Types of Studios and their Uses
I have divided studios into large, medium, small, project room, post production and mobile, but very often a studio will
fall between these rough categories. Some large studios have smaller studios, post production rooms, or a mobile recording
rig as part of their operations.
The equipment budgets for single room studios are approximately
Large - £500,000 to £5m +
Medium - £100,000 to £500,000
Small - £10,000 to £100,000
Project - £3,000 to £500,000
All-in-the-Box - £2,000 to £50,000
Post - £20,000 to £5m +
Mastering - £30,000 to £100,000
Mobile - £10,000 to £1m (inc truck)
As I pointed out above, these are for single rooms. If a studio complex
has several rooms within its facility, quite obviously, the costs have to be added.
Of course the cost of the building has to be added and in recent
years this cost has killed off many city studios and those close to major cities. Property prices are a problem for any business
close to a city. Look at it this way: if you bought a farm 50 miles from London with lots of nice outbuildings that could
be converted to a studio way back in the 60’s, it may have cost you as much as £5,000. Back then 50 miles from London
was deep in the countryside and too far to commute. Today it is almost a part of London and that farm would be worth well
over one million and probably much more. If the farm is somewhere fashionable, it could be worth many millions and no low-income
enterprise like a studio can afford to sit on an asset like that.
For some of the inner-city studios the situation can be even worse. Many studios
sit in buildings that cannot, for reasons such as planning permission or leasehold agreements, be used for any other purpose.
But the costs keep climbing and in real terms, returns in the music business keep falling. That means that the owners just
have to grit their teeth, take out a lease on an even bigger desk, and hope that the competition goes belly-up before they
That’s why, when I asked a London-based producer if any studios
were up for sale, he laughed out loud. "There isn’t a single studio in London that isn’t up for sale!"
Viva la Difference!
I have been asked why it should be so important to differentiate
between the types of studio. Well, I’ll put it this way; you have to know what the various types are and then decide
what kind of studio you need. If you need it for your own electronic music, you will not need a live room and a project studio
would be the right choice. If you are trying to attract paying customers, you have to fit their preconceived notions of what
a large, medium or small studio should be.
Robbie Burns said `Oh wud some power the giftee gee us, to see ourselves
as others see us!`
I know of one studio owner who was perfectly convinced that he has
built a medium sized studio that can charge accordingly. He built the studio in a building in an industrial estate (ouch!)
next to a smelly and noisy cart racing-track (ouch!) in a small 60m space for everything including lavatories, kitchen space,
live room and control room (ouch!). The desk was one of the cheapest you can buy (ouch!) and the recording system was below
good amateur standard (ouch!) and has just 16 converters (ouch!). I could go on about the quality of the build (a bodged DIY
job), the mics, the monitors, etc., but you get the idea.
Sadly, the whole project collapsed within months.
What he had built was a perfectly good demo room. The trouble was
that he just did not know it! At demo room prices, musicians would be prepared to record in an industrial estate. At demo
prices, the customer does not expect a high professional standard. The customer’s view of the studio and the owner’s
view of the studio have to match if a commercial studio is to succeed.
Indeed, for any kind of studio to succeed, even if it is ‘just’ recording
your own music (and that can be one of the hardest tasks going) it has to be up to the job. You will never record that great
single or album using the wrong sort of system or in the wrong sort of room.
Studios very often get built for completely non-commercial reasons, for example as teaching facilities or
as hobby studios and these are built at every level.
The very, very rich do occasionally build top studios as playthings - that is when they are not building
racing yachts or flying their own jetliners. At least studios do not sink or crash. But these studios just gather dust for
a while until their owners get bored or die and then the equipment ends up on the used market, where lucky, hard-pushed professionals
can pick up a bargain or two.
My favourite hobby studio never actually recorded anything. It was set in a villa that overlooked the Alps
and the studio owner was a small, round man with ‘Harry Potter’ style glasses who greeted us (I was there to install
some equipment) dressed in full Star Trek uniform. The studio was a complete copy of the bridge on the ‘Enterprise’
except that the ‘Captain’s Chair’ was behind a large desk and instead of the screen where Klingons spat
there defiance at Captain Kirk, there was a picture window overlooking the valley. There was in fact no live room and it had
never occurred to our would-be Captain to build one.
But some hobby studios are used intensively and provide their owners with hours of fun and enjoyment. Just as the owner
of a sailing boat does not expect to use the boat for any professional purpose, so the owner of a hobby studio does not usually
seek to rent out for profit.