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The Admiral

The perfect recording studio - what does yours look like? Help required from the BC 'massive'!

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Morning all! This is by way of a request for the collective insight of the BC 'massive' ( get me, down with the kids), as the forces of big business have come knocking at the studio door of a friend, and he needs some insight as to which way to go.

The situation is, he's run a busy, small rock and roll cellar studio inManchester for 23 years, and he works with anyone and everyone, from young rappers on development deals, to lovely Bengali ladies, doing voice overs for NHS patient information videos, but his hard core is quality aspiring bands, looking for a break, and serious semi pro outfits. He produces, engineers,or you can bring in your own people, no issues : he's all about the client, and the studio being used, and he's permanently busy with a lot of regulars, who've been coming for years.

So, what's the deal?

Basically the building, and we are talking a dark and run down area of Victorian single story costa monger warehouses, has been bought, and the new landlord has informed him the rent is treblingwhen his current23 year lease ends in 6 months. Bearing in mind he's paid on the nail every month, whilst the balance of the building has been a revolving door of failed ventures, who leave owing thousands, it shows the logic of some 'businessmen'. Running 'as is isn't viable, as there is no way he can suddenly treble his bookings, as he's full, and he can't treble his prices.So it's time to move on, and hence the post.

He's looking for some insight as to what constitutes the perfect studio offering for serious amateur, pro, and aspiring pro bands, which are his key clients. There are plenty of very good, new, industrial units available , and he's looking at options on various sizes :from 3,000sq feet -with ground floor access, and secure gated parking outside. But how to divide the space? He could go for a number of options : one larger room, and several smaller studios, but offering a common set of facilities : kitchen, toilets etc. or a complex of smaller,comfortable 'cellar' vibe spaces. All with top notch gear of course.

His dilemma is, what do clients want these days, what's really important, and what's the going rate for a really good small studio? He's got so many long standing regulars, he's not had to fundamentally review these questions for a while.

He runs Pro tools on Mac, has a fantastic, 30 year in the building,collection of outboard, old mics and interesting instruments including an old Hammond and Leslie cab etc, which is all available gratis for studio hirers.

As an aside, before he got married, he travelled worldwide installing Neve desks, and he's actually going to be putting his recently fixed,treasured vintage Neve (which he's had stored, awaiting repair and service for 20 years) in Studio 1. He's not sure that enough people are aware of the Neve reputation for it to make a difference, but I think it does, and may bring in some surprisingly famous clients accordingly.

Finally, he's exploring options with his lawyers, but frankly, it's been a good kick to take the business to the next level, so he's actually excited for the future challenge, so moving on is the plan.

If the BC collective wisdom could share some insights as to what is great, or not, about the studio you use, that would frankly be, outstanding, as it will inevitably help shape his thinking, and keep a great studio, and a hard working music pro in business.


It will also be fascinating to hear everyone's experiences and preferences :

Thanks in advance everyone.

A

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If designing my own studio I would go for a large room for doing live (band performance recordings) and maybe 2 - 3 cab / vocal booths, this would make for a very flexible studio that can do live band tracking, which can isolate guitars and bass e.t.c, this is all dependant though on your friends regular client base does and what their needs are, he should ask his regulars why they keep coming back and as he is expanding if they have anything they would like him to try as they would be his best source of feedback!

But one thing I found that is massively over looked with studios is a chill out zone where people can relax and forget about the pressures of recording. If you are in a studio for over 2 weeks a band can get very cabin feverish and this obviously makes tracking / recording more difficult, so if there is a space to keep everyone happy then that is almost as important as being a good producer / engineer!

On my last visit into a studio there was live in accommodation too. (the guy converted his mansion) into one half recording studio with 5 bedrooms above it, and then also had a band chill out zone / shed with kitchen in his garden, I'm not saying your friend could buy a mansion and do the same thing, but just saying this made for a very good environment to record, we were there for 3 weeks in total and we would have been at each others throats if we hadn't had the space, this studio is used by plenty of up and coming acts and bands.

