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Building a commercial studio - opinions needed Organs
Old 7th July 2018
  #1
Gear Head
 

Building a commercial studio - opinions needed

Hey guys... I have teamed up with a few local businessmen in the north of England to build a brand new commercial recording studio, from the ground up. I am not designing the studio myself (that is being handled by professional studio designers), but I’m involved in helping to spec it from the point of view of what musicians want, so I wanted to throw some questions into the forum to see if we can get the inspiration flowing a little bit.

There is a real desire to make this studio the undisputed “best” in the north. Multiple rooms, great gear, good size rooms etc. It will be built on a 0.5 acre piece of land, so we have space to accommodate most larger ideas at present.

I just wanted to ask some opinions.

1) In your opinion, for “Studio A” (I.e the bees knees studio), what kind of size would you expect / want to see in a live room? Number of booths etc? Remember this is to be a commercial studio so it wants to be able to accommodate potentially a lot of musicians at once.

2) is there any mileage, in your opinion, of making the studios modular, in the sense that Control Room A and Live Room A (big room) would be linked somehow to Live Room B (smaller room) and vice versa. So people could hire out any combination of rooms to use for their desired projects. Or multiple control rooms attached to multiple live rooms.

We’re in the early stages of planning it out, seeking advice, doing a bit of market research etc.
Old 7th July 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

I cant really help too much, but here's a thought.

Not sure if you are aware, but AIR Lyndhurst is up for sale. One possibility is the new owners will keep it as-is. Another, is that it gets ripped down and turned into a mall, or housing, or something. If budget and physical space allows, maybe consider making the recording room big enough to hold a 100-peice orchestra. Then of course, you will need a desk to accommodate. I am not sure of your studio's proximity to AIR, but if indeed they are no more in the near future, is it possible that you would take some of their business?

In any event, best of luck to you.
Old 7th July 2018
  #3
Lives for gear
 

The magic dimensions for me for a live room are: 28' H x 36'W x 48' L
Dont ask me why, but the vibe from such a space is akin to being in outer space...

YYMV
Light

Temple
Old 7th July 2018
  #4
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the replies so far. AIR is in London. London has countless great recording studios...up north we don’t have many and it’s approx 4 hours drive to London.

Do you guys have favourite “big” studios, and if so, for what reason?
Old 7th July 2018
  #5
Lives for gear
 

I live on the west coast, and a lot of great sounding halls and venues have been made by converting churches, old movie theaters and warehouses...
The sound in most of these rooms have been extraordinary for live performance. Not designed for recording, not acoustically treated, and certainly not easy to sustain. The possibilities of turning such an environment into a treated and made for recording environment are mind blowing...
It takes a lot of capital to do right, but some of the best shows I've ever seen were performed in these native-state type of buildings.
Some had acoustical design as part of their original design, thereby making a building more suited to the purpose...

YYMV

Light

Temple
Old 7th July 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
A few thought's to consider.

Find a classic room design, many already exist since you are building from scratch. Then you can make the main room from cinder blocks on a free floating floor and wall system.

You will need to decide how & Where you will record for live room and dead room sounds.

Then consider Quiet HVAC system with over sized plastic ducts.

The DB's of low frequency isolation between drum room and control room is a detail to pay attention too.

The ease of recording a single or small group of vocals in a small or large environment are both nice to have.

And this may sound very old school, but a reverb room with speakers and mic's is a nice feature if no cost issues. Good for re-amp setups. Then you track guitars raw and dial in the sound of the amp at mix.

Consider how the flow of people work when you have a band that needs to be kept from distractions yet interact with the casual friends.

Remember to have an area for the help to wire cable's, & Maintain vintage rack gear & Mic's.

Are you going to be storing things outside the main room like other drum sets & or Hammond B3?

Do the musicians get a view?

Is there an easy way for the band to unload a drum set directly into the large room?

More than one control room for multiple tasks at once?
Mastering room?

Will flushing the toilet when recording be a problem?

How good will the voltage be? Assume all is AC/DC/AC regulated.

Will you need voltage and Cycles at standard for Euro, USA, and Japan setting for different gear?

Consider what's the control room size? How big a mixer? Is 100 rack spaces enough?

XLR patch for mic to preamp and TT patch after preamps?

Good studio's have a good drum room and a mixture of textures (Wood, stone, cloth, metal, etc..)
Old 9th July 2018
  #7
Lives for gear
If you have a pro studio designer I would assume a lot of the more technical aspects would be handled...the parts that fall on you would be to have a business plan that's viable, which you could then feed to the designer.

IMO you want to be careful not to have the biggest yacht in the drydock here.

Do you have *really good* engineers and producers to staff this place? Or is the idea to make the studio available to freelancers?

To your 2nd question I would also look into the possibility of scaling rooms down as well as up, IOW can you set things up so that the live rooms can be used for pre-pro, writing sessions, rehearsals and so on (separate from the control rooms..). Is there a way to have a DAW/workstation and speakers in the live rooms? One thing to consider for flexibility is to interconnect the place with Dante...

Also I think a lot of people assume that the best market is recording bands and musicians. At least in my world, there is many orders of magnitude more to be made in writing, production and artist development for younger well-heeled individual artists. This generally requires more than just handing a CD (or emailing mp3s) at the end of a session though. The market for tracking bands is spread so thin over so many studios that I personally can't imagine leaning on that as a primary revenue source.

You mileage there may vary, but I think it would be wise to write a business plan that assumes that recording bands is relatively minimal in terms of gross revenue and see what other ideas everyone has.
Old 9th July 2018
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanC View Post
If you have a pro studio designer I would assume a lot of the more technical aspects would be handled...the parts that fall on you would be to have a business plan that's viable, which you could then feed to the designer.

IMO you want to be careful not to have the biggest yacht in the drydock here.

Do you have *really good* engineers and producers to staff this place? Or is the idea to make the studio available to freelancers?

To your 2nd question I would also look into the possibility of scaling rooms down as well as up, IOW can you set things up so that the live rooms can be used for pre-pro, writing sessions, rehearsals and so on (separate from the control rooms..). Is there a way to have a DAW/workstation and speakers in the live rooms? One thing to consider for flexibility is to interconnect the place with Dante...

Also I think a lot of people assume that the best market is recording bands and musicians. At least in my world, there is many orders of magnitude more to be made in writing, production and artist development for younger well-heeled individual artists. This generally requires more than just handing a CD (or emailing mp3s) at the end of a session though. The market for tracking bands is spread so thin over so many studios that I personally can't imagine leaning on that as a primary revenue source.

You mileage there may vary, but I think it would be wise to write a business plan that assumes that recording bands is relatively minimal in terms of gross revenue and see what other ideas everyone has.
Thanks for the post.

Regarding having great engineers to staff it... there are two particularly good engineers who are on board, and yes there is also the potential to open it up to freelancers.

Regarding business plans, there are already plans in place to run artist development workshops with local arts establishments, and the building will also house 2 rehearsal rooms and a photography studio to bring in additional revenue. The possibility has also been floated of running a gear hire division from the building too, but I'm not privy to that side of it.
Old 9th July 2018
  #9
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Puppets View Post
Regarding business plans, there are already plans in place to run artist development workshops with local arts establishments, and the building will also house 2 rehearsal rooms and a photography studio to bring in additional revenue. The possibility has also been floated of running a gear hire division from the building too, but I'm not privy to that side of it.
Great, I didn't mean to come of (or be!) a nag...Sounds like this is going to be a cool place!
Old 12th July 2018
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Sounds like a cool place. You really need to determine what your clientele is going to be. A big live space is great, but if the bulk of your business is going to be Urban production or mixing, it's kind of a waste.

As far as dimensions, my largest room is 20'h x 45'L x 44'W with a control room 26'x24' and twin iso booths @ 10'x13' One thin I wish I had in retrospect was an amp closet. The Double loading doors with an air lock for exterior noise is nice. If you are talking about hosting the number of musicians in excess of what that would hold, you might look at the musician pool in your area to fulfill that. I'm sure ensembles in London that may require that, but does your local area have that large a pool of players to even need that?

As far as tying rooms together, lots of people do it but I've only had a couple of instances where it was actually necessary- over a couple decades. You can prepare the cable runs to do that and decide later imo. Of course the designer would have to address the viability of that.

Then you get to enjoy the gear selection process as well... That too will depend on who your clients will be and what they're looking for...
Old 12th July 2018
  #11
gwm
Gear Head
 

Hi,

For your Studio A I can think of no better benchmarks than

Studio 301's Studio 1 - Studios 301

or

Manifold Recordings main room Home - Manifold Recording

Study the floorpans closely for dimensions.

