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Sounds good! Starting a recording business

Published on 7th August 2019 - Last update on 18th December 2019

The music business has changed a great deal in recent years. In the past, when music labels shipped physical records on vinyl or digital disc, the industry involved complicated hardware and distribution arrangements, which made it difficult for new businesses to break into.

These days, with music becoming digital, there are new business models - and technology - that makes it possible for anyone with the necessary knowledge and some financial support to set up their own record business. If you have experience of the music industry - or are an experienced sound engineer - setting up your own recording studio could be a real possibility.

A recording studio will let you record not just music but sound effects and voice-overs used for advertisements, animation, and soundtrack dubs.

Where the money comes from

You can work in several ways – but the most popular is to simply sell time in your studio. Clients pay standard rates for studio use, charged by the hour and for the equipment used. Session players and background singers may be an additional source of revenue usually available for an additional hourly rate per person.

Artistes will be provided with a recording at the end of the session – or after a post-recording mixing – which will be theirs to use as they wish.

An alternative, where you record, mix and distribute music, is also a possibility in the current market, although the challenges are far greater. Products created in the studio sell online at competitive prices. iTunes and other distributions services retail downloads of songs and pay a commission for each sale, often through a qualified digital distribution company. Music CDs still sell through websites, eCommerce systems like Shopify, and on Amazon. Downloads sell more easily than physical CDs – although the profits per item are lower.

Whatever business model you choose, it could offer a very rewarding source of income, and provide the chance to work with like-minded creative people – but it will probably involve a substantial investment.

Starting small

The traditional analogue approach to recording, which used tape and physical editing, is long gone. Digital recording has been the norm in the industry for a generation and has now reached the stage where a home studio can, under the right circumstances, provide results which approach those of professional studios.

A simple home studio can consist of a computer, an audio interface to get your audio into the computer, and a microphone or two. It is possible to build musically complex tracks with nothing more, and many artists have in fact done so and achieved critical and commercial success. Some highly successful musicians, such as Justin Bieber, started with a modest home recording studio.

However, if you intend to do more than simply edit your own performance on basic electronic instruments, you will also need soundproofed space. A double garage lined with suitable insulation could be necessary even if your intention is simply to record local artists and bands.

You will need monitor speakers and headphones, and most studios will have a separate booth for the recording engineer – although there are recording engineers who prefer to be in the performance space to get more of the feel of a live performance.

If you have the space and the DIY skills, it might be possible to provide a very basic studio for a few thousand pounds. You may be able to record and mix basic music with a fairly restricted range. It could even allow you to create saleable records – but the limitations of such a set-up will soon prove frustrating.

Starting a professional business

Of course, it is not very appealing or convenient for clients to have to work in your bedroom or garage. A “real” studio is the next step. This is likely to have more recording equipment, more choice of microphones and better-designed acoustics – but just as important are the facilities provided outside the recording studio itself.

You need comfortable surroundings and a location that is convenient for the calibre of artists you want to work with. Facilities such as a kitchen will be necessary - and to attract top-quality musical talent you will need the latest equipment. Costs can easily stretch into the multi-million-pound bracket.

The good news is that there may be ways to provide funding towards those costs.

A business plan

It is possible to start a home recording studio as a sideline, but if you are serious about your business, you will need to put it onto a more businesslike basis.

You need to have a business name. Check that it’s available, using the Companies House Register. If your chosen name is available, register it as your company’s name. You should also register it - or a variation on it - as a domain name for your website. Your website will be essential to market your business and can even be used to allow clients to book your time.

You then need to create a business plan. This should define everything about your recording business, how you will operate on an everyday basis. Most important of all, it will show how you will make money, with details of all your costs balanced by a realistic forecast of the income you will generate.

The costs you need to cover

There are three main costs to consider:

Premises

The first is, of course, premises. Unless you already have a property which you can convert, you will need to find a suitable structure which you can use. Location is important. Although musicians may be happy to travel to a well-equipped studio with a stellar reputation, it is more likely that you will need to be close to a city centre with plenty of potential clients in easy reach.

You will also need to be selective about the type of building you occupy. A solid construction will be essential to provide the necessary acoustic performance, and you will want ample space for isolation booths as well as the main studio, together with support facilities, from a reception area to kitchens - and perhaps even a rehearsal space.

Equipment

The next cost will be equipment. Your recording studio will require a wide range of recording equipment. What exactly you choose will depend on your personal preferences, but is likely to include, as a minimum:

  • Computers
  • DAW/Audio Interface Combos
  • Connectors and Cables
  • Cable Snakes
  • Patch Board
  • Studio Monitors
  • Amplifiers
  • Crossovers
  • Headphones
  • Microphone Stands
  • Microphones
  • Mobile Sound-Dampening Panels
  • Digital Mixing Board
  • Software

You may also want to provide some basic instruments such as programmable synthesisers for effects.

Marketing

Your marketing will be the next major cost to consider. Your website will be an important marketing tool, but you will also need to invest in paid publicity online and in print to get your new studio known.

Sort out your funding

You will need to take your time with your research and costings. A well-researched business plan is essential for you to help you understand the challenges you will face and prepare for them.

It will also be vital to help you raise the funding you need.

Need help starting up or growing your recording venture? Find out more about the financial solutions you could apply for here

Your business plan will be an important tool when it comes to approaching lenders and convincing them about the viability of your business - but you will also need the expertise of a funding expert if you want to arrange the finance you need at the most competitive price.

A call to Rangewell can help find those lenders who may be able to work with you if you intend to set up a recording business. We can provide the expertise you need and we know the lenders who will be able to offer the most competitive rates for all types of finance, including Unsecured and Secured Loans, Asset Finance, Growth Finance and more.

Find out more about what we can do for your recording studio here.


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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

Content writer
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