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To pursue or not to pursue

Member for

21 years
So I'm thinking of starting my own recording studio in the future, but want to know where to start. I have a musical background (classically trained pianist) until college at which point I stopped competing professionally and majored in business/sociology and ultimately became a paralegal. I recently relocated to Mobile, AL with my husband, and got the crazy idea this would be a great opportunity to do something different, something I love, which has always been music. I played keys in a band for about 10 seconds, and have several musician friends in local bands on the Detroit scene (my hometown), but know nothing about the technical side of it. I love all types of music, and the live music scene here is great, there are tons of local bands and musicians, and my ultimate dream job would be pretty much doing what I already do, going to see live local bands, looking for new talent, and ultimately, producing their music. I already have a band in mind that I truly believe in, and would love nothing more than to make them a household name. But how to do that is where I come up short-handed.

I guess my first question would be if I don't have the technical training, can I get it, where, how, and do you have to be extremely gifted in electronics, etc. to be a music producer? I have a basic understanding of computers and experience with many software programs and catch on easily learning new programs, but am not an engineer by any means. My husband, however, is very good at the technical stuff, and I'm almost thinking with his electrical/technical background, and my musical background, we could make this work.

I've looked into the recording studios in the area, and was also thinking of trying to get a job or intern there, just to get experience, or taking online courses...then there is the thought of just going out and getting the basics and try recording my own music to get started. Any recommendations on the best way to get your feet wet?

My apologies for the novel, I'm excited and really want to pursue something I care about. My hubby is supportive, it could be something I start on the side until I figure out what the hell I'm doing, but any advice would be greatly appreciated!



Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/04/2008 - 15:17
I think you are off to a good start with the 3 skills you bring to the table
1. Business training
2. Musical experience
3. Husbands tech ability

The downside is that you are probably looking at several years before you have learned basic recording principles.
Also this is the absolute worst time in history to open a recording studio.

If you are willing to work your butt off during this bad stretch and learn the skills, then maybe when the recording "tide" turns around, you will be ready to compete.

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/04/2008 - 17:00
Just an observation, it sounds like you have a good music and business background. From what I read your goal is to record new talent. It's just a suggetion, but you might want to look into getting equipment good enough to do demos so you can promote bands and then get them into the studio to do a proper recording, This way you could be working more on the musical side and organizatioal side of things. Of course for your cut. To do demos you may have to do track by track or full band recordings. Full band you will need an interface that will record 8-16 channels simultaneous. The basic needs are a computer, an audio interface, and microphone. A lot of interfaces come with lite recording software to get you started. If you have room in your house to set up a home recording studio you will learn a lot.

Mark is right the industry is changing. Most of the changes are in promotion and distribution of music. If you are thinking of doing this you should do some research on these changes. A good reference guide to check out is TweakHeadz
Its not super detailed but is a good place to start.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Mon, 08/04/2008 - 17:52
So you're into music, business, technical hubby & monkeys? You've come to the right place.

Remember, recording is both an art and business. Or is that a business and an art?? Since I don't have a college degree, I couldn't say? But having been a studio owner, for me, it's an art and hopefully enough business to keep you going. Apparently, not so for the largest as they have all closed. And they started off with millions. I didn't. So, yes, secondary employment is necessary to support the art's.

Now to starting your own home studio. Some of us are old school and like the idea of consoles, recorders, outboard processing & other toys. Others can do well with a single device to connect to your computer and a bag full of Shure SM57/58's (including the necessary support accoutrements, cables, stands, headphones, speakers, cables, cables, cables, money, cables).

I work both ways but still prefer my old school stuff. So I have a sizable investment in both equipment and square feet, not to mention my empty bank account. The business plan for making music is nothing like it used to be. It's still based on the lottery that now more promotions, Internet presence, web sites, social networking sites, are necessary. So even more work than before. Less return. So you do it for the art now, more than ever.

Of course, there is such a myriad of equipment available, either scenario is possible with a minimum investment, as there are now inexpensive mixers that included computer connectivity without the need for any external apparatus. An example would be the Mackie Onyx series with optional FireWire cards. There are other digital mixers that are direct interfaces to the computer. I just personally like dedicated recorders that only record & playback. Of course it can also be transferred into the computer for processing in the box. All ways are viable.

Obviously, without a sizable investment, your facility will be the same as most. And even with a sizable investment there is no guarantee of any kind of success. Obviously, it's not profitable for Sony, Columbia, Warner Bros., RCA or any others to even own studios anymore, much less to be signing any new unproven artists. So saying the industry is in a state of flux, is an understatement. Flux, as in the agent to help evenly spread molten solder, i.e. hotter than burning. Melting down. Being assimilated. Resistance is futile. But do it if you love it. There's your reason.