Wishing you the very best
Old 12th July 2018
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Its T View Post
...
Then you get to enjoy the gear selection process as well... That too will depend on who your clients will be and what they're looking for...
isn't it funny that the gear did NOT play a big role in earlier years, assuming it was of decent quality? at least around here, nobody complained about the studer 980 in one room (for classical recording) and an mci jh500 in another. there were a few dozens of neumann mics, tape recorders came from studer anyway and then there were the usual bunch of urei, dbx, focusrite, gml etc.
(i have to admit that later on, some folks just 'needed' a neve for tracking and an ssl for mixing...)

i'd try to find out how much (if any) classical music/orchestra work could be done: sure everyone would want to come to a room that is large enough, but who can afford to pay for it if remote recording (or more likely recording abroad) is much cheaper? gear and accomodation could vary quite a bit if used for orchestra, freelance producers, metal heads or bloggers... - how about spending 100'000 on a bösendorfer/fazioli/steinway (and having a highly qualified piano tuner come in twice a day or even stand by), buying around 100 schoeps/neuheiser/dpa mics etc.? and then there are all those formats from (from mono to atmos, the latter somewhat more demanding in every regard)...

got video studios? doing live shows? even broadcasts? - trucks nearby? railways or an airport? military training ground? - i wouldn't recommend starting a business without a some good restaurants, bars, catering and a couple of hotels etc. nearby, unless you can afford to do so for some 25 years without going bancrupt and run the studio as a very ambitious hobby!

there's a room here (basel, switzerland) which is about 35m × 20m × 8m where i used to record orchestras on a almost daily basis in the eighties - cannot afford to rent it anymore even just for a single day or i'll be over budget with most productions: but the hall gets rented for congresses, parties, corporate meetings and luckily for a few pop/rock shows and 2 festivals i get to mix...
Old 15th July 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
I own a studio - 1000 sq ft live room, 60-frame Amek desk, 48 Radar IOs, Boesendorfer concert grand, Lexicon 960L reverb, etc., etc., etc., so I speak with some authority and experience here. We have had to diversify away from just relying on being a commercial independent recording studio. That gig is well-and-truly over!

You can have all the initiatives and young artists show-cases and talent prizes under the sun, but in the end, you will need paying artists coming into your studio for a week or two - and in an age of CDs no longer selling and everything you need to record at home available for less than a session in a 'proper' studio, they are not doing that any longer.

The very first thing EVERY successful musical act does with their first proper paycheck is to build their own studio, or turn the rehearsal room into a studio.

About five or six years ago, a studio was launched 'up-North' in a 2m catchment area that had a couple of smaller studios and they assumed that success was guaranteed. The budget was over £2m and the equipment list featured absolutely everything an engineer could desire, both analogue and digital. The running costs were about £100,000 p.a. and the depreciation and replacement costs about the same again.

First year's turnover £54,000
Second year's turnover £45,000
Third year's turnover £32,000

As the whole thing was financed by Daddy, I suppose you could view the whole enterprise as a tax-write-off and a glorious hobby - but you have been warned!

I hate to be the one to rain on your parade, but the only studios able to pay their way in the UK are either highly diversified (e.g. education, films, corporate events, equipment sales) or are in London, where there is still a demand for large spaces for a whole orchestra (Air, Angel, Abbey). Even large chunks of film music has now up-sticks and legged it for Eastern Europe.

Angel makes money because the new owners bought the place for a song. Abbey lives largely from corporate events and the tourist shop, as well as having rented out the top floors to producers and agencies. Air is indeed up for sale, but can only be used as a recording studio, as a result of a covenant in the deeds imposed by the Pentecostal Church, when they sold the 99-year lease to George Martin all those years ago. If it is not kept open as a recording studio, the Church get it back.

I wish you the best of luck with your new enterprise, but given the small size of the plot of land, I would just build some offices I can rent out for a profit - but that business only works if you have the money up-front.
Old 15th July 2018
  #14
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the replies. I’d be curious to know what studio you’re referring to above, Byers?
Old 16th July 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
Confidential!

You can PM me if you want help with your business model - right now there may be a case to be made for yet another (there are about ten already!) audio post production facility in or around Media City, Manchester and possibly even a live recording space, but that is about it.

