Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Ultra clean Run the World (Girls)

Recently, a dance teacher contacted me in an emergency situation. She needed an ultra clean version of Run the World (Girls) for a fellow teacher’s routine. Her response to the result:

“Wow! Thank you so so much! I cannot express how grateful I am that I don’t have to tell 15 parents their girls aren’t performing tonight. I’ll certainly use your services in the future!”

—Brianna Hafen
America’s Kids in Motion

Welcome Dance Studio Life readers

I am pleased to welcome readers of Rhee Gold’s fabulous magazine Dance Studio Life. If you opened up to the inside back page (the Dance bag) section, you may have seen Squirrel Trench’s very first print ad, reproduced here.

Welcome and thank you for taking the time to find this web site! Squirrel Trench Audio has been serving dance studios in North America and worldwide since 2011. (more background here.) We create lyrically cleaned-edits and edits crafted specifically for choreography, of your favorite songs, as well as custom mixes for dance studios, pom teams, gymnasts, figure skaters, fitness competitors, pole athletes, and vocal competitors.

We have an archive of more than 1,000 song edits and remixes, of which 400 are listed here: Squirrel Trench Archives.

We also take custom edit and mix requests; however, due to popularity, we currently have a large backlog of music work. Requests from the archives are fulfilled immediately however. For more information, please email me: morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com.

 

Installation of acoustic foam can lead to death

This type of foam can turn deadly in the event of fire.

I was reminded today of a very somber and deadly episode of club music history. The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 20th, 2003, killed 100 people. While certainly the lack of a sprinkler system contributed to these deaths, equally contributory, or perhaps even more so, was the MISTAKEN NOTION THAT ACOUSTIC FOAM IS A SOUNDPROOFING MATERIAL.

FOAM IS NOT A SOUNDPROOFING MATERIAL.

It does not prevent sound from transmitting. Not even a little bit.

In a misguided attempt to soundproof the club so that the high volume of music inside would not reach the neighbors, the owners of The Station installed a polyurethane substance that they thought was acoustic foam. (A kind of black foam that is commonly referred to as egg-crate style.) Not only does this type of foam NOT even do ANYTHING to reduce sound, it is flammable, and also emits thick, toxic smoke when set on fire. Polyurethane foam is a packing material, not a soundproofing material.

As someone who has studied and done research on materials that affect acoustics, it angers me that most reporting of the incident describe the polyurethane foam on the walls as a “soundproofing material”. This type of material does NOT function as soundproofing.

That night at The Station nightclub, outdoor pyrotechnics were used indoors, and the sparks emitted ignited the polyurethane foam on the walls near the band. If the foam had not been placed on the wall, there is a chance that the structure might not have caught fire. But with the flammable foam on the walls, not only did it ignite, it filled the entire space with deadly, blinding, and asphyxiating smoke in LESS THAN TWO MINUTES. Here is the Fire Safety Institute’s re-creation of what happened that night. Notice that visibility is near-zero at only 1:30 (90 seconds) after ignition:

With only two exits and black smoke filling the venue rapidly, many people were unable to escape and perished. If the polyurethane foam had not been placed on the walls of the nightclub, there may not have been any fatalities as the space might not have filled with smoke so rapidly. A working sprinkler system would have also delayed the onset of the debilitating smoke.

NEVER USE FOAM to try to sound proof or absorb sound. Period.

Rock wool is a completely inert material

In contrast to “acoustic” foam, rock wool (also known as mineral wool) is naturally inert. (Fiberglass insulation is also naturally inert). Rock wool can withstand a blow torch for more than three minutes and will not ignite. Rock wool is found in the U.S. under the trade name Roxul. Watch this video for proof that a blow torch applied directly for three minutes will not ignite Roxul, and after that much heat is directly applied, the wood behind it is barely warm:

Elsewhere on this web site, I explain how you can make 2′ x 4′ broadband acoustic absorbers using Roxul, fabric and furring strips. For even better flame retardation when making Roxul sound absorbers, use flame retardant fabrics.

Use inert Roxul for sound absorption. 

Never use foam. If you want to reduce echoes and sound ambience in a space such as dance studio, recording studio, or music club, use Roxul as the primary material. Also make sure that a sprinkler system is in place and working.

It is tragic, but there have been several similar fires in music clubs in other parts of the world and the U.S. since The Station tragedy. For all readers of this article, please take heed and use the proper materials to ensure the safety of the people who use your building and spaces. Never, ever put “acoustic” foam on the walls, ceiling or floor of an interior space. Only use rock wool (or fiberglass) insulation.

If you currently have acoustic foam or fabric in your interior space, I urge you to remove it as soon as humanly possible. It is a dangerous fire hazard that could result in loss of life in the event of a fire. If you want to absorb sound, use absorbers made of rock wool. They are relatively easy to build and inexpensive to boot.

