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Recording Gear means nothing if we can't stay in business.

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by kef, Dec 6, 2001.

  1. kef

    kef Guest

    After owning a very busy studio for 13 years I have come to the conclusion that the way I look at the big picture has Got to change. The last 2 years have been slim-pickins to say the least. I have not lowered my standards (to the contrary, I'm re-investing just as much as ever)I believe that my clients have lowered Thier standards.

    I'd like to hear from studio owners about how they are keeping it together, changing thier business structure or giving up. I really enjoy Recording.org but I would find it more fulfilling if the business- side of the equation got more time and brain-power.
  2. kef

    kef Guest

    I see what you mean Kef, I think discussing how to run a business like ours would be sooo much more important than talking about what the best mic for under $500 might be.

    Well it does say "for musicians by musicians." Although I'm wondering why there are so many studio owners present???

    Can't wait to read my next response to myself.
  3. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Hi kef,

    There have been at least a couple threads about the changing needs of the industry. But I'm sure we can make room for more discussion on the topic. :) (I hope it can be more than just bellyaching about how the ADAT... I mean Alsihad... has been f'ing up the market for everyone. :p )

    Do you have some specific experiences you'd like to share? Where have all the ex-clients gone? And let's toss some ideas around about how to get these businesses turned around. (I have some ideas, but I'd like to hear your responses first.)
  4. MadMoose

    MadMoose Active Member

    Apr 22, 2001
    I've been pretty busy recently and I just bought a 2" 24 track. Have you looked around at the other studios in your area to see what they offer, what they charge, what their product sounds like and how you fit in?
  5. davemc

    davemc Guest

    I am a Alsihad user so I have started doing drums to home daw packages. As I found a lot of people have been buying baby Alsihad or some other all in one box/DAW and doing it them themselves. Results do vary.

    There is also a lot of small studios/home studios around undercutting everyone by so much $$$. As they run out of there garage. Or rehersal rooms with a VS2480 and 3 sm57's.
    They all do ads like "All digital 128 tracks".
    It is truly an affordable time to record music. When I started an 16-24 track would break the bank, and there were no DAW's.

    I just have to move with the times, keep building a client base, I always get returns and referrals.

    Most bands look at how cheap you are first now a days, which is sad as they do not understand that you brought better gear to try to capture there magic the best you can.
  6. drundall

    drundall Guest

    Maybe you can position yourself to mix/fix the demos/albums that kids are doing on their little 001 systems at home. They buy the stuff but they don't know audio or engineering. Put a little of you big studio muscle into their project and they'll be blown away. Maybe you could also offer budget mastering. They really just want their CD's louder so they don't blow speakers when the radio comes on.
    The gear people can get now is amazing but still can't beat professional experience.
  7. Lately it seem that we have been getting clients that have been using some of the home studio's but have been unsatisfied with the service (sadly the low quality really don't bother them). They talk about how the "studio guy" don't listen to what they want and that some are trying to play producer, "my way or the highway" as well. I had one group that was amazed at how easy I was to work with and that I tried so hard to give them what they wanted. I said "guys it's called being professional" Maybe this is something we should try to promote more?

    We too are spending more money (and making less) trying to find a nitch. One thing I'm glad of is we can how afford to have a 2" tape machine which would have been impossible five or ten years ago.

    All the other studio's in our area that have analog recording are the major rooms and no one else here offers analog in our price range which is a good thing. But now we are spending money to sync up our MCI to 001 so we can do the edits they all now expect.

    Another thing we do is have digital rates and analog rates. I figure that if they can't afford 2" we don't want to loose their business so we offer a cheaper rate for the Adat/HD24, for doing the demo and low end stuff, so far it seems to be working. Besides the maintenance is higher on the 2".

    It also seems that a lot of what we get are the people that have gone the do it yourself or friend with a computer recording and realize that it just don't cut it. Personally I think the home studio thing is dying out. When I talk to guys in the music retail business they say that these equipment sales are way down and people that have spent a whole lot of money then find out that it's more that just having a mackie and an adat. So maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel. :w:
  8. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    Feb 17, 2001
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Home Page:
    We raised our rates a few months back. Sometimes people want to pay a little less, so it gives us room to negotiate if we need to. Our area is not the greatest for a large amount of bands, so my niche has been for punk and rock n roll bands finding a studio who can give them a thick sound at a reasonable rate. I think that they are buying me as much as they are the studio or the gear in the studio. Being laid back, but allowing me to be the straight guy (but not judgemental) is really helping people to feel comfortable. Networking is definitely a key part also, getting out there and listening to the local talent in your area and being diversified. I relate to Rockabilly guys as much as I do drum and bass, so I know where they are coming from musically. BTW Oldhouse, your place looks really nice!
  9. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    I'd like to know where production services factor into this. My thinking on the matter is this, if you want to attract clients you gotta get some platinum plaques on the wall, and keep em coming at regular intervals. With the market so saturated by low to middle rate studios cutting each other's throats, chances are that platinum ain't gonna just walk thru the door on it's own. You need go after the best talent in your given area, and nail em to the floor. That's a difficult thing for a studio to do by itself. And just because a great band records there it doesn't mean they're gonna be able to get the best product out by themselves.

