Helping Kentucky Mountain Bible College Ring the Bells

James recently had the pleasure of working with Kentucky Mountain Bible College with their recent big project. The college has always had the dream of a bell tower in the middle of campus, playing beautiful melodies and acting as a central theme and focus for the campus. The trick is, they didn’t want bells in the tower, but a speaker system that could also function as an emergency broadcast system in case of emergencies.
Officials at the college knew they needed some way to preserve the traditional bell sounds that they wanted while keeping the modern convenience of a loudspeaker system. That’s where James comes in. With James’s audio expertise, he was able to to provide the college with recordings of traditional songs using bells and chimes as well as the famous Westminster Chimes.

Control – Now I’m All Grown Up

The decentralization of the recording studio industry is in full force now, and musicians are able to do more for themselves than ever before (so we’re told). This mindset trickles down to the studio industry as well. So many studio owners are concerned about the well-being of their studio but also don’t seem to want to do anything to change their business practices.

I was reading this article from The Independent (a U.K. newspaper) about Arcade Fire and the article mentioned the fact the band was a pretty cost-conscious operation:

“they controlled their own rights from day one…[t]hey very cost-effectively made their first album, and then made some strategic deals that would bring in some money for them to buy their own recording studio and be able to be self-sufficient and make their own recordings. They pay for everything themselves and deliver it to their licensees. No label will ever commission anything that they do. Their videos, their artwork, their photographs – they pay for everything. They have complete control.”

I remember the first time I head about a band buying their own equipment with record label money. It was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and it was in the mid 90’s. I’m sure that’s not the first time a band has bought recording equipment, but I do remember that was the first time I thought about the fact that there doesn’t have to be a separation between musician and engineer.

If we want to keep this studio business thriving and want our own studio to stay afloat, don’t forget that the power is in the musicians’ hands. Can they take the equipment that’s available today and make a great-sounding record by themselves? Yes. If we as studio owners understand that fact and work with artists to achieve their musical visions instead of feeling like we have to fend off attacks from the digital home recording world, we may do a lot better than we’ve done in the past.

What are you doing to stay afloat in the studio business?

There are a lot if indicators that point to the fact that the studio business is a tough place to stay alive.

If you read Billboard, Mix, or some of the other professional trades that deal with the studio business, they’ll tell you that studios are closing up shop left and right and those spaces are being turned into condos. Yeowch! Priorities, eh?

Anyway, the recording studio business has never been easy, and it’s being made a lot tougher on studio owners that aren’t very business savvy and those that try to cling on to the way they did business ten or fifteen years ago.

My research shows that at least SOME studio owners are charging less for their services as a way to stay competitive in the marketplace. How bad of an idea is that? With the increased cost of doing business (employee salary/wages, rent) there’s no way you’re going to stay in business if you continually charge LESS money over time. May work in the short term, but that’s not an effective long-term strategy for success. And, once you DO start to charge less money, when you try to increase your rates, all your clients are gonna grumble and complain about how much it costs to record at your facility.

So, my challenge to you is this:

What can we do as an industry to keep ourselves alive (a la Queen)? I think it’s going to take some pretty innovative thinking. It looks like the people that are out there making a real go of it are doing something creative and unique. I’m not sure of the right answer(s), but I have my thoughts… How about you?


Signal Flow Troubleshooting Guide

So I had this idea for a flowchart/interactive website/Java program that takes you through common propblems you encounter in the recording studio.

What I’m thinking is some document/site/program that takes you through all the troubleshooting steps to find an answer to the problem you’re having in the studio. Seems like most of the time, people have the same kinds of problems: No sound in the monitors, no signal at the multitrack, distorted sound, noise in the track, etc.

Anybody ever seen anything like this before? Any suggestions for what the guide should look/sound/smell like?

NARAS Producers & Enigneers Wing – DAW Guidelines for Music Production

As some of you may know, the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) created their Producers & Engineers Wing several years ago and charged them with the task of establishing a set of guidelines that would offer solutions to some of the traditional problems we face in the recording studio.

To that end, they have developed a set of guidelines to follow when using DAWs. The guidelines are meant to simplify the file management process and keep your sessions orgainized for future use.

There are two versions of the guidelines, a short version and a longer, more complete version.

The short version of the guidelines can be found here.

The longer version can be found here. Wow, 40 pages worth of guidelines.

