Updated: Jan 22, 2019
Written By: Austin Hull
What makes a producer a "professional?" Someone with a professional commercial studio? Someone with the right equipment? Or simply someone with talent? Billboard hits now are made in huge commercial studios, bedroom studios and even hotel rooms. Below are the pros and cons on the different types of studio spaces.
I want to preface this by saying one thing, budgets can and will range HUGE on this topic. You can make music with a laptop, an interface, a microphone, and some simple plugins, while you can also make music in a multi-million-dollar facility with a mic locker, live rooms, perfectly acoustically treated control rooms, and more gear than you know what to do with. I just want to break down the pros and cons, do’s and don’ts, and general information about different types of studio spaces. With that said, let’s dive in!
Commercial Studio or Home Studio? That is thy question...
Option 1: Home Studio (Not a Dedicated Room)
This first option is the most affordable, most minimal, and most manageable. This option is having a “studio” inside your home, but not having a dedicated space for it. For instance, if you have your desk in your living room or in a section of your bedroom.
OVERHEAD: $0 This option literally has no overhead. Since you don’t even have any extra rooms in your house, you won’t pay a cent to keep this studio option running.
PROS: No Overhead | No Commute | Easy to Work Whenever.
CONS: No Privacy | No Sense of "Work Space." | Always "At Work." | Music Equipment Overflows into Casual Spaces | Noisy for Other Occupants | Hard to Acoustically Treat | Can Be Awkward to Have Clients Over | Can Actually Be "Illegal" to Have Clients Over (Check your rental agreement or check with your landlord)
WHEN YOU SHOULD: I recommend this option for anyone starting music production, doing it as a hobby, or just getting started with making some money producing. This option is no risk, but is also no frills. This will give you the space to do some work, learn your craft, get better, and spend any income on other areas of investment.
WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T: I think if you are producing music for a living, having clients and artists over, and spend your entire day working on music, then this isn’t the best option. Not having any boundaries in terms of “workspace” means that when you are sitting on the couch relaxing, your work station will literally be staring you down always saying “you could be working”. It is also hard to create a mood or a vibe for your work space if you are just in the middle of the living room. It will be hard finding consistent paid work if every time someone comes over you are just in a living room or there is bedroom furniture right next to your desk. If you are serious about music, one of the other options might be a better fit.
Option 2: Home Studio (Dedicated Room)
This option is actually my personal setup and my personal favorite. This is having a studio at home, either a dedicated bedroom, basement, or even a special facility on your property (having a studio built in your yard).
OVERHEAD: $200-$300 PER MONTH or $20,000-$50,000 If you want to just have an extra bedroom dedicated to music, you are looking at a $200-$300 a month overhead to compensate for the rental price adjustment. If you have a house with a spare room already, you will have no overhead. If you want to build a small facility on your property, this can range from $20,000 to $50,000. Building a facility will also require permits, inspections, licenses, and other ongoing costs.
PROS: Small Overhead | No Commute | Easy to Work Whenever | Sense of Work Space | Freedom to Do Whatever
CONS: Always “At Work” | Normally Small Spaces | Noisy for Other Occupants | Can Be Awkward to Have Clients Over | Can Actually Be “Illegal” to Have Clients Over (Check your rental agreement or check with your landlord)
WHEN YOU SHOULD: I recommend this option for anyone who is full time in music, but might not work with artists in person a lot, or has no need to track big sessions (full bands, choirs, orchestras, etc). I think option is very affordable and keeps overhead low, while also giving some privacy. My personal goal is to build a facility on my own property one day. It will be an investment, but it also eliminates most of the cons on this list, and you OWN it, making the investment more justifiable in my opinion. Also remember, you can work out of your home most of the time, and rent large commercial studios if you are working on a project that needs it. That way you get the best of both worlds, and only pay for the large studio spaces when you actually need it.
WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T: If you have a lot of artists that work with you in person, this might not be the best option. Always having clients in and out of your personal home can be tiring, and can take its toll on other occupants. Neighbors will normally complain as well if they see people always coming and going, especially when there is loud music coming from the home. Also, if you need to track larger sessions, need a live room, and want access to tons of gear, this might not be the best option. The lack of space and resources results in most home studios being pretty limited, and normally just a control room with a vocal booth at most.
