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New Studio Business Models Modular Synthesizers
Old 26th May 2007
  #1
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Clueless's Avatar
New Studio Business Models

Several ideas across many threads suggest:

The "big studio" is going the way of the dinosaur (say some).
The RIAA is about to flush the entire music industry (say many if not most).
There's no money in live/recorded/downloadable music (say many).
There's no money in producing/tracking/mixing/mastering music (say some).
The Loudness Wars/MP3 has utterly ruined the people's ear for quality (say most).
Live music venues are seriously damaging the hearing/health of people who go to shows (say all).

Against that we have one ambiguous fact:

iTunes is the best/worst thing to happen to the album/artist.

And we have the sense that ultimately, people value quality--if only it weren't so damn scarce. This applies to (1) the quality of the audience, (2) the quality of the artist, and (3) the quality of the recorded product (and perhaps (4), the quality of the system for playing (3)).

In the world of food and agcriculture, the Slow Food Movement is gaining adherence. It is based on the principle that food should be good (high quality, delicious), clean (grown in environmentally responsible ways), and fair (economically viable for farmers). Carlo Petrini, the founder of the movement, claims that the problem with food today is that people pay too little for food, leading to the need to spend far too much on healthcare remedies that come from consuming increasingly toxic products and living in an increasingly toxic environment. Slow Food also dismisses the idea of "consumers", calling people who eat "co-producers" instead. The Industrial Music Business may be just as corrupt/corrupting as Industrial Agriculture, which has made obesity epidemic and is cited by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment report as the single largest factor threatening the viability of species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. But back to music...

I believe that a fundamental reinvention of the way music is produced, performed, marketed, and distributed, could create a sustainable model very different from today's fragmented and unfair system. And I'm interested in prototyping/developing such a model in a new studio. Some ideas:

1. The Creative Commons has recorded hundreds of millions of creative works that grant licensees sufficient freedoms to become co-producers far sooner or far more broadly than today's 75 years+death copyright regime. How would the demand for an artists work change when somebody buying the product is seen as a co-producer (in their own eyes and in the eyes of the artist)?

2. Sites like Magnatunes and Jamendo are helping both artists and genres find audiences and customers, even with freely downloadable CC-licensed materials.

3. If more people had more experience listening to their favorite artists in really great rooms, the demand for quality would snowball.

4. Wealthy clientele can get the backstage passes for their favorite bands, but are still limited to mind-numbingly poor sound at major venues. What would they pay to be behind the glass when the magic is being made? Would there be enough artists ready to record for small audiences over a period of hours or days albums that are somewhere in quality between a bootleg (hah!) and a fully produced studio album (in terms of artistic performance and hassle) but far better than either in that the performance is intentional, intimate, and authentic to those both performing and co-producing?

Think about people who pay to play golf with Tiger Woods, eat lunch with Warren Buffett, have dinner with the President, drive cars around the track at NASCAR. There are tens of thousands of high net-worth individuals looking for new experiences (in the US alone, many more around the world). Could a new definition of quality ultimately obtain a new model for studio viability, artist renumeration, and ultimately, cultural legacy?

My prototype environment is a beautiful rural environment with:

4000 sq ft enclosed studio space + 1200 sq ft patio
1500 sq ft detached garage and storage space
1350 sq ft live room, tall ceilings, state of the art acoustics
Two booths (300 sq ft, 200 sq ft) with vaulted ceilings (to 16')
Two Sound Locks (140 sq ft each, suitable for amp and vocal isolation)
450 sq ft control room (RFZ, couch space for 8-15 people)

Think about the product being primarily produced for the 5-25 people who attach as "co-producers" but with the option that those co-producers can share the product among friends (bootleg aspect), the artist would have full rights to further publication and distribution (conventional commercial aspect), the co-producers pay full freight so that the studio and the artists are completely covered when the "project" is finished. Because this is done for a small audience, the mix need not be compromised the way it is for broad distribution (simplifying mastering and mixing processes).

Anyway, if anybody has tried something like this, I'm interested in whatever experiences you'd like to share! There has *got* to be a way to build a stronger, healthier connection between artist, engineer, and audience!!
Old 26th May 2007
  #2
PDC
Lives for gear
 

Peter Gabriel and others with substancial resources and facilities have tried. All that ends up happening is that you must conform to the existing way of doing business. All that happens is that you become a full service studio/label with distribution. That has already been done by all of the majors. Without major money to buy advertising, to buy radio airplay, and sales demand built by touring, you are wizzin in the wind. There are people who have been shopping ideas for musician coops and McDonalds type studios/performance venues/retail shops in major markets. This model includes cross marketing other bands, all acting as one giant street team. This makes them become just another low-budget label with volunteer labor. If someone drops the ball/gives up, then the momentum is lost.

