It's no surprise to anybody that the recording business has changed significantly in the last 10 to 15 years. Big and expensive studios are seeing a decline in their business, while small studios are thriving like never before. This is the reason more and more people can start their own studios, which can take a certain amount of patience and discipline to run efficiently.
While many people think that the recording business is dead, it is actually not so – it has just taken a different form due to the so-called “bedroom studio revolution”. Everybody that owns a computer can technically make a recording of some sort and start making money if the product is good enough.
Here are a few ideas to keep or make your studio business run successfully.
Let's face it – there is nothing that will bring you clients through the door like having a reputation for being reliable and professional. It doesn't matter how big or expensive your studio is or how much gear top-shelf you have.
Keep backups of your projects so that the the tracks and projects are safe in case of a disaster. There is nothing worse than losing data and having to re-record it again, while covering costs out of your own pocket.
Being reliable also means arriving at the studio on time and never making the clients wait on you. If you're booked for a tracking session, arrive at the studio early and make sure that everything is turned on and set up for the task at hand, so that the band doesn't have pay for time they spend watching you set up.
When you're mixing, be on time with the mixes. If you have to send the mix in by 5PM, get it ready by 4PM, so that you have time to rest your ears, check it again and adjust the mix, if something happens to be off. If for any reason you can't turn in the mix on time, let the band know beforehand – it'll be greatly appreciated.
Always respond to messages and e-mails as soon as you can. Nobody wants to wait days for an answer from their engineer, because a band's music is like their baby.
It seems that it's easier said than done, but you have to be a likable and open when working with musicians. Try to accommodate your clients the best you can and make sure that they feel good at your place.
No matter what's going on in your life outside the record, make sure to keep the mood as uplifting as you can.
Being likable also means having less arguments with the musicians over typical stuff like redoing a take, changing arrangements and trying out new ideas, as they will think of you in terms of being a temporary member of the band. Engineers and musicians perform their best when they are on the same team.
Being likable also includes keeping your studio as nice as possible – make sure that the lighting is appropriate for the mood, keep a comfortable room temperature and be sure to clean the place so it's always pleasant to be in. Having extra items like incense or scented candles can also help to give some extra vibe to the place. Nobody likes to work in a smelly, messy studio with a grumpy engineer. Make the musicians feel like they are your most valued clients, no matter what project you're working on.
MANAGE YOUR EXPENSES AND PLAN AHEAD
Once you have your social skills in check, it is time to break out the calculator and figure out how much you need to earn every month to break even and actually start making money.
It's a good idea to plan ahead and try to predict when you might make less than expected, such as late December to early January, when people may go into Christmas mode and take vacations. Make sure that you have some extra money saved up so that you too can enjoy Christmas time without worries.
Always save some money for emergencies, such as when your gear breaks. It also helps to get insurance for your studio gear in case of a disaster or theft. Speaking of insurance – making contracts with your clients is important to make sure that you will get paid for your work.
Having some basic recording and mixing templates ready will save you very much time. It really is unnecessary to set up your mixing sessions from scratch every time as, chances are, they are going to be very similar to each other routing-wise. The time you save every day on this will amount to month’s worth of just routing tracks throughout your whole career. Crazy, right?! Would you not rather be making money during that time?
Another major factor in being efficient is prepping your mix. Fixing sloppy edits and tuning vocals are not supposed to be done during mixing and they will take away your creative spirit very quickly.
Don't obsess over the tiny details when you are making the first mix for the artist. Go by your gut instincts and get the mix out to the artist as quickly as possible, even if it is not “done”. It's actually not even supposed to be done, as you need feedback to know if you're even heading in the right direction. If the first rough mix is approved, you can then worry about the finer details. Imagine spending four days on the first mix only to find out that it's not what the client wants at all.
TAKE A DAY OFF
When you're busy working on many different projects at once, it's actually very easy to forget about yourself and your own well being. Many engineers are guilty of working too much and not resting enough. This can lead to a bunch of different physical and mental problems, so be sure to take a day off once in a while. There are even cases of engineers suffering from temporary hearing loss due to stress.
Set a rule for yourself – for example, promise yourself that you will take one day off every week or every 10 days. Mark the day in your calendar and don't plan any recording or mixing sessions. Being away from the studio will help you regain perspective on the project and you will feel much more inspired to work. When rested, you will also be more focused and you will work faster.
In the modern age of recording you can't really stand out from the crowd with your gear, as pretty much everybody is using the same DAWs and plugins. If you wish to run a successful studio, you have to be a person that others like to be around and you have to put out good work quickly.
Combine your people skills with some efficient planning and you should be in the green!