How do you save studio costs?

This for people that are running any kind of music studio,

  • How do you save money running your studio?

  • What has been an unexpected cost, something you over-looked while starting up?

  • Do you find the need to outsource any of the workload?

  • How thorough are you with the bands needs? What services do you offer, to the band, that are well received ?

  • What is your biggest expense (other then your time invested)

  • Do you run your business out of your home or do feel having a dedicated studio space in another building works better?

I ask these things because I always wanted to venture into doing a studio business, and would like to know of some of the drawbacks. Thanks in advance!!

1 Like

How do you save money running your studio?
Do you run your business out of your home or do feel having a dedicated studio space in another building works better?

yes in my home, and that is the biggest expense saver. However I do lose business (I don’t want or cant accommodate certain artists) that I could have easily by having a facility. Since its in my home I don’t let just anyone come over. If I had a separate building on-site that would be different, but my live room is my living room and I use a bedroom as the control room and vocal booth.

What has been an unexpected cost, something you over-looked while starting up?

Cables and adapters. You just don’t realize how many you need for everything, and make sure you have plenty of spares. This really depends on if you are catering to bands, but you still need to be prepared for any weird device that is needed to play music sometimes.

Do you find the need to outsource any of the workload?

I do not, however, my clients I think are driving that and if it needed to be outsourced I would, and would let the client know that in advance and the costs involved (which means they will say - "well how much if you do it?’). And then I get to learn something new…

How thorough are you with the bands needs? What services do you offer, to the band, that are well received ?

To some the home studio approach isn’t what they had in mind, for others it is the best part about my studio. its more like a house party/show and not a studio environment. We get the grill going and it really becomes a pretty casual affair. I do offer per song rates or daily/ blocked amount of hour rates instead of a per hour rate. I think this easier to manage for everyone and allows the artist to know in advance what they are spending and how to budget. This has not necessarily backfired ever, but I’m sure ive lost some money by going above and beyond the expectations. This however I feel is part of something I offer. if the client with the price and what they received and it passes my goals then its a success. I very rarely have someone ask for hour rates, but when I do I usually talk them into a blocks and I always have an absolute minimum. There are people that think they can walk in and be done in 20 minutes…

The biggest drawback for me is not having a facility of some sort. but the expense would be too much for me to offer the same rates and services I have now. I do not do this for my living, as the area I’m in is not really ideal for that. I get more people from out of town than locals. Another big thing with building or renting a place is the cost there. having it in my home I was able to slowly adapt as my budget allowed. The absolute biggest expense for me to go commercial would be construction and permitting in a place. In my area the permits required to do anything is outrageous and if you are a legit business, its like the city makes it impossible for you to start up. then once they see a violation they keep coming after you. To put vinyl graphics on a window of any size you need to have it approved by engineering and a permit and inspected. I know that if I were constructing a place too, it would only be a rental unit which leaves you open for all sorts of pitfalls, with anything from lease rates increasing and owner foreclosures… I cant imagine the nightmare of that. especially after all the money and time invested into building something.

2 Likes

There about 12,000 ways to “run a studio” that don’t involve having a mixing room and a tracking room with tons of expensive gear and trying to book time with bands.

My perspective is a little bit different, because I spend a vast majority of my time not working with bands. But it is a part of my job, and I do enjoy it in moderation. But tracking and mixing bands isn’t a direct source of income for me, it’s a part of one of my jobs.

I save money by not trying to provide services for every single niche that exists. You save money by focusing on the things that you are good at doing and that people find valuable. Once you find out what that is, the cost of gear and whatnot becomes a non issue, because it no longer become a question of “Can I afford this?” it becomes a question of “will this make me better at my job and make it easier and faster to make more money?”

The only thing that was unexpected for me was how willing I was to buy things that I needed. When I did music as a hobby, I avoided spending money whenever possible. Now that I do it for a living, it’s far easier to justify buying stuff that will make my job easier. I still don’t like to blow money on things I don’t need, but I don’t try to squeeze every penny out of every piece of gear I own now. That naturally leads to spending more money on things I wouldn’t have spent money on before.

