Tips for recording Voice-Overs for dance routines

voice memo app iconMore and more folks are interested in recording voice-overs of various kinds for their dance routines. Since Squirrel Trench Audio works with dance teachers and choreographers all over the world, we usually can’t come to you in order to do the recording. This means you are on your own to record your own dancers’ voices, but it’s not too hard to do that, and send us the resulting audio files.

The good news: if you have an iPhone, it’s easy to record the voice-overs that you want. Just use the (free) Voice Memo app that is built-in. Here are the tips in a nutshell, with further explanation below:

  • Record in a living room or bedroom; never in a dance studio
  • Aim the bottom of the iPhone at your dancer(s), about 1.5 feet away
  • Record three takes of the words you want

Record in a living room or bedroom; never in a dance studio

One of the most important aspects to getting a good recording is the room in which you record, because sound bounces off of walls, floor and ceiling. This is called reverberation, which is a form of echo. Pretty much the worst space to do a recording is inside a dance studio rehearsal room. Ideally, you want to be in a living room or bedroom when recording a voice-over. The more drapes or other fabric there is in the room, the better. Carpeting is also very helpful. Using the Voice Memo app on your iPhone, situate yourself with the iPhone, and the person(s) that you are recording, in the middle of the room, away from all the walls.

The iPhone’s mic is in the bottom of the phone; aim it at your dancer(s), about 1.5 feet away

Hold the iPhone approximately 1 to 2 feet from the person(s) speaking (1.5 feet is probably ideal). Aim the mic (which is in the bottom) at the person talking. It should be close to them, but not TOO close.

Record three takes of the words you want 

Record at LEAST three “takes” of the words that you want to have. That way, I will be able to choose from the best of the resulting versions. Sometimes a word might get cut off, or the speaker trips over a word. If you have them repeat their lines three times, then I can put together the best version of the words.

Here are a few Squirrel Trench Audio custom dance mixes that feature Voice-Overs:

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Emergency by Icona Pop — Clean lyrics version

After the smashing appearance in the opening number to the recent Dancing With the Stars episode, Emergency by Icona Pop has been flying up the charts. Unfortunately, for dance teachers and choreographers, the only version currently available on iTunes is Explicit.

Squirrel Trench Audio now has a great-sounding version with clean lyrics, suitable for all ages and situations, including dance studios, competitions, recitals, and talent shows. The full-length version is $4.99.

Also available is a 2:15 length version:

For more great songs that have been cleaned of objectionable lyrics, Squirrel Trench Audio has a collection of full length clean songs here:

And in fact, Squirrel Trench Audio’s entire catalog on Legitmix is clean, so any remix or edited song you find there, that is created by Squirrel Trench Audio, is clean. Search the Squirrel Trench catalog on Legitmix here.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Let It Snow Brian SetzerNormally, when you come across a short song when searching for music for your routines, you breathe a sigh of relief. You think to yourself, “Thank goodness, I don’t have to cut this one!” However, occasionally the song is TOO short. Into the void steps this extended (2:23), rockin’ fun version of Let It Snow! by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, perfect for a group tap routine. This song is simply begging to be used in a tap routine, and is great for any age dancers.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Honey, I’m Good – clean version

Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer has been lighting up the charts over the past couple of months, but it includes some inappropriate language. Squirrel Trench Audio is pleased to provide a clean, full-length version of this hit song.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Revealing the Royals – Desiree’s Dancers

Choreographer/teacher Desiree Johnson runs Desiree’s Dancers in David City, Nebraska, a subsidiary of Barb’s School of Dance in Columbus, Nebraska. Desiree contacted me about a year ago to craft a custom remix for her production called Revealing the Royals. Assistant choreographers for this routine were Melinda Allen, Becky Brandenburg, and Kayla Hollatz. Here is a video of this four-minute masterpiece. Congratulations to Desiree and all of her dancers on a spectacular creation!

Rafaela Montanaro – Pole Sports champion

I am extremely honored to have been chosen to create an original remix for international pole sports champion Rafaela Montanaro. This remix incorporates a classic performance of Le Cygne, combined with an original techno orchestration for part of the piece. Last night, Rafaela competed her original routine at the U.S. Pole Championships in New Orleans, and took second place. This award qualifies her entry into the World Championship in London in July. Congratulations Rafaela!