    Enter the Producer.

    Let's toss that around for a little while, shall we?
  10. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    Just back in the UK from the AES - jet-lagged but TOTALY INTO THIS TOPIC.
    More later.. keep it going!
  11. davemc

    davemc Guest

    One of the first questions I get asked a lot of the time is who have you done.
    I still have not done that band that has really cracked it, a lot of local band though.
    A lot of the local scene is very clicky, there are a few local studios where there are 2-3 guys running it and they all do a lot of live band stuff. This is a great way off doing things, pity as I am a solo operator I do not have the nights off to see that many bands. I cannot also do that Car salesman pitch without looking like a dick. I have thought of a partner before but that is a whole new can of worms.

    I do not know if everyone here agrees with these statements.
    1) I find a lot of bands will always come back to the studio they first recorded in, no matter what quality. If these bands then grow as a muso and get better they will still keep coming back as it is like an old coat they are used to it.
    2) If bands break out of the first cycle they will look to the top studios in the area as they assume all under them are the same as the one they did demos in to start with.
    3) Bands have not idea of equipment they no buzz words like Neve, PT etc but do not know the diff between a digi001, PT3 or a TDM with 6 mixcards.
    4) There is always a small studio opening for half your rate, you know they will go broke in 6 months but they always get replaced by another.

    I have had this discussion with a few people before.
    I have been told to ether diversities or niche myself.
    Get into video, ads, do music vids as well etc.
    Or just concentrate on one genre and get a good rap doing it.
  12. osmuir

    osmuir Guest

    great topic.

    1. i do find that when you get a client to hear himself/themselves sounding AMAZING, it's a real eye opener. my current client [singer/songwriter in the kinda james taylor school] got in front of my soundelux U95s [NEW! yay!]...he was just floored. and he sings better, just because he is inspired by the sound. when you get people sounding better, they really like it.

    2. that having been said, now that i'm doing this professionaly, i was wondering what to do about rates. i have some great $*^t, and 7 yrs of engineering under my belt, but only seriously for about 3-4, so i still ^#$% up the occational punch, take a lil extra time to get things to sound just right. so i charge $35/hr, which seems pretty darn cheap sound wise [and capital investment wise!] for what i'm doing...however, i don't know when i should feel comfortable with my level of skill to move up to $50/hr or something like that. basicly, i know people work hard for their money, so i still feel bad for getting it if they are not absolutely getting the best deal [in terms of what i can do for them]. that having been said, the clients i've had absolutely loved working with me, and they have said so [alot--as in "do you like champaign?"] sooooo.....

    so? help? this is just a question for smaller freelance projects, i will soon be starting the whole "move to the big time" thing as a crap monkey in NYC, and it's a different ball of wax there on up.
  13. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Again Owen, the name of the game is credits. It is possible for someone such as yourself to build slowly on a local scale. Even if your biggest project to date is a band that sold 1,000 cd's out of their trunk, that's worth mentioning to a band that hasn't sold any. And if they can make good money on that, you shouldn't feel guilty for making sure you're adequately compensated for your services.

    In a small pond situation, production services are crucial. It's the difference in being recognized as helping deliver the sound and making the sound happen. David mentioned earlier, "my way or the highway". If you're in a position to do that, you can pretty much pick whatever band you think will take you there. Just make sure you know a thing or 3 about production before you try it, or you could do more harm than good for your career. The "crap monkey" position could teach you a lot about the production aspect, if you keep your eyes & ears open. So maybe that ball of wax will eventually roll right back home. Who knows?
  14. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Jan 4, 2001
    This has come up in another thread and I'm curious, how many of you running full time commercial studios are doing "corporate" work like voice-over or jingles? War stories? Sounds more lucrative than bad punk bands, so you could pick and choose just good punk bands ont the way up.

  15. Great discussion guys! I like Angelo's view. I have been trying to get connected with some of the "known" producers around here and believe it or not we do have a few guys here that have the credits to really do wonders for a studio like ours. But when talking to some people (the engineers at the major studios) that know these guys, their like "hey, these guys will only work in major studios" so I feel that they may not be approachable to come in a less that perfect place to work? BUT I keep trying!

    I am a one man operation also so to speak, I have a partner but he has a regular job and can't be here for the day to day activities. One thing that I have been doing lately is having a couple of the engineers from the big houses bring in their own freelance projects here just to try to break into the that closed circle of engineer/producers.
    So far it has been working well. I just think that we are having to establish some creditability with these guys. All of these people still (IMHO) think we small studio are the cancer that has changed life as they knew it.

    Angelo told me a long time ago that you have to make some noise! And he is right. We have tried to take a band that is good and has what it takes, help them to hopefully get noticed but again without the proper producer that is really hard. I call myself a producer and can do fairly good at it but not good enough to make some LOUD noise. So I guess we all maybe come up short when it comes to this area.