Also at this studio we all had our own monitor mix [url="http://www.gak.co.uk/en/behringer-powerplay-16-p16-m/47803?gclid=Cj0KEQiAn8i0BRDur-HV1PCTy4UBEiQAPuFr9IcCadgJqdqrHo9dY-VPb7mIo7l8VlrM3TkwYE4w3vUaAqTo8P8HAQ"]gadgety-thingy-ma-bob[/url], these allowed us to turn up the bass, down the guitars, and add more kick and snare, click track, everything to how we wanted it to sound right there and then! Very handy little things. Would actually quite like to buy one of these for myself and a wireless set of in ear monitors for live playing ... (but that's another conversation for me and my missus as to why there is £400+ missing from the savings account!)

Same studio also had a vintage Neve desk and we couldn't be happier with how everything sounded! It's just another layer in the character of the sound that we love. I highly recommend if anyone gets the chance to get recordings done on one then do! (One of our more music-geek band members was very excited when he read the equipment spec of the studio)


Hope my insight was somehow insightful!

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If going for a 'band room' it needs to be actually big enough for the band to move around in and have space for the various cases and pedal boards and stuff that musicians will have with them.

I once recorded at a place and the band room was tiny. Claustrophobic, hot, and the tension in the room was horrible because there was no space to move. The engineering room, on the other hand, was massive and everyone was clearly very comfortable in there!

I'm not sure if it's down the to studio to provide, but a good supply of healthy and filling snacks would be very high on my list of priorities. Nice yogurts, pitta breads and dips, fruit, fresh bread and cheese, granola etc. Water dispenser is also a plus. People need to stay hydrated and being wired on red bull and KFC can make things very unpleasant!

For me, the main thing is creating a space where people approach their work in a professional and focused manner. If the studio is a mess, then people will treat it messily. If it is clean, open, and in good order, then the clients should respect that and maintain a sense of pride in the studio and in their performance.

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I have to agree with Truckstop (other than the Red Bull / KFC bit...that's my idea of Studio heaven!) Our local studio used to feel small and claustrophobic it had lots of little rooms off the main room, one year they knocked them all down and increased the roof height by going into the upper floor, made one big live room with a floor to ceiling window to the mixing room and really nice lighting, it totally transformed the ambiance of the studio, suddenly it became a nice place to want to spend your days / nights

If you Google "The Lodge Studio, Northampton and have a look at the photos there is an excellent shot of the live room, I couldn't grab an image and attach it on here

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IMO a commercial studio should supply the things that people can't do themselves at home.

1. Good engineers who know how all the gear works and can get the best performances out of the people booking the studio.

2. For bands a nice big live room with plenty of movable acoustic treatment and screens so that the space is as flexible and versatile as possible to accommodate as many different methods of recording as possible.

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The only studio I ever had experience with was Jacksons @ Rickmansworth - So I'm out of date (slightly, they pulled it down about 15years ago).
If your friend had a 23 year lease, I wonder if he can't go to a rent tribunal over this proposed increase? - not quite sure of how this works in the commercial sector, but I would be amazed if the new landlord can just up the rent on this scale?

:)

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Nice big live room (perhaps with a vocal isolation booth) and a nice big production room too. Perhaps have a storage room where bands can put their cases so they're not just sitting in the live room. Also a relaxation room with fridge, kettle, sink, mugs, milk and tea-bags.

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[quote name='The Admiral' timestamp='1452410352' post='2949629']
...Bearing in mind he's paid on the nail every month, whilst the balance of the building has been a revolving door of failed ventures, who leave owing thousands, it shows the logic of some 'businessmen'. Running 'as is isn't viable, as there is no way he can suddenly treble his bookings, as he's full, and he can't treble his prices.So it's time to move on, and hence the post...
[/quote]
Granted I'm no businessman and never will be but has your friend made a counterproposal to the new landlord to point this out [i]and[/i] importantly seeing as he's excited to move his studio the next level, to offer to expand into one or more of the adjacent units. Thus guaranteeing a continued, steady, not to mention increased regular income as a benefit to the landlord as your friend has a proven track record. So even fewer units for the landlord to rent out and all without gambling on the viability of new tenants businesses as well as finding a replacement for his only solid tenant. The benefit to your friend is far less downtime as his studio won't have to move, and he can expand more leisurely into the adjacent units.

Also the rent tribunal should be pursued if all else fails. Your friend's business is going to suffer to some degree during the relocation so hopefully he can avoid it or at least delay it so he's not rushed into moving to less than ideal premises just because of an unfair timescale.

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