Borg engineer
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/04/2008 - 20:09
Wow! This is great, thank you so much for the awesome responses. It took me 30 years to finally figure out what I was meant to do, and damnit, I'm going to give it my all and see what happens! You never know until you really try, right? I'm sure I'll be a regular on this website, thanks again to everbody that took the time to respond. We're in the market to buy a home right now and I'm thinking potential recording studio space is going to be a prerequisite!

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/04/2008 - 20:19
And as a sidenote, in response to the responses, why is this the worst time to open a recording studio? How are the big-name bands of today getting signed? Are they really recording their own stuff and completely bypassing the traditional recording studio? I know the bands I've befriended try to save up enought cheddar just to get back in the studio...and I also know a couple musicians who simply do the recording I guess my question is once you have the product, how does it get discovered?

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/04/2008 - 22:57
Times are tough because of world wide recession leaving people with little money for luxuries like recording their yodeling anthology.

Secondly, the proliferation of home recording gear has enabled bands to record more and more at home and only engage studios for final stage mixing and mastering.

You get discovered by being worth discovering.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 08/05/2008 - 03:52

The music business as we knew it is gone. It is being replaced, in many cases, by the DIY generation who do their own music in their own houses and don't really care if someone even likes what they are doing. They are driven by their own creativity and their own need to produce something tangible. They have no thoughts of selling anything and if they do get discovered they may or may not want to get signed. If they do sell the stuff they have recorded it will be sold on the INTERNET or at their concerts. The artist of today does not need the distribution of a record company and many of them are very suspicious of anyone who is trying to make money off of them or their music. To them music is the religion and it cannot be bought or sold for fear that it will prostitute their art.

The market for the DIYer has been over saturated with places like GC, Sam Ash, Sweetwater and Full Compass to name some names. There are only so many people who need what these mass merchants are selling and that point was reached a couple of years ago. Sales are declining and everyone who wants someway to record has already bought it and now the only sales are to people who are just starting out or people who want to upgrade.

I live in a town of 7500 and I would venture to say that about 1 in 4 households have someway of recording and own at least a computer, a sound card, a microphone and some headphones and regularly use them for recording. Maybe one in ten households have more elaborate equipment and there are a number of basement or bedroom studios that have some serious money invested in recording gear. Most of these are studios that are the personal work place of the person that owns the equipment and he or she has purchased this equipment for their own use and may, if asked. use it to record some friend's music as well.

The two professional studios in this area are both doing poorly and the one studio is on the verge of going belly up.

This is not a good time for people running recording studios.

Couple this need for DIY with the current recession and I think you can see why this might not be a great time to open a recording studio. Many people consider getting themselves recorded and mixed and mastered by a professional a luxury and as we all know luxuries are the first thing that goes in a downward turn in the economy.

Hopefully with a new president in office in January and with oil prices continuing to fall we will see some relief from this "recession" by next summer and if you can afford to wait that maybe the earliest you even want to think about starting a studio.


Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Tue, 08/05/2008 - 03:54
Mon77 wrote: And as a sidenote, in response to the responses, why is this the worst time to open a recording studio? How are the big-name bands of today getting signed? Are they really recording their own stuff and completely bypassing the traditional recording studio? I know the bands I've befriended try to save up enought cheddar just to get back in the studio...and I also know a couple musicians who simply do the recording I guess my question is once you have the product, how does it get discovered?
The music industry is changing rapidly. The major labels are losing gross income, margins and market share. Their old big advantage of a huge distribution system has been lost to the internet. (Though they are still the only ones who can do saturation national marketing.) Smaller labels and DIY (the "long tail") are relatively more important. If you can think of a way to make money working on a small scale rather than helping people "get signed by a big studio" you may be better off. Don't get caught investing in a buggy whip factory.

In general, music suffering from competition from a lot of other forms of entertainment: video games, etc. Composing game music and ringtones are hot musical areas right now.

Find a niche. Keep your overhead low. Good luck.

Member for

20 years 6 months

MadMax Tue, 08/05/2008 - 08:29

Got another angle to look at....

There are all kinds of studios out there... big, small, inbetween... great equipment to junk.

Remy, Thomas and Bob are dead on the money... to actually get into the craft of recording is best looked at two ways, IMHO...

Either you slog it out as a pawn for the Banjo Marts and buy junk prosumer to decent demo stuff... and hope like hell to develop chops, or you got deep enough pockets to suffer through building out a really high-end rig.

But rather than take that approach, why not do the industry a real favor and fill in a big part of the missing link that's plague-like in the industry? e.g. a real producer/promoter?

You have the musical background and the business experience to help guide bands and muso's to potential success.

Rather than having to learn a particular piece of gear, getting used to a specific set of parameters, etc... (ad nausium)... I might consider seeking a niche in bridging the gap of home recordist type bands and the business of making money.

So many bands and individuals are going after the "magic bullet" of fame and fortune, that it's all but impossible to rise above the noise floor of mediocrity. At least, by doing it on their own. The business of music is fraught with all kinds of legal issues, and most musicians are lost in that thing called business savvy.

