped it up with With a Little Help from My Friends. To create freshness, I used cover versions of all of these songs; Brandi Carlile’s upbeat version of All You Need Is Love, Blake Shelton & Dia Frampton’s The Voice version of I Won’t Back Down, and concluded with Brandon Roush’s The Voice version of With A Little Help From My Friends.

This uplifting and original Squirrel Trench mix is perfect for any dance routine designed to pay tribute and be inspiring to someone going through a tough time, whether it’s a medical battle or the loss of a loved one.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix