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Any Succesful Small Studios? Lets hear your stories!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by LuckyFeet, Apr 15, 2005.

  1. LuckyFeet

    LuckyFeet Guest

    Hello, I wanted to know if anyone in this forum runs a successful small studio. With the availability of cheap home recording gear it seems many bands and/or groups just buy up $1000 worth of gear and record themselves rather than spend a $1000 in a studio. Of course their music doesn't sound nearly as good, and they probably are amateur engineers, but the end result is an acceptable sound, for them at least.

    With Mp3s and streaming online music the people's ears are accepting low quality music. So it seems unless you run a big multimillion dollar studio that gets contracts from labels and other multimillion dollar groups there really isn't any money for the small studios.

    But maybe I'm wrong so if you run a small studio and are profiting from it I want to hear your story. I know it takes a couple of years for small businesses to ever make money, but I'm still in the red, but also still building my own small studio.
  2. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    I built a shell inside a leased building in May 04 and turned a profit Jan 05. I have 3 rehearsal rooms and a live room and control room.

    Then again, you've got to consider that I owned the bulk of the equipment already (there's about £26k worth in there now) so effectively I would be in the red for about £20k had I had to buy it all fresh.

    Then again I can't imagine anybody buying £20k of equipment and having had nothing before would have the knowledge required to open a successful facility, so if you take a certain amount of own gear as a prerequisite, then all good.

    I am too tired to write a biog, I just mention it to give you hope that it can definitely be done. The main thing I did was work my arse off every evening for about 3 months going to gigs and handing out flyers to bands. Not that that can really be called hard work ;-)
  3. RAIN0707

    RAIN0707 Guest

    Almost no small business can expect to make a profit within the first 3 years on average. The first three years most of your profit gets poured back into the facility, advertising, equipment, etc... Only after you are able to "settle" in and have a comfortable and workable system can you begin to profit. I think anyone looking to start a successful studio business should have all the equipment first before they open and have been working out of their home or recording bands for at least 3 years so that when it comes time to open the doors commercially and publicly you know what to expect and you have the gear, client base, and knowledge of how to get projects in the door. You just have to step up your game a bit now find ways to get a few more projects in a month than you would have normally. This way when going commercial and public your only concern needs to be with promotion and advertising - not with gear purchases and learning how to use that gear for your trade.
  4. Kswiss

    Kswiss Guest

    I have a small mobile studio that I use...modest gear, but I take the time to get what clients are hearing, and I am profitable. I usually only have 4 or 5 recording projects a month, but I also rent some space as a practice facility, and I have a live sound rig that I bolster the income with 5-10 times a month. I like to combine the mobile recording rig and the live sound to do live recordings for people.... I've found that despite most peoples fear that recording is a lost art, the artists go where the sound is good. There are a couple full featured studios in my area, but the only stuff that sounds good out of them is roots or religeous music. So most of the actual bands won't pay the money to record where they're just gonna end up sounding crappy anyway. The small studios around here that good product comes out of do just fine.

  5. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    Great post LuckyFeet!
    I am just one step from going out to start my own recording business. I have been investing in gear for this particular studio for over 3 years now.
    Years ago, I had other studio formats. I was using 3 ADAT XT's and a Sony A7 DAT machine, and some of the cheaper effect units. You know Digitech and Behringer crap, Line 6, cheaper Lexicon units. Then I sold everything and started this new studio. With nice out board pre's and nice effects processors.
    Now I am soooo close to finally getting out and recording for a living.(trust me I don't make alot of $$$$ at work, it wouldn't have to be much $$$$ to make me quit my job)
    I've played music all my life, so I can find bands. That's easy!
    I am waiting on new cases to get here that I bought last week, so I can start carring my gear out to record bands ASAP.
    I was thinking of getting a Midas board to add to the collection. What do you think? Or should I look at something else also?
    Anyone who would like to point me in the right direction...please do!
    I really think that if I try my hardest that this WILL materialize.
    I'm not sure what $ rate to start out at either? Or if I should charge by the song or the hour? I have been recording for free so far. It sounds great. And of course people love you while you are doing that. But enough is enough :!:
    I have never intented to be rich. I just want to record music and I DONT want to work anymore. I need to break out on my own!
  6. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Jul 21, 2002
    We have good months...we have GREAT months...we have months that suck beyond description...