Yes. Absolutely yes. It doesn’t mean that I’m good at outsourcing anything. The only thing I outsource is graphics work. And I love doing graphics work. But I have mackanov do it because:

  1. I don’t have time to do all that needs to be done.
  2. He’s better and faster at it than I am.
  3. I don’t have to be hands on at all. I just give him vague directions and he comes up with good stuff.

I find that the hardest part of outsourcing is having to spend just as much time trying to manage people as I would just doing the job myself. That’s why I have a hard time outsourcing anything else. It’s hard to find good people that can do good work without making my job harder.

But, this is not a good quality that I have. I would do far better if I was better at outsourcing.

Depends on what I’m able to actually do. If there is a skill that the band or project needs and it’s something that I can do well, I will be very thorough with it. If it’s something that’s not my expertise, I’ll gladly point them to someone who can do it better than I can.

Mostly the recurring costs of staying alive. Health insurance sucks when you are self employed. Insurance is by far my greatest cost.

Out of my home. Sometimes it would be nice to be elsewhere, but 90% of the time, I prefer to be at home. If I spent the majority of my time tracking bands, I’d want to be somewhere else.

[quote=“cptfiasco, post:1, topic:573, full:true”]I ask these things because I always wanted to venture into doing a studio business, and would like to know of some of the drawbacks. Thanks in advance!!
[/quote]

I think the main issue people have when opening the studio is that their vision is too narrow. They think running a studio means booking and tracking bands. But that is not the only thing you can do as a studio owner. Personally, that’s the last thing I’d want to do all day every day. And every person I’ve talked to who has made a career out of tracking and mixing bands is doing everything they can to get out of that job.

This is why you see big name engineers going on to make video series tutorials and plugins and merchandise. Working with bands sounds like a dreadful way to live, and there’s so much more to running a studio than working with bands.

2 Likes

+1 there. That’s a big problem for me right now.

Depreciation.

Thats a real good position to be in imo. Where you do it because its fun in moderation and it helps keep your skill set relevant, giving you the chance to try new things and grow.

Leverage other peoples time (interns/assistants) and profit the difference in the billable hours or flat rate project quote.

I try to delegate it in-house first. Outsource when I’m in over my head on the skill set, or I need the project unloaded at a deadline.

I do not currently run a commercial studio. But I have worked for, set up and helped build quite a few over the years. All of them went out of business. Some rather quickly. I also see many of the upcoming studios making the same mistakes along with some NEW mistakes.[quote=“cptfiasco, post:1, topic:573”]
How do you save money running your studio?
[/quote]

I’ll just be general here. Always run it like a business… meaning make and stick to budgets. Do your due diligence so you KNOW what everything is going to cost and keep your eyes open for anywhere $$ can be saved. I know this is like DUH… But once you’re in it, it will hit home every day. :slight_smile:

Stupid little thing like wire, duct tape or even cleaning products add up quite a bit. But bigger things like maintenance and marketing can get out of hand. Things break and when you need it fixed NOW, you are at someone’s mercy. Count on paying double. Traditional marketing is expensive and most businesses “should” have their marketing budget in order before they have their product/service squared way. I’m not so sure this is entirely the case with a modern studio. Social media and boots on the ground at music stores and music venues may be enough at first if your local scene is strong enough. Insurance is another overlooked expense. If your property is or can be commercially zoned. (which is a whole 'nuther can of worms), You may be advised or even required to purchase additional coverage. It can be a commercial rider or an umbrella policy.

Being a one man show is a double-edge sword. It is the biggest conundrum with my business. You have 100% control AND 100% responsibility.
Sometimes it is best to have a “studio manager” in place to keep schedules, handle operations and deal with $$. If you’re the type that can run everything off of a blackberry… more power to you. But even having a wife/girlfriend to handle the “non-creative” stuff while you’re deep into a session goes a long way. Having someone besides yourself to act as a buffer between your art and the $$ is indispensable. Having that same person to act as a “Hammer” when a client doesn’t want to pay and you just have to record/produce them. The hammer swings both ways… :slight_smile: You can always play “good cop” and override the “bad cop” manager if you see the job as fulfilling…

As for dedicated space… I think that it is becoming more accepted (and even hip) to record in a home. If conditions allow… Folks in the home need accept it and need to know that it is a business.
Can’t have grandpa walking in on a session in his boxers asking where you put his denture cream… :slight_smile:
Unless you OWN another location. I’d suggest staying at home. I’ve seen tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and treatment lost thru leasehold improvement clauses.
Plus knowing that you have to work “x” amount just to make the rent really sux.
I’d better stop here… I’m probably scaring you off and depressing myself… :slight_smile:
I’ve got some pet peeves that I see in new studios popping up. But I’ll probably do a separate post for that.
have fun
rich

[quote=“bozmillar, post:3, topic:573”]
I think the main issue people have when opening the studio is that their vision is too narrow. [/quote]

Really? I wouldn’t peg that as a ‘main’ reason. I partially disagree, and here’s why. I think a laser focused vision is the foundation of disciplined execution. I’ve seen studios fail because their vision is too wide and they don’t know their limits. Both of their skill sets, their consumer standards, and even their gear and facilities. I also see them over-invest at the startup phase with a total shit business plan. I see others fail for lack of people and communication skills. The common thread is they can’t adapt quick enough once they’ve discovered where their business model went wrong. Or they’re not smart enough and objective to evaluate the differences between the service the market actually wants vs the service they want to sell.

I don’t mind mixing. But the revenue from it is a strait cash-for-time exchange. You can offset it a little by having lower level team members offset the file transfer/editing/organizing part. But there’s no real way to generate passive returns off of a for-hire mix. And musician unions in CA and NY don’t recognize engineering staff as royalty eligible unless you’re also credited as a co-writer or producer. Basically if you’re exchanging time for money. If you time is limited, than so is the income ceiling.

The real question: How do you beat that system and get on what Robert Kiyosaki (in Rich Dad Poor Dad) called the ‘fast track’?

1 Like

I guess I should rephrase by saying “I think the main issue people who are home recordists who want to get into the studio business…”

You almost never hear people on forums talk about anything outside of tracking and mixing bands. Bands are the last people in the world anyone should have as their target market. That’s like trying to sell an expensive hotel room to a bunch of homeless people. There is plenty of money in the music industry. Most of it does not come from bands. There are plenty of uses for recording facilities that don’t involve tracking and mixing bands.

You can do voiceover work, sound design, orchestration, film composing, video game composing, jingles, music for commercials. So many opportunities that it seems nobody wants to talk about. For whatever reason, tracking and mixing bands seems to be the holy grail for people who want to get into the business, and it seems like cancer to anyone that is in the business.

@cptfiasco …I just realized what kind of dialogue you’re actually looking for here. Instead of tossing out all kinds of garble (like I just spent the last 20 min doing), the guys who are currently in the recording industry could give you more useful info if you outlined your gameplan and let some of us spot problem areas (or ‘drawbacks’) relevant to your specific goals. Like…I can’t give meaningful advice on how to save money when you don’t even know what you’re trying to build. I’ll return the questions to you… (but this would go for anyone who may also be looking to do what you are).

Where are you located? How big is your immediate area? How close are you to a major city? What is the income level in the immediate areas and how far is away (logistically) is the target market? At what level is the overall music and technological literacy in the area?

What type of industry is the nucleus of the music scene built on? Tourism (like Branson, Myrtle Beach, Vegas)? Artist gigs (like Atlanta)? Church music (Texas)?

What can you learn from other (soon to be) competing studios in the area. How is your niche gonna be different?

Do you have a building? What can you/can’t you do to get it client ready? Are you using your home? How important do you anticipate the aesthetics of the facility to be?

Then marketing, insurance, promo, all the other management questions, avenues for advertising, what is your growth strategy, budget, what types of services do you hope to offer? And so on…

If you (or anyone looking this post) has actually glanced over this, by now you surely realize the gear is an afterthought. Answering all the other questions will tell you exactly what tools you need.

…and for anyone else reading this who is even THINKING about starting a studio as a side job, if you can’t even take the time to work out and articulate those questions (if only for own sake), then you ought not fool yourself into thinking you’re ready to make a go for it.