How to avoid taking a financial loss on music at your dance studio

piano keyboard money billsMusic is a part of every dance studio. Music is used in just about every dance routine. Therefore, it’s important to have a good understanding of the costs of music in your studio, and how to charge appropriately for it, so that you don’t take a loss on your studio’s music expenses.

There are two major expense areas associated with music in the dance studio, Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) licensing fees, and music editing and remixing costs. In addition to these two costs, there are potentially other expenses if you have a competitive studio and audio CDs must be created for competitions. Also, if students expect to receive rehearsal CDs, there is a cost associated with that as well. However, for this article, I will ignore CD-creation costs since today there are online options for sharing music privately with students, and many competitions accept music uploads or submission via iPod or flashdrive.

To find out dance studio’s Performing Rights Organization costs, I contacted the two primary PROs in North America, ASCAP and BMI, and found their published annual fees for different sized dance studios. (Size is determined by total number of students.) I ignored SESAC licensing fees since the number of music artists they represent is a very small fraction of the other two major music PROs, and many dance studios don’t use any music represented by SESAC.

This leaves us with the last major expense in music for a studio; editing or remixing music to optimize it for dance routines. No matter what avenue you use to get your dance studio’s music edited or remixed, whether it’s done yourself, left up to each dance teacher, or if you hire a professional, there is a value associated with music editing that should never be absorbed by the studio nor the choreographer. In my experience, $29 is an average value for editing a song optimally for dance routines. In addition to editing a song, many popular songs today need to be cleaned of inappropriate lyrics, which requires skill and time to do. Also, competitive studios may benefit from having unique remixes created for group routines, especially high-calibre or “elite” teams. These unique remixes can be created at an average price of $99.

I have prepared a spreadsheet, below, showing the total music costs using average studio sizes shared by members of the Facebook group, Dance Teachers’ Network. I have divided the spreadsheet up into three typical studio sizes; a smaller studio with 130 recreational students and no company students; a medium studio with 352 students of which 77 are competitive; and a large studio with 690 students of which 115 compete.

Dance studio music financials 2015

The important thing to note is that in order not to have a loss on the studio’s music costs, these example studios charge a modest annual music fee per student. For many studios, $19 per student will cover all music expenses, and create positive cash flow for the studio, an extra $800 for the small studio example. However, each studio is unique, and will have a slightly different cost structure. After analysis, you may discover that you have a high number of routines per student (such as the Medium-sized studio in this example), and if that’s the case, the annual music fee you charge might have to be $24 or $29 per year in order not to take a loss.

Bear in mind that every studio is different in its approach, in terms of number of students and number of routines performed, and therefore the annual music fee needed to result in a profit and not a loss for each studio is different as well. The important thing is to run the numbers for YOUR studio, so that you come out ahead, or at the very least, break even. (It’s best to build in a small profit cushion to guard against unexpected expenses that always seem to crop up.)

If your studio has never charged an annual music fee before, you may have some dance parents question this new charge (even if it’s pretty small). Keep your explanation simple and straightforward; that this small annual fee covers all of their student’s dance music expenses for the year, including obtaining the license to use the music in their routines from the relevant Performing Rights Organizations, as well as all editing and remixing costs.

Alternatively, in your studio’s market, it just may not be feasible to have an annual music fee to be competitive with other studios in your area. If that’s the case, the music fee of approximately $19 could be added to your regular annual registration fee.

In the spreadsheet above, I have shown two different options (out of many) that a studio could choose in order to create positive revenue associated with the studio’s music. In Plan A of the spreadsheet, the same annual music fee is charged to both Recreational and Company students. However, it’s reasonable to charge Company students a slightly higher music fee since they often perform in more routines, especially solos, or in elite groups which have more expensive custom remixes. Therefore, in Plan B of the spreadsheet, I show the studio’s net music profit if Company students are charged an additional $10 over what Recreational students are charged.

In all cases, this spreadsheet shows how smart dance studios cover their music costs (and even have a few dollars left over). Conversely, studios that don’t charge an annual music fee wind up having to absorb their music expenses from other studio revenue.

If you are a dance studio owner, and have any questions about properly handling music income and expenses for your studio, please feel free to send me an email at I’d be happy to provide you with a modification to this spreadsheet using your studio’s exact number of students and routines.

As always, if you have music editing or remixing that you’d like to have done flawlessly and professionally, please email me, visit my Legitmix library, or use this online Request Form.

Happy dancing!

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