The effort it takes to run a recording studio

The dream has been achieved! I am living the life I've always wanted and it feels great to work in my own studio everyday. The rewards are tremendous and there is nothing I'd rather be doing with my time. Being so immersed in my work on a constant basis has given me the knowledge and experience that is required to work at a professional level in this industry. I know many of you are looking to attain the same goal, so let me share just a fraction of my awareness with you.

First, running your own business, regardless of what you do, is no easy task. There are quite a few things you need to consider before diving into starting up a recording studio. Consider this, you'll need to cover your overhead and start up costs before you see a dime of profit. The initial investment is what overwhelms most entrepreneurs and that is just the tip of the iceberg. You're going to need a computer that is powerful enough to handle the processing, a DAW software program, an interface, lots of cables, mics, mic stands, headphones, headphone mixers, racks for gear or road cases, power conditioners, external hard drives, and potentially a studio space. This is just the foundation, there are plenty of other bells and whistles that you'll need to pull off a professional studio.

Now that that idea is rattling around in your head, tackle this notion, you will need to budget for electricity, water and sewage, garbage service, insurance, a security system, and rent. So your budget on a monthly basis is around $2,000 just to keep the doors open. That's the cheap end of the spectrum, which will probably not be adequate enough to compete in the market.

Now if you've invested a large chunk of change into an education in audio production, owning your own studio is the ultimate goal. These startup and recurring monthly costs are just scratching the surface of what you need to consider for operating a steady and reliable studio business. I just wanted to get your mind in motion for all that needs to be considered. Check back in soon as my next few posts will dive deeper into the elbow grease that is needed to keep a studio running smoothly and having the stamina to build a solid reputation to keep the machine well oiled.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 5

Now that you've done a load of leg work to get your music out in the public and build a strong web presence, you need to focus on your fans. Gathering fans is like a wildfire, it can spread quickly or burn out in the blink of an eye. You need to keep your fans engaged in what you're doing as a band. This requires some attention to your social media content and the pace at which you release music and music videos.

Be sure to announce when you are going to release music and videos. Just as you would promote a show, you need to promote your music releases. Record Labels and licensing firms like to see that you are supplementing your hard work with an effort to reach out to the public and let them know about what you've been doing. Get in the habit of taking photos at band rehearsal and at recording studios. Post them on your social media and keep your fans engaged in every step of the process that you're taking to compose and create music. When you have a consistent following, it will grow and spread like a wildfire throughout social media. If there is a buzz about your band, then people will hear about you and at least get some exposure to you and your music. If you think your music is just that good and people will find you anyway, you're in for a rude awakening.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 3

The New Position | Hard Rock

The New Position | Hard Rock

You should have a good song and a well produced recording of the music at this point. Now we need to wrap it up and present it to the world. This is where your creative ideas can come to life. Get a few good photographs of yourself that exemplify the attitude and image that you want to associate with your music. This is really half of the success of your music and career in the music industry. You need to be able to captivate the listener and get them to feel the emotion that is embedded in the music. Record labels and movie producers will take you seriously if you appear to believe in your own music, so you need to create an image that they can market with the music.

You don't have to go way over the top like Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson, but it is very obvious that they succeeded in the music industry because their music was good and they had an image that captivated people's attention. I don't think either of them would have been such a success story if they took photos in jeans and t-shirt hanging out in their backyard. Now you don't have to get crazy with the editing in Photoshop, but I'd suggest that you hire a professional photographer and get some shots that have good lighting and are framed with an interesting background. Black and white photos are always classy and have a sense of professionalism to them. That's why so many band photos are black and white that accompany a press kit.

Once you have a few good photos, you need to get some sort of web presence. You can get a free band account on many different websites. I'd highly recommend one that offers licensing opportunities. There are a bunch to choose from, but I'd suggest starting with or Both of these sites allow you to upload music and create an artist profile. If you have about $10 to spare per month, I'd highly recommend you build your own website and have control over the design and look of your online presence. You can easily build your own custom site with or for about $10/mo. Check out some of the websites built by our studio clients: The New Position & Justin Fawsitt. Both of these sites were constructed by the musicians and only took a few moments to setup and live on the web.

This is a step that you cannot afford to overlook. You need to believe in your music and developing your image will be the foundation for the career you are going to build. Just as you got feedback from your friends and family for your music, you should also get feedback on your image. If you want to accelerate your career, hire a producer that has experience in developing musicians in the public eye.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 2

Now that you have chosen the best song to market, you need to prepare it for presentation. This next step is definitely the most important, it's time to record your music. The "sound" of your music will be the foundation of your marketing campaign. So this is where you need to slow down and evaluate the best option for moving forward. You need to invest and believe in your music, so you need a quality recording with a producer that shares your vision. Cutting corners on recording your music will hinder the success of your efforts and only wind up costing you more money in the long run.

