Is getting seasoned professionals to actually come to your studio, do good work that enhances your reputation and pay
you a reasonable fee for that service, getting harder and harder?
Have you tried all the usual ancillary services like mastering, CD cover designs, short-run duplication, restoring old
tapes, CD replication brokerage and producing unsigned bands in the hope of them striking it big?
If the answer to both questions is ‘yes’ read on . . .
Fame but no Fortune?
When I opened my present studio, The Byre, the interest was nothing short of massive. I was interviewed on local
TV and radio and even before the place was finished, people came past just to look at the building work.
Of course none of this attention translated into riches! Studios may arouse interest, but they are not arousing much
money nowadays. People want to visit studios, they even may want to read about studios or watch television programmes
about what goes on in a studio, but there are very, very few who have the time, the money and the talent to record live music
in a proper studio.
The core problem of a studio is the total lack of scalability, or as Richard Boote, who is now owner of Air as well as
the Strongroom, puts it, "You can only sell a studio 365 days in the year!"
The Home Front
The truth is, that from Italy to Indiana, home recording is taking over and now recording music is no longer the preserve
of the professional, but is a multi-billion Dollar, consumer activity. The problem for the home recordist is that he
or she usually has never been in a commercial facility and therefore has little or no idea of the practicalities of recording
real music or running a studio. On the back of all this domestic enthusiasm, dozens of books, scores of magazines and
thousands of websites have been launched for the hobby recording enthusiast.
Most as this literary activity comes from hobbyists themselves, so a great deal of half-baked misinformation is spouted
on websites, forums and even in books. Several magazines are dedicated to telling the boys on the Home Front how to
do it like a real professional (that’s you by the way!)
Rather than seeing home recording as a threat to your business, look upon these bedroom heroes as a market for you to
exploit. To help you to earn from this new and growing industry, here’s a list of things studios around
the World are doing to augment their regular income and expand their business.
Many studios run workshops for home recording enthusiasts and college students. To do this, the outlay is more
or less nothing. You already have a studio, so why not use it? You could even get local musicians to act as guinea-pigs
to be recorded by the students in exchange for the resultant demo.
Some studios even form relationships with their local colleges and have a regular stream of music-technology classes
coming in for the kind of hands-on experience that the college studio could not give them.
The down-side is that having classes and workshops in your studio does not solve the biggest problem of a studio, scalability.
It does however help to fill the calendar and gets the name of the studio out there.
Holding classes in your studio may not be scalable, but selling educational aides over the Internet is infinitely scalable!
Most home recording enthusiasts do not have access to multitracks of live recording sessions and you do and you could be out
there, selling them multitrack projects for them to practise their mixing skills on.
It may be an obvious thing to say, but it is important that you own the rights to the recording - putting out a multitrack
is legally the same as releasing a CD. Of course, it helps to have a good clean and completely unprocessed multitrack
recording with good musicians. Every system out there takes WAV files and you might even be able to charge more for
the multitrack, then you would have got for the finished, mixed and mastered CD!
Websites for Musicians
If you built your own studio website, then you have a skill that 99% of the population does not have. More importantly,
it is a skill that you can sell or use to enhance your other services. Creating websites could hardly be easier.
There are hundreds of providers of on-line space and the going rate seems to be about $5 a month for 1GB and $10 a month for
3GB or more. Nearly all these plans have templates that can be used to get going quickly and all will allow you to integrate
designs that you have made in Word, PageMaker, FrontPage or any one of the hundreds of programmes that can generate html.
Marketing a website service can be done separately, or bundled with a recording or other work. My personal experience
has been that an all-in-one package of recording, duplication and packaging, with a website and music download sells quite
Some studios are turning into shops. In this age of falling sales, many wholesalers will be happy to sell to recording
studios at regular, wholesale prices as if you had a store-front on the High Street. You can start with a limited range
of goods on offer, perhaps cables, mic stands, acoustic foam or whatever you feel most comfortable with and build it from
there. Also, never forget selling t-shirts and other items with the name of your studio on them. A useful way
to start would be with a visit to the giant Musikmesse in Frankfurt and talk to some manufacturers and wholesalers.
Your own Brand
If you know how to build equipment, or even if you have a supplier of good, completed assemblies, you could be putting
these in boxes and selling them on-line. You would, of course have to get the usual safety certification, but this is
not the massive hurdle that some think it is, though a certain amount of understanding and effort is involved.
The equipment could carry the name of your studio and therefore enhance the image of the product and the studio simultaneously.
If your studio has a high enough profile, it may make for commercial sense to license your name to an existing brand.
Plug-in manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to create an image for themselves, after all, just how many more
tape saturation plugs do we need? The name of your studio could be earning you money on the side and helping your own
image at the same time.
