The Studio Business
What does the client want?
Economic Reality
Real Life Business Models
Additional Income
How to save money
Your Market Survey
The Digital Time Bomb
Advertising and Sales
Marketing means to listen!
The Future Studio
Record industry crisis
Band Legal Status
Myths of the Industry

          Advertising and Sales         

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Advertising and Sales
As we have seen over the past months, there is a great deal more to marketing than trying to sell something.  You have found out what the rough size of the market in your location is, and how much you can draw from outside your immediate catchment area.  You have benchmarked your facility against others and found out what the customer expects to have to pay.  You also discovered what the customer hopes to find in your studio and possibly even what they think of you.
Now we come the last part, getting them through the door.  To do this, there are three steps you have to take.  Firstly you have to make the customer aware that you exist, then you have to inform them about your product and lastly, get them to buy it.  These three steps are called Image, Inform and Initiate Sale.
The objective is not to try to sell anything, but to enhance the image and get your brand well known.  The most familiar form of image creation is advertising on television and should make people aware of the existence of a brand and associate with it qualities that they are seeking.
When you are sitting at home, watching television and you see an advertisement for Sudso Washing Powder, there is little likelihood that you will rush out to buy a pack of Sudso, but with each viewing, you are becoming more 'Sudso aware.'  And if the advertisement is doing its job, you will associate Sudso with sunshine, flowers and all the good things in life.  Of course, TV advertising is totally inappropriate for a recording studio.  But you will still need to make potential customers aware of your facility and associate it with quality work.  The good news is, this does not have to cost you anything! 
Recording studios and similar facilities are more newsworthy than other businesses.  Combine that with the fact that most regional media are crying out for good, local stories and you will see that your latest project could be on local television or in the local paper, getting your message across.  An article about your studio can carry weight and enhance your image, and at no cost to yourself.  The important thing to remember here is a hook.   The hook of a story is the event or angle that the journalist uses to hang the rest of the story from.  For example, 'Scunthorpe Studio buys used Piano' is not a story.  But 'Piano from Famous Musician comes to Scunthorpe' is a story. 
If you have recorded some film music, tell the local press, especially when the film is about to come out.  Even some TV theme music is worth a mention and local newspapers often use a 'hook' like this to hang an entire feature on about your studio or about the music business in general.  As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to get one good write-up in the local press about once a year, usually during the Summer, when there are fewer competing news stories, the so-called 'Silly Season.'   A simple press release, outlining who you are, what the story is and inviting them to call you to find more, is all you need.
You can also get good column inches and enhance your reputation by donating studio time to worthy causes.  This could be for talent show winners, or just the local male voice choir's next charity album.  All this type of activity not only gets your name out into the community, but also puts you and your facility into a good light.
A simple and effective form of advertising is to put up a sign.  I can remember one German studio in the 70's that was able to outsell all his local competitors, despite not even having multitrack, simply by having a nice brass nameplate displayed at a major T-junction.  Every day, thousands of commuters had to stop at that intersection and the studio sign was right in front of them.
Part of your image, is the name of the studio.  Most studios are named either for the building they are in, or the street they are on.  Not only does this help the customer to find the place on a map, but gives it a familiar and reassuring sound.  Marketing people regard pompous names for small companies to be deadly - and they are almost certainly right.  Calling a studio in a shed 'Allied National Media' can only lead to disappointment.  Calling it 'The Shed' and even using a picture of a shed in the logo is more in the spirit of rock-n-roll. 
Many studio owners get the message out there by giving advise on recording forums, though this can be a double-edged sword, as arguments seem to break out with regularity in the less professional boards.  So caution is recommended!  But one US studio owner told us that, by regularly posting short and sensible answers to musicians questions about recording, they have received bookings worth $30,000 over the past two years from forum members contacting them as a direct result.  The manager of a Christian studio also claimed to have been able to book several thousand Dollars worth of business as a result of posting in Christian music forums.
Your most important method of informing prospective clients about your studio is your website.  It is also the place where many studios manage to annoy their customers the most. 
One agency employee told me, "If I am researching studios for one of our artists, the very last thing I want to see is a multimedia presentation, complete with music and animation.  If they insist on wasting bandwidth on that sort of thing, don't put it between me and the information I need, or I just won't bother to look any further!"
The first page is still part of the overall image, so a couple of nice pictures, a short mission statement and of course a menu.  Potential customers told us that they were looking for a kit list, a list of services, pictures of the studio, a recent client list and a plan of the studio floor. 
If building your own website is not your idea of fun, there are even more web designers out there than demo studios (though you might find this difficult to believe!)   This means that getting a professional-looking website up and running, complete with template for you to update when necessary, can cost you as little as 200.  There are also dozens of webspace providers that also bundle in templates that make site building very easy and can integrate proper html that you have either written yourself or have had written for you.    They also provide URLs and most seem to cost about $5 a month or less.
In this age of unyielding torrents of spam, there is still a role to play for the humble email.  A regular newsletter, emailed out to all friends, customers and potential customers helps to remind them of your continued existence and inform them of improvements you might have made.  Also inform every person out there that has links to the music scene, so put local music stores, piano tuners and even equipment repair shops on your list.
Not everybody is on the Internet all the time.  You still need to be able to get your message across at trade fairs, back stage at venues, at business meetings or just out and about when shopping or going out at night.  That means you need a simple, full-colour brochure.  If you want people to think of your facility as being fully professional, this should be in as good a quality as possible and never something knocked out on the office ink-jet! 
Initiate Sale
Your most important tool for initiating a sale is the telephone.  This means that you must have a land line and someone available during the working day that answers the phone.  It is of course a long step from calling a studio and actually parting with thousands of Pounds for the pleasure of using their equipment, so answering that first call is important.   During that phone call, you goal is to get the customer to come into the studio and talk about their project. 
The visit should be well-structured and you should be able to give them your undivided attention for as long as it takes to discuss every aspect of the recording.  If possible, the studio should be free and of course, clean and tidy.   It helps to have some unbelievably good examples of your work to listen to, that are relevant to what they are doing.
Although some studio owners may not like the idea, it is better to have a set sales routine - indeed, the customer will want you to go through the key advantages of your studio in a logical manner.  Think about the way in which you show off the studio.   Try starting with the live room, a quick walk through other parts of the studio and finishing off in the control room, with a nice cup of coffee or tea and a quiet chat.  If the customer is the engineer or producer, have him sit in the (very comfortable!) chair that he would use during recording.  That way, he gets used to the idea of sitting there and begins to feel familiar with the layout and, hopefully, at home.
Any furniture salesman will tell you that you must never ask the customer if they want to buy something.  The question "Would you like to book our studio?" will invariably illicit the answer "Well, we are still thinking about it." which is tantamount to saying "No!" 
Once he is relaxed, you can begin to discuss the project.  It is an essential part of any sales talk to listen carefully and deeply to what the customer is trying to achieve.  That way, you can suggest improvements and even ways for him to save money.  Keep the discussion going until booking your studio becomes the logical outcome of the conversation.  If you show that you are as interested in his project as he is and that his goals and yours could merge into one successful venture, he is more likely to trust his great opus to your studio.
And once they are happy to walk through your door, they might just tell their friends and then you will belong to the majority of those we spoke to who told us that 60% of their trade came via personal recommendations from existing customers.   
And that is the best advertising of all!


The Byre Recording Studio