The main focus is to get a high quality recording to exemplify the ingenuity of your musical abilities. To achieve this, you need to make sure that you're recording is done right the first time. Saving a few bucks on a unprofessional recording will only add to the cost that you'll wind up investing when you go to a professional studio and get a higher quality recording. If you want to be the best at what you do, then you need to work with professionals who can give you top quality production. Project / budget studios are great for demos and hashing out ideas, but when it comes to making the final recording, you need to invest in quality. You will only get one chance to make an impression, so there is no time to waste on mediocre sound.

When you spend all your time trying to get licensed, the music has to be spectacular. If the recording is sub-par, it will reflect poorly on the content of your music. A good engineer / producer will have the skills and knowledge to ensure your music pops! Choose a studio with a proven track record and an engineer that has serious interest in your music. A good engineer will encourage you and support you along the way. Getting guidance from someone who has experience in the industry is a wise choice. This will help you avoid common pit-falls an maximize the efficiency of your production time.

Stay tuned for step 3. We'll cover the advantages of preparation and time management.

How to book the right venue

Playing concerts is what we all love to do. Playing to empty rooms is never fun. Here are a few tips on how to get more people at your shows.

First, do a little bit of research on the venue that you want to play. Does the venue have a history of hosting musicians or music similar to the music you play? It is a good idea to go and see a show at any venue that you're considering before you book your own show at that venue. If you have a chance to talk to one of the bandmembers it's playing at the show, ask them questions like how easy it was to book the show and how much fun they had performing there. Gather as much information as you can about the venue before you even start to talk to the booking agent for the venue. Once you have a good idea of whether or not you want to book the show at a certain venue, that is when you contact the booking agent. You want to speak with them confidently about performing at their venue. Book a show far enough in advance so that you have time to do adequate advertising. You want people to come to your show so you need to give them time to plan on being at the show for the date that you are about to book. Most folks have plans for about 2 to 3 weeks in advance on weekends, which is probably the best night for you to try to book a show.

Next comes the hard part. You need to find a way to get people interested and aware that you were playing a show. Don't rely on the venue to do all the promotion for your show. You need to get out there and do some good old legwork and word-of-mouth promotion for your show. Get some posters made and find good places to put them up so they will be visible and draw people in to putting your show on their calendar. Just a little bit of good advertising and promotion will bring probably 10 to 15 folks to your show.if you get more that's awesome. However playing a show for a few people or a lot of people shouldn't matter or affect your performance. Even if one person comes to your show, put on the best show of your career.

Choosing the right audio engineer

Not all audio engineers are the same. Some specialize in a particular field of audio production. Others focus their skills on a certain genre of music. Choosing the right engineer is a very important part of your album. The right engineer will produce your music and essentially become a member of the band. Without the right engineer, your recordings will fall on deaf ears.

How do you choose the right engineer?
Start by talking to a few different engineers. You can tell a whole lot about a person just by having a simple conversation. Talk about your music and the vision you have for the finished recordings. Talk about things that interest you and find out if you share any common interests. You don't have to be good friends with the engineer, but you should at least get along. You will be spending many hours in the studio with the engineer and you need to make sure that you will be productive. So before you spend hours on end with an engineer working on your music, make sure you can see eye to eye on the vision of the project.

A good way to gauge an engineer's potential is to listen to some of their past recordings and projects. Any professional engineer will have a few examples of their work out on the internet. If you like what you hear, then you will be happy with what the engineer can do for your music. The engineer doesn't necessarily need to be an expert in the genre of music you prefer. Some of the best albums have come from an engineer that specializes in a completely different genre of music. Sometimes a fresh set of ears on the project is the key to success.

Getting the most out of your studio session

Many bands come to Shine On with no prior studio experience, so here are a few tips for using studio time efficiently.

First and most importantly, be prepared to spend time working on recording & mixing. Spending all your time on recording will leave you with unfinished tracks. A good engineer will record decent raw tracks, but they will still need to be mixed. The amount of time it takes to mix a track can vary, but a good rule to follow is at least 1 hour of mixing for each recorded minute. So a 4 minute song can take 4 hours to mix. If you want to get technical about the mix, plan more time. Better to over-estimate than run out of time with half-mixed tracks.

Second, show up on time. Time is the primary factor for how your session moves along. Showing up late to a session is the same as giving away money. Don't expect an engineer to stay late cause you showed up late. It's called an appointment and that means everyone has agreed to meet at a specific time.

Third, make sure your gear is in good condition to record. Tune, replace strings, bring spare everything, and always plan for the worst-case scenario. It doesn't happen often, but I've had sessions where the tubes in the amp burn out. Think of everything because this rolls back to the time factor. Running to Guitar Center in the middle of your session is waste of time and money. Don't expect the studio to put your session on hold while you run errands.