2008 Recording Studio Survey Quick Facts

Highlights from the 2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey
Most studios are commercial and for-profit. Most studio owners and managers stated that their studio was commercially available to the public (89%) rather than a private facility or one that was closed to the general public.
Studios are used primarily for tracking. Almost half of the studio owners and managers surveyed said that their studio was primarily used for tracking (46%), with mixing being the most popular secondary purpose of the facility owned/managed (40%). Editing (21%) was also a popular secondary function of the studios owned and managed by respondents.
Out of those studios that owned at least one tracking room, most owned more than one (average of 1.92 per facility that owned at least one). Less frequently, respondents owned rooms for editing (average of 1.69 editing rooms for studios that owned at least one), and mixing (average of 1.63 mixing rooms per facility that owned at least one).
The average age of the facilities owned or managed by the respondents is 17.33 years. Additionally, the reported average gross revenue for the previous tax year was $161,772.73.
Country music is still the primary style of music produced at Nashville facilities. Contemporary Christian, Rock, and Gospel music were also popular styles produced at the respondents’ facilities.
Most respondents operate their business as Sole Proprietorships (36%). Respondents also reported operating their businesses as Corporations (25%), Limited Liability Companies (18%), and General Partnerships (14%) as well.
Studios that use interns on a full-time basis use more interns (an average of 2 interns per studio that used full-time interns) than studios that use full-time engineers (average of 1.5 engineers per studio that hired full-time engineers at all).
The primary use of studios in the Nashville area is for music production. Mastering and Sound for Picture work followed in popularity.
Most studio owners and managers (89%) say they offer DAW mutitrack formats at their facility. 57% of studio owners and managers that responded say they offer digital muitltracking, while only a little more than one-third (36%) say they offer 24-track analog multitracking at their facilities.
Overall, most studio owners/managers say that worldwide, conditions for being successful in the recording studio business are getting worse (67%) and not better (11%) this year compared to last year. 18% of owners and managers feel conditions for being successful in Nashville getting better.
The PDF with all of these results can also be found here. More information regarding the Nashville Recording Studio Survey can be found here.

2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey Quick Facts

Highlights from the 2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey

Most studios are commercial and for profit. Most owners and managers said their studios were
commercial and open to the public (87%) rather than project studios closed to the public (7%) or
private and not-for-profit (7%).

The recent increase in independent record labels in Nashville is seen in clientele. Independent
record labels were the primary client for studio owners and managers in the past year (29%), while
business that aren’t record labels as well as independent artists with no manager account for 21%
each of studios’ primary clients.

Nashville is still home to country music. The most common style of music produced in studios by
owners and managers that responded is country (16%), with rock (13%), contemporary Christian
( 12%), gospel music (11%), and demos (11%) all following close behind.

Studio owners and managers that responded said their studios grossed an average of $125,205 last
tax year.
Additionally, most studio owners and managers either saw an increase in gross revenue or
stayed the same (73%) compared to the previous tax year. 91% of studio owners and managers say
they are experiencing growth or the same amount of gross revenue this tax year compared to last
year. Also, the average length of time studios have been in business in Nashville is 15.55 years.

Engineers are the most common type of employee in a Nashville Studio. Every studio owner and
manager (100%) that responded to the survey that have any full-time employees have at least one
Engineer on their full-time staff. More than half (55%) of studios also hire a full-time Studio
Manager as well.

Studio owners and managers are looking for help from interns more and more. While there were
increases in the number of Engineers (9%) and Studio Managers (11%) hired, Interns saw the
biggest hiring increase (27%). Assistant Engineers and Engineers saw the greatest increases in
independent contractor work (30% and 18% respectively).

Primary use of studios is to track audio. Almost half (47%) of studio owners and managers
surveyed say they use their studio primarily for tracking, while only 13% use their studio primarily
for mixing. Mixing, however, is the largest (57%) secondary use for studios.

6 out of every 7 studios have at least one mixing room. 86% of studios have at least one room
used for mixing, while less (71%) studios have at least one room for tracking.

While 70% of studio owners and managers feel the studio business is getting worse in the
Nashville area
compared to last year, 45% say that their own business is performing better than the
rest of the Nashville
recording studio businesses. Also, while 18% of studio owners and managers
feel optimistic about the future of the studio business in Nashville, over three times as many
(64%) feel optimistic about their own studio’s performance.

The PDF with all of these results can also be found here. More information regarding the Nashville Recording Studio Survey can be found here.