Income-Generating Ideas for Studio Owners and Musicians

This post comes as a response to a question from Robin, in a thread that started a while back, regarding a commenter that has a friend with a studio, but the friend is struggling to generate income from the studio.

Generating income from a recording studio is, no doubt, a difficult thing to do. There was a time (I’m told, at least), when a studio could exist, essentially, on its own merits. The space existed, and independent musicians, record labels, music publishers, radio stations, advertising companies, and others that needed something recorded would call the studio, reserve the space, and the owner got paid for the use of the space.

What’s happened is that producers, engineers, and others that provide the services for the studio figured out that they were paying the owners of the studio for use of the space, but, if they had their own space, they could generate more income by charging for the use of their own space, as well as charging for their time as a producer or engineer.

The next generation of producers and engineers came along and, trying to compete in the open market, lowered their prices, seeking to compete with established producer and engineers, which is a tried-and-true technique in competition-based pricing. This lowered the prices people were willing to pay for studio time, and between the  advent of digital recording and the shrinking of record label budgets, things only got worse.

When digital recording became affordable, at least one of the most common barriers to entry – cost of entry- was negated. This, along with a decrease in budgets record labels gave for recording albums (due to any number of factors, not limited to piracy and general market malaise) , turned the recording studio industry into and oligopsony,where there  are many sellers of a similar product, but few buyers.

All this to say, we now find ourselves in a place where, by and large, the recording that happens in the industry is done by people who are also musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers, DJs, and others that not just own the equipment and the space, but also use it creatively to accomplish their tasks.

To that end, we, as those who have paid for this equipment, hardware, and software, need to find ways of getting the most revenue we can out of this situation. And, in many cases, this requires a particularly astute studio owner to find the niches where there’s money to be made.

The obvious choices for generating revenue are fleeting. You don’t just create a website, list your credits, give people a listen to your work, and expect to get any phone calls. If that’s all you do, expect an empty inbox and no voice mails.

ONE of many, many options, is creating library tracks for sale. A lot of the music used in the world doesn’t have to be a specific artist, a specific recording, or even a specific song. Sometimes, people need music for a special purpose, but aren’t really looking for a specific track.

For instance, in my studio, I produce tracks of carillon bell music, and sell those tracks on iTunes and Amazon, and have those tracks available for streaming on Rdio, Spotify, Deezer, and other places. These tracks are not “popular music”, but they apply to a very specific market, looking for music for a specific purpose. These tracks, individually, do not produce a lot of income, but, all the tracks I produce are public domain christian hymns, Christmas tunes, or similar, so there’s no songwriter/publisher with which I need to work. All I need to do is upload the tracks to the online distributor I use, and wait for the payments to come in. And, since these are public domain hymns, Christmas songs, and similar, means that there are huge possibilities for this catalog.

This is something I can produce in the studio’s down time, and there’s no rush to complete any of these tunes, so it’s a perfect studio-time filler.

Things I think are an almost total waste of time include the tracks “beat makers” create and try to sell to people to rap over. There are, literally, hundreds of Twitter accounts that do nothing but promote the selling and leasing of these tracks. I have no clue how you’d police the “lease” of a track to begin with. In either case, there are already a LOT of people doing this, so why be one more in a series of people, trying to convince others your beats are the best? If you ARE a “beat maker”, I’d suggest working with a specific rapper (if you’re not one yourself) to create tracks for, and share in any of the revenue generated from concerts or similar revenue-generating activities.

As far as resources for learning how to do this, those are hard to come by, but I’ll list a few places that may help explain more about what library tracks are:

Sound on Sound – All About Library Music

We All Make Music – How to Write Library Music That Sells

Hope this helps, Robin!

Native Instruments’ Maschine 2.0 Says “No” to Pro Tools Previous Versions

Native Instruments announces new Maschine software. Find the PDF of the press release here:

If you notice in the release, there is no support for Maschine as an RTAS plug-in.

Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Maschine Studio Software

What does that mean? Anybody who’s using any version of Pro Tools prior to Version 10 is out of luck.

Will this have an impact on you as a music creator? If you have Pro Tools 9 or less, will you upgrade your Pro Tools rig to accommodate the new Native Instruments Maschine software?

Compositional Analysis – We Are Young – fun.

In this series, we take the world’s most popular songs, hit by hit, and deconstruct them, bit by bit, to learn what makes them popular, memorable, and interesting. We look at the compositional techniques used in the song, such as chord progressions, tempo, and meter, as well as the instrumentation used to make this song a hit. We also discuss what makes the song such a memorable “earworm”.

“We Are Young”
Written by Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost, & Nathaniel Ruess
Performed by Fun.

YouTube Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv6dMFF_yts

Background:

This song is the result of a meeting between the lead singer for fun., Nathaniel Ruess, and the eventual producer of the track, Jeff Bhasker. Before this, fun. had released one previous album titles Aim & Ignite, on the Nettwerk Label. None of the previous singles released had made it onto the major charts, but the album climed as high as 71 on the Billboard charts. The single released before “We Are Young” was a single entitled “C’Mon”, as a joint single with Panic! At the Disco, whom they toured with in 2011.

Jeff Bhasker had been known for producing and writing hip-hip and R&B records, working with the likes of Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, and Beyonce.

Chord Progressions:

The entire song is in the key of F major, with no deviations, which is part of the reason why this song is so accessible. F major resides right next to C Major in the circle of fifths, so, with C being the 5th (dominant, V chord) in the key of F, using that “home base” of a C major chord in relation to the key of the song adds a lot of familiarity and stability.

Verses:

F – Dm – Gm – Bb – C
I  –  vi   –   ii   –  IV  – V

Look familiar? Unless you’re in a doo-wop group, this progression may not seem like anything special. If you ARE in a doo-wop group, you’ll recognize that this is a variation on a classic chord progression, sometimes called the 50s Progression, the Ice Cream Changes, of the Stand By Me Changes. The 50s Progression removes the ii chord, to make it I – vi – IV – V, and is the bases for many popular music hits of the 50s & 60s, from Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl” to Dion & the Belmonts “Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love?” to more modern-day hits such as Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.

The addition of the Gm (ii) chord is placed there to prolong the subdued feel of the verses, which coincides with the lyrical content.

Chorus:

F – Dm – Gm – F – C
I  –  vi   –   ii  –   I  –  V

As a slight modification of the I – vi – ii- IV – V progression used in the verses, this chord progression also brings about memories of songs that make “We Are Young” such a easy song to remember. The chord progression I – vi – ii – V was a very common chord progression used in songs during the 1930s and 1940s. Remember that one song that everybody played on the piano at school/camp/church/wherever, “Heart & Soul”? Yeah, that earworm is nothing but I – vi – ii- V over and over and over again. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I Got Rhythm” also fit the bill.

The use of these common chord progressions add up to make “We Are Young” almost seem like a song we already know. We’ve heard these chord changes a million times, so it’s very easy to wrap our head around the structure of the song.