Now shipping....

I hate to complain about what people charge. I know there has been some discussion here about fuel surcharges. But I just got the invoices for a session I am doing this week. I won't be specific about what company or musicians, but one is $249 and one is $210. Same cart. co. And they are in the area and picking up one of the guys nearby when he is done to bring him here. I guess their rate is the same regardless of where they pickup or deliver. Like I say I know everyone knows what they have to have for their services. I have not raised my prices in 11 years. In fact I cut them. I did cut some included services other than raising prices, but....

Still, I just wonder where we are going to be if this keeps rising. These rates were 1/2 to 1/3 less a year ago. I know fuel is high. It just seems like it has gone up disproportionately. If I am out of line then say so. It just caught me by surprise....I don't want these kinds of things to hurt business even more than it is. Now I have to explain this to an out of town client tomorrow....Any thoughts?

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With all due respect, Mike, the drummer playing the drums makes a heck of a lot more of a difference than the set being played. Especially when you add in the drummers' own cymbals and snares.
I don't know if you owe me any respect, but I'll take it. :-)

I know what you're saying... look at Steve Gadd. His drums always sounded like crap... heck, sometimes they still do... but with him playing them, they sound phenomenal.

What I was getting at, was the actual timbre of the drums sounding the same on everything. What if you used one guitar for everything you do?

Sure, you may have Dave Cleveland on one session, Michael Ripoll on another, and let's throw Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton in there. They are all fantastic players and they have some signature riffs and they can all make an Epiphone sound like a 64 Les Paul (help me out, guitar guys) to the layman's ears.

But take the same guitar and amp, and use it for every session for every style for every song. See how that sounds.

Same thing with drums. Take Bonham sized drums and try them on a Black Gospel record. :-)
This has been a long time coming. On the one hand, it is quite simple: supply and demand. When the budgets call for cartage, and Nashville blows up again, we'll see 4 or 5 cartage companies in business again. On the other hand, the ONE issue that is a little tough is the thing Larry mentioned: The cartage bill has become MORE than the player's bill for a demo. My humble suggestion is 1) perhaps the cartage companies need to adopt a tiered pricing policy that parallels the tiered fees players charge, depending on whether it's a Master, Limited Pressing, or Demo. 2) perhaps the players can help this out by coming up with a "B" rig that maybe replaces a few esoteric items with software plugins. 3) I think it's in every PLAYER'S interest to come up with a "single-controller/laptop" rig that you can bring in your car. I've been toying with this myself, however, MOST of the time, the fact that I have a home studio with B3, 7'4" grand piano, and all the synth toys makes that a non-issue for me. Since not everyone can do that (it took me years to pull it all together!) the new technology with, for instance, Logic and Mainstage makes the laptop rig look pretty enticing.

In addition, I STRONGLY agree that if there are multiple players on the date with the same cartage company, there should be a price break. I wonder if people will start booking players based on who their cartage company is. I can hear it now....."get me Shannon Forrest on drums. The rest of the guys don't matter, just so they have the same cartage company!"
Hire me, I do my own! :-)

