I want everyone to make money from their audio work. I honestly believe that all of you have something to offer from your skills as audio engineers. That said, it's still an incredibly competitive field that's really hard to break into. But just like with any startup business, thinking differently and positioning yourself correctly can spell success for your studio startup.
In the next few paragraphs we'll be looking at ways for you to break into the industry by breaking down the wants and needs of your target market, finding your target market and then structuring your studio accordingly to suit those wants and needs.
Ready? Let's get started.
Customer Pain and Your Solution
When you think about making money from someone, do you ever think about it in terms of their pain? For instance, it pains me to do graphic design work so I find someone who can solve my problems for me. I then pay them for their solution to my pain.
If you think of your work being the solution to someone's pain, you're one step closer to understanding your market.
For instance, do a lot of bands in your area have an easy way to record their music but when it comes to mixing, they sit around scratching their heads? Or to put it another way, are they pained by the fact that they put so much time into recording and now they're stuck with something that sounds bad because they don't know how to mix?
Or can they figure all that stuff out but don't know how to master all of their different songs into a cohesive album?
That's when you should start thinking, "I can offer them a solution to their pain. I can mix their album because they can't or I can make their mixes sound like a mastered album."
It's the mindset of an entrepreneur that you need to have when it comes to figuring out how to put yourself out there in this business.
Your pain is that you want knowledge to make your mixes sound better. That's why I spend most of my time writing audio production tips for you to learn from. I didn't sit down one day and think, "Man, I just really want to write." No, I thought, "My writing can actually help people that don't know what I do. I can solve that pain through writing about it."
So I ask, what's your target market's pain?
What's a target market you ask? Here we go.
You can look at potential target markets as the most common types of musicians in your local area. Depending on your area, the most common musicians could be rappers, singer/songwriters or metal bands.
Each one of these types of musicians have different problems. Sure, they might all be able to go to a commercial studio because a professional studio has all the gear to accommodate any type of musician. But if you want to treat your studio as a startup, you need to segment your market and start focusing on one type of musician.
There are a few different ways of positioning yourself in a market that already has a few studios as competitors. First, you can differentiate yourself by being cheaper, which can be dangerous in the long run. Or you can position yourself by catering especially well to a certain audience. It's also a very effective strategy if you find a certain musician type that doesn't seem to be served well by any studio.
Take the ones that feel left out and make them your first customers.
But how do you figure out what they need and why they feel left out?
Let's take rappers as an example of your ideal target market. Go out and talk to rappers and see what impresses them in a studio. Also see what they don't really need nor care about. Then structure your marketing efforts around that.
This goes back to the problem we talked about before. Rappers have different needs and pains than singer/songwriters or metal bands. Once you've identified a segment that you can capture, then it's time to get structure your studio and your equipment around them.
Bootstrapping Your Financials
I'll spare you the gory details about cost of goods sold, operating expenses and accrued depreciation. It's not something you need to know right now. What you need to know is how to get your business off the ground. Assuming that you've done the groundwork and figured out what your biggest target market is, and what their specific audio pain is, you can start structuring your audio business around that.
Say your biggest local market are rappers. Then you don't need a large live room and a ton of microphones plugged into a large console. You're better off with a good vocal booth, a great control room and maybe some synths to spice up their productions.
A lot of rappers come in with pre-made backing tracks without any vocals. Having a good vocal tracking room is therefore a solution to the rapper's pain. Also, once their vocals are recorded, they usually need a good control room to master their vocals and backing track together and make it sound tight. That's where your solution comes in again.
By starting strong, with a market you know is out there, you can bootstrap your studio with minimal equipment. As you get more clients and grow you can expand, or simply enhance the equipment you already have to cater even further to your market.
You don't need a business plan to start acting like a business. But you still need to have some foresight and do some research so you have the most probability of success.
Planning to be the best metal mixing studio in the city without metal bands is a recipe for disaster. But planning to cater to an audience of musicians that you know need your services to solve their already existing problems is a stepping stone towards success.