Tag Archives: business

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.

Top shelf dance deserves top shelf music

Music in the dance studio. Such an important component, yet too often neglected and undervalued.

Who handles the music editing at your dance studio? In an earlier blog post, I make the case that music editing should not be left to the dance teacher. Just as a musician has no clue about grand jétés and pirouette fouettés, dance teachers have little or no knowledge of zero-crossings and peak limiting. Yet the result of a dance teacher doing his own music editing often turns out as amateurish as if a piano player attempted to perform a changement.

So let’s take a look at the economics of putting a group number on stage, and determine whether or not it’s worth it to spend $250 on a first-class original remix, such as Pixie Hollow.

Let’s say that the routine will be performed for one year, at 4 regionals, and has 20 students in the routine.  We’ll use these rough figures as an example.

Costumes: $125 x 20 students = $2,500
Entry fees: $35 x 20 students x 4 competitions = $2,800

Not taking into consideration all of the money spent on weekly lessons, that’s $5,300 being spent on costumes and entry fees alone for this routine.

Now let’s look at how this outlay compares to spending $250 for an original remix for the routine. An investment of $250 in the music represents less than 5% of the total budget being spent on putting this piece on stage. Another way to look at it is $12.50 per dance student.

And the numbers become even more compelling when you consider that many studios will repeat songs and use them for two years. This equation makes the investment equal to $6.25 per student per year, and just 2.4% of the total costume & entry fee cost over those two years.

For straightforward editing of a song to dance routine length, the numbers are even more compelling. $50 represents less than 1% of the costume and entry fees, and $2.50 per student. If the song is used for two years, that becomes half of a percent of the competition outlay and $1.25 per student. When you look at the numbers this way, there’s hardly an excuse to have dance teachers editing songs and creating flaws in the music. Especially because dance teachers don’t even know they’ve created mistakes in the music.

Music is the foundation of dance. Does the studio want to have the parents shell out $5300 on a routine with a shaky foundation? Is that a good way to go when with a modest investment you can get a fantastic and unique remix to build your choreography on?

Perhaps more dance studios don’t invest in quality music editing because dance is a very visual medium, and you can’t see music. But because the music for every dance routine will be played at high volume on a big-stage sound system, a glitch in the audio is akin to wearing stained and torn costumes. If you wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage in a tattered costume, why would you put them on stage with hiccups or scars in their music?

I think this type of investment in the music is well worth it for a unique piece that will wow audiences, judges, and parents, especially compared to having a self-edited song that has hiccups, glitches, jumps, or any of the other top five music mistakes most commonly heard at dance competitions. But then again, I might be biased. What’s your take on it?

Professional studios deserve professional music

It just makes sense…. when you are a professional dance studio with a high caliber of teachers and students, you deserve to have professionally edited music for your competitions and recitals. While certainly the focus of the studio is on dance, it’s pretty hard to dance well to music that is less than professional.

It doesn’t really make sense to ask your dance teachers to edit their own music. Your teachers are experts at choreography, turns, and motivating students to dance their best. It’s unreasonable to also expect them to understand the intricacies of song structure, phrase editing, normalization, beat alignment, zero-crossings of audio wave forms, and reverb, compression and equalization techniques.

But how is a dance studio owner to pay for the expense of professional music editing, when budgets are already extremely tight? Fortunately, there is a way for the studio owner to not only pay for professional music editing, but also make a small profit by providing individualized practice CDs to every single student of the studio. By charging a modest music fee to all students, to cover the cost of editing the songs they are in, plus providing them with an individualized practice CD with all of their group and solo songs, you will cover the music editing expense, the CD burning expense, and have a small profit left over for the studio. The size of the profit will depend on the size of your studio, plus a few other variables such as the total number of different songs your studio has edited for the season. Email me, and I’ll be happy to provide a spreadsheet showing sample income and expense projections for a studio of your particular size.

Wow. Imagine that. Professionally edited music for every song your studio uses in competition and recital, a customized practice CD for each and every one of your students containing all of the songs they are in, and your studio makes a small profit in the process. Win-win-win!

If you are a dance teacher, and you edit your own music, this blog has many tips for doing a more professional job. Start with the Top 5 music editing mistakes heard at competition, along with the cure for the most common one: How to avoid awkward fade-out endings.