Once you’ve gained some experience as a studio engineer or producer and you’ve set up your own recording studio, it’s only natural that you’re going to want to start working with paying clients.
But as with anything else, the “build it and they will come” philosophy tends to fall short. You must do more than build a studio and wait for people to call you if you want to build a steady stream of clients.
Marketing is an important part of building any business, so you should get used to the idea of allocating a certain amount of your time daily to marketing. That way, you won’t fool yourself into thinking the only thing you’ll ever need to do as a business owner is serve your clients.
How should you spend that time? Here are some recommendations.
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Do Some Pro Bono Work To Promote Your Recording Studio
Before I get into this, I’m going to point out that it’s not necessary to take on pro bono work to build your client base.
There are basically two downsides to doing a lot of work for free:
- You end up defeating your self-confidence and may find it difficult to start charging for your services later.
- You end up becoming known as someone who does good work for free, and you may get a perpetual stream of musicians wanting to work with you for free, long after you’ve started charging for your work.
But I have talked to a studio owner who took this approach and found some traction, so I’ll relay what he shared with me.
First, start booking people into your schedule. Do good work for them because then they’ll want to tell their friends. You should begin to see more people contact you because your expertise is growing by word of mouth.
Second, keep booking more people into your schedule until you’re full.
Finally, start charging for your work. Let people know you’re already booked up, and you’ll need to add them to your waiting list. With any luck, they’ll book with you and pay for the session. People tend to assume you must be good if you’re busy.
Again, there can be some drawbacks to this approach, but it can help you gain a lot of experience and eventually turn non-paying clients into paying clients.
Host An Exciting Launch Party
This is something I’ve seen other studio owners do, and it can be quite helpful for building awareness at the beginning.
Once your studio is built, you could set a date for the launch party, and start sending out invites.
Give yourself a bit of leeway to promote the event, but not too much leeway. If you don’t give yourself enough time, no one will show up. If you give yourself too much time, you might slack off on your marketing duties or your expectations for attendance might get out of hand (be as realistic as possible).
Do send out as many invites as you possibly can. Contact friends and friends of friends and then find out if they know any musicians, and if so, invite them too. Utilize Facebook events, business cards, flyers, and whatever else you can afford to put some money into.
The launch party itself can be as basic or as sophisticated as you want it to be. It could just be a basic meet-and-greet, but you could also serve champagne, host a networking event, prepare door prizes, and so forth (but only if you have the time and resources to do so).
But the primary goal is to get people through the doors, looking at your studio, and meeting you. This should help you get a few clients off the bat.
A launch party is also a good way to get to know your community and see the kinds of musicians that are out there, what style of music they play, and so on.
Establish Yourself And Your Recording Studio In The Community
You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of time getting yourself out there. But if you just do a few simple things, you’ll begin to see your efforts pay off.
Establishing yourself in the community is about understanding where musicians hang out and putting yourself in those situations. That’s it.
Here are some ideas on where to go and what to do.
Attend Open Mic/Open Stage Events
Plenty of musicians like to hang out at open mics, and if you live in a city of a million or more, there’s a good chance there are events you could go to every single night.
If you know how to play a few songs yourself, there’s no better promotion than going onstage, playing your tunes, and saying your piece. Most open mics are friendly enough that if you mention the fact that you’re a studio engineer or music producer, they’re not going to kick you out.
I’ve seen a friend of mine get a client this way – it’s amazing how fast it can happen.
If you discover certain events are better than others, then don’t waste your time at the subpar events. Go where you’re having success connecting with people.
If you’re not much of musician, then at least introduce yourself to the host(s). They are well-connected and may be able to point you in the right direction.
Carrying and handing out business cards is not a bad idea either.
As you get to know more musicians, you might consider attending their shows.
Oftentimes, there will be opening acts you’ve never met before, so there will be some networking opportunities to be had.
And you never know – there might be musicians in the audience too, as there often are, at least in my experience.
What’s most important is you show your face in the community and maintain a great attitude. Beyond that, you don’t need to push anyone to work with you. People can smell desperation, and usually acting from a desperate place doesn’t help you get more work.
Double Down On The Digital Marketing Of Your Studio
To me, digital marketing is where the real opportunity is.
With an increasing number of people using their smartphones to search for products and services online, it only makes sense to build a strong online presence.