I remember charging David Zaffiro a cartage fee when I brought my own drums and he was like, "What's this cartage fee? You didn't have cartage."
I said, "Yes I did, I just did it myself. Besides, I only charged you half of what the cartage companies charge so quit complaining."
We're both northerners, so I can talk to him like that. :-)
I hesitated to get involved in this discussion, but I want to put my 1 1/2 cents in. This is my most humble opinion on the discussion at hand: I have not been in the business as long as most of you guys, but I have managed a cartage company. My company is, by choice, no longer in the cartage business, but I feel that I could offer some useful input here. I agree with all of you that some companies’ cartage fees have gotten kind of steep. However, there are a lot of variables in place that may not have been considered. There is a lot of overhead in cartage. You are maintaining a large truck, putting $4.50 per gallon diesel in it (was $3 per gallon a year and a half ago), paying for an insurance policy that will cover the truck and any equipment that is inside of it should it be involved in an accident (and you have to have a hefty policy to cover stuff like HD rigs, B3s, and Neve Consoles etc.), paying 2 guys by the hour to drive the gear around, set it up on time, tear it down on time, and take it away. Cartage is hard work, and I can state that many times out of what my company charged for a cartage fee only 30-35% of that was profit maybe. Sometimes much less. Now sure there are those occasional “around the corner” cartages that are not a great distance and you get to enjoy a little better profit margin because of time and fuel savings, but if you tie up a truck and 2 guys for a couple of hours to load and deliver a cartage from Nashville down to Franklin or Cool Springs, set it up, and come back, and then repeat that process when the session is over, you have, as the cartage company, invested a fair chunk of money in that cartage that you will have to wait to get paid for. I realize that it is called work, and that’s what cartage companies are there to do, but when a cartage company is called for a job they must load the gear onto a Truck (and the gear is not always stored at their facility, many times it is at the clients house or studio), deliver the cartage and usually perform a full setup of the equipment in a timely fashion, return when the session is over and tear down the setup and remove it in a timely fashion, and return it to its respective dwelling. When you add it all up it may cost more than you think for these cartage companies to do a cartage. During my time we even did a few cartages at full rate and lost money on them by the time we were done. Also, in a time when session budgets are shrinking and players/engineers/musicians are being asked to come to sessions without their cartage this makes an impact. When you have a cartage client that used to move 5 times a week start moving just 5 times a month it puts a dent in your income, but you still have to pay your employees, rent, truck payment, insurance, etc. Players are moving less, fuel costs more, the cost of business is going up for cartage companies.

Also, it does make a difference, or at least it did with us, what a player takes to a session. When a player wants to take everything and the kitchen sink to a session it should cost more to do that cartage, and when a player takes a more compact consolidated rig it should cost less. Fed Ex is going to charge you more to ship a big screen TV than an I Phone, why should a cartage company not charge more when a player takes a full truckload of gear vs. a small compliment of essential items. Try getting your players to leave some items that may be unnecessary behind, and let the cartage company know about it if you receive a bill that is not lower than the one when that player brought the mother load.

The staggering scale thing will not work either. If a cartage is called in, it is the same amount of work for the cartage company no matter what type of session it is. We charged the same rate on demos and master sessions. It depends on how much gear is going and where the sessions is happening. That’s just the way it is. If it’s a 3 hr demo session or a 2 day master session the same amount of work is involved for the cartage guys. For players I understand things are different, but for a cartage company that might have a 25%-30% profit margin on a particular clients cartage to a certain destination they cannot cut the rate for a demo session or they would be breaking even or go in the hole even. Sure it may have only cost the cartage company $120 after all expenses to do that cartage that cartage they charged you $170 dollars to do, but which of us in business to break even. Call your cartage company(s), ask them questions, if a player brings a cut down rig, or if it’s a short distance it should make a difference in the price. The same goes for the other direction though. If you feel that you are being charged unfairly ask questions. You might be, or it might be a justified fee for the service provided.

There is no easy solution to this matter, and I do not have all of the answers, but there are a lot of hard working, honest people doing their best to make a living doing cartage. Not all of them are out to get people or trying to rip people off, but just trying to make an honest living. Take into account who you are dealing with when you look at a bill

