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Remote recording van: business feasibility? (uk)
Old 3rd July 2012
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Question Mobile studio/recording van feasibility/ideas (uk)

Hi GS remoters

I have been thinking about a mobile studio for a while now. Been doing lots of design work, research into suitable vehicles, power, and isolation.

The initial motivation is as a place to make music where I currently live, a semi-rural location fairly close to the city of Bristol (UK). I thought of a caravan but it seemed impractical in the end.

I am wondering if it could become a fully fledged business alongside my own music production and recording.

I could kit it out as a remote recording van.. although this was not my original intention. My equipment is mainly focused on electronic production, and I have a decent size modular synth and sequencer, and a few choice bits of analogue outboard.

It will also be solar powered for totally remote possibilities, and festivals. (I have done a lot of research into this side of things)

I would like to be able to use it for:
  • remote recording, both for my own projects with local musicians and as a hire service
  • mobile music production facility for those wanting to try out or use modular synths and outboard gear
  • mobile music recording and production teaching facility (I have done a fair bit of one-to-one music production tuition in the past)
  • take to festivals and events, for collaborations and recordings with artists at the event.

Although this could no doubt be a lot of fun, there are a few concerns I have about the idea:
  • Is it really financially viable (I think it could be if done right)
  • I should really have somewhere to store it safely when not using it, especially in a city - or get some hardcore locks and immobiliser..
  • damage to equipment from vibration when moving

Any opinions on this?

I know there are quite a few similar threads, I have read quite a lot of them.. would love to get some feedback on this.

Thanks
Old 3rd July 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
My colleagues have music/radio mobiles/OBs, one in a large IVECO the other in a Land Rover forward control ex military ambulance.
Do everything from Ronnie Scotts to Just a Minute/Sorry Ive not got a clue type shows.
Budgets are being cut all round,deadlines shorter etc etc.
From a business pov its not possibly viable versus a small multitracker operated by a producer.
As a self sustaining hobby possibly imho.
Old 3rd July 2012
  #3
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
My colleagues have music/radio mobiles/OBs, one in a large IVECO the other in a Land Rover forward control ex military ambulance.
Do everything from Ronnie Scotts to Just a Minute/Sorry Ive not got a clue type shows.
Budgets are being cut all round,deadlines shorter etc etc.
From a business pov its not possibly viable versus a small multitracker operated by a producer.
As a self sustaining hobby possibly imho.
Thanks - thats useful and encouraging. I totally get that someone with a laptop & decent interface / multitrack recorder would be much cheaper and easier (something I have also considered getting into..) - however would lack the control room for mixing on the spot.
Old 3rd July 2012
  #4
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tourtelot's Avatar
You know how you make $1 million in the remote recording business right?

Spend $2 million.

D.
Old 10th July 2012
  #5
Gear Nut
 

I'd love to do this too but realistically it doesn't seem all that feasible. I have a nice recording rig as it is and as much as I would like to be able to have everything already set up in the back of a van, it's not really how things get done in most venues. As for festivals, while it would be the best solution for you, the likelihood of someone paying you enough to make it a viable business is very low. At least from the start. Start off with a small portable rig and build up from it if that is the way you want to go with it.
Old 10th July 2012
  #6
LX3
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LX3's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Walker View Post
As for festivals, while it would be the best solution for you, the likelihood of someone paying you enough to make it a viable business is very low. At least from the start.
Yep, having heard last week how little one guy is charging for his pretty amazing OB sound truck, I would have to agree with that.

Maybe a few of us should band together and build a truck between us? Anyone game? Because I definitely have about ten occasions a year when I would be better off using a truck, but I can't quite justify the expense and effort of building one just to use it once a month at best.

Or I can build one and you guys can come and use it.
Old 10th July 2012
  #7
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huub's Avatar
(to the O.P: )

But customers hire a name, not a truck.
Not having built a reputation but owning a truck will not get you jobs.
Old 10th July 2012
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
Maybe a few of us should band together and build a truck between us? Anyone game? Because I definitely have about ten occasions a year when I would be better off using a truck, but I can't quite justify the expense and effort of building one just to use it once a month at best.
I'm in!
Old 25th July 2012
  #9
Gear Head
 

hey adamski,

about the solar-powered, can you explain me how exactly that works ? what output do the batteries have ? and how do you convert them to 110/230 ? i did a trip through southamerica in an old T2 volkswagen, recording traditional folkmusic with my equipment, but the voltage-converter inserted a buzzing in some gear. (the chandlers germanium for example) that was pretty obstacling in some situation and i couldnt find another way than just use the other stuff that wouldnt be interfered.
so, did you experienced something like that and found a solution ?..
any thoughts are welcome, i or better we intend to do more journeys like that so sooner or later i will be in the same situation again.
what we could edit so far still during the trip you can see on campingbusrecords.com

cheers mati
Old 25th July 2012
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huub View Post
But customers hire a name, not a truck.
This.

