How do you start a home based Music Studio?

Starting a home based music studio can feel overwhelming.  In fact, it can feel downright impossible.  When you think of the big boy music studio scene, and you remember last time you went in to the studio and forked over a months worth of savings for 8 hours of studio time…and now you want to build something worthy of that in your own home?  Good luck!  Yeah, it can feel like this, but that doesn’t mean it holds true!  Building a home studio is all about figuring out your budget, figuring out the necessities, and then figuring out if you really want this.  Let’s start at the beginning shall we?

 1.  Home Based Video and Music Studio – figuring out your budget

The first thing you need to do is realistically ask yourself, “how much money can I throw at this?”  Because at the end of the day, this will be the foundation of what we decide is going to initially be installed in your music studio setup.  Do you need a sound booth?  Do you need pristine and crisp vocals?  Do you need any vocals at all?  Is your art form purely digital or do you also use live instrumentation, such as a full physical drum kit and/or piano and/or acoustic or electric guitar(s) “or both”?  Once you’ve laid out which of these things you do and don’t need in order to immediately start creating that next Grammy Winning Album in your music studio, then we can start sorting out where exactly to start, and more importantly, HOW to start.  So with that, let’s set a fictional budget for our home based music studio project!  Let’s go with $5,000

2.  What is the typical budget for a modest home based music studio?

Okay, so we’ve decided $5,000 is our budget.  And where exactly did this money come from you are wondering?  Well there are several resources in this example.  You asked your mother and father, explained about your music studio, and they both contributed a bit.  You ran a Kickstarter or Indiegogo and raised yourself an extra $500.  You went out on the street in Hollywood for a day of live playing with a bucket and raised another extra $150.  You offered your other talents as services via Fiverr for two months and made about $500 per month.  You went on Facebook and posted on all of your friends walls to invest money into your studio in exchange for free studio time when it was finished being built.  Of your 3,000 friends, 1,238 decided to give you $1 and you raised $1,238.  So far we’ve come up with $2,738 of our needed $5,000 over the course of 2 months, and all without having a job “so no excuses just because you are still in high school or a university student and don’t have time to have a day job!”.

Let’s just go ahead and say you also went online to a few investor sites, and an angel investor decided to plop down the remaining $2,262 for your music studio.  BOOM!  We’ve hit our money goal!  Great!  Now let’s get to it! So the first step.  What are the absolute necessities for your studio?  Let’s assume we are a music producer.  But let’s also assume we are not these buillshit talentless producers that make up the vast majority of so called “producers” out there today, and we are an actual artist, you know, that actually went to school for music, or if we couldn’t afford university, we invested in online courses and taught ourselves music theory.  We actually understand chord progression, and the layout of an actual song.  We actually knew how to write and read music, and in fact knew how to incorporate melody and a full suite of sound to a song and not rely on pre set drum patterns to come up with something for us.

Let’s assume that is what we are. And if we don’t actually produce music or compose music, then let’s assume we are a rapper.  But let’s also assume we are not these bullshit talentless rappers that bullshit their way through verse and chorus using auto-tune for no artistic reasoning outside of just not doing their job and actually getting a vocal coach to teach them how to sing, and while they are at it, didn’t bother to invest in learning how to pen a song that wasn’t about fucking this bitch, or shooting that rival, or getting this or that money, or using some form of street sorcery to summon pigeons to alert you when cops are coming so that you can stop whatever illegal drug ring you are operating in whichever neighborhood you are destroying in this particular “song” that you don’t seem to care about it’s youth, or their futures in.

Great, that means we will be needing a guitar, and definitely will be needing a midi controller, and a fairly decent computer to handle the software we will be purchasing as well.  So let’s make a list and sauce this all out.  For this, I will use my own home studio.  Now what I will do is post the actual real life pricing of my studio, and then see what we need to consolidate to get it down to our proposed budget. So let’s look at my hardware first;

  • 1.  Main iMac – $2,999
  • 2.  Secondary iMac – $1,100
  • 3.  2 iPads – $600/piece
  • 4.  M-Audio Keystudio Midi Controller – $100
  • 5.  Studio Lighting Kit – $700
  • 6.  Green Screen Setups – $200
  • 7.  Secondary Monitor – $150
  • 8.  Audio Monitors – $500
  • 9.  Studio Engineer headphones – $200
  • 10.  Phantom Power Supply Box – $60
  • 11.  Microphone Interface (M-Audio) – $100
  • 12.  Microphones – $999
  • 13.  ASCAP Membership – Must Qualify
  • 14.  Printer (HP Envy 4500 Series) – $150
  • 15.  Knowledge of Publishing contracts/agreements – Free via online forums and resources
  • 16.  Education – Potentially free via online forums and resources
  • 17.  Softwares and training – Adobe Master Suite CS5 ($2,500), Final Cut Studio 3 ($1,000), Cinema 4D14 ($3,600), Logic Pro 9 ($500), Logic Pro X $199), Pro Tools ($700), Boujou 5 ($10,000), Canon T3i kit plus lens kit ($2,200) “Note* – we will talk about plugins on a different day, that’s an entirely different post, but they are extremely important in all this.”

For me, this is a list of bare minimums necessary in my music studio and film studio to do what I have to do everyday.  We are looking at a final price tag to have my setup at $45,615, with hardware coming in at $8,458.00, software coming in at $29,157.00, and unlisted plugins totaling just under $8,000 according to my tax write-offs 🙂

All of this said, I work out of a home studio setup and it’s missing a LOT.  But it’s  enough to get what I need done, done.  If I could do it right now, my music studio would see a huge expansion, but I have to wait until my lease is up to move into a bigger space where I can have an extra dedicated room to install a sound booth, pick up some extra keys and strings, and an updated MPC.  Keep in mind, I’ve been building my home studio over a period of 5 years, so this breaks down to just above $9,000/year, or better still, $760/month.  This is affordable and doable guys, but it’s something that you have to be dedicated to.  That said, let’s just into fitting my studio into your startup budget of $5,000.

3.  What are the bare necessities for a home based music studio?

Well now that we’ve looked at how much a music studio like mine might cost, lets look at squeezing that into our startup budget of $5,000.  Keep in mind, the budget above assumes you will also be doing music videos, etc in your studio, and therefore includes the budgeting for the video studio portion of my studio.  We can drop all of that out of this equation immediately considering we are focused on a home based music studio, which means you are primarily just trying to get up and running musically.  Moving on.

In my opinion the three most important pieces of this setup are going to be your computer, your midi controller, and your microphone, so I would start there.  If you are like me, go with a cheap end iMac.  I have the newest high end model, but I also have a secondary mid range model and that works superbly for music production “it’s not running 4K video footage, but it gets the music job done”.

So let’s go with the 21.5 inch iMac late 2013 model.  Clocking in at 2.7ghz, with a quad core intel core i5 processor, and 8 gigs of memory, this sucker will fly, period.  She will give you every little bit of processing power you need to get the job done.  She is far from the fastest Mac, but still faster than anything other than stronger Macs on the market when it comes to running Logic and Pro Tools.  This will do you just fine and priced at just $1,299 for the base model, she won’t break our budget.  Next up we need a midi controller.  I personally LOVE the M-Audio Keystudio Pro Tools edition for one simple reason; I’m a firm believer it’s not about the tools so much so as it is about the artist using said tools.  This key station is only $100 and point blank, it’s all I need to churn out a hit.  In my estimation, it will be all you need too.  “Note* – An MPC would be equally efficient, particularly if you like sampling or want to go into Kanye West style samples, however, the goal here is to keep the price down and find the essentials to make a hit.”

