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Exclusive Interview with Claris Sayadian-Dodge on Studio & Producer Management.
Interview by: Chris Hambly, director of AudioCourses.com


With more than twenty years of studio management, sales and public relations experience, Claris has been active in the Los Angeles music industry since 1986. She has a degree in business and has held positions at various music/media entertainment companies including: Frank Dileo Management, Management III, PMK, Rogers and Cowan Public Relations, Prairie Sun Recording, Ocean Way Studios (where she managed the facility for over a decade), studio bau:ton & TEC:ton engineering.

Ms. Dodge’s clients have included: Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, REM, Counting Crows, Bonnie Raitt, Quincy Jones, Luis Miguel, Ringo Starr, Alejandro Sanz, Goo Goo Dolls to name a few.

AC: What is studio management?

CSD: The art of keeping clients, employees and machines working in harmony while making money! How's that for a high wire act?!

The term “traffic manager” commonly used, refers to what a studio manager deals with on a daily basis…managing situations from why a client is unhappy about their bill to why an engineer considers the delay in his session to be a downtime to getting chicken soup for Bob Dylan at 3am! Plus every person and object that comes in and out of your recording studio, need to be accounted for and treated with utmost respect. A good manager has a team that understands this and can act accordingly 24 hours/day!

One day you're dealing with a new artist who's working on his/her 1st studio record and another day you're trying to keep Mick Jagger's 5-star hotel expectations satisfied! Then there's your producers' prized strato stored at your facility or master tapes (worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) that can't be replaced!

Did I say be profitable too?

That means you've got to run a tight ship - manage your overhead, have policies and stick to them and keep the place booked solid to break even; and if you still want to be profitable...diversify!

That just about sums it up! It's fun but hard work.

AC: That’s facinating Claris, and a really great opening pitch for us to dive in deeper.

AC: What are the key elements that differentiate Studio Management from say artist management, are there any differences at all?

CSD: I see more similarities than differences. Facilities and artists have the same basic needs -- sales, marketing and PR. Knowing how to negotiate and deal with creative people who work long hours helps. You need to know the product or person you're marketing - know the strengths and weaknesses and match them to the right situation. That way everyone wins. You need to know about managing a budget and pricing your services. I'm currently managing producers/mixers and songwriters. They are usually solo operators and somewhat established. Like studios, we're interested in building a good reputation and getting returned clientele. Finally, it helps to remember that you need to respect the human element. We all have bad days and have to deal with life! So, unlike machines, people are allowed down time!

AC: Yes Claris this topic of people skills really does seem to crop a lot in management and particularly in many spheres of the music business.

AC: What can you tell us about the music industry in general, what are your impressions?

CSD: I think music will always be made and every generation will have its musical revolution and heroes. The business and distribution models are dated for the technology that's available to us. And, it's up to the big companies to figure it out and adapt. I'm confident the downloading issues will get resolved. I don’t believe in penalizing people for taking what’s been given to them! Someone said it would be kind of like lowering the price of stamps to encourage people to send more letters.

AC: Do you have experience with marketing in the music business? If so what experience?

CSD: Over 20 years of experience in marketing facilities (Prairie Sun Studios, Ocean Way and Record One Studios, Studio bau:ton and Tech:ton engineering) and people).

AC: You have an impressive client list can you tell us how you managed to accumulate such a list?

CSD: I’ve managed to acquire an impressive client list one client at a time by working with reputable people and companies, being in the right place at the right time and finally, creating opportunities for myself. Most of the best jobs or clients I’ve had, I have gone after them. I was a bookkeeper at Ocean Way when the manager left. I ran after the owner in the hallway when I saw the position was open and convinced him that I could do a good job and he should at least try me temporarily. Twelve years later I must have convinced him! When I decided to go on my own, I called a handful of people who I had a lot of respect for. Most of them became my clients.

AC: Working within the music industry, is perceived by many, as being a glamorous occupation, would you say this to a fair presumption?

CSD: Well, it’s probably more glamorous than most jobs. But, the misperception is bigger! In the beginning you’ve got to pay your dues and in order to do well you’ve have to be passionate about what you do and believe in yourself in order to make it. Later, you’ve got to learn to adapt to change and reinvent yourself to stay on top of your game. So, in that respect it’s not glamorous at all. But, since you’re counting your lucky starts every day that you’re doing what you love, that’s glamorous to me!

AC: You have a business degree, has this educational experience helped you in your professional life? Either directly or in-directly, if so why?

CSD: When I graduated from University with a business degree mid 80’s, I turned down a nice corporate salary a family member had arranged and took a job at $50/week at a recording studio. I welcomed the offer because I wanted to learn about the business and I believed in my ability to increase that income and fortunately I did! I still turn down offers that are financially attractive short-term. I’ve learned to think long-term and to do what matches my personality and skills. I love education because it makes you a more interesting well-rounded person. And, people who are multi-dimensional do well in music business. Let’s just say that the degree may have gotten me through more doors but it didn’t keep me there!

AC: Tell us about Studio Expresso

CSD: Studioexpresso was launched in 2000 to make world-class production resources accessible to a growing market of independent artists. Our community of producers, songwriters, musicians and recording studios are past and present hit makers and bring a wealth of experience to any record. Since most agree that artist development is lacking in lot of record companies, we felt that this community could be valuable to both artists and labels.

Actually when we 1st launched SE it was introduced as a search engine for studio time! We still do studio, producer/engineer referrals. And this is a totally free service to the artist. Again, it’s to help artists find a team to develop their work to a level where they can sell records on their own or get picked up by a label that wants to buy the masters.

AC: Lastly, Claris, what would be your advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps? How does someone become you?

CSD: Follow your heart, learn from good people and bring integrity and hard work to the table. And always love what you do and help people around you.

AC: Claris it has been a pleasure thank a great deal, our readers will benefit no end and your summarising statement says it all for me, “always love what you do and help people around you”. Thank you.

Claris Sayadian-Dodge
C mgmnt/studioexpresso

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