And solar power is not a good idea.
Old 26th July 2012
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mati View Post
campingbusrecords.com
That's awesome!
Old 26th July 2012
  #12
Gear Nut
 

I don't know if my experience is typical as I don't work in mainstream sound. What I charge I make because I know specifically how to deal with the type of concerts I do, and I thoroughly understand the musical side. While a few potential clients might be impressed by a van or trailer, most would feel the fees I charge would be going into the van and therefore they could do better elsewhere. So I doubt if having a van would help me.
Old 26th July 2012
  #13
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Roland's Avatar
I'll jump in with my two pence worth!

LX3 has pretty much summed it up. If you take a look at his site, you will see that he has managed to get himself a lot of quality, fairly high profile work and he doesn't really consider it viable.

In the UK there are a lot less mobile studio's around than say even 5 years ago.

RED mobiles, Will Shapland, a very respected mobile recording engineer was doing the "instant" concert mix thing a couple of years ago, however, this seems to have been dropped, so I would surmise that it wasn't a "viable" business model to make enough money. I'm not sure, but it looks like the business has been restructured. They do high profile work, however, if you look at the number of events they list on their site, it's appears that the work is probably a little sporadic.

Zipper mobile, is up for sale on Larkings list. It's a small 7.5 tonne truck but for whatever reason the operation appears to have been closed.

There is a mobile caravan operation, based I think on a historic Airstream caravan with a previously famous owner, however, the present owners also have a studio set-up so they probably don't rely on mobile dates alone.

The BBC sold off their truck operation to SIS.

There are a number of European wide mobile operations that occasionally work in the UK as well as Europe Huubs lot are one, though I'm not sure if they come to England, perhaps he will tell us?

The problem with mobiles studio's, is that you are into a fair amount of running costs outside of the original build and installation. In the UK you require an operators license, the road tax costs are usually heavy, you need somewhere secure to store the truck, insurance. Unless you are a qualified HGV driver (assuming your truck is anything bigger than a 7.5 tonne), and even if you take the license yourself, there are such strict rules on drivers hours that many location jobs would quite possibly need two drivers to cover the hours. Factor in fuels costs, and larger rigs will return anything from 18 to as low as 9 miles per gallon.

Outside of the driving there is also the factor of staffing, I would suggest that 2 recording staff would be an absolute minimum.

Forgetting equipment costs, a job where you have to travel 100 miles to get there, with say a large rigid body 30ft truck could easily be costing you £600 just to get there and back. Add a couple of sound engineers and costs have already escalated well over £1,000 for a day. In real terms I suspect that these sort of operations are running at close to £2,000 a day in cost (factoring in gear depreciation, maintenance and operational costs) before any element of profit and that's assuming that they have regular enough work. If the truck only works 50-60 days a year it would probably hemorrhage cash.

Even TV companies (traditionally they always had more money to spend), have drastically cut back their budgets over the last few years. With 400 odd channels on British TV to fill shows have a lot less money to spend per hour of footage.

I'm not saying there isn't money in sound recording/production, however, you have to be a lot more flexible and keep a close look at the bottom line. The fact that a lot of experienced mobile sound people have downsized, moved laterally and budgeted their gear accordingly, I think proves this.
Old 26th July 2012
  #14
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richgilb's Avatar
 

I suspect there would be more work in offering a small live mobile PA rig on a stage trailer with a recording facility. I saw a couple of airstream trailers at the Great Escape festival this year with desks at the side inside the trailer. Look amazing and cost quite a bit to hire:

Airstream Stage

A couple of grand for a trailer or about 20 grand for a refurbed airstream like the one above!
Old 26th July 2012
  #15
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Jay-'s Avatar
IV got a school bus with 2x18 subs, 2x15 mains.
Protools mixer, Imac, midi synth, MPC2000, micraphones, bass, guitar.

Sound actually amazing and I can open the rear doors and take it out for lawn partys.

Hell I could host a kegger and a pot party if I wanted.
Old 26th July 2012
  #16
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The guys in my area with recording trucks, even the guys with lots of Grammies, have gone bust and parted their trucks out. Around here, music recording trucks are a dead issue. There is plenty of recording done, but it's smaller lower profile stuff mostly. There's just no one left who wants to spend the money it takes to hire such a rig, mostly. If you want to get into location recording, have your vehicle for getting your gear to the gig, maybe once in a while work out of it, mostly not. It's still a dicey proposition as a stand alone business, ie not part of a PA or other biz. Check out Steve Remote's posts, he has the clearest vision of this biz of anyone I know.

Phil p
Old 27th July 2012
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Roland's pretty much on the money about having a van; even if it's not an HGV then it's still a powered vehicle to keep on the road.

I have considered using some sort of trailer and if I were still doing as many outdoor shows as a few years ago I'd probably be doing it right now. The truth is that it's all pretty much died and I'll soon be having to decide whether to replace ageing kit or just stop doing sound altogether. The fact is I can make more money conducting and I only have to carry a baton. BUT the complicating factor is that sometimes the sound is an 'in' to the conducting ...
Old 27th July 2012
  #18
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Roland's Avatar
I personally don't see much point in running a small truck operation in the UK. If it's a small truck you can offer as good facilities with a fly pack operation and the costs are a lot lower. A truck really is only a viable operation if you can offer something that a flypack operation can't offer, this in my view comes down to two advantages, a controlled monitoring environment and the ability to carry a lot of kit and facilities already wired in. Sure the second of these could be done flypack, however, the more kit you are carrying the more complicated it becomes.

