Written by Doug Siebum, photos courtesy of Siena Greenberg and Andy Greenberg
DS: Hi Andy, thanks for agreeing to do an interview. Today I’d like to talk about the topic of clientele and building client relationships. Can you introduce yourself? How did you get your start in sound? How did you find your way into the advertising industry?
AG: I have been a musician for most of my life. I started recording bands in High School. Then went on to get a bachelor of science degree in sound, acoustics and system engineering. Music wasn’t paying the bills, so I moved into location sound recording for films and video. Then started working in a production facility. I was doing everything from field recording to editing and even graphics. When I moved to Los Angeles, I started the process again with location engineering, then found a large post facility that let me help build some edit suites and a few mix rooms. When the early versions of Protools came out, I was hooked. I started to mix long form videos and documentaries as well as some commercial spots. I really enjoyed the commercial spots because quality was a main focus. Long form is mostly about making bad production sound better. Commercial production allows me to capture the best quality audio and start from there. When I moved to San Francisco I started to work for One Union Recording where we do many different kinds of projects, but mostly commercial post work.
DS: How did you find your first clients?
AG: For most of my career, I was working in a facility that clients would come to. So, my clients would come to finish their work and I would be assigned to record or mix the job. The same thing happened when I moved to San Francisco. I was assigned clients in the beginning, then after I started working with the same folks, we developed a relationship and they would keep coming back.
Building a client relationship takes time and patience. The only thing you can do is always be professional and try to guide the session with a soft touch.
DS: Can you talk about building relationships with clients?
AG: Building a client relationship takes time and patience. The only thing you can do is always be professional and try to guide the session with a soft touch. Some clients know what they want from the beginning, others need to find their way as you work. I like to say “it’s all about the journey”. You have to learn to read the room and figure out the dynamics of who is driving the boat at the beginning of the session. If you can do that, you will have a great mix.
Communication is key. I need to ask questions, the client needs to ask questions, there has to be an open dialog at all times. Even after the session is over.
DS: How do you maintain those relationships once you have clients? Any tips?
AG: Communication is key. I need to ask questions, the client needs to ask questions, there has to be an open dialog at all times. Even after the session is over. If there is a mix change or re-edit, we have to be as flexible as possible to facilitate that change. If I can’t get to it right away, the client needs to know that. We do our best to make those kinds of experiences go as smoothly as possible.
DS: Who was your first really big client? How did you meet that client?
AG: I think my first really big client was the director Paul Hunter. Though I really didn’t know how big he was at the time. I had mixed the Biggie Smalls video Hypnotize, and a Mariah Carey video, and a Bobby Brown video. He liked working with me and we had done about 6 videos together before I moved up to San Francisco. He had come into the production facility in Los Angeles to do some editing and color correction and found out we had a sound department as well. We got along very well.
DS: Does the client already have a budget in mind? Or does One Union have a minimum rate card?
AG: The best part about my job is I don’t have to worry too much about the client’s budget. I am sure the client has a certain budget amount in mind. They will purchase the time they think it will take to complete the task at hand. One Union has a minimum amount of time we like to book, which is an hour. There are specific rates for the type of work we do. Radio, TV / Video, Surround and ATMOS all have set rates per hour.
DS: Do you have a marketing team to help you find new clients?
AG: We do not have a marketing team. We rely mostly on word of mouth and Google. Over the years we have worked with all the major Advertising Agencies as well as large productions studios. They know us and know we are always up to the task. Recently we have been added to the Dolby network, due to our addition of two Dolby ATMOS suites. This is starting to bring some clients into the facility.
We take sound pretty seriously here
DS: How does union vs. non-union affect which projects you can take on?
AG: As far as commercial work, it has no effect on our ability to do the work or not. When it comes to theatrical work, we can do the work, but in some cases, we just won’t get an official credit.
DS: How many of your clients go back to college or before? How far back do these relationships go?
AG: I went to school on the east coast, so none of the folks I worked with there, work out here.
I have been at One Union for almost 23 years now. I have some clients that have been with me from my start here.
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DS: Are the ad agencies that you work with specific to San Francisco?
AG: No, we work with agencies from all over the country. It’s about the producers or creatives and the actors location that brings the opportunity to us.
DS: Besides advertising, do you take on other projects?
AG: Yes, we do quite a bit of ADR for film and TV. We also do sound for large events for many of the Bay area’s tech companies. Sound for toys, web, phone systems and even short films and documentaries.
Sound Design is serious
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How does One Union Recording keep up client relationships?
I think just as important as gear and engineering talent, is the relationship we have with our clients. First, client comfort and amenities are a big priority at One Union. From fast internet, fruit trays, snacks, drinks and comfortable chairs even libations at the end of the day, all these bases are covered. But second and even more critical is a personal relationship with all our clients. It starts with a warm welcome and continues to talking about life and family, even pets. Some of our clients have been with us for over 10, 15 even 20 years and that is because we care about them and their family and friends. We have seen kids grow up and go to college, and producers meet their future spouses and then have children. I even have a client whose daughter became a producer and I worked with her as well. Having your clients know you and trust you and feel comfortable in your studio is a guaranteed path to success.
DS: I think that’s about it. Any final thoughts?
AG: As far as client relationships go, sometimes it’s not about the quality of the job you are able to do, but more about your availability or even the clients physical location. People move around a lot, I always hope to see them again, but I am constantly meeting and working with new people and starting over with building new relationships.
A big thank you to Andy Greenberg for sharing some insight and experience with us, into building client relationships.
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