Due to popular demand, Squirrel Trench Audio is pleased to present a squeaky clean version of the new hit Stand by You by Rachel Platten. All instances of the word ‘hell’ have been replaced with the word ‘fire’. This cleaned song is available in a full-length (3:33) version as well as a 2:24 shortened version. Enjoy!
For all of you fabulous choreographers who edit your own music: When saving your music as an mp3, NEVER save it at anything less than a 256k bit rate. Why is this important? Because when you save it at 128k or lower, you are telling your computer to throw away some of the detail in your music. You may not hear the difference on your laptop or iPad’s speakers, but when played on a good sound system (like in your studio, or at comp or recital), it won’t be as clear. And it just gets worse if you open up that same low-res file and re-edit it again.
Also worth noting: once you save an edit as a low-res mp3, re-saving it at a higher rate later does not fix it. Once you’ve saved it as a low-res file, then it will always be low res.
I know all the “export” or “save as…” options that are presented in most audio processing programs are greek if you don’t know the details or reasons behind the choices. Way too many of the music edit files I get for repair are saved as 128k mp3 files, and it makes me sad to know that dancers are not dancing with the cleanest version of their music possible, for no good reason other than the choreographer was not aware that saving at a 128k rate (or lower) degrades the audio noticeably.
Also, if you are not sure what the quality of an mp3 is, there’s a fairly easy way to tell, by checking the file’s size in Mb. A 2.5 to 3-minute edit saved as an mp3 or m4a should be roughly 5 to 6 Mb in size. If it’s only 2 to 3 Mb in size, then you know it’s low-res, and too much audio quality has been thrown away.
I can easily understand why this is such a problem. While you are working on the file, it sounds fine, because it hasn’t been saved to a low-res format yet. And when you save it as a low-res mp3, you can’t immediately HEAR that it doesn’t sound as good as what you have been working on. In other words, the quality gets reduced when you save it, but you don’t even know that that has happened. So I am very happy to help spread the word. Now you know!
Bottom line: When doing a “Save as” or “Export Audio” to an mp3 file, always choose the 256k rate or higher!
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 clean version is $4.99. Also available is a 2:15 length version. We have also created a Spicy Clean remix with a 2:32 length.
For more great songs that have been cleaned of objectionable lyrics, Squirrel Trench Audio has a collection of clean song edits and remixes. View the listing of songs and remixes here.
Normally, 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.
Music 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to provide you with a modification to this spreadsheet using your studio’s exact number of students and routines.
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:
It’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.
When 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.
Here is a link to the PDF of Uptown Funk (Squirrel Trench Clean Version) lyric sheet.
The full-length clean version of Uptown Funk is available here on Legitmix for only $4.99. This clean version features the exciting intro as performed on Saturday Night Live, as well as being sped up slightly for maximum excitement while retaining the fantastic groove.
In some cases, the words “sexy” and “flaunt it” need to be taken out as well. For those instances, we have the super squeaky version where that has been eliminated also:
In addition, there are five edited versions available for just about any dance routine you might need; 2:58, 2:46, 2:32, 2:16, and 1:59. They are available individually for $9.99, or you can buy every length for $11.99:
Lyrics that have been eliminated from these clean versions include “damn” “bitch” and “put some liquor in it”. “Sexy” and “Flaunt it” have also been removed from the super squeaky clean version and the shortened versions. Click on the above PDF link to see the full lyric contents. Words that have been eliminated are shown with a strike-through.
We also do custom editing, so if you need a version of Uptown Funk, but didn’t find exactly what you need here, use the online Request Form here.
Guess what day it is? GUESS. WHAT. DAY. IT. IS! It’s Squirrel Appreciation Day! (No, I have never heard of that before either, but I guess it’s really a thing.)
In honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, it is our turn to appreciate YOU, our fabulous clients who keep Squirrel Trench Audio busy with all of your custom music editing and remixing requests! And to show our appreciation to you, we are giving away a FREE edit of Colbie Caillat’s beautiful song “Try”, which is perfect for a lyrical dance. Get your FREE copy of Try right here on Legitmix: