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Booking a recording studio

Booking a recording studio by the hour, day or longer period. Don't forget to negotiate rates!



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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio lthough you can book for shorter periods, it is common to book studios by the day. A 'day' will be around fourteen hours, which means that either you get out at the appointed time, or move onto another hourly or daily rate. Alternatively, you can block book a studio in a 'lock out' arrangement. This means that you have twenty-four hour access to the studio, and you can leave all your equipment set up between sessions. A block booking will attract a special rate of course, but you have to bear in mind that time will be wasted while you and your musicians are sleeping, or even taking days off over long periods of recording. Residential studios often operate on a lock out basis.

Studios won't like me saying this, but rates are often negotiable. It depends how much clout you have of course, but a major record company will expect to see a discount somewhere between modest and bailiff-inducing. Indeed, the reason why many studios have gone bust is because record companies have been playing off one studio against another to drive rates down. Obviously, business is business and it comes down to survival of the fittest, but for what you get in a top studio in terms of equipment, acoustics and accommodation, the price you pay is often extraordinarily good value, if you consider what a decent studio costs to set up and run. The quoted rates would include standard equipment, analogue multitrack and an assistant engineer. If you need an experienced engineer, then expect to pay according to the depth of that experience (you know what you get when you pay peanuts!). Having the piano tuned will be extra, as may be the use of the studio's Hammond organ or other exotic equipment. Studios normally prefer to supply tape rather than allowing clients to bring in their own. Obviously this is another profit centre for them, but it allows a degree of quality control, and certainty that the tape machines will be lined up correctly for that particular brand and type. If you do bring in your own tape, as you may if a project has been started elsewhere, then expect to pay the studio a handling charge to cover editing, leadering and labelling etc, as you would pay corkage if you took your own bottle of wine to a restaurant. If your session goes on until the early hours, then you will have to pay taxi costs for the studio's staff, and any telephone calls you make will be logged and charged to your session. Don't forget the VAT or other local tax on top of all this. You may negotiate a discount for payment in advance, but if you don't, bear in mind that you probably won't be taking any tapes away until you have paid in full, not unless you are known to the studio anyway and have set up an account with them. All of these extra costs may seem off-putting, but they are all part of the recording process, so just keep in mind how much money you are going to make at the end of it all. Unfortunately, many acts never make enough money to pay their recording costs back to the record company. It's a tough business, and nobody ever said it wasn't - take your chance and give it your best.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004