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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => j. hall => Topic started by: Bmbch on December 27, 2005, 10:28:32 pm

Title: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Bmbch on December 27, 2005, 10:28:32 pm
Steve,

In the "Introduction" thread you mention the purpose of this forum includes discussing the owning and operating of a studio. I appreciate all the threads about gear and techniques, but I wonder if we could discuss the actual business side of a studio?

I commend you on your work ethic, as well as your outspokenness about conducting business in an upright manner. It is refreshing not to be patronized by someone with your experience.

I'd be interested to know more about your general principles in making Electrical a studio that is built to last. Obviously, it's not "all about the money." But I imagine the cost is staggering, and there must be considerable risk. Is there a balance between the punk archetype and the business world? For instance, when do you need lawyers, if at all? When do you need contracts, if at all? Incorporated, LLC or just plain Steve? (This italicized bit was my way of interjecting humor into a seemingly humorless thread. File Under: CPA humor.)

The common "small business" (though, I doubt one could classify Electrical as such) perception seems to be that everything is well and good until hard earned money is involved, and then one must get serious; with "serious" referring to the involvement of contracts, lawyers, limited liability, etc. I find this train of thought dismissive of the idea of the "indie" mindset, but wonder if there is some crossover. And, if so, when?

You've spoken before (on this site I believe) about the idea that the "money issue" shouldn't be taboo, so I ask if you could talk more specifically. What percentage of profit goes back into the studio? What is a gauge of a healthy, or lean, year? What are the criteria for judging whether the business is operating successfully? In comparison with other engineers of your caliber, I imagine your (self-proclaimed) annual salary is modest. Where then, if not in your pocket, does the money go? Or should it be thought of more as lower costs for clients = lower wages for studio personnel?

I ask, in part, because I own a very small independent record label with a friend. We have conducted business with engineers, printers, and manufacturers that are similarly independent, and have not felt the need to "go legit" yet. Pay with cash, and pay on time. We both have a commitment to our interest and appreciate that we could use our label for fundraising, which we've done to our delight. We've been tinkering with the idea of turning the label into a non-profit. We are comfortable with day jobs now -- sinking the money earned through the label back into the label or using if for donation -- with the idea that we could eventually draw a modest income and spend our profits wisely. Is there something you do, personally or as Electrical, to keep a similar balance?

I find the whole process rewarding. And realize my partner and I talk a great deal about shit we never spoke about before. Money, scheduling, following up with people, etc. I haven't been deterred thus far, but I don't think I realized how much time the "administrative" tasks required. Which brings me to my next question: What percentage of your day is reserved for "Steve Time?"


Forgive me if this is too blunt. Most of the independent folks whose business ethic I admire rarely talk about money, but it's usually some money shit that breaks the back of the up-and-comer. It seems logical, then, to be frank about these issues so others may avoid common pitfalls. I am interested in those specifics more than the "how much did Nirvana pay you" type specifics.

Thank you for your time,
Eric
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Daniel Farris on December 27, 2005, 11:00:50 pm
Bmbch wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 03:28

The common "small business" (though, I doubt one could classify Electrical as such)


Great post and, like you, I am eager to read Steve's response.

In the meantime, I would like to point out that Electrical is a small business according to pretty much every definition there is. For most types of businesses, the government says you're a small business if you have less than 500 employees. However, for recording studios, you qualify if you make less than $6.5 million a year.

I think most studios (Electrical included, probably) qualify as micro businesses.

Clarifying the phrase "small business" became a bit of a thing for me after the 2004 presidential campaign where I heard Bush use the phrase hundreds of times, and I had to tell my micro-business owning friends, "He's not talking about you. He's talking about aviation firms and small oil companies (like the one he ruined) in Texas."

DF
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Jason Phair on December 28, 2005, 12:23:56 pm
Definitely small business.  My company owns a few million dollars worth of inventory, and we're certainly considered small business.

Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: t(h)ik on December 28, 2005, 12:39:20 pm
Eric in the mean time you could do a search on Steve's posts.  There was an extensive discussion on the finances of EA.  It was a great thread.  I think it was the role of assistant producer or some such nonsense but Steve's post were very informative for those of us needing mentorship on how to approach dealing with bands.  You may have been referring to this in your post, sorry if I am repeating something you already know.


good luck

tik
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 28, 2005, 01:28:55 pm
This is an interesting topic, and I promise to reply more fully when I can. In short, the way I conduct the business of Electrical Audio is pretty much the way I do everything else.

Nuts and bolts stuff:

Total cost of building and equipping the studio (not current value) a little more than $2 million. I never had that much money in my hand, but that's what it cost to do it all. Annual studio revenues $375,000 - $450,000, depending on a lot of things. Staff of six. Monthly nut $28,000 (salaries, taxes, mortgage, debt service, utilities, insurance, amortized maintenance costs).

This is obviously a precarious position, and doesn't leave much (if any) room for error. It also implies that sometimes there won't be enough money in a given month for me to get a paycheck. If I didn't have both simple tastes and low expenses, that might be a problem. It's a close shave every month, but we've made it for more than a decade now.

Running a professional-caliber studio is not a profitable business. It is a business one hopes to survive in long enough to pay-off the real estate, at which point it can become marginally profitable. If you run a studio and you don't have any equity in the real estate, you're probably going to go broke eventually.

Running a studio in such desperate conditions is only worth doing if you enjoy it for its own sake, and have a stable client base, low expenses and low expectations.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: John Ivan on December 28, 2005, 02:10:16 pm
Steve,,

This is a great topic and it's really big of you to talk about this. You could really help someone here. I wish more people talked about the biz end of all this. Very cool...


I hope this isn't to personal and if so, ignore or slap me up side the head...

Do you have some $$$$ coming in from past productions? And, dose this allow you to operate? I know a guy who has some $$$$ coming in from past work and he invests ALL of that and works his current biz to live on..

Also, do you only take certain things through the door? I mean, if a rockin' soul band came in from Cinci or something, would you record it even if it wasn't your bag   { I don't know ,,you might really dig something like this. It's just an example.}  or are you trying to stay true to stuff that YOU like only. { I know guys who do this.}

Thanks again for being real. It's very very refreshing indeed.

Love music always..

Ivan................................
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 28, 2005, 07:34:18 pm
ivan40 wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 14:10


Do you have some $$$$ coming in from past productions? And, dose this allow you to operate?

Not from engineering, no. I make some modest royalties from the bands I've been in (my share of it), and gig money (roughly $30k a year all-tolled), and most of that goes into the business to allow for what improvements we get to make, building upkeep and the like. I live on my salary, which is about $24k a year, less if it's a bad year.
Quote:

Also, do you only take certain things through the door? I mean, if a rockin' soul band came in from Cinci or something, would you record it even if it wasn't your bag

I will record any swinging dick whose checks don't bounce. I think it would be both rude and counter-productive to vet clients along aesthetic lines.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: John Ivan on December 28, 2005, 08:45:11 pm
Man, am I glad to hear {well,,see}  that last part. I to will record anyone and go play on anyones stuff. When I get calls to play on stuff for young up and coming kids, they will sometimes ask a lot of questions and it's cool to be able to share the mistakes I've made with them.. Then I get calls where I feel I can barely hang and then I get to learn from great great people. Lucky folks for the most part, we who get to jam in one way or another..

I'm taking between 30 and 35 per year playing live and only between 10 and 15 in the studio completing various tasks. This all takes all the energy I have, pretty much...... I get to do what I love though.. Fuck it. It's worth it..

Best.

Ivan................
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Jules on December 28, 2005, 09:16:06 pm
electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 00:34

I will record any swinging dick whose checks don't bounce. I think it would be both rude and counter-productive to vet clients along aesthetic lines.


