This is the first in an upcoming series of blog posts detailing how I turned $5000 into a “six figure home studio” from my parent’s basement.
This blog is for you if you fall into one of these categories:
- You are looking to start a small studio in your spare bedroom.
- You already have an existing bedroom studio.
- You’re a kid with crap gear, trying to “make it big” out of your parents’ basement.
- You have a small professional studio that struggles to generate income.
- You run a successful bedroom studio, and just want tips on how to run your business more smoothly or generate more income.
I assume I have your attention by this point, but if not, save yourself some time and stop reading now. Go back to Facebook, and continue to aimlessly click around while we do shit that matters.
Now down to business
I was browsing Ask.fm the other day (a site where you can anonymously ask someone questions) lurking the profile of another producer that I respect.
“What advice would you give to four friends trying to start a studio? We’re trying to stay within a $20k budget if at all possible, but it seems like the biggest issue will end up being location.”
This is a fairly typical question I see (except most people don’t have anywhere near $20,000 to spend on a new studio), so I was interested in what this producer had to say:
“You’re going to need a lot more than that!!! And run the other way as fast as you can!!!!”
Now, I am well aware that the internet is full of bad advice, but that answer really bugged me…. and for two good reasons:
- The person who answered this question is a fairly well known and well respected producer. He knows his shit, and people will generally follow the advice he gives.
- I know his answer is DEAD WRONG.
“Well Brian, how do you know he’s wrong?”….you might ask.
“What a stupid question!”….would be my reply.
I know he is wrong, because I’ve created a studio that has consistently generated a steady flow of income year after year. I’ve worked with some pretty good bands (several of which have debuted on the billboard top 200), and I’ve yet to see any signs of business slowing down.
And I started it with a mere $5000.
And I started this in my parents’ basement in Athens, Alabama (hardly an ideal location).
A little backstory on how I did this
Want to know what sort of gear I started out with? Well here it is:
$1400 – Digidesign 003 Rack+ (comes with Pro Tools)
$1000 – Built a PC for my studio (never been much of a Mac guy)
$200 – Cheap studio desk with rack spaces
$150 – Cheap microphone stands
free – mic cables (they all came with the mic stands and other purchases I made)
$400 – Shure microphone pack (3 sm57’s and a beta 52A)
$500 – Rhode NT5 (matched pair for cymbals)
$500 – Mackie MR8 studio monitors
$200 – Drum triggers
$130 – Used AT3035 (vocal mic)
$100 – Steven Slate drum samples (great starter samples)
$100 – Pod XT (which has obviously been replaced with software options these days)
I may be missing a few small items, but so far we’re at $4680. If I would have purchased this all used (which is what I typically do now), it would have been even cheaper.
“Well what about software, Brian? Don’t tell me you PIRATED stuff!!!”
That’s actually a decent question!
Hell yes I did. As an absolute noob working out of my parents’ basement, do you think I’m about to drop $400 on something like Melodyne, when I know I can download a pirated version of it?
Now, let me clarify that I am 100% legit in my software purchases at this point in my career (just ask my assistant). If I use it, I buy it. I just want to be completely transparent for the sake of this blog, and tell the whole story of how I started out.
I am not condoning the illegal use of pirated software. I just know kids will do it, and that I too was once a thieving, pirating sack of shit.
I could make an entire blog post about the topic of software piracy, but I’d rather not bore you with that.
With my cheap gear, and no knowledge of how to use it, I turned to my best friend Google.
I spent 40 uninterrupted hours in a row (minus food and bathroom breaks) learning as much as I could about Pro Tools. I then slept for a full 12 hours, and worked another 40 hours straight. Repeat that cycle 1 more time, and you’ll see that my first week in Pro Tools consisted of 120 hours of educating myself.
I say all this to drive one single point into your head:
If you don’t have this sort of drive to learn, you will never make it.
After about a month of taking in as much knowledge as I could, I recorded a friend’s band, and I didn’t do it for free.
There’s lesson number 1 for you: Never work for free
(there are actually rare exceptions to this, but I’ll go over those some other time)
Want to hear the first band I ever produced? This was done in January 2009:
That should give you an idea what an absolute beginner would produce with bare balls basic gear, after a month of binge learning. It’s a pretty bad recording, but you have to start somewhere. I’ll admit, I was pleased with myself at the time.
From this crap recording until now, I’ve hardly changed gear. I still honestly have nothing more than a fancy bedroom studio. The only difference in my sound is the knowledge I’ve absorbed over the years and the constant trial and error I’ve gone through. I spent my time learning how to make the most out of what I have, not the technical aspects of every preamp and compressor ever made.
To this day, there are such huge gaps in my knowledge about “legit” gear, that I couldn’t even tell you the difference between an API 512c and a Neve 1073LB. The majority of my recordings were done through the Digidesign 003 preamps (I still use that same interface).
I may not be able to teach you much (or anything) about gear, but I can definitely show you how I do what I do with what little I have, and I can try to teach you all the “behind the scenes” knowledge I’ve gained to help you run your studio as a profitable business.
To finish up, this is just the beginning of this blog. I will be covering a lot of different subjects, but here are my main objectives:
- To show you how to get the most out of minimal gear
- To give you details of how to run the business side of your studio
- To show you how to maximize profits, stop wasting time, and make sure you keep your clients happy
- To show you how to turn your bedroom into a studio that can generate a steady full time income
Some beginner topics I will be covering in the coming weeks:
- How to get your first few clients
- How much you should charge
- How to raise your prices (the right way)
- Finding your niche
- How to handle deposits
- How to negotiate with clients (spoiler: you don’t)
- What to expect when working with labels and band managers
- The most efficient way to manage your schedule (boring, but necessary)
I will be starting out with noob-level posts to teach you the things I wish I knew when I first started out.
As we get deeper into everything, I’ll start going over some of the more “advanced” topics, such as:
- When it’s time to get an assistant (sooner than you think)
- How to use an assistant to maximize DPH (dollars per hour)
- When it’s time to get a manager (spoiler number 2: you don’t)
- When you should outsource your work and how to do it right
- How to keep your inbox from taking over your life
- How to incorporate a CRM with your business (and what CRM is)
- How to step into the 21st century and stop using paperwork to manage your studio’s finances
- Tax-related shit
For production-related questions, leave a comment below to let me know what you guys want to learn, and I’ll start getting a list together of in-depth lessons that I can make for you.
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P.S. Leave a comment below if there is a specific topic you’d like to see me cover. It doesn’t matter if it’s business related or production related, I’d like to know.