Many are the contracts that are signed that end up in bands going in huge debt, loosing the right to their own music, being shelved and otherwise getting totally screwed by their "great" label deal.

Sorry to be so crass, but the industry needs a major enema, and it's getting it. But it's not a therapeutic cleansing. It's due to a hostile seizure from the people that run the banjo marts and provide your internet service.

I'm not saying muso's are stoopid, I'm saying that they need to understand that there are people on the money side of the equation that that will ruthlessly steal intellectual property as cheaply and easily as they can get away with.

We need folks in the industry to be the muso's advocate and who can "work the deal" to keep the abuse to a minimum and yield a decent profit to all parties.

Call it producer, promoter, manager or whatever you want... but it's evolving that this type of decent individual is seriously needed in todays Music Industry 2.0.

Something to think about...

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 08/05/2008 - 22:56
I've been doing research and reading as many articles as I could find on the music industry...what an eye opener. It's not that I wasn't aware of Napster, iTunes, Myspace Music, etc., but I had no idea of the impact that this has had on the music industry, record labels, recording studios, etc. My husband bought me an iPod for x-mas and though I was initially resistant, I soon became addicted and love nothing more than to spend a few hours (and too much $$) on iTunes...I haven't purchased an actual CD what now? I definitely want to get some basic quality recording equipment and start learning how to record my own stuff. Of all days too, I literally just went on Myspace and discovered that my "project" band has disbanded as of today...I had been their #1 band-aid when they first formed almost 10 years ago, and always thought if I could just get their music heard by the right people...ahh well, I may look into MadMax's suggestion of the manager/promoter, though I'd be unsure of how to go about that as well...I suppose more reading up to do!
Thanks again for all the great input, I definitely had more fun researching the biz than boring case law.

Member for

20 years 6 months

MadMax Wed, 08/06/2008 - 04:05

At present, and in the foreseeable future, Intellectual Property is the real battlefield in our industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of the big guns are now on the side of the larger business entities than the side of the content creators.

Again, I don't wish to discourage you from learning the craft of recording... nor anyone else for that matter. However, I will point out that you have a unique skill set that is desperately in demand.

Rather than shelling out some quickly had mediocre gear, I would suggest you invest in some studio time at one of the better equipped studios in the area.

See if they will maybe let you observe a session, pseudo intern for a few weeks, etc... enough to get your feet wet.

IMHO, the role of a "real" recording studio is changing, and it's viability is going to cycle to a point where you need to be able to do things that the home recordist cannot do. The first being able to track drums. The second, is an acoustically neutral mix environment.

Tracking drums is the one thing that is the major weak point in the prosumer/home studio. This is mainly because folks just don't have the volume of air/floor space to build a good drum room.

A good control room will ensure accurate mixes. Many a frustrating hour is spent going over and over a mix trying to get it to translate to other system. Again, this is the problem with many small rooms.

You'll note that I haven't mentioned gear at all up to now. That's because the acoustics of your environments are IMHO far more important than the gear you use.

To get your feet wet on actually mixing and tracking, I'd suggest the following as a possible minimal investment...

Reaper software... for $40, it's a no brainer if you are on PC. The Mac version should be out soon, if it isn't already. It's very powerful and very much a translatable skillset for most DAW software packages.

Lynx converters are one hell of a bang for the buck and can be used in both mac and pee cee platforms.

Start with a great set of monitors... I'm partial to my Focal's. After 10 years, I can honestly say the darn things are what I've been searching for and what you hear is exactly what you get... acoustics of the room all being accounted for.

Quality mics and cables are a must. That doesn't mean big bucks either. A half dozen SM57's, SM58's, a pair of 81's and a D6 will get you a good starting package.

Mic pre's are a major investment. You don't have to buy a lunchbox of API's or a rack of 1073's to get good pre's... although it certainly would be a great package. But a good rule of thumb that I've found is $1200/channel is about where the pro level leaves the prosumer market. There are deals to be had, but remember... good stuff ain't cheap, and cheap stuff ain't always good.

Too often, the purchaser of gear is lead to believe the hype and advertising of the banjo marts. So, you end up buying wrong... and will continue to buy wrong. Which is exactly what the manufacturers want. They aren't in this for the music. They're in this for the profit margin. So invest in your gear wisely and when it comes time to trade up (if you get the bug... you'll never trade down) you'll get a better return on your investment loss.

A lifelong buddy of mine teaches at MTSU. We had this very conversation several years ago. One of the most eye opening statements I've ever heard was when he told me that opening a studio is not going to make you financially rich, it will be a labor of love that will dwindle your bank account and give you other rewards that you must decide if they outweigh the financial loss.

The other way you'll hear it expressed is; "Wanna make a million dollars with a recording studio?? Start with two million dollars."

If you are interested in the IP side of things, pop me a PM, I've got a coupla' folks I'll put you in touch with...