PopMark Media's October 2011 Confessions of a Small Working Studio: Lessons From Studio Owners

Oct 17, 2011 3:38 PM, By Lisa Horan

Daniel Dennis

Daniel Dennis

Lesson #7: Resist “Desperation” Work

Speaking of tight finances, one surefire way to create problems is to take on work out of desperation. “I have a rule with myself that I never take on a job that I normally wouldn’t take just because I need the money,” says Woodhouse. “At the time, it may seem like taking on a project to make a quick buck will save you, but in the end it often comes back to bite you because whenever you put the money first, it will alter how you work.” Like Freeman, Woodhouse regularly reminds himself why he got into this business in the first place, and “money wasn’t it.”

Lesson #8: Branch Out

Yes, we’ve talked about this a time or two before in the column, and likely will again because it’s that important. In fact, each of the studio owners we interviewed for this piece discussed ways in which they are diversifying within their own studios to create additional revenue streams. Even though money may not be the reason you became a producer or engineer, you do need some to survive. Woodhouse learned the value of diversifying early on and has embraced it ever since. For him, diversification means being open to working on projects that represent various musical genres, as well as other areas involved in the audio post world, including ADR, audio sweetening and digital transfers. “If you’re not willing to branch out, you won’t have anything to fall back on when things get rough,” he says.

Freeman has taken on a teaching job in an engineering school to create a second source of income. Fortunately, it’s as enjoyable as it is profitable. “It’s a really rewarding job for me because I get to help up-and-coming engineers learn about all aspects of the business, from the problem-solving, to the psychiatry, to the thinking on your feet, to the technical aspects,” says Freeman.

As a producer/engineer with a background in graphic design, for Dennis the choice to diversify came easily. Adding graphic design to existing recording services has become a significant selling point for his business. “Artists who I work with not only get their albums produced at my facility, but they also get their Website or CD designed, which makes life a lot easier for them, and that is huge,” he explains. “It’s a good idea, especially if you’re just starting out, to consider offering more than one related service. For me, the balance works well because during the slow times of recording, I have design projects to fall back on.”

Lesson #9: Get Out and Show Your Face

“One of the biggest realities in the clubs in and around Austin is that you never know who you’re going to meet," says Woodhouse. "You could very well run into a big-time producer or client who you’ll be able to work with for the next three years."

But the trick is: You’ve got to get out there and network. “If you’re not working, you should be out at the venues checking out the bands and artists and introducing yourself to them,” says Dennis. “This is especially important if you’re just starting out because if you’re willing to work hard and find an artist or band that you feel connected to, you may be able to convince them to let you record their EP or single just for experience sake, and if they like you and what you produce, they’ll likely tell other artists about the experience and come back again.”

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