The age old problem remains the same. You have to sell to the public. That is an art and science in itself. How do you make a product that a majority of the people will buy, how will you inform them of it's availability, and how will the majority buy the product as soon as possible with the least amount of hassle? Then, how will you keep money coming in once your product is available for free on the internet?

Right now, the technological cat is out of the bag. Now there are more people making music than ever before = more people making bad music than ever before. Who knows if the consumers at large will tire of MP3s and crappy music? We can only hope.

I think that anyone who is operating a studio soley is going to be closing up shop in short order. The producer and artist owned studios will stay busy, as long as there is demand for these people and their genres of music.
Old 26th May 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
I was talking to someone who happens to own several studios in the UK and he put it in a nutshell -

"No studio can be a business success because you cannot scale up studio sales. I can sell hot-sauce, software or DVDs millions of times over, but you can only sell a studio 365 days in the year."

In the next European issue of Audio Media there will be an article on this very subject!
Old 26th May 2007
  #4
PDC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
I was talking to someone who happens to own several studios in the UK and he put it in a nutshell -

"No studio can be a business success because you cannot scale up studio sales. I can sell hot-sauce, software or DVDs millions of times over, but you can only sell a studio 365 days in the year."

In the next European issue of Audio Media there will be an article on this very subject!
I get this magazine in electronic form now. Is it possible to get it in the US? Maybe a month after it is out, you could send it to me?
Old 26th May 2007
  #5
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lord_bunny's Avatar
 

This is all very facinating... keep goin!
Old 26th May 2007
  #6
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

A music studio is first and foremost a space intended for musical performances having a gifted staff of people to help facilitate an exceptional performance.

Studios are not absolutely required for editing, mixing and simple overdubs. Trying to sell studio time for something a real studio is over-qualified for has always been asking for trouble because it's a flawed business model from the get-go. It is equally wrong for people to claim that a pile of recording gear is a studio.

I suspect those who haven't lost sight of the basics should do just fine in the studio business of the future.
Old 26th May 2007
  #7
Whatever changes--even if everything changes completely--you will still have musicians, they will still seek out people to help them make their recordings: "Bingo!"--there's a word that everyone everywhere says in the same language.

Although-- every so often I wonder what my alter-ego, back in the 19th century, out West somewhere, was doing... transcribing sheet music? Playing the saloon on a Saturday night? Medicine show? Whatever the equivalent thing was? Who knows.
Old 27th May 2007
  #8
Lives for gear
 

The Grateful Dead model will be the only viable business model in a few years. The only way to really get paid will be the live shows.
The records are loss leaders. Sort of the bootleg live shows of the future.

This is really the purist form for what we do.
Bands that organically develop a following will need talented engineers to make records. Either at the bands "studio" or at the engineers own shop which will most likely be on his own property.(basement - barn etc)

There will continue to be a handful of "artists" who come out of the corporate entertainment complex (ie. american idol) but face it - if its digital - its free. That's the mindset of an entire generation.

First there was the family piano and sheet music (pre-mozart - ragtime).
Next came radio.
Then came records.
Cassettes changed the backdrop to the car.
The walkman untethered us.
Cd's next.
DSL turned CD's into free flowing data.
Napster, limewire, bit torrent etc made it all free of charge.
End of cycle.

The one thing that worked though all of that was great musicians playing good music. And if the music was in tune with that generations dreams and angst - fame and fortune could result.

The battle now is 'who owns the internet"?
Verizon is trying to patent the damn thing (patent is for packets of voice data over a network which is the whole damn future and they won a recent injunction over skype).
And the concept of the internet being a level playing field is under constant assult from the phone/cable companies. They want to set up a pay to play system for businesses where a site would have to pay extra to have faster speeds - no pay - SLOW GO.

It's this **** that determines the future of our business.
If the net stays free - its the wild west and the best bands will win.
If they lock up data stream there will only be a couple record labels and they will be subsidiaries of Verizon and Time Warner.
Old 27th May 2007
  #9
Gear addict
 
(DC)'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Whatever changes--even if everything changes completely--you will still have musicians, they will still seek out people to help them make their recordings: "Bingo!"--there's a word that everyone everywhere says in the same language.

Although-- every so often I wonder what my alter-ego, back in the 19th century, out West somewhere, was doing... transcribing sheet music? Playing the saloon on a Saturday night? Medicine show? Whatever the equivalent thing was? Who knows.
I like this guy right here
Old 27th May 2007
  #10
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T_R_S's Avatar
It's not just the gear it's also the people behind it when you go to a pro studio.
I would want to get help from a professional to get a better song and get the most out of every song.
If you needed a lawyer or you were sick and needed a doctor, would you go to some hack working out his backyard garage?
How can the average person afford a $20,000.00 vocal chain?
What about room acouctics?
Proper design and isolation are important for a great end product.
It's not any one thing in a pro studio - it's a package.
Old 27th May 2007
  #11
PDC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T_R_S View Post
How can the average person afford a $20,000.00 vocal chain? What about room acouctics?
Not many. When you can rent a world class studio and engineer for $100 an hour or less, billing for three to four hours a week, odds are the studio won't be able to afford it for long either.
Old 28th May 2007
  #12
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

I wouldn't write off packaged recordings yet. We just bumbled back into making and selling albums as if they were singles. The way we moved the market from singles to albums in the late '60s was exceptional recordings that were exceptionally well packaged. Everybody stopped doing that after the stores began refusing to stock LPs and now we're all paying for the public's lack of confidence this created.

Something almost nobody talks about is the fact that the sales of new titles fell way off ten years ago and never came back. Catalog sales hid that fact until illegal downloads killed catalog sales. I think the future will belong to those who are really creative and manage to make exceptional recordings of compelling performances. The bar for what people are willing to pay for is simply much higher now than it was ten years ago.
Old 29th May 2007
  #13
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Clueless's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
I wouldn't write off packaged recordings yet. We just bumbled back into making and selling albums as if they were singles. The way we moved the market from singles to albums in the late '60s was exceptional recordings that were exceptionally well packaged. Everybody stopped doing that after the stores began refusing to stock LPs and now we're all paying for the public's lack of confidence this created.

Something almost nobody talks about is the fact that the sales of new titles fell way off ten years ago and never came back. Catalog sales hid that fact until illegal downloads killed catalog sales. I think the future will belong to those who are really creative and manage to make exceptional recordings of compelling performances. The bar for what people are willing to pay for is simply much higher now than it was ten years ago.
Very well said. Maybe everything old is new again? But to return to the threat, the idea I want to prototype is to truly raise the bar, up to and including "it's like being in the studio when the record's being made" because for some...it will be.
Old 29th May 2007
  #14
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lord_bunny's Avatar
 

i dunno, watching people record is only novel for so long... mostly it's like watching paint dry. i wouldn't fall asleep at a tom waits recording session or the beatles... but you'd have to find some pretty rabid fans.
Old 29th May 2007
  #15
Lives for gear
Well, Clueless, you have obviosly never been in a studio when someone is recording.

The very last thing they want or need is an audience.

There is also the minor technicality that your average rock - pop - classical star does not need the money.
Old 29th May 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T_R_S View Post
How can the average person afford a $20,000.00 vocal chain?
And who really needs it? How many amazing vocals were cut on hit records with much less than that?
Old 29th May 2007
  #17
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
My prototype environment is a beautiful rural environment with:

4000 sq ft enclosed studio space + 1200 sq ft patio
1500 sq ft detached garage and storage space
1350 sq ft live room, tall ceilings, state of the art acoustics
Two booths (300 sq ft, 200 sq ft) with vaulted ceilings (to 16')
Two Sound Locks (140 sq ft each, suitable for amp and vocal isolation)
450 sq ft control room (RFZ, couch space for 8-15 people)
And whilst I'm here, your 'dream' studio exists many times over. Look at any destination studio and you will find more or less exactly what you have described.

You must live in a city where things are a bit cramped. A sq foot is not much, you know! 12 sq feet is about one sq meter and a 100m live room is about the norm.
Old 29th May 2007
  #18
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Clueless's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
Well, Clueless, you have obviosly never been in a studio when someone is recording.
Not true. But then again, I think the best seat at the restaurant is the one inside the kitchen. Me, I pay top $$ to eat with the staff and hear the chef tell them how to sell the food that night. Maybe that's my problem?

Quote:
The very last thing they want or need is an audience.
Depends on the artist and their level of confidence, and also the concept of the recording. I'm not talking about putting randoms in the studio when the artist is trying to make The Studio Record That Will Restart Their Career. I'm talking about playing cross-over between live and studio. If the artist cannot actually perform live...they cannot record in this format.