Hello Steve,

Do you have a stock answer for a band working with you that might hope that you like their music, but you don't?

(or is there some other ethos you hold that deals well with an engineers musical taste & being in the hot seat for a bands recording)

Is musical content to you as engineer:
moot?
An unexpected bonus if good?
Unimportant?

How do you "approve takes"? Do the band have to decide or do you help them with that..

Thanks
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: billdooley on December 28, 2005, 09:30:03 pm
Obviously, it's not "all about the money."

It's never about the money, but it's usually about the amount of money.

Bill Dooley
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 03:51:59 am
Jules wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 21:16


Do you have a stock answer for a band working with you that might hope that you like their music, but you don't

When I'm working on a record, I seldom form an opinion about whether or not I like the music. I don't even think about it, and I believe it is unproductive to think in these terms. There's plenty of time for that once it's finished.

My job is to do a good job on whatever walks in the door, not just those bands of which I happen to be a fan. My taste in music is pretty fucked-up, and it would be a mistake to even allow my tastes to enter into the process, or I would have bands bring their normal music in here only for me to fuck it up to suit my tastes. I think it is a matter of professional obligation for me to suspend my tastes while I'm working for someone else, so that I can come to learn what it is they like and want out of their music. My tastes don't (or shouldn't) mean a damn thing.

There's an analogy I've used before, and I like it, so I'm going to use it again:

I don't think it necessary (or appropriate) for a gynecologist to get turned-on by every vagina he is faced with. I think he needs to have a different relationship with the vagina. I think engineers need to have a similarly-distinct relationship with the music their clients bring to the studio.

Quote:

How do you "approve takes"? Do the band have to decide or do you help them with that..

I usually ask them what they think, and they decide. It is extremely rare for a band to be unable to form an opinion of their own music, once they understand that they're allowed and encouraged to do so.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 03:53:19 am
billdooley wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 21:30

Obviously, it's not "all about the money."

It's never about the money, but it's usually about the amount of money.

Bill Dooley


Bill Dooley! I refute your flippant remark! It is funny, yet I refute it! Take that!
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: jason goz on December 29, 2005, 06:35:33 am
What about the work life balance?,I worked six days a week for five years(about 70 hours) trying to get things off of the ground,After wihich time i trimmed things back to five days a week but i still struggle with the work/life balance.I should be at home now but i popped in to cut a couple of dubs for a client.How does everyone else mananage this in the long term.
Jason
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 11:34:01 am
Jason Goz wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 06:35

What about the work life balance?,I worked six days a week for five years(about 70 hours) trying to get things off of the ground,After wihich time i trimmed things back to five days a week but i still struggle with the work/life balance.


In general, I work 7 days a week, and have for the last 15 years or so. Days off are only due to unavoidable gaps in scheduling. The more days I work, the more money the studio brings in, and the better chance the business has to survive. This business essentially is my life, and I don't make a distinction between the two.

As an experiment, I have tried to give myself one day off a week for the first six months of 2006, and this has proven really difficult. Since any band that's travelling here (especially internationally) is being asked to grant quite an indulgence if they are here for a non-working day. Also, weekend days are the most in demand, so I had to settle for taking Tuesdays off. This is okay with me, since Tuesday is poker night.

Knocking one day's income off every week is what really worries me. It's conceivable that this alone might drive the studio into the red, in which case I will have to go back to working every day.

I have not been able to manage the bookings to give me every Tuesday off, but I am trying to lighten my schedule slightly. We'll see how it goes.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Bmbch on December 29, 2005, 11:59:50 am
electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 11:34

 This business essentially is my life, and I don't make a distinction between the two.


Though not the same, but similar, my work is my life. When my lovely girlfriend asks what I want to do on a weekend and I excitedly blurt out something label-related, I am occasionally met with the stink eye. Slow to realize the question was more about what we wanted. You know?

My girlfriend is a very ambitious woman who has personal pursuits that keep her quite busy. There's not a lot of "what about us time" difficulty, but my single-mindedness is too strong at times. Those are the days when I come off as a selfish ass.