But if you’re not careful, you can easily get sucked into the blackhole of digital marketing, where countless people feed off their favorite experts and learn a lot but don’t do anything with it.
That’s why I’m going to suggest a simple plan for getting results online.
Search Engine Optimize Your Website
No, do not spend the next few months just learning about SEO. That’s unnecessary.
Our goal here is simple – to get your website onto the first page of search engine results (locally).
Here’s what I suggest you do:
- Set up your website on fast cloud hosting.
- Install WordPress on your domain and use a mobile responsive theme.
- Sprinkle keywords like “music studio Chicago” or “Chicago recording studio” across your website (replace “Chicago” with where you live).
- Put your address and contact information on every page of your website.
- Claim your Google My Business listing.
That’s it – don’t worry about the rest. Focus instead on creating great content for your website.
Blog To Establish Your Industry Authority
Blogging is a great tool for keeping your website updated, building credibility with your audience, and increasing your industry authority.
But there is one common trap here.
Many studio owners tend to think they should create tutorials and how-to guides about the recording process.
Think carefully about that. If your clientele is largely made up of musicians, are they likely to be searching for “how to EQ a trumpet”? I don’t think so.
If you want to get musicians to your website, you should create content that appeals to musicians – how to get your music on the radio, how to promote your music on social media, what a musician should be looking for in a recording studio, etc.
Always put a call to action at the end of every post. It could be “subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch”, or “call us today to book your first studio session”. Don’t think like a blogger – think like a business owner.
To keep things simple, you don’t need to blog more than once per week. And, if you’re strapped for time or just hate the writing process, you can hire someone on Upwork or Freelancer to do the work for you.
Build Your Email List
Anyone who subscribes to your email list is clearly interested in you and/or your services. They may not immediately become clients, but if you keep building a relationship with them, over time, you might see them walk into your studio as clients down the line.
I wouldn’t suggest going overboard here. All you need to do is put an opt-in form on every page of your website. This should help you gain subscribers over the long haul.
If you want to take it a step further, then create a physical signup form at your studio. That way, when clients come to the studio, they can sign themselves up – no hassle, no pressure.
Send out email campaigns on a weekly basis if you can (otherwise, send bi-weekly or monthly campaigns). Share introductory offers and promotions (i.e. 25% off your next recording session) with your audience and entice your subscribers to come to your studio. Getting them into your studio is the hard part but once there, upselling becomes much easier.
Spread The Message On Social Media, Your Recording Studio is For Hire
Again, it’s easy for social media to become a blackhole where you waste all your time and accomplish nothing. So, you must be calculated in how you approach it.
You can save yourself a lot of time by:
- Having your blog posts automatically published to social media using the Jetpack plugin for WordPress.
- Scheduling posts to go out at specific times using a tool like Hootsuite.
- Spending no more than five to 10 minutes daily checking in to see if there are any comments you need to respond to (please interact with your audience).
- Limiting the number of social networks, you commit to building a presence on. I recommend sticking to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Sticking to a posting schedule. I don’t care if it’s once per day or three times per day.
One other thing I would recommend leveraging is Facebook advertising.
There are many types of campaigns you can run, whether it’s to increase your following or get more clients for your business. Since you can set a budget and specify the kind of person you want to target, you can get good results with minimum effort.
But you’ll generally need to try a few different ads before you uncover a winning formula, so don’t be discouraged if you lose a bit of money at first. This is normal.
Don’t Forget Print, Another Good Marketing Method
Digital marketing is sexy. Print? Isn’t that something from the dinosaur age?
Print has been making a bit of a comeback lately, and if you do it right, its effectiveness could be on par with digital marketing, if not better.
Here are a few categories to think about.
Placing an ad in the local classifieds, newspaper, or entertainment magazine could help you attract clients to your studio.
This describes your business cards, your flyers, your pamphlets, and so on. When people ask you about your studio, if you can place something in their hand, there’s a better chance they’ll remember you and want to work with you.
This is where you pay a fee to have your print ads delivered to your list of contacts via mail. This is an avenue worth exploring if you have a budget and are willing to experiment with different ads until you see some traction.
How To Market Your Recording Studio Final Thoughts
Don’t get caught up doing a million different things to market your studio. Use the above tips as an example to create a plan, stick with it, and adjust as necessary. Recognize it can take time for your efforts to pay off (especially with digital marketing), so don’t give up. Just keep going, and your reach will increase over time.