Option 3: Commercial Studio (Rented Room)
You can always rent a single room at a commercial studio. This gives you that classic “studio” workflow, and is much more affordable than opening a facility.
OVERHEAD: $600-$1,500 PER MONTH You will be renting this space per month, so your overhead is essentially whatever the facility charges for rent for that specific room.
PROS: Can Have Medium Overhead | Commercial Space | Easy to Network With | Sense of Work Space | Access to Gear | Access to Live Room | Already Acoustically Treated
CONS: Commute to Work | Don’t Have Easy Access at All Hours | Normally Small Spaces | No Ownership | Has Restrictions | Can Have Hefty Overhead
WHEN YOU SHOULD: I recommend this option for anyone who is full time in music, and tracks artists a lot. If you engineer a lot, work with local artists, and need a commercial space to work out of. This is a great alternative to trying to open an entire commercial facility. If you like having a set work schedule and can find a studio that allows for their open hours to correspond with your personal hours, this will work well.
WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T: If you aren’t tracking artists a lot in person, I would skip on this option. If you work a lot with people online, or do distance work, it might be easier and cheaper to just work from home. Also, if you don’t want to commute to and from work every day, skip this option. If you plan on making a living off of music for a long time, possibly invest in your own space (whether it be commercial or personal), because you will never actually own this option. You will just pay their monthly rent and when it’s time to go, that’s it.
Option 4: Opening a Commercial Studio
This option is going to be very pricey, very time consuming, and very risky. The overhead is huge to keep a commercial space running, so make sure that this overhead is necessary to actually enhance your income and workflow before just making the jump.
OVERHEAD: $3,000-$7,000 Per Month in Rent OR $5,000-$10,000 Per Month in Mortgage | $70-$200 Water Bill | $300 - $600 Power Bill | $70 Internet Bill | Inspection Fees Vary | Licensing Fees Vary | Taxes Vary | Remodeling and Furnishing (Acoustic Treatment, Gear, Rugs, Paint, Décor, Furniture, etc) | Maintenance | Insurance | Security This overhead will range quite a bit depending on how big your space is, where you are renting, what the state and county regulations are, whether you rent the property or own the property, etc. This is a monumental overhead and takes a ton of time to actually get going
PROS: Professional Facility | Can Make Income by Renting Out Rooms | As Much Space as You Need | Sense of Work Space | Freedom to Do Whatever (If You Own the Property) | Impressive for Clients
CONS: Commute to Work | VERY High Overhead | Noisy for Adjacent Businesses (If Next to Places) | Unexpected Costs | Long Term Investment | May Have Rental Restrictions
WHEN YOU SHOULD: If you have the money and want to invest it, opening commercial studios can be a great way to make money back on your initial investment, but be weary because at this day in age commercial studios are going under quickly. If you need a ton of space, this is a solid option. If you are recording larger artists or doing things like film score engineering, or If you have the time and money to invest, and you think that this opening can bring you more work, and better work, take the plunge.
WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T: If you aren’t at a place where you can honestly afford the overhead, and if you think that opening a commercial studio is the missing piece to your puzzle that will solve your slow workflow, please don’t go into tons and tons of debt for this. If you aren’t doing well in your current situation, opening a studio is not going to change that. Think about it this way, if you open a commercial space, you need to be making at least 4x what you could make in a personal or rented space in my opinion. Also, if you live in an area that either has a ton of commercial studios, or NO demand for a commercial studio, skip this.
To Summarize Everything Up:
I know this was all super basic, and mostly opinionated, but these were just my feelings about each specific work space option. I think they all have their place and they all of their pros and cons. At the end of the day though, making music doesn’t NEED much. Don’t focus too much on the gear, or the room, or how nice the console is, or how many square feet your studio is. Instead, work on your workflow. Maximize your efficiency to make the most music, the most money, and the most progress you possibly can. Picking a space should revolve around YOUR needs and your focuses. Hope this helps!
Austin Hull www.austinhull.com