So let's forget about In Utero for a minute and talk about our lovely partners. After 3 weeks of non-stop engineering, and you're on the receiving end of the stink eye, what do you do?
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: jfrigo on December 29, 2005, 12:15:07 pm
This is definitely the kind of thread that needs to show up more on these kinds of forums but seldom does. Even if it does, there is seldom a person willing to put it all out there for people to really learn from. Much respect, Steve.

Lots of people look at these boards and want to start a studio. It's easy to pick a lot of cool gear, spend all kinds of money on a space and a bunch of toys, but actually running a business is a different story. You need a plan and some projections. This could be in the traditional sense where you write it all down in a somewhat formal document, or it could just be chicken scratches on a sheet of paper to make sure you understand the nuts and bolts and the numbers balance. The writing of the more formal plan can be realy helpful, so don't discount its value. Once you start looking at all the expenses you'll have each month, from rent/mortgage, to utilities, to insurnace, to debt service on the equipment, you can compare that to reasonable (I said reasonable!) expactations of your income based on your market and your rates. It can become clear pretty quickly that you are overspending and can't make ends meet. That lets you tailor your plan and startup costs to allow your business to survive.

The other thing people sometimes forget when starting a studio business are the boring things you must do up front, or the yearly expenses as opposed to the monthlies. You will need to get your business license, you'll need office supplies, media, refreshments, and all that boring little stuff. You'll need to do some marketing coming out of the box because if nobody knows you're there, how will they be able to use your services? There will be business income taxes every year and license renewal, and probably a busines property tax as well. This is when they add up the value of everything in your space from the console to the paperclips and you pay a percentage of it to the government. All these little things need to be taken into account. They aren't free.

For those considering tackling a business plan, it will typically include these basic subjects:

1.Executive Summary (a brief introduction/summary of your business)
2.Nature of business (what services do you offer?)
3.The Market (who will your clients be?)
4.Competitive analysis (who is your competition and how will you compete?)
5. Marketing Plan (How will you attract business and get the word out?)
6. Operations (the daily nuts and bolts - where, when, how...)
7. Management (a bit about the owner and who will be running things)
8. Risk analysis (what could go wrong and how are you preparing for it?)
9. Conclusion (um...  I think this goes without saying)
10. Financial projections (out several years - show how both income and expenses will grow (more on the income hopefully) and demonstrate an understanding of running a business and all your financial responsibilities)

This is the kind of plan you can take to a bank, investor, or potential partner. Even if you aren't using the plan to secure startup or expansion capital, it still can be a very useful exercise that really will help you understand your business and develop strategies for success. You learn a lot about your business and are forced to think rationally about things you may have just been taking on faith previously. Writing the plan usually turns out to be modifiying the plan, but in the end you have a much better grasp on the whole thing and the numbers are more likely to work out. Give it a try!
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: John Ivan on December 29, 2005, 02:09:28 pm
Yep,, My very first room {very small} went down because I didn't look at any of this.. " Cool, I'm gona be a studio owner "   Well, the second time I tried, I wrote everything down and worked way harder. I made some money.. Not enough really, but I would gig 5 and 6 nights per week and do studio stuff all day or very very late at night.. I was trying to drop live gig's as I added more studio time. After a few years of this, I decided to move my rig home. I don't think I'll ever own another commercial room of any kind.. I just can't take the hours anymore because I have to play every night I can. The money is better..

Ivan..........
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: rankus on December 29, 2005, 02:27:21 pm
electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 10:28


Running a studio in such desperate conditions is only worth doing if you enjoy it for its own sake, and have a stable client base, low expenses and low expectations.


This is very refreshing to hear from someone at Steve's level!  A past studio of mine had a bumper sticker on the wall that read "If All Else Fails, Lower Your Expectations" ... I did and I am still here a decade later.... (Do it for love not money)

Also,:  Thank you Steve for your open replies in this thread.  A real inspiration to keep going.... I am planning to attempt to buy the next building I move to, and your comment on the long term goal of owning has confirmed my decision.

