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Small Town Studio Syndrome

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by steppingonmars, Mar 30, 2010.

  1. steppingonmars

    steppingonmars Active Member

    Wondering if any other small town studios have encountered this as it's turning into an epidemic where I live

    First of all there is 2 studios in my town and I guess I'd consider mine a third as I record bands for money now. The first studio does old school recordings for country bands, church groups, fold etc. The second does mostly rock stuff. Both have reasonably high end gear with equipment in the $50000 + range. Both studios are in basements and my studio is in my garage. The other two charge $30 -$40 per hour. I charge $15. Here's the synopsis lately though especially in the second studio although it's happened once to me and I think it's going to happen again.

    1) band comes in and records demo
    2) band seems happy with the demo for a while when it gets played on myspace etc and draws some attention
    3) band puts no effort whatsoever in promoting music, stays in small town and plays small clubs
    4) interest wears off so band assumes it's due to the recording
    5) band goes into large town and records exact same songs in a "legitimate studio" in larger town for 10 times the price, not including travel expenses. It must sound better if it's in a big room with a pool table in the waiting room right? Big studio puts in smokes in mirrors that this is the reason why things didn't work out the first time
    6) big studio puts in some fancy fades, but for the most part the song sounds EXACTLY THE SAME as it did before.
    7) Promotion is the same and Myspace plays are actually less than before
    8) Band is broke
    9) Band still doesn't realize that the reason why the song wasn't a hit is because the song wasn't all that good in the first place and they didnt' promote it, not because it was recorded in someones basement or garage.
    10) repeat with next band

    Now is this an issue with the band's perception of the studio or is the quality of the work not good enough. I had a band come in recently to record with me. Initially they had someone record them for free and they got what they came for. They came back and recorded some of the same songs, I was already leary of this, but did it anyways. They were going to do 6 songs, now they are only going to do 3, I have a feeling that they are going to follow the yellow brick road to the big city :)
  2. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Not sure where you are, or what your definition of "small town" is... but here's my thoughts.

    I'm in Cincinnati. In a lot of ways, it's both small town and the big city, which is part of what makes it great - and what makes it bad.
    There are about half a dozen "pro" studios here in town. Most have their own niche - one does mostly voice over stuff, another local indie bands, etc...
    There are several hundred "home" studios, of which I am one.
    Actually, I record in a portion of an old church I rent, so I'm somewhere in between.
    Yeah, I lose a lot of business to the "bigger" studios. Especially the bands I want to work with.

    Like you, I charge on the low end. It costs $80 to get a finished track from me. My competitors who have more experience charge twice that, at least.
    I'd love to charge more, but it is more important to me that I keep busy - or get practice, build my portfolio, and get paid. If the traffic stays the same, I'll bump my rates, as I have already.

    Which brings me to my point.
    You have to do something unique. You're not pro (neither am I, for that matter), and bands that want a "pro" product will spend their money accordingly.
    And so they should, and you shouldn't worry about it.
    Do what you do.
    Provide bands w/ quality demos on their way to pro studios, or quality tracks to promote themselves.
    Promote yourself. You gotta do the legwork. Go to shows. Get a business card.
    Do callbacks when a band slows communication. Give them a reason to work with you.
    Usually, your interest and commitment to service will be enough.
    Take a beating on the payment if it's a great band. This is the #1 thing I did right. The product you come away with will pay for itself in self-promotion.

    Over time, you'll make some cash and get a lot of practice along the way. If you do your homework, you'll come away with a nice portfolio and reputation.
    Now it's the basement studios, then you, then the big city.
  3. steppingonmars

    steppingonmars Active Member

    Thanks for the good advice. I live in Brandon MB Canada. Pop 50,000. The Big city is Winnipeg which is 2.5 hours away with a pop of 600,000
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Small towns are usually thought of as populations of 10,000 or under so you don't really live in a "small town"

    Lots of bands and musicians are looking for cheap rates. They want all the play toys and perks like pool tables they just don't want to pay for them.

    Soapfloats has some good ideas.

    My mentor told me that you have to find your niche, stick with it and the business will come to you as you prove yourself over and over.

    Consistency is the name of the game. Charge the same rates for everyone (bands and musicians do talk about such things amongst themselves) Treat everyone fairly. Learn as you go and keep everyone happy. Don't worry about the big studios in the big cities they are having as many if not more problems as you are having where you live. They are paying BIG rents, they have lots of equipment that they have to keep running and pay for and no matter where you are the recording business is down in revenue.

    In today's market be glad you are getting any work since so many people are now trying to do EVERYTHING themselves.

    Best of luck!
  5. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Well said, Tom.

    I look at every project as a gift. It's a chance to hone my skills, make some good contacts/references, and hopefully come away with a product I am proud of and can use to procure future projects.

    This is why I take cuts, sometimes. I am loathe to do so b/c of the fairness factor you mentioned - but if a band has special circumstances (less post, limited setup, etc), I am willing to negotiate.

    In my situation, I just can't afford not to. Like many others, I bet my future on this venture, so I'm committed to make it happen. If that means taking some lumps today so that I may be here tomorrow...
  6. natural

    natural Active Member

    It's not limited to small towns or small studios.
    I lived in Miami, had an upper mid-sized commercial studio with rates at $75.00/hr. Very good track record, and yet some artists still went to the next studio higher up the chain to do it all over again. And we also redid songs from the smaller studios.
    It's just human nature.
    It's a learning process for the artist.
    You're providing them with an education. So is the big studio in town.
    They will eventually learn the lesson. It just takes time.
    Just keep doing what you're doing.
    If you do your best to provide consistent quality for the rates that you charge, you can sleep at night, and that's really all you can do.
  7. steppingonmars

    steppingonmars Active Member

    Thanks for the responses.