This is just food for thought. Take it or leave it, hate it or love it. Whatever. I just wanted to say that cartage is hard work done by people who usually have a certain needed level of expertise with valuable and delicate instruments or pieces of vintage recording equipment, includes a lot of overhead, and is a premium service. Also, the men and women who work at and manage cartage companies are paying more for gas, and more to put food on their tables, just like everyone else.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that”.
AMEN. I'm glad we don't do carrtage. it sounds like the hardest most thankless job around. sitting all night and waiting for a session to end so you can tear down and load up and unload and set up across town at 3:am only to get bitched out about the price and treated like a peon? no thanks!
Thanks for the insight, John, I'm glad you chimed in. Having perspective from both ends is important.
No problem Mike. Everyone here has made some valid points, I just wanted to add to the discussion from the other end of the spectrum. It's good for folks to talk about these things and get them out in the open. Keeps things interesting! There are a lot of great discussions on this site. Everyone has something good to offer.
John You know I love you guys. So anything I ask ,or say is not meant as disrespect in anyway. I guess since this is out in the open I might as well have all my question answered since I can not figure it out. No disrespect but you got in after cartage had already died. You said guys doing 5 cartages a month as opposed to 4 or 5 a week. That is true, I am not speaking of you, but that is the point don't cartage companies put two and two together that $240.00 cartage bills are not going to add up to many cartages? If it is $240.00 to cart stuff nowdays they might as well go on ahead and close up now because it is going to end. It did in LA when drum cartage hit $325.00. My other question is? Is it the lack of cartages that a company is doing that is raising the prices so much or is just that much money to cart. If it is the lack of carts, then we as players need to figure there are to many cartage companys and we need to consolidate. So one company can make money and get the rates back to something reasonable. There are two reasons why guys are leaving stuff at their house. One is they record there. The other is the catch 22 of it, the cartages are so high that if they leave there stuff with cartage and don't do 3 cartages a month the cartage companies charge anywhere from $75.00 to $150.00 a month for storage. If rates went back down to $100.00 to $125.00 range then carts would increase 10xs. Budgets are not going back up anytime soon.It has been said here before non of us have gotten a raise in 10 years if anything we making less than 10 years ago. And guitar cartage was $75.00 then.
Hey Larry. Good to hear from you. I do not know how others run their company, but I would say that the raise in cartage prices definitely has to do with rising energy costs for one part, but at least as much with the lesser volume of cartages. Our cartage company was not handling quite the volume of clients that some of the other guys around town are doing, but we had a good bit of frequent movers who were staying busy on session work. It seemed more and more session budgets were shrinking and our clients were telling us "I'm working a lot of sessions, but my clients have a small budget so they asked me to get what I needed and bring it myself". That does cut into your business, as a cartage company, when you have to keep the same amount of man power and resources available, in the event that anything could pop up at anytime (we know about those last minute 6's), for 1/2 the amount of cartage that you were doing a couple of years earlier with the same amount of clients. Your overhead does not lower much when you are not moving much some days, just your income. You may burn a little less fuel, but the employees are still on the clock and vehicles still have to be maintained and insured. We were doing alright, but it seemed that the risk vs reward and the time we were putting in vs the fruits of our labor did not always add up. We enjoyed being part of Nashville's cartage scene, but for us it was time to move on. The other aspect of our business was(is) flourishing and we decided to concentrate our resources there. Our storage fee for in house cartage clients was only $50 per month and was waived if a client moved at least 1 time per calendar month, so we tried to keep it easy, and low cost, for our clients that had gear stored with us and only charge a fee to the clients that did not move at all during a particular month. I agree that it can be staggering to a lot of session budgets what a large, or long distance cartage costs these days, but partially it cannot be helped in my opinion. It is more costly for a cartage company to move it's clients equipment around these days, partially for skyrocketing fuel costs(over 30% increase in the last year for diesel) and partially for clients that are moving less than they used to. That increased expense has to go somewhere. I think that this issue will even itself out eventually. This industry is growing and changing, so we must change with it. It is a fun time to be a part of things here in Nashville. We are thankful to be here and be a part of it all.
John Thanks for taking the time to reply. I reread my previous post and was not happy with way it sounded, so forgive me if it came off wrong. Do you think it is possible for a cartage company to lower it's rates down $100.00 to 125.00 range and start picking back up the demos and lower budget stuff again. Or is this just the prices we need to live with.

On another note in defense of you cartage guys. More and more stuff is in Williamson county now at full blown basement studios. So that is further to cart stuff.

Also I got to looking at stuff that used to have to be paid for to record. Some of those costs are not around anymore. It use to take 3 rolls of 2" tape to do record, if am correct I think cost at the end was close to $200.00 a roll. That is not in the picture anymore. People are not paying for music row facilities anymore. So what I am saying is, it seems like these cartages increases should be able to be obsorbed..As Gilda Radner use to say Never Mind. Thanks again John, You guys were the best.
And this is why you guys got out. (Refering to John's company) Why do it if you can't make the numbers work? It's no different for the rest of us whose clients are now clamping down on items that they used to not think twice about.

I will certainly everyway....that cartage guys are some of the hardest working guys around. It's a tough and many times a thankless job. So to you guys who make the runs and manage the schedules.....salute!!!


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