    But we are still open...versatility I think is the key to success....recording a near Nashville master quality session is the goal of every engineer I know, but having the ability, means, and desire to transfer Ms. Ethyl's reel to reels to CD at a reasonable price really helps keep the doors open.

    Learn to be able to do a lot of different things non audio related as well...everything from soldering to painting to light carpentry to scrubbing toilets to book keeping (at which I royally suck...) to whatever - anything you can do to avoid having to take money outta your pocket and give to someone else.

    Couple other things...learn to live well below what you think your means should be...don't think that just because some internet posters claim they have success and only THE top end gear that they are being honest...forget the 9-5 crap, and be ready for some 28 hour days...

    Is it worth it? To me, yes....I walked away from a corporate job making more cash than I knew what to do with when I had an opportunity to have my small operation...

    I'll say one more thing: if you have a doubt, don't do it...contact another small shop and see if you can double up with them for a bit until you KNOW you will be successful...
  7. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    I have a very small home studio. If you measure success in making a good living...I haven't reached that point yet. Too much money is going back into expanding gear. If you measure success in working with good people that think you create the sound they want...and come back....then yes...I'm pretty successful.

    Over the past 2 years or so I've put together my setup, improved my skills, recorded a label band, and have had repeat business. It still doesn't pay the bills, but I really don't care. My success story is that I'm doing what I love to do, have a studio at my disposal for my own projects, and have a small list of happy repeat clients. The harder I work, the more people know about me, and the more clients I get. Time will tell if I reach monetary "success," but at this point I don't give a rat's butt. I'm learning and having a great time.
  8. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    It took me about seven years to get the doors open, been accumulating gear for five. Fortunately , I have over twenty years in construction and had built six studios over the years, so I saved a bunch by making the sawdust myself. I have a great space, soundwise and locationwise, maybe $25k in gear. I'm hoping to be able to do it all word of mouth. So far, it's working. Every month I get more calls from referals. The first full length project came out in December and is getting very good reviews for music and production. I have my first session with an "A Team" player coming up. Fortunately , we have two other surces of income so I can take time to get it to where it's a full time business. AND, just knocked a whole bunch off the tax bill with the equipment expenses. :D
  9. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    As with any business it isn't easy getting it off of the ground...BUT If you work your ass off and love what you do then you really can't lose. If takes a different type of person to go out and make things happen, and you have to be prepared to work. Success is the only option if you work hard, think outside of the box, and do good work.
  10. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    I'm all for doing projects in major commercial studios, and I hope it gets to that point. I went to school for audio in the '70's and again in the '80's, worked at a couple of really nice high end studios over the years and love the environmet, but I see the gap widening between DIY digital/DAW based studios and commercial rooms. The very best commercial rooms are hanging on, but here in Nashville the bell has been tolling for several years for the average commercial studio. There are roughly 1,000 studios here within a twenty mile radius in a city of 1 million....at least 95% of them are home studios, and the quality gap is getting narrower each year. Pricewise, the big rooms are losing ground. How can they compete with a price range of $25-40 an hour?
  11. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    There are some really nice commercial rooms out here (Chicago) with Neve and SSL consoles that will rent their rooms w/o an engineer for about 50/hr.
  12. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    Nov 24, 2004
    what a great thread.....
  13. Just1Ghost

    Just1Ghost Guest

    I've just opened (in January '05) a small, mobile outfit with a modest amount of excellent gear after a flood that caused a "State of Emergency" in my little vortex I call home wiped out 95% of the gear I'd been accumulating for the 24 some odd years I've been collecting it... (Thank GAWD for insurance or I wouldn't be in business)

    For March, I was averaging sessions every other day, and April was shaping up to be a red letter month, until my $1000/month Client took some "time off to reflect"...times is hard once again, my friends, but I'm still going strong... No other form of income other than my wits... (wish me luck?)
  14. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Just1Ghost. Don't give up.

    Midlandmorgan hit the nail on the head; there will be good months and bad. If you can (maybe you did), try to siphon off the $1000 months into a 'sink fund' - 50% of what you make gets sequestered in a high-interest bank account that is there when you need it and close to inaccessible if you don't.

    Sounds a hard one to pull when you are living hand to mouth, but if you can make it law, its the key to longevity.

    And surprising though it may sound, read some books on sales. Sales are the absolute key to any business. All accounting, strategy and dare I say it recording technique fade into insignificance if you don't fully understand how to harness the markets around you and make sales.