With modern kit getting ever smaller and increased functionality, big trucks look increasingly expensive.

As a sideline, around 10 years ago, I know that I could get no end of trucks to do a location job for around £1,000 or slightly less, I would expect costs to be more than double now.

Last edited by Roland; 27th July 2012 at 10:13 AM.. Reason: to make the last sentence make sense.
Old 28th July 2012
  #19
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Another issue re trucks, as covered in another thread, is that a lot of relatively simple (for a truck) bread-and-butter recording gigs recording splits from an FOH console are now done by the FOH people themselves. Digital consoles that talk directly to PT or Nuendo, JoeCo recorders etc make it pretty simple for them to do that kind of work. So a lot of the less-glamorous but rent-paying work we used to do just isn't available anymore. Also, in the USA, cities are much more restrictive about truck parking and permitting, cable runs through public spaces, insurance, genny noise etc than the used to be, so some venue owners won't allow trucks at all, or only for the biggest shows they do.

phil p
Old 29th July 2012
  #20
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huub's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
There are a number of European wide mobile operations that occasionally work in the UK as well as Europe Huubs lot are one, though I'm not sure if they come to England, perhaps he will tell us?
We work in the UK every once in a while, but not a lot (truck has to go on boat or train and thus extra travel day= extra money)

I have done music jobs in the UK, but we never did the musicmix/multitrack, that was always Tim summerhayes (now redTX) or Will shapland, with a truck.
We have trucks that do video as well as audio, which I think is partly the future for big music jobs, as the big truck is needed for video anyway, and we have nicer and bigger audio systems than most music trucks.
Old 29th July 2012
  #21
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Roland's Avatar
The permit and parking restrictions is a very good point, places like London would no doubt be a nightmare for this.

I think your point about most music trucks being video as well is a good one. We all seem to forget that with video the size of their kit has reduced as well. They can have very powerful facilities that take up a fraction of the room they used to. With the reduction in size digital desks and recorders afford, sharing isn't the problem it would have once been.

Huub do you have any link to the truck you work on? I'm sure many of us here would love to take a look.
Old 29th July 2012
  #22
Take a look at this really compact "OB" van. The audio is not good, but the space is enough for a small but high quality audio system.
http://www.videolinea.com/public/art..._event-van.pdf
Old 30th July 2012
  #23
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huub's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
The permit and parking restrictions is a very good point, places like London would no doubt be a nightmare for this.

I think your point about most music trucks being video as well is a good one. We all seem to forget that with video the size of their kit has reduced as well. They can have very powerful facilities that take up a fraction of the room they used to. With the reduction in size digital desks and recorders afford, sharing isn't the problem it would have once been.

Huub do you have any link to the truck you work on? I'm sure many of us here would love to take a look.
We have a couple of trucks, but this http://www.united4all.nl/uploads/obtrucks/OB14.pdf is our biggest truck, it has 128 channels of redundant multitrack as standard, but I recorded 192 channels (well, 192 channels of multitrack, but the actual recording was about 164 channels) of andre rieu recently without any problems.
http://www.live-production.tv/news/s...broadcast.html
Old 30th July 2012
  #24
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Roland's Avatar
I should have looked for the info on your profile first! lol

Impressive audio spec, particularly considering that it's a combined audio/video truck. I don't think that the Red TX trucks are any better spec'd. being a Pyramix user myself I know what a great piece of kit it is.
Old 31st July 2012
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Thanks for the input peeps.

Definitely food for thought. I'd want the van/truck to be as multipurpose as possible, with the main one being able to mix and record at any location, with a small recording space inside, all solar powered.

I also love the idea of being able to turn it into a small stage, coupled with a mobile PA system - open up the back doors and have decks or a small band playing
Old 7th August 2012
  #26
Gear Nut
 

Adamski, I love the idea of having a mobile stage, but all the points raised above still stand. I have an open-fronted barn at home which my wife and I use for parties in pretty much the way you describe using the mobile, except, of course, we can't move it (with the attendant advantage we don't have to go anywhere, the band comes to us). But it is a party thing more than a pukka music facility. And you definitely wouldn't build one just for that!
Old 13th September 2015
  #27
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I did it. Recognize.us
Old 13th September 2015
  #28
How is solar going to work on cold, cloudy days in wintertime at 55 degrees north?

One passing cloud could ruin the entire recording.
Old 13th September 2015
  #29
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johnsound's Avatar
The idea of a solar panel system like this is to trickle-charge a battery supply, not to power the equipment directly, and the latest iteration of solar panels are reasonably efficient even on cloudy days.

John
Old 14th September 2015
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sergiesharee View Post
I did it. Recognize.us
I did it too...

One for Steve Remote
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