In the near future, there will be a shortage of good, reasonably priced, high definition material that people will actually
want to watch. Small, live concerts in your studio could fill that gap. You can work with a local video company, who
are open to the idea of small, hi-def concerts. The project could take the form of a three-way, joint venture with the
musicians. A modest, four camera setup, with editor and grips (dolly, jib, stands) will cost about £50,000 without lighting,
so even if you feel that you could fly solo, it makes more sense to hire in freelance camera people who will have their own
cameras anyway. They will also probably do a better job than you will!
Video programmes about your studio.
It may not get into prime-time, but there is a market out there for ‘making-of’ videos. Home recording
enthusiasts in particular are keen to know what goes on in a ‘real’ studio and the recording of the various processes
involved in making a record can be turned into a television programme.
And if you think that the market for watching someone trying to get a bass riff right for the fifth time is limited,
theme channels in every country show programmes that are far more obscure. Just about every industrial process you can
think of, from steel smelting to ripening Italian cheeses has been made into a programme. It’s all there, from
salting crisps to making chocolate bars and even a half-hour programme on a feather-sorting machine.
One US demolition company has launched its own media company to make programmes about some of their more spectacular
projects and sell them to theme channels around the World. You may think that recording a rock band or some film music
is not particularly exciting, but trust me, it is almost a white-knuckle ride compared to watching Italian cheeses ripen!
Marketing to theme channels may help to get the name of your studio out there, but it does not pay as these boys expect
to get their programming in large packages, but on-line DVD sales can mount up to a considerable sum over the years.
Just like demo rooms, budget-priced mobiles are not doing well at all, though there is an argument for adding location
recording to your list of services as a cheaper, flight-cased thing, hiring in the additional equipment as and when you need
it. The demand for location recording varies widely from region to region and also fluctuates a great deal, so careful
market research is required here, before indulging in any major investment.
There is a growing market for audio for concert videos and this tendency is expected to grow as everyone is targeting
big, prestige concerts in HD with 5.1 audio. This means that if you are looking to some serious mobile work as an additional
source of income, be prepared for some considerable investment, including a truck, desk, video links and masses of cable.
Even if you already have everything a good studio should, adapting your existing gear to running an up-market mobile recording
unit will involve you in a fair amount of additional expense, so it is a step not to be taken lightly.
Not many studio owners have become studio consultants, but a few have been able to do this and earn money on the side,
helping home-studio owners build a recording space that will work for them. Where acousticians and architects loose
out is in the practicalities of building a functional studio. Simple things like having the machine room near the control
room - or even having a machine room at all - are a major revelation to nearly all architects and the need for a green room
or even something as fundamental as a loading ramp or parking are things that you are very likely to know a great deal about.
One studio owner told me that he had sent out a circular to all architects and acousticians, backed up by a
suitable website and has been able to get a few good design consultancy jobs.
"It may not be big Bucks, but it is beer money and every little helps!"
Sound effects, music and samples
This may be hard to believe, but across planet Earth, even more people are making home videos than are making music in
their bedrooms. Making and editing videos, even in hi-def, has become the great pastime for millions. Editing
video in Premier or Final Cut may be easy, but very few have the ability to add music or even basic sound effects. Simple
recordings of everyday sounds that might seem mundane to you and me, are hard to capture if all you have is a single video
camera with a cheap, built-in microphone. Subways, traffic, single cars, doors, footsteps, bird song, restaurant chatter,
you name it and there is a market for this sound for the home video maker.
Another product much loved by the ‘videographer’ is copyright-free music as 16-bit, 48kHz WAV files, suitable
for direct import into a video editor. It does not have to be much and very often is the kind of thing that a recording
studio can put out cheaply and easily. Lush chords and sweeps, pads and simple progressions designed to fill out a home
video are easily produced and can be distributed from the back-pages of video magazines and of course via our old friend,
One studio owner, who had gone in for selling sound effects and copyright-free music told us that two-thirds of his studio
turnover now came from these on-line sales.
"I spend nearly every morning packaging and sending off CDs all around the World. We now invest in advertising,
Surprisingly, one Canadian studio owner told me that he was making a good side-income recording ethnic
and regional talking books.
"Folks around here are happy to get anything from our part of the World and last Christmas we sold stories for children,
recorded in the local dialect and featuring stories about the region by local authors."
On-line sales were reported as being less important than the local general goods store and the corner shop or post office.
Children’s stories for Christmas by local authors who are only too happy to see their stories being used for a small
fee seem to be a safer way into this market and of course talking books do not date in the same way that rock and pop dates,
so you could end up selling the same books for many years to come.
Other ideas include making karaoke recordings, letting out rooms as rehearsal spaces, white-room and production-room
rental, technical services and repairs, equipment hire, on-line mixing services and on-line song demos where the customer
sends in a rough tune and the studio makes a professional backing track for the customer to sing over at home.