How much does a recording studio cost to build?

Have you ever wondered how much it might cost to build your own recording studio?

If you are interested in the academic “book report” answer to this question, click here.

But, if you want to know the inside answer from professional audio engineers and music producers on how much it costs to setup your own home studio, or a professional studio like theirs, continue reading – or listen to their own words here:

Rick Camp, Recording Connection Mentor“A home studio, or a project studio can cost anywhere from three or four hundred dollars up to, you know, 10, 20, $30,000 to build. A professional studio starts around 40 to $50,000 on up to a few million, or better.”

Rick Camp, RC1 Productions & Master Mix Live, Las Vegas, NV
Credits: Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Usher, Dr. Dre, Earth Wind & Fire

Mike Johnson, Recording Connection Mentor“I would say realistically 10 to $20,000 for a home studio whereas a professional studio would cost, say between 150K and a million plus to open the doors.”

Mike Johnson, Clear Track Recording Studios, Clearwater, FL
Credits: John Legend, Jeff Berlin, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Alice Cooper, U2, Madonna

One of our mentors, Doug Boulware, of The Abstract Los Angeles Recording Studios, documented the process of building his studio.

Home Recording Studio
A home studio is a great way for new artists to document songs they have written, and share them with others. Let’s explore the necessary items for a beginner home studio.

Microphones
You’ll need a few good microphones. Each mic should be used for unique recording situations. Good dynamic mics start at $70 (Shure SM57). Condenser mics start at $100 (MXL 90).

Audio Interface
An audio interface allows you to plug in your instruments and convert the analog signal into digital information for your computer to read. Good audio interfaces start at $200.

Digital Audio Workstations
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) allow you to edit, add effects, and mix your recordings, then export your project to specific file types for sharing. A good DAW is Logic Pro X ($199)

MIDI Keyboard
Although a MIDI keyboard is optional, it is a good investment. They allow you to explore a range of digital software instruments. A good MIDI keyboard starts around $300.

Studio Monitors
Not all speakers are right for critical listening. Studio monitors have a flat, balanced response which allows you to mold your frequencies to perfection. A good pair starts around $300.

Donny Baker, Recording Connection Mentor“A simple home studio can consist of a computer, an audio interface (to get your audio into the computer), and maybe a microphone, if you plan to record any live instruments or voice. This could be done for less than $500 and be well done. Some limitations will be that, if you are working at home, it’s not as comfortable for clients to be in your bedroom or garage. Although not unheard of, a “real” studio is not just about the gear. It has a lot to do with the room in which you record and the experience of the engineer. I mean, let’s look at music that was recorded back in the day. The Doors? Probably a total of 8 microphones, all recorded live, at the same time, in the same room. If your artist has the talent, it’s your gig to capture that talent in a way that translates. My favorite way to record a band is to put them in the room and put microphones up in a way that works and have them play the song. That’s hard to do if your computer and interface can only handle 2 inputs at once.

A pro studio can be put together with just an MBox and a laptop. There is nothing wrong with being able to produce great music or work on film and TV shows at home with a simple setup. With that said, if you want to have a facility to bring an artist into and have them be creative and comfortable, having a world-class facility can be very expensive. The point here is that you could do it for $300 or $3 million and still get the same results.”

Donny Baker, ES Audio Services / Open Call Productions, Glendale, CA
Credits: Beyoncé, Brandy, The Klassics, Alex Cantrall, Silkk the Shocker, Candace Glover

Studios in a Box
Another option for having a basic home studio is the “all-in-one” studio in a box solution. These are usually much more affordable, but give you less options for quality. The price for an all-in-one solution range from $200 to $400 and up.

Zach Phillips, Recording Connection Mentor“It really depends what type of work you are hoping to accomplish. You can do a lot with a computer and a good set of monitors. If you want to track vocals you need a nice mic and a decent vocal chain. If you want to track drums you need quite a few mics and pre amps, a multi-channel converter, and a good sounding room. The cost of a good home studio is in the $5000-$50,000 range. A professional studio, well, it cost’s a lot! Hundreds of thousands if not millions. It is endless. Don’t do it. There are so many great studios struggling to keep their doors open, most studios will give freelance engineers a cheap rate just to keep the rooms booked. Find a studio you like, build a relationship with them, the more projects you bring in the more flexible the rates will be.”