    Trust me I will exploit the hell of any connection we make that will give our studio "Credits"

  16. Thanks Bear, Were trying that too. We have an in with a multimedia group, nothing yet but some day!


  17. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Not unapproachable, you just need to have the right approach. Look at the things that a major studio gives it's clients, and show that you not only do that, but do it better than they can.

    Brand Name Gear:
    Part of the large studio success formula is having XYZ brand widgets in place, but that is not nearly the most important factor (given that the gear you do have is up to snuff). A few guys are SSL or Neve only. I love Neve boards myself, but I'm not against anything that works. The bottom line is "can I get some work done with the gear you have?" Outboard-wise, you seem to have most of the bases covered already. Keep adding to the compressor and EQ's. And a couple more channels of ultra-clean pre's (such as gml or earthworks). More than anything else, lack of 48 track capability is what would prevent me from working there. I would seriously consider a larger console, even if it means losing the automation. If you factor your rate against the big studios, the difference would probably be enough to rent whatever misc. pieces you really need but don't have. (Protools rig, assorted extras) As you acquire more widgets you can raise the rate accordingly. And you can specialize in those curiosities. Look for objects that don't cost an arm an a leg, but have an interesting flavour and are hard to find. A bunch of funky pedals, guitars & amps could be more inspiring than the run of the mill pultec, 1176, dbx, LA2a room. Vive la difference!

    Just because a studio is big doesn't neccesarily mean they have the best possible wiring and maintenance. I can think of several in my area (which I won't name... ones that you maybe have heard of and wish you could afford!) that really aren't all that great in the sound quality department. Cheap wiring gets old and cruddy, patch points snap crackle and pop, stuff breaks faster than they can fix it, but don't despair because you still enjoy the privilege of paying the same rate. Oh Goody! :) Show them that you take maintenance seriously, and that quality of the audio path is of the utmost importance.

    See, this is one of those marketing things where you turn lack of bookings into an asset. Make lemonade, so to speak. hehe.

    Service & Comfort:
    This is where small studios really have a fighting chance. All the little things that make life good, but don't break the bank. Gourmet coffee and tea doesn't cost all that much in the grand scheme of things. Knowing all the right restaurants to order from, having the client's brand of bottled water on hand, being able to raise or lower the temperature 3 degrees whenever you want instead of being tied to a industrial central HVAC system, etc... it all adds up. Big studios can be very uncomfortable places when you have to spend weeks on end with projects back to back and deadlines breathing down your neck. Anything you can do to make the client feel at home is what will really make them want to work at your place. The only thing that might cost more money is having an extra runner or 2 on hand. When the client wants a box of 2" tack nails at 3 in the morning, the GA (general assistant, for those who don't know) better be halfway to the 24 hour hardware store 2 towns over, with a cell phone to call you in case they don't have the specific brand. Sometimes the big studios will stick all the runners on the "big client", and leave the other 6 rooms to fend for themselves. You can turn that to your advantage. Show them you are twice as willing to bend over backwards as the other guy. Remove the words "no", "don't", and "can't" from your volcabulary. Be up in the air asking "how high?" You'd be surprised how many "big" studios forgot they had to do that.
  18. erockerboy

    erockerboy Guest

    See, this is one of those marketing things where you turn lack of bookings into an asset.

    Newspeak for the studio biz... I love it!! Orwell would be proud.

    Great discussion!
  19. mwagener

    mwagener Active Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Nashville, TN
    Originally posted by drundall:

    The gear people can get now is amazing but still can't beat professional experience.

    If you gave me Tolstoi's typewriter, I still couldn't write a novel...

    Hi Jimi :D
  20. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    Feb 17, 2001
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Home Page:
    I think that gear is important to the client, but in a "catch phrase" type of way. They are under certain generalized & uniformed impressions of the way things are.

    "Do you have analog?"

    ...Even though I explain to them that a Class A/Discrete/Tube/point to point wired front end through excellent converters will sound better than Mackie mic pre's to 1" 16 track with worn heads (real life story here folks :( ).

    I ask them if they would be willing to spend $200+ on ONE 2" reel.

    "Well, that should be included" or "Couldn't we just use a used one?"

    There is no way in hell I would go over old tape, period. If you can't afford new tape, don't record on analog.

    "Do you have Pro Tools?"

    ...No, we use Nuendo, Samplitude, and now MX-View with the UAD-1 card and bunch of outboard gear.

    "Well isn't that stuff outdated, I've never heard of UA (you mean urei?...copies aren't as good as those silverfish..er, I mean faces), isn't eveything but Protools all the same quality? (ie cakewalk two years ago vs Nuendo 1.52)"

    It seems like half the time we can't win. Makes me want to get certain pieces just for the sake of the client even though I know the quality is already excellent and those pieces aren't going to improve the quality (I think some might actually degrade it). I guarantee with some people that if I had an API console (which is my all time ultimate goal BTW), they would think the Mackie is better because they haven't heard of the API :roll: .

    Do you guys ever go through anything like this with your studio and the public?

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