1 Like

[quote=“bozmillar, post:7, topic:573”]
I guess I should rephrase by saying “I think the main issue people who are home recordists who want to get into the studio business…”

You almost never hear people on forums talk about anything outside of tracking and mixing bands. Bands are the last people in the world anyone should have as their target market. That’s like trying to sell an expensive hotel room to a bunch of homeless people. There is plenty of money in the music industry. Most of it does not come from bands. There are plenty of uses for recording facilities that don’t involve tracking and mixing bands. [/quote]

Ok. Gotchya. Yes. Agree with that. Startups transitioning from hobbyist to semi-pro tend to target bands off of the cuff because its familiar and comfortable territory. Then they disasterously fail proper market analysis on the revenue projections. If they’d realized how much money was NOT going to be from bands, they would have stopped dead in their tracks.

I’m gonna toss this in a new thread. I think its important.

this is very true, depending on your definition of side job. if by side job you mean supplement income you really need to answer those questions. if by side job you mean I want to do it cause its fun and maybe make a little money its not as important as long as the fun factor is still there.

As far as side jobs go, I built a live sound rig(s) this year and have been doing local festivals and doing engineering at some semi-local clubs. its been awesome and almost as fun as recording and I have probably made more money this year from live shows. Plus the added bonus of working with bands you actually listen to and would go see if they were touring in the area. I know the studio life sounds awesome but don’t get so focused on a specific thing because sometimes other doors and avenues are right there in front of you. To be 100% honest I get more, better talent doing the live thing compared to who comes in the studio, and in turn makes engineering so much more enjoyable. the best part is at the end of the day you are done. there is no remix, recalls, over dubs etc. and you know instantly if everyone (audience and performers) were happy.

1 Like

Live sound is another one I forgot. Good live FOH engineers are hard to come by. And there’s no shortage of jobs that require a PA and a guy that knows how to actually run it.

1 Like

:-1: Fuck no. I’m allergic to manual labor.

Here is my take

[quote=“cptfiasco, post:1, topic:573, full:true”]
This for people that are running any kind of music studio,

How do you save money running your studio?

As one of my business mentors says to me “you don’t save your way to success”. You need to make sure you are getting value and a return on purchases.

What has been an unexpected cost, something you over-looked while starting up?

When renovating my space I’ve learned to double my time lines and the cost. Always keep funds available for replacement cost of depreciable items like computers.

Do you find the need to outsource any of the workload?

Yes. Mastering and sometimes mixing. I give people the option of in house mixing and mastering as well as higher quality partners that I work with for mixing and mastering services. I charge a percentage on this of course.

How thorough are you with the bands needs?

Very. I need do a thorough interview to make sure we are all heading in the same direction.

What is your biggest expense (other then your time invested)

The building and payroll.

Do you run your business out of your home or do feel having a dedicated studio space in another building works better?

Dedicated space

I ask these things because I always wanted to venture into doing a studio business, and would like to know of some of the drawbacks. Thanks in advance!!

This is a very tough business. Sell your product honestly and sincerely. For me I do not sell my room as an A room. It is a great B room. So many people try to fake their way through and tell people they are an A room when they are not. 99% of recording studios do this.

@Paul999, I think he was looking for viable cost-cutting measures in the startup phase.

Well , getting the right tool to do the job is saving money, even if it costs a little more. If you buy product “x” for 10$ and use 10 of these through the year, you could have saved if you bought product “y” for 70$ and it lasts all year.

I’m allergic to manual labor.

I didn’t say anything about loading equipment, that is stage hand stuff but I don’t mind doing that, all my stuff has wheels. the fun gigs are the one where everything is setup and you roll in to FOH and done. A lot of the local venues I do sound at already have house systems and you are just sitting there, its even better when they have a separate monitor guy, then you don’t even have to talk to the band… I generally like to setup mics though, but there are people for that too…

I’m working on a new building put up. I’m gonna save money buy instilling an in-grid solar power network. Also gonna have a small parking lot. Gonna save thousands of dollars by having a small sign. A big one that lights up can run $100k pretty easy. I cut a lot of costs by buying almost all my gear used. I try to buy the biggest plugin bundles I can pre-owned and transfer the software licenses. I’m also intending to save money by building on a lot that has low road traffic, thus there won’t be as extreme of a need for soundproofing.

…just some ideas.