A professional recording studio can be used for much more than simply recording music. It can help with everything from creating voice-overs for animations and advertisements to dubbing soundtracks in diverse languages and manufacturing sound effects for film and television.
If you set up a professional recording studio, you can earn money while helping other individuals and businesses fulfill these diverse creative needs. Find out how to start a recording studio below.
Getting the Skills Needed to Start a Recording Studio
There are no formal educational requirements to own a recording studio. However, you do need to learn how to use the necessary equipment if you're going to run the studio yourself. You can start teaching yourself with online music tutorials like YouTube, MasterClass, Udemy, and Coursera.
There are also formal degree programs available. For example, Berklee College of Music offers a four-year bachelor's degree in music production and engineering. Don't want to commit to a lengthy degree? There are also smaller-scale certificate programs available, like the University of Washington's Certificate in Audio Production Techniques (it takes just three academic quarters).
Another option is to do a traineeship in an existing music recording studio. This gives you a few advantages. You have the opportunity to work directly with professional equipment under expert supervision. You will also learn about other aspects of the business of owning a recording studio, like marketing and customer relations.
Finally, some of the companies that produce music business recording equipment offer training courses that certify you as an expert in the use of their tools. This gives you the education you need plus a valuable certification that can make you more marketable. For example, Avid provides certification courses in the use of Pro Tools (a popular software program for audio recording).
The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is a valuable resource for exploring reputable educational options for audio engineers. This is also a great place to network with other sound engineering professionals. Also, they host regular conferences where you can further your education, for example, by learning about the latest cutting-edge technologies.
Steps to Take Before You Open Your Recording Studio
Starting your own recording studio takes careful planning if you want to make it into a profitable new business. Writing a business plan can help you organize the planning process. This valuable document covers all kinds of details, from your marketing plan to your financial projections. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has templates you can use to draft a business plan.
As you write your business plan, you'll have to address these key points:
Describe Your Services and Target Audience
As mentioned, recording studios can serve diverse purposes. Decide whether you want to target a specific market segment or prefer to offer generalized studio services. Possible clients include musical artists, advertising agencies, animation studios, and television and movie production companies.
In addition to renting studio space and overseeing recordings, you can also provide services like sound editing and post-production. Ideally, you will be able to offer a full range of services needed to create a polished product, from recording to final edit.
Set Up a Pricing Plan
Coming up with a set price plan before your studio opens provides clarity for your potential customers. According to Thumbtack, the average cost of a recording studio session (simply renting the space and equipment) is as low as $25 per hour. However, you can charge more for your technical services, like editing and post-production.
Your price may also vary depending on factors like the quality of your studio equipment, your professional experience, and your target audience. For example, you'll probably be able to charge corporate clients like advertising agencies more than individual artists who are simply looking for a place to record their own music.
Location can also make a difference. Scope out recording studios in your area to see what their fees look like. This can help give you an idea of the going market rate, ensuring that you don't over- or under-price your recording studio services.
Tally Up the Total Costs to Get Your Startup Going
Any business requires some initial investment in tools and equipment. A professional recording studio is no exception. Tally up your startup overhead costs in advance to figure out whether you'll need to approach a bank or other lender for a loan.
A pro studio can house equipment worth well over six figures. Don't panic: There's no need to start that big. Instead, start with the basics and upgrade to more high-quality technology as you progress. Here's everything you need to start your studio:
- Computer (Mac and MacBook are popular)
- Studio monitors
- Cables and plug-ins
- Mic stand
- Pop filter
- Ear training software
- Combination digital audio workstation (DAW) and audio interface
- Recording software
In addition to the actual recording studio equipment, you'll need an appropriate physical space. Recording studios have to fulfill specific requirements in terms of soundproofing, reverberation, etc. Sound Control Room provides detailed design considerations for recording studios.