    When you're making sales, everything else will fall into place.

    Perhaps you could do some kind of promo event (we did something like this) where you record 10 bands for free, one song each, over one weekend. Get a sponsor, a promoter and some A & R judges and put on a gig for the 3 best, where you sell the resulting CD for a pound.

    Not only does this showcase your clients and outfit but it lays the ground for a lot of future business. Get a work experience kid and have them database and mail all local record labels, promoters, venues, and you never know what will happen.

    Try to think of markets you might not otherwise. Somebody above alluded briefly to cleaning up and moving to the digital domain old analog recordings. We do kids parties (anybody see the Fast Show - Jazz Club? 'old jazz great character' gets interviewed, wearing a mask - 'i have to wear the mask. i do kids parties, man. i do bar mitzvahs. i can't risk anybody recognising me') - funny, but sadly true. We do sodding karaoke-type stuff for wannabes. For some reason we also occasionally earn £1000 at a time doing live music hires.

    Sh*t like this, and it is sh*t, becomes a whole lot more noble when you pay for a Neumann after 5 kids parties. Get a space and hire it out for *anything*.

    As the big studios dwindle (I am fairly new to this, but I don't know of *any* large commercial 'real music' studios - i know a couple midi-orientated efforts for dance music with great pedigrees - near me), smaller guys like us have the benefit of not being tied to one large room with huge upkeep fees and being able to be flexible and earn from one market without ruining your reputation in the other. The irony is, we are all busy saving so we can build that big room, with 5 iso rooms off it. Thats what I am trying to do. I am under no illusion that it is, for me and the times we live in, just as much a folly as building a racetrack in your back garden. And no, I haven't.

    Don't pigeonhole yourself and clients won't either. You think the rock crowd talk to the jazz crowd talk to the young parents of wannabe Britneys? A big smile and a good result get you straight outta that one if they do.....if the rock guys have day jobs in the retail sector, why shouldn't you do kids parties?

    BTW Just1Ghost not all of the above was aimed at you. Just got carried away. The point stands. Think laterally about what you do (or should I say, one does) - audio services is far more apt than prestigious studio these days in my limited experience.

    I hope to get a young genius out of college and move into advertising video and post-production soon - tap into one dollar so you can indulge your passion better in another, thats how I see it.
  15. LuckyFeet

    LuckyFeet Guest

    You guys are awesome! I'm really glad there are some people that are making it happen. Keep the stories coming they boost my withering morale!!
  16. heyman

    heyman Guest

    Probibly should post this under a new topic..

    Anyway. I have some higher end gear and I am located in the Northeast (1 hour south of Boston)and looking to maybe teamup with someone to get the ball rolling.. I have a job outside recording as well, but I am hoping to get more involved in Recording in the near future... (just been part time right now.)

    A little about me..

    Playing guitar for over 17 years. Great communication skills. I have a degree in Music and Communications. Work on Computers during the day. So I am handy at troubleshooting.

    Again, I have some great gear(defintely not what you call entry level) and hope to invest more in the upcoming months. Have a place to record right now with adequate space for full drum tracking..

    Anyone interested in teaming up, please let me know.. Respond to me on this thread and I can give you a full rundown of what gear I have..

  17. VulcanDC

    VulcanDC Active Member

    Mar 13, 2005
    Home Page:
    Although i was into sound recording or some time, i got 'my' studio up, just about a year ago... and I have been doing pretty ok, considering my location....

    I am now expanding my space and doing it up to make the place look nice and comfy for my clients...

  18. garysjo

    garysjo Active Member

    Jun 15, 2001
    Pembroke, MA
    Heyman, I'm 30 miles south of boston and in a similar situation as you. email me with your thoughts at sjolinatverizondotnet

  19. jonnyc

    jonnyc Guest

    I opened my home based studio in august 2004 with zero experience recording. LOL I started with cubase se and a soundblaser sound card and it really sounded like crap my first couple clients kinda left me hangin and I can't blame them. So after learning a little I bought pro tools in november and its been great ever since. I usually get about 2 bands a month in usually spend a week on each I don't make much money but being in the studio for me is like being at disneyland to a 5 year old. The reason most bands don't spend a grand and record themselves is because your recording would sound like total shi*. I've spent 20,000 in the last 8 months or so and I'm still plenty far from being done, but man its fun.

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