Why I Walked Away From A High Paying Production Gig

Why I Walked Away From A High Paying Production Gig

Tuesday, January 14th, 12:24 am, my phone vibrates loudly waking me up from my sleep. I look over at the phone and notice it’s on my aluminum trash can. I then pick up the phone wondering “who texts at this time?” as I’m squinting at the screen.
Turns out, it was an email from a client, one I’d been waiting for since Friday of last week. The client tells me “hey, we love the work you’ve presented, payment will be processed … blah blahCool, I love reading emails like that, but what’s even better was being told “we need help with 2 more projects” ← more work. I was really thrilled about being offered these projects but had to pass on one of them. Can you guess which one? Click to vote (before reading through) → Pop Single or Game Audio, results should be interesting.

Why I Passed Up A High Paying Project


1) My Hearts Not Going To Be In It

The project isn’t a good fit for me. I’ve always had a difficult time working with artists. I like to create what I want, when I want, and be done. Even when I worked with artists in the past, I would just create the instrumental, and pass it over to the main producer and let them deal with the rest. I was never above taking partial writers credit, giving up credit, or doing the work-for-hire thing.

2) An Obligation To My Members

On my membership page, I offer “paid projects” meaning I often hand down work I don’t like doing myself, can’t do, or can’t fit in. I’d rather pass the project along to someone who can deliver vs passing on the opportunity altogether. This will knock out two birds with one stone.

1) → It’ll make the client happy.
2) → It’ll put money in someone’s pocket, might even be a strong connection that leads to more work in the future. I don’t ask for a cut, writer’s credit, or finders fee, it’s a win-win for all.

3) I Enjoy Helping Others

Music production was very confusing when I started. Not only did I not understand how to set everything up, but I also didn’t know how to go about finding connections and making money. I didn’t know how to go about building connections.

I thought in order to do anything you had to work with a label or have a manager to pitch your material. Everyone told me to shake hands at Music Industry conferences and different types of conventions. I didn’t have money for that. And remember, this was before the internet took off as a way for people (little guys) to market themselves.

People were doing it, but it wasn’t that popular nor did it generate the returns like it does today. There was no market to market to like there is now. The internet (then) was better for video games and chat boards. 56K SUCKED! So I continued saving money for gear and eventually purchased a ticket for a convention hosted by GC or BMI. I think they were co-sponsors or something.

Music Industry Conventions (one of my firsts)

Anyway, it was inspiring, but I was still lost. Still didn’t know where to start. The panelist went over a ton of information sharing stories and possibilities, But no one shared anything about actually finding the work. I felt like I wasted $400, it was frustrating.

They pressed strongly on connecting with each other

I wasn’t too happy about that. Yea, let me go connect with the rest of these schmucks who are just as confused (if not more) as I am, that’ll really get me somewhere. I wanted to connect with the panelist, after all, they were the ones making a living doing this stuff.

They didn’t even mention leads or paths you could take to get the ball rolling. That’s what most of us wanted to get the ball rolling. Rant!

Anyway, I know some of us only need to get the ball rolling, getting a placement not only puts some money in your pocket, but it’s a boost of confidence, and for a lot of us, that’s what we ‘really’ need.

What Music Gigs Do You Hate?

Would you ever pass a project onto someone else without collecting a fee or taking a cut? Would you just work through the project anyway, even if it were one you weren’t passionate about?


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12 thoughts on “Why I Walked Away From A High Paying Production Gig

  1. Hey Greg,
    Hitting the nail on the head is what you just did. When I started off back in the early 90’s, it was all the same for me too. No internet, or at least, it was the basics…cool, I can send an email! Smoozing wasn’t my top priority, and I was new to the “system”. I relied on studios to throw work at me, and if it was good enough, maybe I’d get another…in a couple weeks or months.
    Eventually I became savvy to the ways of the “biz”, but really hated it, because everyone seemed a little too eager to talk, and smile and, well, shmooze you! I didn’t know that they were the ones trying to get work from You/me. They were just feeling out my connections, and possibly, taking that connection away from me…silly me. I learned all about that too…eventually.
    I then started to become serious about the crafts and needed to work. How to do that? Be outgoing, friendly, and maybe fudge some of the info to get a foot in, or at least pick brains. I was the person that literally took anything that came my way. Any crumb falling off the table was mine. The crusts of the bread were mine to devour. I was rolling…in micro budget land, but I was happy. Made me feel like I was moving forward. Then one day a workmate called me from home saying he had a client he couldn’t lose, and offered me a mixing gig. I had mixed, but not really for a living. I was still cutting my chops. Of course I accepted and away I went. The project worked out, after a couple stumbles, but they (eventually) liked what I did, and even “*promised” to use me again. (never saw them again).
    The lesson I learned though was that it was ok to be offered gigs, and in turn offer others gigs. What I’ve learned over the (almost) 2 decades in this biz is that; we all HAVE to band together. We are all paddling in the same boat. Some at the front, some at the back, and the rest is all the labour. We can’t possible survive this biz without peer appreciation, and kind words from our partners/collegues/employers and clients. Word of mouth is the only word. For better or for worse.
    At this point in my (so called) career, I often make efforts to throw people (that deserve a step up/forward) gigs. Not saying that I am able to do this all the time. But for the gigs that I’ve farmed out, with no finders fee, etc. these have pretty much always come back to me with bountiful pleasures.
    Today, I couldn’t survive without the help of the community around me, and now I realize, I’m just as important as that other guy over there…yes, I’m talking to You and YOU!