Thank you
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Level on December 29, 2005, 02:31:38 pm
First years as an indie usually go pretty good. You must rely on your repeat customer base or a contract to keep you going where you get some pre determined work by default. If I had no repeat business, it would be hell in a handbasket.

One thing to always note..when it gets really tough...at the 11th hour and you think things are very bleak with income...stiff it out a while longer and the floodgates open and the clients simply keep coming back for more AND bring their buddies along for the ride. You have to invest during your down time. With indie studios, you are a few months away from being broke.

Ask yourself:

How long can you survive with NO work at all..and pay your staff?
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Dave Martin on December 29, 2005, 02:37:46 pm
jfrigo wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 11:15

 
Even if you aren't using the plan to secure startup or expansion capital, it still can be a very useful exercise that really will help you understand your business and develop strategies for success. You learn a lot about your business and are forced to think rationally about things you may have just been taking on faith previously. Writing the plan usually turns out to be modifiying the plan, but in the end you have a much better grasp on the whole thing and the numbers are more likely to work out. Give it a try!



Jay's right; I did a business plan before I went for my first loan. Absolutely NOTHING worked out the way I thought it would, but I still recommend it. I should probably do another one.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 03:06:37 pm
Making a bsiness plan is important, and the outline above is a good one. Be careful that your business plan is not simply a list of pipe dreams though, as it can serve to cement your dreams into a kind of "but I had it all worked out..." kind of trap.

The biggest mistakes to be made in a business plan are:

jfrigo wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 12:15


4.Competitive analysis (who is your competition and how will you compete?)...

Understand who has a lock on certain specialities in your area. You cannot do film scoring unless you are prepared for very demanding sessions with a lot of capital outlay. You cannot do jingle work without established contacts in the commercial/advertizing world. There are probably going concerns with happy client bases and decades-long relationships to confront here.

Quote:

8. Risk analysis (what could go wrong and how are you preparing for it?)...

There are worse things than not getting enough business, though that is the place most plans over-estimate their potential. You could get flooded. You could have to get a new roof. You could have a blown inspection (be especially wary of buldings without EPA certificates), leading to enormous compliance costs.

Quote:

10. Financial projections (out several years - show how both income and expenses will grow (more on the income hopefully) and demonstrate an understanding of running a business and all your financial responsibilities)

This is where most people get all pie-in-the-sky. Do not assume more than 50 percent occupancy in the first year. That's actually really good, if you can hit it, but not impossible. Thirty or forty percent is more realistic. Do not assume your business will grow more than a nominal amount, and do not assume you will be able to make rate adjustments in the current climate. You should set rates that allow you to operate, and be prepared to live with them indefinitely.

Quote:

This is the kind of plan you can take to a bank, investor, or potential partner.

I do not suggest you get a partner who isn't going to be part of the day-to-day running of the business. It seems attractive to use other people's money, and the first year may work out, but after that, when you are still not running at a profit, your relationship with a silent partner is likely to go straight into the shitter. I know of several studios that have become derelict hulks because they tried to use someone else's money, and then the sucker eventually wised-up.

A partner who is also an every-day participant in the studio is much less of a gamble, because he will see the way the studio operates and will feel he has some control over it.

Still, I am extremely happy that I've never had to answer to anyone regarding my sometimes-contrary business ideas. I have been right, and we've survived through very difficult times because of it, but I don't know that I could convince anyone else it would happen this way.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: rankus on December 29, 2005, 07:20:02 pm
electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 12:06



Still, I am extremely happy that I've never had to answer to anyone regarding my sometimes-contrary business ideas. I have been right, and we've survived through very difficult times because of it, but I don't know that I could convince anyone else it would happen this way.



