What would YOU do in this recording studio scenario?

How to start a recording studio. Tips and advice on launching your studio. How to get a recording studio started.

This is a thought experiment designed for engineers to give beginners hindsight advice from their experiences.

You are a 21 year old kid fresh out of the music recording program at Full Sail college. Two months ago you received your B.A. in Recording Arts. Your primary instrument is guitar. Your vocal skills are competent, but not exceptional. You have moved back to your home town and completed your semester internship. Unfortunately it was a radio station (because it was all you could find) and you learned very little about recording.

Living situation:
You are in a middle class rural area with ample potential for music clientele, but you’re ridiculously strapped for cash and have yet to begin building a client base. You’re working a near minimum wage 40 hr pr week job at Best Buy and living in an apartment with a room mate which gives you barely enough cash cover your rent, cell phone, internet service, and transportation expenses. You want to quickly get to the point where you can establish a supplemental income from recording.

Your current gear:
You have an old macbook, but it is sufficient to run a DAW. You have an academic version of Pro Tools which you’ve pre paid through 1 full year. You have a Rode NT1 and a set of HS5’s which your parents gave you as a graduation present. You have a Focusrite Scarlet 18i8 interface that you borrowed from a church which went out of business before asking you to return it. You have a low end martin acoustic guitar. You have all the other necessities such as your ilok, cables (which you acquired at a yard sale while in college), and a hand-me-down case for your laptop

Other factors:
You lived at home for your first 4 semesters and attended a community college where you earned credits you transferred to Full Sail. This dropped the Full Sail, school tuition from $80 to $40k. After pell grants, scholarships, your parents contributions, and your fathers military veteran award scholarships you owe $24k in student loans at a consolidated 2.5% interest rate. You are 2 months through the 6 months grace period that was given. Your interest was deferred while you maintained your status as a student and your first payment of $180/month is due in 4 months. Note that your loans were used to purchase your laptop and DAW licenses as they’re a necessary part of Full Sail’s recording arts curriculum.

So…career wise you have little going for you except for a bit of training and a lot of passion. Your ultimate goal is to record bands and mix music! But where do you start? What is the first career goal you would set for yourself, and what is the path you’ll take toward that career milestone? What are some of the best and worst moves a person in this position can make in both the long and short term?


This is a great drill and I hope a lot of you guys participate in this one. I’m curious to see what you all say!

It would good to hang out at clubs, bars and other venues where bands play. Get to know the bands. Talk to them when they’re off stage.

Offer them a free recording. One or two songs. Maybe record their live gig.

Choose the help the most talented and driven musicians.

Offer recording bundles. “Record 3 songs, get 1 free”, etc.

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Is this assuming that you have already paid tuition ($81,000 for a 20 month undergrad degree in recording arts) ?
Having financial loans to pay back, could alter your plan.

One of my favorite features of my Behringer XR18 is the ability to multitrack a live show. And strangely enough, this was a topic I got to discuss this past Saturday night at a sound gig I was working.

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Excellent point. Editing to accomodate.

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This one is tough. My advice here would be to find another local studio and see if you can strike up some sort of deal (that’s beneficial to both you AND the studio) to use their space to record vocals and any other “live” instruments that you can’t get done in the box. Recording live vocals and loud guitars in that apartment is going to be damn near impossible.

I would start by having much less narrow goals. I would meet with other musicians, recording engineers, pretty much anybody who works in the industry and try to understand what it is that they do and what it is that they need. Then I’d figure out what skills I have that can help other people out right now and put those skills to use right away. Then I’d try to build my skills so that I could be of more use to more people. I’d use those skills to get to know more people, build my skills, get to know more people, build my skills more.

That cycle should take you right up to about retirement age.


I agree with Boz except for one thing. Growth is exponential, not linear. At first, when you have nothing and can do nothing the increments seem linear. As you gain experience and trust with clients your growth should start to appear exponential giving you a career well before retirement. The trouble is that most give up before they see the exponential curve appear. That is a distinct advantage to the few that are either too stubborn, driven or stupid to give up:)


I’ve been running scenarios in my mind over the last few days.

The first course of action I contemplated was locating a space you could use for recording. But I realized you don’t have the cashflow to rent one. I also realized that the time restrictions from your Best Buy job would minimize the use you’d get out of it too.

Funny as it sounds, I actually contemplated having the character move back in with their parents. Not only is that tacky, but its also a lateral move at best. I know many parents that would still charge their own kid rent. Even if they didn’t, the $350-$400 a month you’d save won’t amount to anything meaningful. Because the cash deficit isn’t the characters primary obstacle. In my opinion the career track they’re on poses a more imminent problem.

Its tempting to leave the character at Best Buy while having them grow their client base and develop their portfolio. In this case @Wicked hit the next step:

I believe this could work. And I’m sure it does in many cases. Here’s why I wouldn’t jump on this: Its playing a bit safe for me, and the risk as I see it is that the process of building a client base this way could drag out for years. It places you in a nasty catch 22 between a time shortage and the financial stability it’ll take to quit the Best Buy job. After thinking about this for several days, I arrived at the conclusion (though feel free to disagree with me) that the best course of action is to try and ‘fast track’ the characters career path. Even though I wouldn’t do this, I think it’s reasonable to send the character down that path.

Here’s what I settled on - There is no “answer” to this scenario, but I’ll give my thoughts on what I would do if I was the character.

I would postpone the studio freelancing career and change day jobs. I would use the college degree in audio production to secure a salaried job in one of the following fields: Theater A1 or audio lead, broadcast audio, church audio, touring musician or live sound engineer. I would begin by contacting job procurement agencies within the music industry find open positions of these sorts. I would probably not go into music equipment sales or installation.

In real life, I found that it was easier to migrate into a full time recording career by transitioning out of a different one. But some careers don’t transition to studio engineering easily, others don’t transition at all.

This is really really close to something I’d try and do myself in the scenario. Matter of fact, I do this now, even in my current position though for partially different reasons. There really is some legitimate incentive for certain studios to work out deals like this. No only do I do this kind of thing, if someone approached me with a deal like that, I’d be really interested in talking to them!

This is brilliant. It adds to the portfolio and solves the problem of not having a space to record lol.

Ya know, what I would do is find a band that had a good vibe and that was conscientious of what I was trying to do. Then to overdub vocals or re-shoot BGV’s I would probably ask the band if anyone in it had a living room or den quiet enough to get a clean vocal dub.

How did that conversation turn out?

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Hmmmm. Sounds to me like you’re talking about 2 different things. Boz sounds like he’s talking about skill acquisition (which is somewhat linear in my opinion) and Paul sounds like he’s talking about customer acquisition. I think where you’re both correct is that customer acquisition is a skill. And that skill is linear. But as your linear customer acquisition skill grows linearly, it causes your actual customer BASE grows exponentially. As you get better at acquiring customers you get more of them and you get them faster. (Which is exponential). Jeez that’s hard to explain.

I am going to track the band’s show next time I run sound for them. Interestingly enough, one of the members of the band just became a member of my sound crew. lol

Good points.

I think getting involved in these areas would pay off well. There’s lots of industry insiders that you could make connections with. One good connection can propel you farther than years of struggling and toiling away. It’s smart to build relationships to further your career.