Okay, so far, we’ve only spent $1,400 of our budget for our music studio, and now we need a mic.  I say start mid range and grab a Shure Sm7b for less than $400 and it will bare minimum get you sounding like you are recording somewhere that professionals belong 🙂  So now we’ve got the “big three” out of the way, and we still have only spent $1800 of our budget.  Fantastic!  Throw in the digital interface for your mic, which a decent one will run you about $100, and a phantom power supply, which will come in around $60, and we are looking at $1960.  Wow, we are still only 50% through our budget and our music studio already has the bare essentials.  Great!  Moving on.

Let’s talk software.  The absolute bare essentials are going to be an industry standard DAW “of which there are several”, and that’s about it on the bare essentials.  My suggestion is picking up Logic Pro 9 AND Logic Pro X.  This sounds crazy, but there are still some fantastic plugins you will probably come by that still can’t run in X that run amazingly in 9.  Also, you are going to want to pick up a copy of Pro Tools, preferably the entire suite, but since we are focused on our budget, let’s pick one or the other.  While Pro Tools is the industry standard, Logic is only second to Pro Tools and no matter which music studio you find yourself in “from the big name music studio down to the living room music studio”, you will more than likely find both programs running there, and in my opinion, what I prefer, so in today’s lesson, we will be going with both Logics, which comes in at $700 total. That puts us at $2,660.00  Wow!  We are really efficient huh?  This music studio is looking more and more doable!

So let’s see, since we have some money left over, I will make a few more suggestions.  Throw $200 at an extra monitor, because you will want the screen space, just trust me on that one.  And throw in your first two plugins.  I’m going to go with MASSIVE and AUTO-TUNE Suite.  Massive will cost you $200 and Auto Tunes full suite will cost you $700.  Now we are pushing it!  Our total at this point is  $3,760.00  We’ve still got $1,240.00 to spend!  I’m going to say with that last bit of cash hit up websites like Logic TemplatesSilicon Beats, The Drum Sample Broker, and Industry Kits.  It’s very important to fill up your music studio with the kits that will allow you to compete at today’s level when it comes to producing songs “of course this only applies if music production for other artists happens to be one of your goals”.  After playing around over there and investing in a few more plugin’s you will come out to right around $5,000.  Look at that.  We started at the bottom now we here! PS – my favorite place to grab loops by the way is Loop Masters.  Pretty unbelievable stuff going on over there.

4.  Education – How important is ASCAP and understanding music theory to my home based music studio?

I’m going to be very clear with you.  ASCAP is absolutely necessary if you want to make sure you are collecting royalties properly and to keep all of your music copyrighted.  That’s not even a discussion.  Joining ASCAP is just mandatory.  Moving on.  Music Theory is one of my secret weapons.  I know plenty of producers who can play amazing by ear, or who don’t know anything about music and still churn out some of the dopest shit I’ve ever heard.  The thing is, it will only go so far.  If you want to take it to the next level though, you will want to learn music theory.  Trust me.  Put in the time and effort and you will find that understanding music theory is basically like being a superhero in music production, pretty much nothing can stop you at that point.  Also, educating yourself on the ins and outs of producing songs properly will go a long way in giving you the big room sound that is so sought after today.  Learning how to mix and arrange and master will change everything about your sound.  The post production is where your project goes from the living room to the main stage at the Garden.

Well guys, I hope this has given you a little bit of insight as to what goes into building your own home studio and how to put it to work to make back the money you spent on it and then some.  This isn’t something you just do as a hobby.  You want to make music as a hobby you can stop right here.  Don’t invest any further than this.  But if you are serious, then once you hit this goal, add bits and pieces that you need next to get “that sound” that you will inevitably find yourself searching for.  This isn’t a race though, it’s a marathon.  You will be upgrading, replacing, and rebuilding libraries for the rest of your life once you’re hooked, because when it comes to music, there is one simple fact that I tend to tell people when they ask me if they should go into it; If it’s in you, it’s in you.

~Michael Simpson Jr.