Best thing I ever did was to dump my partners!  (This may be the most important statement to consider in this whole thread....)  Don't answer to anyone and you stand a much greater chance..  I feel in hindight that a studio really needs to be "one mans vision" kind of "entity" (Notice I didn't say "biz")
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Bmbch on December 29, 2005, 09:58:19 pm
electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 15:06

Making a bsiness plan is important, and the outline above is a good one. Be careful that your business plan is not simply a list of pipe dreams though, as it can serve to cement your dreams into a kind of "but I had it all worked out..." kind of trap.


Good point. I am curious how your initial plans for Electrical compare with the experience. Did you estimate $2 million to build? Did you estimate earning $350,000 - $400,000 annually? What didn't you anticipate? What were you overly worried about? Were you right on the money with anything?

(If we were all huddled around a campfire in the woods instead our computers, I would ask (in my best Robert Bly/Barbara Walters voice) "Looking back, what would you say was your biggest mistake?")
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: TheViking on December 30, 2005, 01:34:37 am
Thanks again, Steve for being here and being so willing to share your information and wisdom.   I also am interested in knowing your opinion on the legal stuff.   At what point do you feel contracts and lawyers are helpful / needed?   I own my own facility and I have gotten by so far without much legality, but as I get busier my concern is that I will need to make budget for attorney fees, etc.   Any advice for those of us who are just getting started and any pitfalls and/or safeguards you might see in having legal representation / advice at certain stages of this crazy business?
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Jules on December 30, 2005, 09:22:40 am
[/quote]

There's an analogy I've used before, and I like it, so I'm going to use it again:

I don't think it necessary (or appropriate) for a gynecologist to get turned-on by every vagina he is faced with. I think he needs to have a different relationship with the vagina. I think engineers need to have a similarly-distinct relationship with the music their clients bring to the studio.

[/quote]

So musicians collectivly seen as a bunch of vaginas? We would phrase that slightly differently here in the UK but point well taken..

Very Happy
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Bob Olhsson on December 30, 2005, 11:50:05 am
Over the years I've had numerous offers of partnerships to go into the studio business. A few things I learned along the way were:

1. don't include gear in your calculations. Gear can always be rented or leased. If this would be difficult because of your location, renting studio time to others is going to be comparably difficult. Likewise if it would be too expensive, you need to think really hard about being able to charge a profitable rate.

2. the overhead of a one room facility is just about the same as that of a three room facility.

3. a studio manager can make you or break you

4. one of the first things Wally Heider told me as he explained the difference between working for a record label and for an independent studio was that the studio business is the real estate business and not the music business.

I've watched many many people build studios that lost money from the very beginning and finally went under because of there wasn't  enough coming in to keep the gear running. Some of these rooms were very busy right up to the end. It's an unfortunate fact of life that we all have to compete with people who think they can afford to lose money. The lesson in this is to concentrate on selling service rather than gear.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: rankus on December 30, 2005, 03:03:08 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 08:50


4. one of the first things Wally Heider told me as he explained the difference between working for a record label and for an independent studio was that the studio business is the real estate business and not the music business.




Worth repeating!
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 10:52:10 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 11:50


2. the overhead of a one room facility is just about the same as that of a three room facility.


Staffing is a major consideration, and having run both a one-room and a two-room facility, I don't believe this is true.

A one-room studio can be run by three people comfortably, two, if they're dedicated maniacs, and one if business is modest and he is also a dedicated maniac. A two-room facility can be run by four people at a n absolute minimum.

We (Electrical Audio, a two-room facility) have a staff of six, and we are sometimes stressed to capacity in handling all that comes up in any given day.

With employees and multiple clients come additional responsibilities and paperwork, and by the time there are two studios working and a staff to manage, it is imperitive to have full-time office staff as well. That can be one person if he is a dedicated maniac and perfect for the job, or two if they are lazy layabout degenerates named John Novotny and Russ Arbuthnot.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: thedoc on December 31, 2005, 11:49:54 am
I think Steve is right on the money in terms of staff count.
Years ago (did I say MANY years?) I ran a one room facility and three people was perfect.  I did the bulk of the sessions, someone else either helped out or dealt with middle of the night additional stuff, and the third person did the paperwork and took out the trash, etc.
This studio had occupancy at about 60% and it felt like things never stopped.  

