How To Run Successful Recording Studio Sessions

How-To-Run-A-Successful-Recording-Studio-Session

One of the best perks of owning a recording studio is being able to profit from it. The easiest way to turn a profit is by renting out recording services. Recording Studios are affordable these days, ranging between $2,000-$10,000 on the lower end for a quality setup capable of top-notch production.

Given the affordability of gear these days, anyone can have a project recording studio, but not everyone understands how to use their gear correctly, which is why they’ll be willing to pay someone else for their expertise.

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 involved. Down below, I’ve created a list (from my own experiences) of things you’ll need to implement in your studio in order to run it successfully without (much) stress.

1. Make Sure Clients Respect Your Time

Make sure your clients understand the importance of being on time and ready to work. If the session block starts at 2 pm (and 2 hours long) and only 1 member of the group shows up, I still start the clock at 2 pm. If the client shows up at 2:30 pm, well, guess what…

That client has 1 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 walk all over you.

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 waiting for you to get things set up, it makes you look unprofessional. 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 ahead of time.

I hate going into sessions, and the recording engineer pisses away 15 minutes troubleshooting his gear or trying to find a cable that should be within arm’s 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.

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 as well as on your invoices. This way, you’re not answering 25 questions per person. Your terms should state the following:

  • Rate (what you charge)
  • Rules
  • Liabilities
  • Expectations.
  • Etc

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?)

Make sure you are familiar with your recording equipment. Artists(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?
  • 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 whatnot, just make sure you remind them that the troubleshooting and setup time comes off of the time they’ve booked. When the clients are spending time configuring their gear that’s time ticking away.

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 won’t 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 that the best recordings are a result of the client’s level of comfort, and to be honest, most artists get nervous when they know they’re being recorded.

When I record artists, 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 that can be edited.

7. Keep Everything You Record!

Before DAWS, you had a limited amount of recording space, and the format was expensive. This forced the artist to come prepared 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, disc space that can hold terabytes of information, and amazing editing tools (free ones at that).

There is no reason to throw away recordings. Mistakes, bloopers, and false starts can be golden. These gems will always have a place in future projects. Within mistakes, you’ll often find perfect phrases, lines, breaths, and other material that sit better than mistake-less takes.

From here, you rifle through and piece together the best of the recordings (comping), 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 comped 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 maybe, but most aren’t but think they are. I’m all for getting the best take(s), but don’t allow the client to eek in extra takes when the time slot is done. 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

To get the best mix of a session, let your client(s) know they are not allowed to book time during your mixing sessions. This is important if you’re dealing with someone who is a picky client, they will nitpick every single detail while you’re mixing music.

If you’re ok with the client (and friends) in the mixing session, by all means, do so just make sure they aren’t hindering your process. Sometimes large groups of people in the session can be distracting.

If the client isn’t present for the mixing session, provide a couple of versions of the mix, this will give the client options, just be sure to limit revisions to avoid spinning your wheels and being annoyed working on the project.

10. Save Recording Sessions Often!

One of the worst things that can ever happen is losing a session due to a power outage. I’ve had this happen 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 hard drive and that hard drive fails, then you’re out of luck and could indeed find yourself in a lawsuit (with the client).

11. No Kids In The Recording Studio

I love kids, but unless they are a part of the project, keep them in their place. No one wants kids swinging on chairs, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, screaming, putting their sticky fingers all over the equipment, etc.

This goes for you as well as the client. I’ve seen many Neumann TLM’s broken because of parents who can’t control or don’t watch their kids.

Lastly, you 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 door for your 5 o’clock, and there are 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.

A 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 supposed 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 is not the type of operation that I run so…

 

Conclusion

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.

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