Quote:
There is also the minor technicality that your average rock - pop - classical star does not need the money.
Depends where you draw the line (star and need). I just spent Sunday afternoon talking with an artist who has three solid albums to her credit and is about to start recording her fourth. She's been acclaimed in Rolling Stone. And she's thinking really, really hard about making the money work. And she's still young!
Old 29th May 2007
  #19
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sahiaman's Avatar
 

First ask yourself what the demographic is. Kids are a horrible demo graphic for music these days....they download music for free.
Kids don't have money, they rather will download music and spend it on clothes.

So the next big buyer for music are the moms who absolutely love their crooners, and jazz acts that they see on Oprah, or hear in Borders Books. Those are the people you can market to and will still shell out $15 for a cd.

When people build up their music collection, they are buying cds that represent their youth, and want to gain some kind of "identity" with whats on their iPods. And new acts don't seem to make it on to their playlists.

So how can we help and change the way people buy music? Start up the quality revolution. Let people know that what they listen to on their iPods doesn't compare to what you can have on a great sound system, vinyl, cds, bose systems. And they will start to drop more money on fullfilling their "identity".

Personally, I think the music business is a horrible business plan. Just because we are in the music business and have been expolited by large corporations in the past, doesn't mean we should be doing business the same way. I would love to see "product placement" in cds booklets. If we can have concerts sponsored by "Bud Lite", why can't we have coca cola or old navy pick up some of the tab by giving away advertising space inside booklets? I think these are the new issues and ways we should be thinking.
Old 29th May 2007
  #20
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Clueless's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
And whilst I'm here, your 'dream' studio exists many times over. Look at any destination studio and you will find more or less exactly what you have described.

You must live in a city where things are a bit cramped. A sq foot is not much, you know! 12 sq feet is about one sq meter and a 100m live room is about the norm.
The Byre: you, too, have a studio in a beautiful environment.

I wasn't trying to claim that this studio would be the biggest out there (it's not). I know that my live room will be approx half the size of Studio 2 at Abbey Road (and a fraction of the size of their large room). But by your maths, the 128m live room is on the good side of what you consider to be the norm, so the fact is that it's a *competent* environment, able to do the job.

Also, the model I'm proposing does *not* work very well when number of performing artists way outnumber those paying to participate. 10 participants helping to sponsor the performance of 5 band members works at price in the low thousands per person. I think that can be sold. 10 participants trying to sponsor a 35 piece orchestra (the comforable limit of the my large room) would easily run into the 10s of thousands per. I'm not ready to try to sell that (though I'd be happy to take their money if they wanted to record there).
Old 29th May 2007
  #21
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Clueless's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by scking View Post
And who really needs it? How many amazing vocals were cut on hit records with much less than that?
You will note that I've tried to keep specific equipment out of this discussion. I do believe, however, that a $20,000 vocal chain could sound very good indeed in a 32,000 cu ft (917 m3) room, or one of the smaller ones.
Old 29th May 2007
  #22
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Clueless's Avatar
And another thing...

Elsewhere, in another Universe (but still on the same forum, go figure!) is this thread asking whether artists/producers should be granted access to the mix engineer's control room: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-mu...ng-mixing.html

An aspect of the model I envision is that EVERYBODY GETS THE MIX THEY WANT (within some amount of reason--think "do you want cracked pepper or no, grated parmesano reggiano or not"). If some folks want the bass forward, and others the sax, you can make everybody happy and after six months, when they all come back and say "I love that mix we made, but I think you're right, the bass/sax is too far forward, can you give me what you gave the band?", boom, it's not that difficult. It does mean keeping the stems forever, but at $300/TB for hard disk storage, it's not like that's terribly expensive. Again--the model is different because the product concept is different.
Old 29th May 2007
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
You will note that I've tried to keep specific equipment out of this discussion. I do believe, however, that a $20,000 vocal chain could sound very good indeed in a 32,000 cu ft (917 m3) room, or one of the smaller ones.
As would a $5000 vocal chain or a $2000 vocal chain. Sometimes $20,000 is overkill.
Old 30th May 2007
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PDC View Post
I get this magazine in electronic form now. Is it possible to get it in the US? Maybe a month after it is out, you could send it to me?
March Page 60 (Page box at the top, type in number)

Audio Media - March, 2007

April Page 52

Audio Media - April, 2007

May Page 42

Audio Media - May , 2007

The easy way is to subscribe to the mag on line and get either hard or soft copy, or both!
Old 30th May 2007
  #25
Registered User
 
Zwinter's Avatar
 

The other day I was driving home and talking to my Dad about some reports we had heard on the radio, we are big NPR fans. Anyways, our conversation was concerning market pricing in the airline industry and later how it compared with the studio industry.