Zach Phillips, Freq Lab Recording – San Francisco, CA
Credits: The Kooks, Talib Kweli, Dnae Beats, Jayleez, J-Banks, The Game, Alice Russell, Comedy Central

Professional Recording Studio
How much does a professional recording studio cost to set up?

Location
Location is key. A space in Los Angeles as of June 2014 is about $3000 per month for 1000 square feet. This would be considered a small studio.

The Console
A small, used console can start around $5000 and a new midsized console can start at $10,000. Large boutique consoles can run from $20,000 to $100,000 or more!

Dynamics Processors & Effects Modules
Brand preference can affect the amount spent on dynamics processors & effects modules, but expect to spend around $40,000 to stay competitive with other professional studios.

Sound Management
Every room has problem spots, and every room is unique, so
setting a room up for optimum listening conditions can get expensive. Costs vary from a few hundred to thousands plus.

Studio Monitors
Professional grade studio monitors can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but a good pair will start at around $3000.

Cameell Hanna, Recording Connection Mentor“For the majority of today’s music makers, you can get a very nice, very functional home studio together that can handle everything but big multi-mic recordings, which you don’t typically do even in the big studios. So, if you’re a music producer in today’s landscape, chances are you’re going to be creating music using plugins a lot of the time, maybe integrating select pieces of hardware, tracking vocals, and doing some rough mixes at your studio. Spend time and money on creating the atmosphere. Go paint the walls the right color. Hang the right pictures. Buy some simple acoustic soundproofing that you can put together yourself. Put the right couch in there. As far as the gear, it really depends on the kind of music guy you are. Like, my setup at home is tailored to what I need most from it: instant access to laying down ideas. I have a USB mic and a USB keyboard and Ableton Live loaded up with plugins. I use it to plan out all of the demos and from there, and I can bring in 70% of what I’ll use on the final recording, and then I can replace all the live instrumentation and vocals when I get to a proper studio. If you can get together $3500 to $5000, and if you’re handy, you can put together a very nice, very usable studio that has almost every component of what you’re going to need as a modern songwriter.

Cameell Hanna, Recording Connection Mentor“With a professional studio, there are a lot of costs associated with it that are different than a home studio. You have to decide on a few things. How long are you going to stay there? Like a lot of business owners you’re probably not buying the building where you’re going to conduct your business. So, you’re going to be leasing it from somebody. So, you don’t want to over improve the space that’s there because you can’t take it with you. So, if you’re going to be building a commercial studio in a popular city, you got to understand that you’re going to probably be paying $4 a square foot for an attractive location. You’re also going to be improving that space per square foot to professional acoustical standards, at anywhere from $100 a square foot to $150 a square foot. You’re going to need to hire an architect, and designs for basic production room at say, 700 square feet, could run you $10,000 designing a room. Then you have to execute it. You could spend another $15K to $20K, just getting it built, and then you now have to equip it. You’re talking another… well you get the idea.

“And now that you have it built, you now have your monthly overhead to handle. You have a loan for the gear and the build-out and then, you’re paying rent. So, say your rent is something like, you got a really good deal at $3500 a month. And you’re in the scenario where you built it all. So, you got to pay debt service on a $50,000 loan. So, you know, it depends on the term of your loan, but say you did a 10-year loan. So, what is that? $6000 a year with interest? So, now you’re up to $9 to $10,000 a month in overhead to run a commercial studio. You can book that studio out. Say you’re getting $500 a day for the room. It’s an okay price. And then, you’re booking yourself out as an engineer. So, you’re working, right? You got to book out that room out for at least 20 days a month just to cancel everything out. So, do you want to build a commercial studio?

“You know what I mean? Like, people ask me that question a lot. I’ve run . . . This is my third major recording studio that I’ve run and, you know, it hasn’t . . . You know, time hasn’t changed the way you have to build these things, but the dynamics of how you make money off them definitely changes.”

Cameell Hanna, Serenity West Recording, Los Angeles, CA
Credits: Justin Timberlake, Adele, Florence & the Machine, Eva Simons, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg

Microphones
Artists won’t pay a studio $200 per hour to record their work on lesser-grade mics. Expect to pay at least $1500 each for high quality condenser mics. You’ll need more than one.

Recording Booths
A recording booth can be built for less than $1000, but if you want it built by experienced professionals using pro-grade materials, it would cost at least $4,000.

