|Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:23 am Post subject:
| I make a reasonable shred of income with my home studio, and with doing the occasional live/recording date. This works for me because I have a business structure for it to work under (I have my real-living business organized as an LLC, so the studio activity is simply a DBA subbusiness under that overall umbrella). So taxes and the like are a lot easier to handle, as all the business activity is handled and managed right up front.
Now, I can't say that I make a profit: pretty much all that income is absorbed in depreciation and expenses, except on a really good year. But I do get paid for it, I can justify keeping good gear around, and I get to scratch my recording itch. And I work with some really good artists.
Once upon a time back in the early 80s, I ran a small commerical studio in Boston (at the same time as I was trying to front a working band, and work by day for a musical instrument company). This experience taught me two things: 1. burnout sucks, and 2. the best way to make a small fortune in recording is to start with a large fortune. I sold off everything (and believe me when I say that I'm still kicking myself for selling off what is now an irreplaceable mic locker!), closed the doors, walked away, laid down my sticks, and didn't do a damned thing musically for 10 years.
Getting back into my own music in the late 90s, I built up just what I wanted and needed to record my own material. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunatley), that didn't last long- through my wife, I developed a number of connections into the a capella vocal music crowd. And through those folks, into the acoustic/folk/bluegrass crowd. These folks were looking for a knobtwister who would take the time to understand their music and maybe record them. So, strictly through word of mouth, I ended up with a little niche business: what is for all intents and purposes an acoustic music bed-and-breakfast. Come out, hang out, watch the sun set over the mountains, drink wine, ride horses, track a CD. All done by word of mouth...
The niche market thing is the key, IMNSHO. In particular, the a capella folks are not inclined to deal with the normal run of $25/hour bong-water-soaked project rooms with smoke-stained posters of Megadeth on the walls. This wierd setup of mine works because I understand the style, can work quickly and efficiently in the background as they do their thing, can acommodate what they are looking for, and above all don't try to intimidate them. The Hippocratic oath of recording applies here: "first, do no harm". This is about as different from running a rock shop as it is possible to be, where baseball bats and Waved limiters are the order of the day.
So, I can justify keeping stuff around to do my own thing. I only do a few projects a year, but I enjoy them in their own right- even if the music is not what I would choose to do personally.
If you want to do recording as a business, finding a niche for your effort is key, so that you can differntiate yourslef from everybody else with a PC and Cubase. As is running it like a business. And as is realizing that the music that is going to happen is not your music. Whatever your niche ends up being, you need to learn it inside and out, so that you can support the client's needs as second nature. It's their music, and you are there as a facilitator. This can take some time and pain to really internalize...
There's realistically no way to make a living at recording, unless you have the capital to make some serious investments in the room and gear, the chutzpah and contacts to attract some really good engineers and producers, and the cast-iron disposition needed to smile sweetly when acts that suck rocks through a straw are burning your time, trashing your mics, and throwing up in your bathroom. However, it absolutely *is* possible to make a little money at it, and even make some Art, if you pick your niche wisely.
Scott Griffith, Scratchpad Studio/Earfull Sound
the Nerd formerly known as Skippy