    I'm just starting out at this and never got into recording to make it a buisness, it just started happening. I recorded myself, then my father in law's band, then another and I'm doing 2 more. I'm doing the bands because they are good bands and I enjoy the music. The money aspect is more to justify what I'm doing so my wife doesn't get too mad at me for spending all this time in the garage :). I've been told that I don't charge enough, but the people telling me this aren't the bands.

    I think you're right though Mr soap.. I'm not a pro, nor do I have any aspirations of becoming one. I don't make false promises to the bands. I can do a decent demo, but the issue as stated before is that these studios in the larger cities IMO are doing nothing more than demo's for 10 times the price and that's what's ticking me off. They are getting sent to the cleaners while I'm trying to help them get a good start in the music buisness so to speak. If they were getting something better in the big city and it was progressing their career, I would be happy about this situation. The way it is now however is like giving a homeless man money to buy lunch and watch him walk off to the liqour store :)
  8. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    And some of these musicians are like alcoholic hobos and will continue to go the liquor store regardless.
    Some will come away, and after the razzle and dazzle of the booze wears off, realize they're still hungry.
    And they'll call you and say "Still got that sandwich?"
    Buyer's remorse is a powerful thing my friend...

    Hopefully at that point, you'll have better skills, better gear, and a higher rate.
    All of which makes the issue of doing the best job you (I, we) can do all the more critical!
  9. chuckborris

    chuckborris Guest

    I have never recorded a band before. However I have recorded with bands in a fair share of studios. I have also sat in with many bands during recordings. Mostly in "home" studios. The recordings from these small studios in small towns sound on par with most larger high end studios. From my viewpoint the enemy has never been sound quality. The enemy has been song quality. Why does this happen? I have seen the evolution of small studio going from recording friends for free to the studio owner needing an agent to handle all the work he is getting. He has an ear not only for recording but also for talented no name bands to record. He would go to shows and talk with bands who he thought were good. Record quality demos. Soon their success became his. So do studios record sub par bands because they need money? I hope I can learn a lot on these forums. I welcome any and all insight. I just wish bands would listen to demos originating from the studio they would like to record with and match it up with what they think they need. I also wish whoever is recording a band would do a quality check before they agree to record the band.
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If you are doing a good job then you will continue to get business. When you have enough business maybe you can take your studio to the next higher level and charge more for your services.

    I face the complete opposite problem. I run a mastering operation. We provide professional level mastering for unsigned artist at a more than reasonable rate. Instead of people using our services they decide to do the mastering themselves or go to someone on line who charges them $5.00 to $15.00 per song for running their material though a Finalizer or some cracked piece of software and calling it mastering. We are trying to provide artists with professional level mastering at an affordable price and they don't want to take advantage of it since they want to go the "cheap" route. Go figure. You, on the other hand, have people who want to go the more glitzy route and go the the big city and pay a lot for what you can provide for a much more reasonable rate right in your own town. I guess it depends on the musicians and what they want to do with their money.

    Not too long ago I bid on some mastering for a good friend's boss who owned a small record label. He was looking to get some mastering done for a very reasonable rate and we were ready to provide it for him. Then, at the last minute, he decides he wants to go to high end mastering engineer in Maine to get his mastering done so the famous mastering engineer's name would be on the album. Of course the mastering engineer did a GREAT job but instead of spending approximately $400 he spent over $4,000 and it was done strictly for the name value.

    Musicians are funny in how they want to spend their money. I have seen crap guitarist go into GC and drop $4,000 on a guitar that is way above anything they need. I have also seen people in GC who are very talented going for the bottom end of the guitars because the don't think they can afford the bucks for a better guitar. It is all in what they perceive to be the value of the services or equipment they are purchasing.

    Best of luck and I hope your studio grows and prospers.
  11. Lionaudio

    Lionaudio Guest

    This is my first post on here so Hi everybody! I also live in a fairly small town of 60,000 people. There is only one other studio in town besides mine. The other studio has a HUGE assortment of gear. What I have found over the years though is that no one really cares about the other studio's gear anymore. If you keep recording and get better at it every time, you will eventually be the biggest studio in town. To do this, you will have to record everyone who wants a recording. I will record anyone. Two weeks ago I was doing a gospel trio who wanted an album in one day. For $175 they got an album. It sucks, but I did it. Every day that I am booked is a day that I am happy, regardless of who it is. Now I am getting bookings from out of state because I have done so much work that people from Nashville will come to Kentucky to record with me. Over 50% of the music that i record never makes it past Myspace. What a band does with the recording once I mix it is not my concern. I make things sound as great as I can within the artist's budget. That's it. It IS disheartening when I work on a project for months at a time, only to see the band never even have the album mastered and just make it available as an Mp3 download, but I love what I do and it seems that you do as well. Keep it up. And also, I would bump up your price to about 5 bucks an hour less than what the other studio is charging so you don't appear to be devaluing your abilities. That's why I switched to a per day fee instead of per hour. At $175 an hour I still crush anyone around here price-wise and also have the added benefit of the band not watching the clock of scraping through their car for change to pay for the extra hour they need to do a vocal overdub
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    $175.00 per hour is a good rate but high for most bands or artists (at least in my area). If you can charge that rate and continue to get business you must be doing something very well. Best of luck! and keep doing what you are doing.
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I think that is a typo. Earlier in the paragraph he said $175 to record a CD in a day. I'm guessing $175 per day - not hour.
  14. Lionaudio

    Lionaudio Guest

    Definitely a typo! I charge 175 per day. If I charged 175 an hour I would be in Costa Rica surrounded by naked women in a floating studio

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