One option is to find a property that's already set up as a studio and simply take it over. Otherwise, extensive renovations may be needed. Can't find an existing studio space to rent? You can remodel space within your own home and create a home recording studio or renovate a commercial property. Make sure any commercial property you rent (or buy) permits the required renovations.
Whatever you choose, your recording studio space will also have other costs associated with it, like electricity and furniture. Beyond that, you'll also need to account for business basics, like a computer, mobile phone, marketing, and employee wages if you plan to hire. There are also expenses for business licenses, certifications, and insurance (more on these points below).
Steps to Take to Officially Open Your Recording Studio
With your business plan drafted and the above items checked off your to-do list, you can start taking concrete steps toward opening your own recording studio.
Register Your Studio as a Legal Business Entity
Registering your business with your state establishes it as a formal legal entity (e.g., a sole proprietorship, corporation, or limited liability company). This helps distinguish you as an individual from the business, which can protect you and your assets in case your business faces legal issues.
Registering your recording studio as a business entity can also simplify bookkeeping and tax filing. Note that different legal entities are subject to different tax reporting and payment requirements. You may want to consult a business attorney to determine what type of business model makes the most sense for you.
Regardless of what type of business structure you opt for, when you register it, you'll have to provide an official name. This will be the legally recognized name of your recording studio and you should use it on all business documents and marketing materials going forward. Make sure the name is one-of-a-kind and memorable.
Get Any Necessary Permits and Insurance for Your Studio
Since your recording studio business requires a physical, brick-and-mortar location, it will be subject to local permit requirements. For example, the studio's size will determine factors like capacity limits and the number of requisite fire exits needed. Check with your local municipality or county regarding business permit regulations.
You will also need insurance to run a successful recording studio. If you're renting a space, you may need commercial property insurance. Further, you want to insure and protect all of the valuable equipment you've invested in. What if there's a disaster like a fire or someone breaks in? It's best to be covered if this happens. Other possible insurance needs include professional liability insurance and worker's compensation.
Figure Out Banking and Bookkeeping
Once you've registered your business, you should receive a confirmation from the state. You can use this to open a business bank account for your recording studio. This will make it easy to distinguish your personal finances from your business finances, streamlining bookkeeping and tax filing in the future.
Start Spreading the Word About Your Recording Studio
Now that the administrative tasks are done, you can get to the fun part: actually operating your recording studio. Where will you find your first clients? You'll want a detailed marketing plan. Here's a brief primer:
- Define your brand. A brand consists of everything from your slogan and logo to the verbiage, imagery, and colors used on your marketing materials (like your website). Your brand is how you present yourself to new customers. Define it accordingly. For example, your brand may look different if it targets hip-hop musicians versus corporate ad agencies.
- Set up a website. Your website is your main online presence, providing details to potential customers about your services, prices, and certifications. You want a professional, user-friendly site that speaks to your brand. You can create a site yourself with a tool like Squarespace or WordPress. Alternatively, you can hire a pro via a platform like Upwork.
- Expand your online presence. Once your business website is set up, look for other ways to boost your online presence. You can create business pages for your recording studio using platforms like Google My Business. Social media accounts can also help you show off your studio and connect with your customer base.
Boost Your Business Success by Streamlining Operations
As your customer base grows, you'll get busier and busier. At this point, juggling your responsibilities as a recording studio professional and a new business owner can get tricky. Look for ways to streamline your daily operations. For example, you can set up an online booking system for renting studio space, sparing you the hassle of phone calls.
When it comes to managing your finances, look to Skynova for assistance. Skynova's business templates make it fast and easy to issue invoices, send quotes or estimates, and request deposits (e.g., you might request a deposit for renting studio space). Further, Skynova's accounting software can help you track payments and expenses.
Make Your Recording Studio a Success With Skynova
Ready to start your own recording studio? Skynova is here to help. Our business templates and software products can simplify tedious admin tasks. This allows you to focus your time and energy on making your new business a success. Find out more about how Skynova can help your recording studio business succeed.