Neil Perry's column

You want to do WHAT?

It has been said (usually by me) that working in the music business because you like music is a lot like working in a slaughterhouse because you like animals. 

What I mean by that is, if you know too much about how it?s done it can really take the joy out of it. It seems that this adage holds particularly true of owning a recording facility.

From almost every angle it appears to be a thankless task. It?s a terribly expensive endeavor, and not just financially, it can cost you emotionally and mentally as well. The hours can be long, the client politics difficult, and the competition just to keep in business is fierce. With all of this in mind, I?ve recently set out to build my own studio facility. Am I CRAZY?!? Well?  probably.

I?d like to take all of you on a journey with me. Sounds exciting, doesn?t it? I?m going to spend some time getting you up to speed with me, but for the most part, you can follow along at the same pace as I either succeed or fail at building the studio of my dreams. This whole process will likely take a very long time, but if you?re game, I?m going to relay every victory and every upset along the way. Oh, by the way, this is all real. This is not a memoir or a ?how to? guide. This is actually happening as you?re reading this, which hopefully will make for some real suspense!

A Little Background

I?d like to start by talking about what this facility is and what it isn?t. This is NOT a project studio. The idea of building my own studio has been floating around my brain for years, usually pushed away to a place where my ideas can?t hurt me mere seconds after I think of it. It?s far too scary a proposition. I?ve spent many of those years watching harried studio owners and managers screaming at clients until they?re blue in the face or freaking out over scheduling conflicts, lost tapes, or any manner of things that go wrong every day of the week. Oh, and by the way, has anyone ever even met a sane studio owner? I, for one, have not. These are the reasons why, when I decided to dive in to this mess, I would never own a studio that might just ?get by?. It?s all or nothing on this one. If I?m going to fail, I?m going to fail BIG. How big, you ask? Four studios and about four and a half million dollars big. As I said, this is NOT a project studio.

What it is, in fact, is even more overwhelming than one might think. It is a state of the art, world-class, multi-room residential media production ?playground?! While that sounds like a bunch of crap, it is actually true. I won?t talk about specifics yet, (I guess you?ll just have to keep checking back!) but believe me when I tell you, the location is second to none. Frankly, I often wonder how anyone could have missed this before. Then I realize that the fact is, building a recording facility is not to be entered into lightly. You have to want it. I myself am now obsessed with it.

So you have an idea... Now what?

So my idea goes a little like this. I?m going to build myself a dream studio. I want it to be residential. I want it to be state of the art. I want it to be in a place where if you were working there, you?d think to yourself, ?if I could live and work in one spot for the rest of my life?this would be it?. Obviously, this is a pretty tall order but you have to start somewhere, right? So where do you start? Well, I?ve started by writing a business plan. However, I started mine in a sort of backward way. I began by preparing the financial information and saved the actual writing for last. I know this sounds boring, or worse, impossible, but it?s not. Even if it sounds boring to you, I suspect that the guy giving you the money to build it might find it exciting. My feeling was that if I did it the other way, it would be too easy to get carried away with it. At least I know that my studio will make money, and this place will be far too expensive to leave out a detail like that.

Preparing the financials requires a lot of legwork. The bottom line is, you have to surround yourself with experts. You need a couple of lawyers (real estate and corporate), an accountant, a real estate broker, a building developer, an architect, an acoustic consultant, and an equipment supplier. Yup, it?s a lot of work. What you probably don?t know is how easy it is to get these people involved. I started with the building developer. I searched the Internet for builders and architects in the area where I wanted to be. I found a few and settled on one simply because I liked his renderings. One phone call got him excited enough about the project that he gave me the number of a real estate broker. The broker in turn referred me to a local real estate attorney and I was on my way. My own tax accountant was able to check my financial spreadsheets and when he approved them, I wrote up the plan. Something that you should know about all this. It took two weeks and cost nothing but time.

The acoustic designer that I contacted is probably the best known and most expensive in the world and in my estimation, worth every penny. This can be a tough decision. There are a lot of acoustic designers and consultants out there and some can be had for very little money. If you?re building a small studio, that?s probably fine. However, it would be hard to convince me that the person chosen to design the acoustic spaces should be anything but the very best. Not because I have a hang up about having the best sounding room in the world (which, by the way, I believe to be immeasurable), but because this is one of the biggest selling points of the facility. Remember who your clients are. Lots of bad studios have good gear but not a helluva lot of studios have phenomenal acoustic environments. Sad, but true. If you choose a designer who has built a handful of the best studios on the planet, you place yourself among them. If all you?re selling is time?it better be good sounding time.

Finally, you should get a bunch of good books. Learn as much as you can, not just about studios but also about business, finance, and management. It simply would not be cool to put the amount of time and energy necessary to see a project like this through only to have it fail because you didn?t have the skills to make it work. Get dirty.

Next Phase ? Money!

So where does this leave me? I?m now ready to shop the plan around to investors. This is where it should get very interesting. What are the shortcomings of the plan? What kinds of questions are they asking? How much do they want to own and for how much? As I said, this is where it starts to heat up. Check back here for an update in about two weeks. Who knows, in two weeks you might be where I am now!

If anyone wants contact me, my email address is:

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