How to Start Your Own Music Recording Studio

Do you have goals that you want to pursue in life but don’t know how to get started? It’s easy to dream about ideal careers, but sometimes it may be even easier to let them stay that way—just dreams. So what does it take to get a business off the ground?  I interviewed David Bennsky Jr., the owner of Da Business Productions , to get an idea of what it takes to turn dreams into reality, and even better—into paper. I’m talking about money making strategies that you can use every day. In just over a decade, he has managed to turn a passion for music into a well renounced studio full of talented artists.

YOUNG MONEY: Have you always loved music?
I’ve loved music since I was born and as I get older music speaks to me. It calls to me every day. It just talks to me and tells me what to do on a track, whether it is my own musical interpretation or an artist’s. Music has molded me into what I am today.

YM: What goes in to starting a studio?
I would say a lot of thought and preparation. You have to be willing to take business risks and build your clientele up because you will not be able to make money right away.  You should be ready for that. You have to have the studio equipment and be able to fully use it to your best ability. If you have someone helping you record in the studio who is not familiar with the equipment, you have to be able to teach and train them. You have to have a lot of self-confidence because there are a lot of people out there that have smaller studio set ups and are doing it themselves. You have to be fully qualified to start your own studio and know that you are superior to others in your field.

YM: How do you think starting a studio today differs from starting a studio twenty years ago?
Twenty years ago you would be recording on tape reels. Now, you can pay around two hundred dollars for a set up and charge someone an hourly rate. You don’t need a $200k board. You can have a $1k dollar board and make $250k music. The work flow has changed as well. People are more demanding for a hit record than they have ever been because music has changed so much. There aren’t any Michael Jacksons or Elvis Presley’s—people that dominated their genres. So many people are trying to have a hit record that they don’t focus on their experiences, stories, or creativity. They are missing out on their own emotional effects that lead to successful music.

YM: What’s your background in music?
When I first started I was 12-years-old, just using a two-track recorder. I just recorded funny stuff between me and my friends or I would sing over known songs.  Gradually, from that point on, I purchased better music programs and better equipment and learned the fundamentals of recording. I learned over time that a studio engineer is not just someone who records a song and makes sure the artist on the track sounds good, but is also someone who critiques the artist who is being recorded to make sure that they sound the best they possibly can.  It is about being honest to them about how they sound so that they can feel comfortable with you and most of all, comfortable with themselves while recording. By the time I was sixteen I had a one thousand dollar setup that I did not know how to use to its full potential. I just worked and earned the money to buy it. I knew soon after that I didn’t know how to use the set up. I knew I wanted to either get educated on how to use it or do the hit or miss thing until I figured it out.

For the next four years, I used the set up on and off. Nothing serious, just wanted to record people and get some hours in. Then, after graduating high school, I went to the ITT Technical Institute for computer networking. I did it for about a year until I met someone there who had the same passion for music and recording as I did. That person made me realize that my goal was music instead of computer networking. I dropped out of ITT Tech and I went to Sheffield Institute of Recording Arts in Phoenix, Maryland. I took a 292 hour course, certifying me as an audio engineer for live sound, studio acoustics, audio engineering and producing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I took classes four days a week for eight hours a day. I got hands on experience with industry professionals who worked with big name artists or started their own businesses. I’ve had 12 years experience working with artists in the D.C. metropolitan area with live sound, studio work, artist management and promotion. I’ve spent over ten thousand hours in the studio.

YM: What are all of the different things you can do?
I can take artists to the Sheffield Institute because I have an agreement with them where I can use their studios in exchange for my services.  I can record anything from one microphone vocal setups  to 64- piece orchestras with one hundred microphones setups.  The tools and the setups available to me give me the capability to record and mix any genre. I also record at a home studio for a more personal experience. This studio is mostly built for hip-hop and pop sessions.

YM: What do you typically charge your customers?
Well I can either offer them packages if they want to record, mix, master and duplicate their projects. These package deals can include CD design.
Sheffield Studios: $ 65 an hour
Home studio: $40 an hour

YM: Any recommendations for someone starting their own music business?
I would recommend that a person go to a tech school for recording, but also go to a college and take business classes and courses so that they know how to promote their own business and understand marketing . Most importantly, they should learn to treat people well. It is more about contacts than about the services you provide.

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