What we both noticed was airline companies often price themselves in accordance with the other companies. So if one company lowers a fair the others follow suit. However, airlines typically do the opposite, raising their prices to match other companies. I am sure this has to do with the fact that all of the airlines realize the costs don't vary from airline to airline. So if one company had to raise their price due to rising fuel costs, all companies would see that higher costs and follow suit.

In the studio business, I haven't really found this to be the case. Sure studios are quick to match their price with the studio down the road, but only when the price is lower. When the other studios price is higher the thought is that you can now capture a higher percentage of the market. Unfortunately I don't know if this is the best thing to do. Sure, it's great for the customer and lowering their rates, but it's also at the expense of profits, and all too often even the marginal cost of business. As people then fight for a higher percentage of the market, which is severely limited by the number of days in a year and the number of rooms you have, as well as, the limited amount of people who want to record, they sacrifice rates without a realistic plan of capturing enough of the market to justify the rate reduction.

Ultimately I am not sure if any studio plan can over come the current market conditions where decisions are made with little logic, or foresight, involved. Personally I would wait a few years and see how things pan out, figuring the trust fund kids will eventually get bored or run out of money. (It’s amazing how a huge trust fund can help you make so many poor business decisions.) Anyways, these are just some of my thoughts and observations. Time will tell if I am right, but in the mean time it should hopefully make for a good discussion.
Old 30th May 2007
  #26
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soundbarnfool's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
Well, Clueless, you have obviosly never been in a studio when someone is recording.

The very last thing they want or need is an audience.

There is also the minor technicality that your average rock - pop - classical star does not need the money.
Ahem. I did a live to 2 track recording at Sear Sound in NYC back in 1991 when I was signed to Polydor (as an artist). Acoustic guitar, upright bass, brushes, vocals. 13 songs. I think inviting an audience to SOME of the sessions is a great idea. It can give the artist the sense of delivering a real "performance". Not everyone's cup of tea of course, but the idea has very real merit (and by the way is not a "new" idea).

Recording live definitely seperates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the engineers from the, uh...

One more thought - Too many "stars", not enough "artists".

Timing is everything. The industry sure is in a rut now! No idea is too stupid...
Old 30th May 2007
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zwinter View Post
The other day I was driving home and talking to my Dad about some reports we had heard on the radio, we are big NPR fans. Anyways, our conversation was concerning market pricing in the airline industry and later how it compared with the studio industry.
Not that I disagree with what you said, but you don't have 1200 airlines all in the same city the way you do with studios. And companies like Delta don't have to worry about the guy with a Cessna taking customers from them.
Old 30th May 2007
  #28
Registered User
 
Zwinter's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scking View Post
Not that I disagree with what you said, but you don't have 1200 airlines all in the same city the way you do with studios. And companies like Delta don't have to worry about the guy with a Cessna taking customers from them.
That is very true! I wasn't necessarily saying that the studio industry perfectly emulates the airline industry. So I hope that was clear.

That being said, I find most studio owners don't have good and accurate business plans that show the potential for long term profitability, including when that guy with a Cessna opens up shop. I am not sure why business owners don't put more time into analyzing the market. Maybe it has to do with the fact that as engineers we don't really want or enjoy that type of work, we would rather let the artistic side thrive. (Or maybe the results are just too depressing...) Plus the studio industry is small enough that most of us can't hire someone to do that tell us all of the industry forces, like an airline can.
Old 31st May 2007
  #29
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Old 31st May 2007
  #30
Gear nut
 

"An aspect of the model I envision is that EVERYBODY GETS THE MIX THEY WANT (within some amount of reason--think "do you want cracked pepper or no, grated parmesano reggiano or not")"

Funny. i've got a friend who is doing a similar thing right now:

http://www.mutantmall.com/echelon.php

On the bit about having an audience while recording - when i first read that i thought it was a terrible idea. A bunch of yahoos in the CR giving horrible advice on arrangements and mix does not seem like the most ideal situation for the artist. But then i remembered how years ago my band recorded a couple of tapes by using the free student recording sessions at Full Sail. Probably wouldn't be too different than that was and it really wasn't so bad.

Come to think of it...maybe you could sucker your co-producers into being studio assistants. Set up mics, coil cable etc. "Get the full production experience!"
Like dude ranch.
i think i'm on to something.
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