Types of Studio
Large prestige studio
Medium and small
The Home Studio
Other types of studio

             Types of Studio             

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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 do.

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.

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The Byre Recording Studio