One person would have dropped dead.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: minister on December 31, 2005, 12:08:00 pm
electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 18:34

I will record any swinging dick whose checks don't bounce. I think it would be both rude and counter-productive to vet clients along aesthetic lines.
that's an awesome quote.  and well said.

...however, i refuse to record any dick swingers!  Laughing
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: stevieeastend on December 31, 2005, 12:46:27 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 16:50



I've watched many many people build studios that lost money from the very beginning and finally went under because of there wasn't  enough coming in to keep the gear running. Some of these rooms were very busy right up to the end. It's an unfortunate fact of life that we all have to compete with people who think they can afford to lose money. The lesson in this is to concentrate on selling service rather than gear.



very true
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Larrchild on December 31, 2005, 09:19:37 pm
Quote:

I think engineers need to have a similarly-distinct relationship with the music their clients bring to the studio.

~Jules

You are a cunning linguist.

Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: pipelineaudio on December 31, 2005, 10:09:40 pm
three staff per room???

spoiled bitches
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: Tidewater on January 01, 2006, 03:20:24 am
Excellent!

Steve, what mic and pre would you suggest on a swinging dick? X-Y? Overhead? Man, I am funny..

In the smaller markets I have worked in compared, the work was sometimes slower, but the business can be more stable. Depends where that market is, I suppose. Maybe I have just seen good small markets. (lower fixed costs, similar rates)

One needs a lot less gear to make a good studio work, you need the must haves, and alot of work, then the gear comes down the line.

Just about like anything.

I hate 3rd party money, I'd never use an investor, unless I had grown a label, or was invited along with a dream team.

M
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: springman on January 03, 2006, 01:09:51 am
Great topic!  I'm going to have to print this thread up to give to my wife the next time she gives me the evil eye!

As someone who's managed to  grow and stay afloat for 20 years in the Boston studio market, here's a few things that have helped me along the way

1. My ego is a serious liability.  Whenever it shows up, I end up alienating clients and/or screwing myself. It mostly shows up as resentment when I'm feeling overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated, so I find ways in my life to do stuff ( playing gigs, family time, learning new instruments), that help keep things in perspective.  

2.  I can't afford a full-time, or even part-time staff. Freelance engineers that I trust hire the studio, have their own keys, and bring me work.  When I can't engineer the sessions myself, I have a pool of freelancers I call to do the session and handle the project.  I do the booking, schmooze the clients, handle the conflicts, kick butt when necessary, and I engineer about 50 hours a week.

3.  I've had very good experiences generally with interns, partly because I set high expectations for them, and demand they perform well.  It causes me some stress, but ultimately they do a lot of useful work for free, allowing me time for other things.  Some of my ex-interns are now gainfully employed as free-lancers with me and other studios.

4. I've always looked for ways to lower my monthly costs; I built my two room studio facility ( 4000 sq ft) with a carpenter friend. It costs about $3200 a month for the mortgage, taxes, utilities, and a little gear maintanence, after that I can feed my family.  Unlike many studios I compete with, I have no trust funds or gifts from my family to keep me going.

5.  When people come to see the studio for the first time ( wellspringsound.com)I tell them- "You're not getting a studio here, you're getting 20 years of obsessive behavior".  I think  people respond well to the idea that some guy lost sleep for 20 years trying to figure out ways for them to sound good.  This goes back to an earlier post about what we're selling in the studio biz-- service.  