Here's something I posted last year -

Quote:
Being an economist by training, I actually worked out the formula for calculating the total turnover for ALL commercial studios within a given area three years ago. It is -

(P/1000) x (GDP/1000) x B

where P is population within a one hour drive and GDP is gross domestic product per person per year.

B is the business health multiplier. As home recording bites into commercial recording and studio rates everywhere have failed to keep up with inflation, that figure three years ago was just 2.

This formula does not work for music cities like Nashville, where the health multiplier will be higher.

So, if you are in the US and there are 100,000 people living within one hour's drive and they enjoy the average GDP of $54,000 per person (your local GDP per capita will be available online) then the calculation is -

100,000/1,000 x $54,000/1000 x 2

= $10,800 total turnover for all studios in your town.

I have matched that model against real world figures time and time again and it stands up as a fairly good rough guide as to what the actual situation is for those in the market.
So if your planned studio is in Hull (1hr-drive catchment area 1m, GDP per Capita c.a. $40,000) you can expect all recording studios to have a combined revenue of $80,000.

That would include all demo work and since then the demo market has pretty much vanished and I would place the 'Business Health Factor' today at just 1, so today, four years later, the expected turnover for ALL studios would be $40,000.

If your 'bees-knees' studio manages to capture one quarter of all trade (unlikely, but hey, let's go with that assumption!) then your annual turnover will be $10,000. If you locate your killer studio in Liverpool, you are up against four or five really good and well-established studios and countless small demo and rehearsal rooms, so although the catchment area is four times the size, your market share will be far, far smaller, probably a good bit less than one-tenth - so total revenue about $16,000.

And that is total revenue and not profit. If you intend living from this studio, your gross profit (EBITDA) would have to be at least $150,000 or about £100,000 or £2,000 a week and a turnover of possibly double that figure.

Over and above all that, there are some fantastic multi-room studios 'oop-norf' and you are up against many seven-figure investment studios with a wealth of contacts and a music tradition going back decades. They also have strong links to film, video and broadcasting and it is that (and not recording musical acts) that is the bread-and-butter of most studios.
Old 16th July 2018
  #16
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
Confidential!

You can PM me if you want help with your business model - right now there may be a case to be made for yet another (there are about ten already!) audio post production facility in or around Media City, Manchester and possibly even a live recording space, but that is about it.

Here's something I posted last year -



So if your planned studio is in Hull (1hr-drive catchment area 1m, GDP per Capita c.a. $40,000) you can expect all recording studios to have a combined revenue of $80,000.

That would include all demo work and since then the demo market has pretty much vanished and I would place the 'Business Health Factor' today at just 1, so today, four years later, the expected turnover for ALL studios would be $40,000.

If your 'bees-knees' studio manages to capture one quarter of all trade (unlikely, but hey, let's go with that assumption!) then your annual turnover will be $10,000. If you locate your killer studio in Liverpool, you are up against four or five really good and well-established studios and countless small demo and rehearsal rooms, so although the catchment area is four times the size, your market share will be far, far smaller, probably a good bit less than one-tenth - so total revenue about $16,000.

And that is total revenue and not profit. If you intend living from this studio, your gross profit (EBITDA) would have to be at least $150,000 or about £100,000 or £2,000 a week and a turnover of possibly double that figure.

Over and above all that, there are some fantastic multi-room studios 'oop-norf' and you are up against many seven-figure investment studios with a wealth of contacts and a music tradition going back decades. They also have strong links to film, video and broadcasting and it is that (and not recording musical acts) that is the bread-and-butter of most studios.
Many thanks for your detailed post.

Trust me, we completely understand the challenges that will be faced. However, we are in the position that we simply need the studio itself to cover it's own costs for the first 5 years. The other activities that happen within the building will represent liveable profit for the individuals involved, but if we can get confidence that we can cover rates, running costs etc every year from hire outs / corporate, that's all we need as a starting point. For example, I myself am a songwriter who writes for other artists and also for TV and Film. If the studios themselves are covering their own costs, the money I make every year on songwriting / sync is my "wage". We have two other songwriters in the same boat.

Nobody is expecting to make a killing... there's just a real desire for all people involved to build a place that has all that we will need to do our jobs to the best of our ability in a good, inspiring, environment. We've identified some "differential advantages" that will make this studio more appealing than those within an hours drive (very large live room, grand piano etc etc), but appreciate that the landscape is changing so chances of making a significant profit from the studio alone is slim.
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