Additional Equipment
Most professional studios have a large inventory of gear readily available. This includes instruments, computers, software, headphones, cables & more.

General Upkeep
Upkeep includes electricity, insurance, internet, phone, office supplies, and amenities for clients (bottled water, food, etc). Costs are undetermined here, but we assure you, it’s not free.

Thinking about building a recording studio?

The best way to learn how gear works, and how best to use it, is from an audio professional. So, even if you’re just hankering to build your own home recording studio, ask the experts. Now you could beat your head against the wall trying to find these experts and get them to sit down and talk with you or you could get in touch with us, the Recording Connection. We knock on doors for you, so you are on the inside dealing directly with a bona fide audio engineer from day one.

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Recording Connection Quiz

Contact Information
1. Age *
  • 18 and under
  • 19-25
  • 26-40
  • 40+
2. Which of these are vital to a career in music? *
  • Passion
  • Talent
  • Drive and Ambition
  • All of the Above
3. What does the term “Pay Your Dues” mean? *
  • Payments deducted from your wages to pay your union dues.
  • Catching up with old debts.
  • Starting from the bottom and working your way up.
  • All of the Above
4. What is the University of Hard Knocks? *
  • A small college in Oberlin, Ohio
  • The real world
  • An MMA Fighter Training School
  • None of the Above
5. What is the best way to learn for a career in the music business? *
  • Learn by Doing
  • A tenured professor
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  • I Don’t Need No Stinking Teacher
6. Why do some bands sound so different in concert than when you listen to their album? *
  • The concert hall's acoustics suck.
  • The live sound engineer sucks.
  • The band sucks.
  • All of the above.
7. In today’s music business, how important is it to think like an entrepreneur? *
  • It’s absolutely critical.
  • It’s not necessary if you’re creative.
  • I know how to spell it, but don’t have a clue what it means.
  • It’s actually harmful as it interferes with the creative process.
8. When it comes to career goals, which of these is most important to you? *
  • To make a lot of money
  • To be famous
  • To make a living doing what I love
  • Lots of time off
9. How important are connections in the music business? *
  • Extremely important.
  • Highly overrated.
  • Somewhat useful.
  • More trouble getting them than they are worth.
10. If you don’t know the answer to something the best thing to do is? *
  • Ask.
  • Guess.
  • Say nothing.
  • Talk in a foreign language.

Here’s the academic “book report” answer:

With the advent of digital music, recording studios are sometimes thought of as being industry dinosaurs. The entry level for setting up your own recording studio has become far less expensive than it was just a decade ago.

So, how much does a home recording studio cost? It can be anywhere from $500 to $20,000, depending on how technologically sound your studio currently is. You can use a new laptop with a few microphones as your recording studio, or you can go all out and buy soundboards and synthesizers.

The first step towards building your own home music studio is examining the room and deciding what can be done with this. If you are setting up the recording studio in your room or in your basement, it is important to remember this room must be acoustically sound. Some rooms are not set up to bring out people’s vocals. This all makes a huge difference on the record. It is suggested that everyone go out and get acoustic foam and stick it on the walls to provide proper acoustics. Acoustic foam can cost anywhere between $70 and $100 for a crate and depending on the size of the room, you may need about seven crates.

Technological equipment is what most people worry about when they ask “how much does a music studio cost?” When it comes to buying technological equipment, you will need computers, music recording and processing software, a soundboard, an interface, and a good microphone system set up with a stand or microphone cable. The microphone technology alone will cost around $500 for just a decent one. The digital software you need to edit music on the computer might also cost anywhere from $100-$900. Optionally, you can get a keyboard to help produce beats and melodies, which can cost from $100-$200.

There are other additional costs to consider. Will you be giving the room a makeover before moving equipment in there? If this is your own personal studio, this may not be necessary, but if you will be renting out your studio, re-designing it can help bring in clientele, who will be looking to check if the studio looks professional or not.

You can also keep instruments handy for yourself or your clients to use. You may skip out on this particular section but sometimes, musicians will forget their instruments and have to borrow them from the studio. There are also times when artists may want to tinker around with an instrument during the recording process.

No matter how much a music studio costs, it is easy to make a profit off of the studio. As long as you have the right technology to make artists sound better, artists will keep coming around.

© 2019 – James Petulla. All Rights Reserved.


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