Protect your hearing at dance competitions

hd-bw-solo_1024x1024We all love the music that our routines are choreographed to, and that’s why dance competitions usually play your music really LOUD. Sound pressure levels of greater than 95 decibels are common in competition venues. You can easily get an approximate measure of the sound pressure level of any environment you are in with a free smartphone app. (I use Decibel Meter-Free for iPhone.)

Most dance teachers and choreographers are unaware that exposure to sound sources at these volumes (94 db or more) for more than 60 minutes consecutively can cause permanent hearing loss (source:National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).

That is why I ALWAYS use hearing protection at dance competitions. You can use the cheap, foam type found in pharmacies, but that type tends to muffle the sound, and is therefore not enjoyable to use. I use Ear Peace protectors, which reduce the volume uniformly across all frequencies. The result is that the music sounds just as good as without the ear plugs, but the sound pressure is reduced so that you don’t damage your hearing or leave the competition with a splitting headache. I find that music actually sounds BETTER at competitions or rock concerts with the ear plugs than without, because at super-loud volumes, music actually distorts in your ear drums. Best of all, you can get a pair of HD Ear Peace protectors, with carrying case, for less than $20.

The other great thing about Ear Peace protection is that you can still have conversations with people that are next to you.

Just as you wear sunglasses in bright sunlight situations, consider hearing protection to be the equivalent device for your ears in loud settings. Do yourself a favor and protect your ears the next time you are at dance competition, especially when the solution is quite inexpensive.

Removal of embedded tap sounds

(L to R) Richard Vida and Mark Ledbetter in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a witty love letter to the madcap musicals of the 1920s with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is presented in a limited engagement July 8 - 20, 2008 (opening on July 9), at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre (135 N. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles). For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. Photo by Joan Marcus Press contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376

(L to R) Richard Vida and Mark Ledbetter in “The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Joan Marcus Press.

Did you pick out a song that has taps in it, but now you need them removed for competition or any other performance? You are in luck. Squirrel Trench Audio now has the capability to remove embedded tap sounds in music. Click to hear a before and after sample (with taps and with taps removed) from the Drowsy Chaperone. Click here to contact us about removing embedded tap sounds from your audio.

Update: Now available is the original Broadway Cast version of 42nd Street, with taps suppressed:

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Honored to be an Advisory member to Y.P.A.D.

YPAD-Circle-SealThe organization Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (Y.P.A.D.) recently came to my attention via tap dancer Kaelyn Gray. Kaelyn was upset by some dance routines displayed on YouTube where very young dancers (younger than 10 years old) are seen performing with overly sexualized costuming, music, and choreography.

Y.P.A.D’s mission is to educate dance teachers about the lasting psychological harm of creating overly sexualized routines for young boys and girls. Y.P.A.D. founder, Leslie Scott, has been conducting educational workshops for dance studios for several years.

It is with great honor for me to announce that I have been selected to join the advisory panel of Y.P.A.D. It’s an excellent fit for me since I am a parent, and as a musician/audio engineer, one of the most common requests for music editing that I receive is to remove objectionable language from otherwise great songs. I am also honored to help spread the word about this excellent and needed organization, whose mission is to protect young people in the dance world.

My profile and background is located on Y.P.A.D.’s web site here: Morriss’ background

I hope that one day, all dance studios will become Y.P.A.D. certified, and all dance competitions will become so as well. It’s time to end over-sexualization of young girls and boys in the dance world.

To help avoid inappropriate material from being used for students’ dance routines, nearly all songs in my Legitmix catalog have had all of their objectionable lyrics removed or obscured. Oftentimes, while some lyrics may technically be clean enough for the radio, they are not clean enough to use as foundations for dance routines by youngsters. Here is where these clean songs can be found:

Squirrel Trench Audio catalog on Legitmix

Hip Hop in particular often has music with explicit lyrics. Here is a subdivision of the clean music I have available on Legitmix:

Clean music for hip hop

The most popular song to date has been my clean version of Uptown Funk. More full-length clean songs can be found here:

Get more remixes at Legitmix

Making choreographers happy

One of my greatest joys in creating, editing, and remixing music for choreographers is to see the amazing dances performed by their students with that soundtrack. However, since I work with dance teachers around the country and even in other parts of the world, I don’t get to see nearly as many of these performances as I would like.

So my second greatest joy is the delight that choreographers themselves express the first time they hear an edit or a remix they’ve asked me to work on. Here’s what Nadine wrote to me yesterday after receiving her edited music:

“Omg. I am speechless. This is literally perfect and flawless. And yes, the second time you have made me tear up with not only relief from me having to do the impossible edit, but for you making it sound so amazing that it literally inspires me as a choreographer. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much appreciation and respect I have for you. Thank you.”

– Nadine DeLoughy, dance teacher
Dance Etc, Newton, CT
October 14, 2015

Thank you so much for the kind words Nadine! I can’t wait to get more music prepared for you and your dancers!

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 morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com. 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. Here’s an article explaining how to cover all your music costs.

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.