If you plan ahead and prepare for your session, you'll walk away with great recordings that sound professional.

Trade Gear for Studio Time | Get More From Your Gear

Trade Gear for Studio Time | Get More From Your Gear

Trade your musical equipment and instruments for studio time. Great way to unload the gear that you don't use or don't need any longer and get some quality studio time to work on your next recording or mixing project. You can also trade gear for Pro Tools lessons. Click the post title for more details.

Behind the Scenes | Recording Engineer Clean Up Work

The recording engineer's work is not done after the session is over. The engineer must spend time working on the audio files to clean up unwanted noise in the files and make sure that fades are properly applied to smooth transitions. Back up copies need to be made and even though the engineer doesn't sit there and watch the computer transfer files, the engineer has to wait and check after the transfer is done to make sure that all the files transferred properly.

I'm usually in the studio hours before a session to check on timing issues and pitch correction. Returning to a session after taking some time off allows me to hear the tracks again with fresh ears. This way I'm more likely to catch little mistakes and focus on the recording's blemishes. This also gives me time to focus on ways to approach and produce the recording. I usually take this time to make notes for mixing the tracks. This way I am prepared for mixing as soon as the client arrives at the studio. If any re-tracking is required, will usually start there and then proceed to mixing. It's the little things like this prep work that keep my clients happy and keep them coming back to record more at Shine On Studio.

How to prepare for a recording session

Shine On Studio • Malone Designs Euphonix Desk

   The music is finally ready to be recorded. You've put hours into rehearsal and composing the music. The band has worked out all the rough spots and the music has a good flow from beginning to end. Now comes the crowning achievement, booking time at a recording studio to immortalize the music.

   There are some important steps that need to be taken before you get to the studio. As an engineer that has worked at a recording studio for 2 decades, I've seen what works and what doesn't work, so I'd like to share a bit of helpful knowledge on the topic. These steps can apply to any musician getting ready to reserve time at a recording studio. I'm also going to share some tips on how to maximize and get the most productivity out of your studio experience.

   First, be sure that you're ready for recording. This is a broad generalization, so let me go over the many parts that accompany this statement. To kick it off, make sure that your music is finalized and all the parts are in place. This means that the band has been rehearsing and all the band members are on the same page when it comes to performing the songs. The last thing you want to do is spend valuable studio time rehearsing parts of a song and trying to compose the music on the fly. Now it's OK to experiment and try different ideas, but there should be a core foundation to each track so the music is recorded within the time allocated to you while in the studio.

   Second, be sure that all your instruments are in good shape and sound their best. In many cases, strings should be replaced at least 3 days prior to the recording session. This will give them time to stretch and settle in for a brilliant sound that will sound great when recorded. So many times I've had guitarist come into the studio with old worn out strings and they never sound as good when compared to recordings with fresh strings.

   Drummers should bring a few extra drum heads and or snares just to hear what the recorded sound turns out to be. There are many things an engineer can do for your music, but try to rely on getting good raw recordings to start with and not relying on EQ to fix any deficiencies.

   Vocalist should exercise their voice leading up to the session. Don't strain or wear out your voice, but condition it just like any athlete would prepare for a big game. Don't drink any cold liquids before the session because they tend to constrict the vocal chords. Bring room-temperature bottles of water to keep the throat from getting dry and if you prefer something to soothe the throat, bring honey or tea. Studio sessions usually last all-day, so it's important to stay hydrated and bring snacks to keep your energy up. Bananas are always a good idea for natural energy and trail mix is a good way to subside hunger pains.

  Third, be prepared to back up your recordings. Most studios today are recording on a digital audio workstation like Pro Tools or Logic. You need to be ready to make back up copies of your recordings so that you ensure that your investment doesn't get lost, stolen, or accidentally get deleted. Most studios will have a way for you to back up your recordings on to a USB flash drive or an external hard drive. With prices rapidly dropping on storage devices, this shouldn't be a problem to find a device with enough space to back up your recordings. I'd recommend a minimum of 2 TB, but 500 GB is usually enough for most musicians. By backing up your recordings, you will have the ability to take your recordings home and mix them yourself if your budget runs out for studio time. You could also record at one studio and then take the files over to another studio for mixing. Sometimes it's a good idea to get a few different engineers working on your music to keep the sound unique and diverse on the album.

   Fourth, put someone in charge of time management. Staying on track is the most difficult thing to do in the studio. You can ask the engineer to help manage the studio time, but it's always best to have a band member keep track of the time. Most everyone has a smart phone these days and they all come with alarms and timers, so use them. Set the alarm on vibrate and let it remind you when it's time to move on. Figure out how much time you want to spend recording each song or parts of a song and stick to it. So many times I've had musicians show up to the studio with the intent of recording 3 or 4 songs and only wind up recording 1 or 2 songs. It is very easy to get wrapped up in recording and over-dubbing tracks that time will just slip away. Figure out a way to manage your time and do your best to stay on schedule.