    1. Hey Rusty,
      thanks for stopping by and leaving such a wonderful comment. You’re describing me to a T …heh. When I first started out I was very selfish and cautious, I felt everyone was out to take my position. Had few bad run ins and sculpt a mind set that damn near stuck.
      The more I progressed, the more I realized and understood how important “relationships” are.
      I find a good number of projects on my own, having good relationships makes it so much easier. It allows me to breath when things are slow or sometimes builds a nice buffer, that I can fall back on.
      Again, thanks for stopping by Rusty, your post is a true inspiration. Great to see I’m walking the same paths others have taken as well.

  2. If I even had the opportunity to have extra gigs to pass off, I would, for free as well. You never know, that person could end up being the next John Williams and remember you and put you in a place you couldn’t reach before. I believe in the give and possibly receive senerio.

  3. Hey Greg,
    I would have turned down the ‘stand in producer’ job. The video game gig means you have control of the music.
    But if I knew a producer who was up for the ‘Rhianna-like’ challenge I certainly would have recommended them.
    As DamondH says, give to get back…

    1. Hey Chris,
      thanks for stepping in and leaving a reply, means a lot. I think a have a stronger appreciation for the gaming industry as a whole, maybe it’s because it’s what I use to do for a living (gaming).

  4. I think it’s no problem at all to pick which gigs you want to take and decline any number of gigs for any number of reasons, all the way from “I’m too busy with other things right now” to “I’m not really feeling it, thanks anyway, maybe I can help you find someone.”
    That’s part of the beauty of working for yourself. You can decide what you want to do, and you deal directly with the consequences. Passing on one gig might make time for you to take another gig, and that one ended up being the better one anyway.
    “producer got sick and won’t be around for a few weeks, we need this by Tuesday” is a bit scary. The way I look at it, you can’t trust the producer they had originally chosen because you don’t know him. He could suddenly reappear out of the blue with “hey I feel better now, I’m ready to work” on the day you submit your work. Or he was never sick in the first place, he just didn’t like the direction things were taking and he moved that gig to his backburner but still wanted to get paid for it so he said he was sick. Or you submit your work only to get an email back from the client “thanks but the original producer ended up coming through” leaving you high and dry. Any of those things could happen, so I think you’re wise to proceed with caution.
    I once declined a production job for an indie artist newcomer because this singer was managed by one of her parents, and after conversing with this person I got the impression that the parent would end up making too many demands on my time. In our email exchanges it was becoming evident to me that he believed his daughter was more talented than she actually was, and the whole family was at the very beginning of their understanding of the music business. As I politely declined the work, I never once thought to myself “I wonder if this is a mistake.” Use your gut. Does it seem right? Does it feel right? Do I have enough information? Are they giving me the information I need on time? I’m still learning how to do that but that kind of feedback goes a long way.

    1. Wise Words Steve!
      I’ve been in those positions a couple of times and learned from them. I now collect a non refundable fee before starting and clients (most) don’t have a problem with that.
      I’m glad we have a good working relationship otherwise (thus far).

  5. Awesome post! I feel you on passing on certain projects due to not being excited about it. I have turned down enginnering sessions for the same reason. Usually those are sessions full of mixtape tracks and majority of the time are not rapping to any of my production.
    The benefit of being your own boss!

    1. Hi David,
      it’s always a struggle working on something you don’t feel. Minutes seem like hours, hours seem like forever and you wind up (or I do) just slapping something together, just to get through and that’s not fair to the client nor is it beneficial to you as a professional in the long run.

  6. I’m not sure where everyone else is in their careers but I would never pass the opportunity to do any gigs unless they clashed with each other. I agree with the fact that we all have our own preferences as much as each of us are individuals but being an engineer that loves to create music I would love a job like working with an artist. I have worked in previous establishments where the scenery wasn’t exactly….inspirational, but when it came to the finished product I had a moment of absolute peace. I think of jobs you hate as a flight across the world, you either sleep through it and wait for your arrival or you find something to keep you going so when the plane lands you are proud of yourself and feel like the time wasn’t a waste. Yes when it comes to our line of work you can only trust yourself, but some things for me are worth the struggle.

    1. That’s a good way to look at it to. Engineering, that’s not something I excel in especially when it comes to others. So, if you’re interested, I’ll pass some of those off to you when they come.

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