How To Run Successful Recording Studio Sessions
One of the best perks about owning your own recording studio is being able to profit from it. One way you can profit is by renting out your recording services. Recording studios are cheap these days. $2,000-$3,000 will get you a quality setup capable of top notch production, but not everyone understands how to use their gear correctly which is why they are willing to pay someone else to get the job done.
When I was renting out my recording studio I charged $50.00 an hour and was making great money, but there were a lot of headaches a long the way. Down below I’ve created a list (from my own experiences) of things you’ll need to implement in your studio in order for it to run successfully without (much) stress.
1. Make Sure Client Respect Your Time
Make sure your clients understand the importance of being on time and ready to work. If the session block starts at 2pm (and 2 hours long) and only 1 member of the group shows up, I still start the clock at 2. If the client shows up at 2:30pm, well guess what…. That client has an hour and 30 minutes left. Do not compensate for them being late or unprepared, business is business, and you need to keep that mentality or people will take your kindness for weakness.
2. Make Sure You’re On Time (Lead By Example)
Before the session starts, make sure everything is configured and ready to go. You never want your client sitting there waiting for you to get things setup, it makes you look disorganized. The client’s time is just as important as yours, if they only have 1 hour to record, you need to respect that by being ready a head of time.
I hate going into sessions and the recording engineer pisses away 15 minutes trouble shooting his machine or trying to find a cable that should be within arms reach. Screw giving me an extra 30 minutes of time, I have other things to do which is why I book for a specific block of time per your request!
3. Recording Studio’s Terms Are Clear & Easy To Understand
Make sure the client knows and understands your terms before entering your studio (before paying even). I find it best to list your terms on your website this way you’re not answering 25 questions per person. Your terms should state the following:
- Rate (what you charge)
Put these terms in writing (a contract) and make sure they sign before booking time. A way to streamline this process is by stating (on your site) “by booking time, it’s assumed that you understand all terms and conditions” or “by stepping foot in the studio, it’s assumed you understand all terms and conditions”, or something to that extent. If they break something, they need to pay for it. Payments are due upfront.. things like that.
It might sound harsh, but this is business.
4. Know & Use Your Equipment (Duh Right?)
I know this sounds a like a no brainer, but make sure you are familiar with your recording equipment. Artist(s), bands, and other musically inclined people (or not musically inclined) come to you because you have something they don’t, a recording studio, and they will assume you know how to get the best sound out of them. The last thing they want to run into is someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of their own recording gear… That’s embarrassing!
- What use is having a Neve 1073 if you don’t know how to use it?
- Why worry about the latest Waves plugins if you can’t mix?
- Why have a room full of vintage samplers, yet not understand how to operate them?
Yes, people may be impressed with the flashy lights and knobs, but it’s pointless if you can’t use the shit.
There will be times when someone will insist on bringing their own mics and preamps (I’m one of those people) or drums and what not, just make sure you remind them that the troubleshooting and setup time comes off of the time they’ve booked. When the client (or clients) is spending time configuring their gear that’s time ticking a way.
5. Keep The studio Comfortable And Professional
People expect a clean professional look, and will also respect you more for having one. I must say I hate walking into someone’s recording establishment and there are posters all over the wall or it’s tacky looking. I’m not saying the look of the studio is a reflection of the quality it’s capable of, but first impressions are a bitch.
Also, make sure the studio is comfortable. If people don’t feel comfortable in your recording studio they wont want to record there. I’m not saying you need flat screen TVs and comfy couches everywhere, but make sure it has a nice calming vibe that inspires people to work.
6. Don’t Always Let Your Client(s) Know When You’re Recording
Most recording engineers will tell you, the best recordings are a result from the clients level of comfort and to be honest, most artist get nervous when they know they’re being recorded. When I record artist, I hit record (without them knowing) then I tell them to do a few test recordings – that’s where the magic happens. Yes, there is more random speech, laughter and randomness in these recordings, but all that can be edited out.
7. Keep Everything You Record!
Before the days of DAWS you had a limited amount of recording space. This mean(s) the artist had to be ready and do multiple takes as a whole. If one person messed up everyone had to redo the whole take. These days, we have much better technology. Everyone has access to gigs of recording space, and amazing editing tools (free ones at that).
There is no reason to throw away recordings. Mistakes, bloopers and false starts are golden. These gems will always have a place in the future projects. Within mistakes you’ll find perfect phrases, lines, breaths and other material that sit better than a so called mistake-less take.
From here, you rifle through and piece together best of the session making the golden take. Sometimes, I’ll take the ‘perfect doctored take’, play it for the artist and make them re-record until they mimic the summed take. This is important because if they ever do a live show, they’ll want to be consistent with the work they’ve laid in the studio.
8. You Have To Be The Boss
You will have clients who think they’re godly perfectionists. Some may be, but most aren’t, but think they are. I’ll all for getting the best take(s), but don’t allow the client to eek in an extra hour striving for perfection. This is how 10 minutes quickly turns into an hour, two hours and so forth. If your client books 3 hours of recording studio time, it ends in exactly 3 hours regardless of how much or how little was accomplished in the session.
9. Mixing and Creative Conflicts – I Hate Them
Heh, there’s no avoiding this, not even with yourself. To get the best mix from a session, you must let your client(s) know they are not allowed to book time during your mixing sessions. This is important because if you’re dealing with someone who is a a picky client they will nit pick every single detail while your mixing. It’s ok if you’ve pushed play on mixes and they critique, but not ok while you’re in the process! You’ll end up spinning your wheels and being annoyed working on the project.
With that said, make sure you provide several versions of the mix, this provides a lot of ear candy and gives the client a different directions for the final outcome of the music.
10. Save Recording Sessions Often!
One of the worst things that can ever happen during a session is power shortage that makes you lose your session. I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times and since then I have learned one thing.. SAVE OFTEN to multiple storage mediums. If you’ve been saving to 1 harddrive and that harddrive fails then you’re out of luck, and could indeed find yourself in a law suit (with the client).
11. No Kids In The Studio
I love kids, but unless they are apart of the project, keep them in their place. No one wants kids swinging on chairs, running around like chicken’s with their heads cut off, putting their sticky fingers all over the equipment etc. This goes for you as well as the client. I’ve seen many Nuemann TLM’s broken because of parents who can’t control or don’t watch their kids.
Lastly, your clients don’t need to see how you chastise your kids, you also don’t want to be put into a situation where you chastise someone else’s children, that’s the recipe for a bad work relationship maybe even murder.
12. No Uninvited Guests
Nothing is more infuriating than opening the the door for your 5 o’clock and there’s 3-4 extra people walking in behind them. Now, you have to find space for them, their bags etc. Most of the time, they contribute nothing but distractions. The recording studio is a place of business, you and your client should be focused on getting the project done. I’ve had uneasy conversations with clients over this.
I’ve gone as far as telling the client in front of their friends and family “I don’t have the room”.
Client: Can’t they wait upstairs
Me: No, not at all
Client: What am I suppose to do?
Me: Take them home, come back, Reschedule?
Might sound harsh, but it’s in my terms, the client knew and chose to bring people to the studio without my knowledge and that’s not type operation that I run so…
There are a lot of essential needs to running a successful studio session. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so feel free to chime in and add to the list.