   I want to give you a few helpful ideas about how to manage your recording sessions. If you have a hard time getting all your band members together, then it's best to have everyone pick a date that is convenient for a recording session and mark it on the calendar. Most studios have a no refund or no rescheduling policy, so it's important to make sure the studio date works for all the band members.

   Try to get all the recording done with all the band members present. This isn't a huge deal, but I've found that it's always nice to have all the band members at the studio when the initial tracks are recorded. Things like solos or backing vocals that will be over-dubbed can be done with individual band members. If possible, try to record the band in a live environment. I don't me a live concert, I'm referring to the whole band recording at the same time. There is a lot of "magic" that happens when musicians play together. This also helps cut down on the amount of time spent tracking each individual member of the band. Plus, if you haven't been rehearsing with headphones, don't try to do it for the first time at the studio. Try and recreate the feel you get when the band rehearses. This is the way you perform the music, so try to recreate that sound / vibe when you record.

   I'll have some more helpful info for you soon, but feel free to leave comments or questions and I'll respond as soon as I can. Hope this info was helpful and your recording sessions go smoothly.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

For one reason or another, you find yourself at the last minute looking for a gift. There are many options and you just don't know what to get. You could go with a gift card...those are always popular. Why not surprise them with a gift that will capture their creative essence? A gift certificate to Shine On Studio is more than a gift, it's a self-esteem boost. It's a statement that you believe in someone else's musical talent and want to encourage them to create music they can share with the world.

The holidays are all about giving and showing how much you care. That's exactly how we feel about each client that records at Shine On Studio. We're offering discounts on all our gift certificates up to 20% off. Our $500 gift certificate is on sale for only $400! That's an extra $100 we're throwing in to sweeten the deal. Our way of saying thank you for choosing us to work on your creative expression.

Our gift certificates can be redeemed for any studio service: recording, mixing, mastering, pro tools lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, rehearsal time, & beat making classes. They never expire and always retain their value, so your musician can take their time creating their masterpiece.

Visit our "Booking & Rates" page for more details.

What time should I arrive at the studio?

I get a lot of clients asking this question and it is a good question. Time is the primary commodity in the studio. Regardless of the rates studios charge, you're still spending your hard earned cash on time in the studio. The rate may be based on the gear the studio has or the experience of the engineer, but it still revolves around time. To make the most of your time in the studio, start with getting to the studio on time for your session.

The first step is to confirm your session a day in advance. Even if you confirmed weeks in advance, it's a good idea to send an email or call the studio just to confirm they still have you scheduled for a session. If for some reason the studio didn't put your session on the schedule, you should take a moment to make sure everything is going according to plan. Next thing is to call all the band members and remind them of the session. You don't want to show up to the studio and have to wait for your band mate to drive an hour to get to the studio. Carpooling is always a good idea.

Most studios will tell you when to arrive for the session. Some have a load in time and its always a good idea to ask if they allow time before the session for loading and setup. Either way, you should plan on being at the studio 15-20 minutes before the scheduled start time of your session. This will give you time to find parking and take care of any paperwork before your session starts.

Be sure to read my post about how to prepare for your studio session. This info will help you get the most out of your time in the studio. Please leave any comments if you have questions about this post.


How to prepare for a Recording Session


You're ready to record your music, but you've never been to a recording studio. Let me give you a few tips on how to prepare for your recording session.

First thing, be ready to record. You need to be well rehearsed and have final versions of your songs ready to go. Don't waste any time trying to figure out parts of a song. Have everyone on the same page so time can be spent getting good takes for mixing.

Second, give all your instruments a tune up. Put new strings or drum heads on a day or two before your session. This will give them time to stretch out and stay in tune while you record. Always bring spare strings,sticks, straps and other gear so you don't waste any time running to the store. 

Third, be well rested for your session. It's important to stay focused and attentive to every aspect of the session. Keep your ears rested. Don't listen to loud music before you go into the studio. Bring snacks and bottled water with you to keep your energy up.

Forth, protect your investment. You're spending your hard earned money on the recording, so be prepared to back it up. Bring a hard drive or flash drive with lots of empty space to back up all of your recordings. HD sessions can get big quickly. High sample rates and bit depths create big files. The average 4 minute song can have a folder that is 5 GB, so if you've got 10 songs on the album, you'll need 50-60 GB of storage. It's always a good idea to bring blank CD-Rs if everyone in the band wants a copy of the rough mixes.

These are just some of the basic things you should prepare before going into your session. It's always a good idea to discuss your project and ask any questions before you get to the studio. If you and the engineer are on the same page, the session will move along efficiently and the recordings will reflect the productive environment.