Thanks to all-
Eric Kilburn
Wellspring Sound
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: jason goz on January 03, 2006, 08:00:48 am
''Knocking one day's income off every week is what really worries me. It's conceivable that this alone might drive the studio into the red, in which case I will have to go back to working every day.''
This worried me a bit at first because like you this is my life but when we had our second child i realisedd that i was killing myself.I have a reputation of man who is always there(@work)which in turn encouraged my customers not to plan ahead because they could always rely on me to be here (9am-10pm)but i have found that cutting back to five long days instead of six has not really affected the companys income,I also feel a lot better on a monday morning.Now i am a dad my kids are my life and Mastering comes second ,I still have not got the right work life balance but i am trying. Razz
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: chris haines on January 04, 2006, 04:32:05 am
Steve, could you comment on how you handle down time?  Does the studio do spec deals with promising local bands/does the staff get to record their stuff for free?

Also, could you comment on what percentage of your business is booked locally/regionally 'cause Electrical is competitive with regard to price/quality vs. the percentage of studio time booked for your reputation...ie...'studio A with Steve Albini'

Thanks again for all of your candor and willingness to discuss your business.

Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: electrical on January 04, 2006, 04:53:47 am
chris haines wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 04:32

Steve, could you comment on how you handle down time?  Does the studio do spec deals with promising local bands/does the staff get to record their stuff for free?


If the studios aren't in use there's always something else to be done. Upkeep, maintenance, repairs to the building, cleaning, painting... There's always something to do.

Quote:

Also, could you comment on what percentage of your business is booked locally/regionally 'cause Electrical is competitive with regard to price/quality vs. the percentage of studio time booked for your reputation...ie...'studio A with Steve Albini'

I have no idea what you're asking here.
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: George_ on January 04, 2006, 07:29:50 am
Quote:

My job is to do a good job on whatever walks in the door, not just those bands of which I happen to be a fan. My taste in music is pretty fucked-up, and it would be a mistake to even allow my tastes to enter into the process, or I would have bands bring their normal music in here only for me to fuck it up to suit my tastes. I think it is a matter of professional obligation for me to suspend my tastes while I'm working for someone else, so that I can come to learn what it is they like and want out of their music. My tastes don't (or shouldn't) mean a damn thing.


hm.. well, because I am only a weekend eng. at the moment and it's a timeconsuming hobby I'm interested in bands I like.

actually I cant produce a poprecord (skill and taste-wise) because If I have to deal with popsinger-teeny idols I would have to vomit every time I hear the song..

I actually hate that music.. is this only a personalproblem, or something you grow out when you are getting older and wiser?

I mean it doesnt have to be metal from 6am to 6 pm but I dont like pop.. I dont like hiphop.. hm...

some comments here would be appreciated from your own experience;)

cheers and out
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: chris haines on January 04, 2006, 08:13:43 am
[quote title=electrical wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 10:53]
chris haines wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 04:32



Quote:

Also, could you comment on what percentage of your business is booked locally/regionally 'cause Electrical is competitive with regard to price/quality vs. the percentage of studio time booked for your reputation...ie...'studio A with Steve Albini'

I have no idea what you're asking here.



On Electrical's website it looks like you can book studio A with or without you/staff or studio B with or without staff.  

I'd assume that the bands paying for Studio A with you engineering are paying more specifically 'cause they'd like to record with you, and this probably has less to do with the room (since it costs less per day than you) and more to do with your skills as an engineer.  

I'm curious to know how much of the booking is 'with Steve Albini' as opposed to renting the rooms with or without staff as it seems like it would be very difficult to run a similar operation without an engineer or producer with a good reputation to call it home and keep it booked...
Title: Re: The Studio as a Business
Post by: GoobAudio on January 04, 2006, 09:53:47 am
 
Quote:

 electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 13:34

As an experiment, I have tried to give myself one day off a week for the first six months of 2006, and this has proven really difficult.
<snip>

I have not been able to manage the bookings to give me every Tuesday off, but I am trying to lighten my schedule slightly. We'll see how it goes.



Jeez Steve it is only January 4 2006 and there has only been one Tuesday so far this year.

Phil