How I Turned a Bedroom Studio into a 6-Figure Business (Without a Single Loan)

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This is the first in an upcoming series of blog posts detailing how I turned less than $5000 into a six-figure home studio.

This story is for you if you fall into one of these categories:

  • You are looking to start a small studio in your spare bedroom.
  • You already have an existing bedroom studio.
  • You’re a kid with crap gear, trying to “make it big” out of your parents’ basement.
  • You have a small professional studio that struggles to generate income.
  • You run a successful bedroom studio, and just want tips on how to run your business more smoothly or generate more income.

I assume I have your attention by this point, but if not, save yourself some time and stop reading now. Go back to Facebook, and continue to aimlessly click around while we do shit that matters.

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Seen

I was lurking the profile of another producer on Ask.fm the other day (a site where you can anonymously ask someone questions). Someone asked a fantastic question.

The Question:

“What advice would you give to four friends trying to start a studio? We’re trying to stay within a $20k budget if at all possible, but it seems like the biggest issue will end up being location.”

This is a fairly common type of question I see (except most people don’t have anywhere near $20,000 to spend on a new studio), so I was excited to see what this producer (for which I had a fair amount of respect) had to say:

The Answer:

“You’re going to need a lot more than that!!! And run the other way as fast as you can!!!!”

Now, I am well aware that the internet is full of bad advice, but that answer really bugged me…. and for two good reasons:

1. The person who answered this question is a fairly well-known and well-respected producer. He knows his shit, and people will generally follow the advice he gives.

2. I know for a fact that this answer is DEAD WRONG.

“Well Brian, how do you know he’s wrong?”….you might ask.

“What a stupid question!”….would be my reply.

I know he is wrong, because I’ve created a studio that has consistently generated a steady flow of income year after year. I’ve worked with some pretty good bands (several of which have debuted on the billboard top 200), and I’ve yet to see any signs of business slowing down.

And I started it with less than $5000.

To make things more interesting, I started this studio in my parent’s basement in Athens, Alabama (hardly an ideal location).

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, nor did I have a wealthy family that could help out my studio financially.

I hope the rest of this story can shed some light on why the misconception that you need $100k+ worth of gear to “make it” in this industry simply isn’t true anymore.

The barrier to entry is shrinking, which allows small home studios break into the “pro” world and do something you’re passionate about for a living – all without selling your soul.

If the only thing I accomplish with this article is open up your mind to the possibilities of a changing industry, then I’ve done my job.

A little backstory on how I did this

Want to know what sort of gear I started out with? Well here it is:

$1400 – Digidesign 003 Rack+ (comes with Pro Tools)
$1000 – Built a PC for my studio (never been much of a Mac guy)
$200 – Cheap studio desk with rack spaces
$150 – Cheap microphone stands
$000 – Free mic cables (they all came with the mic stands and other purchases I made)
$400 – Shure microphone pack (3 sm57’s and a beta 52A)
$500 – Rhode NT5 (matched pair for cymbals)
$500 – Mackie MR8 studio monitors
$200 – Drum triggers
$130 – Used AT3035 (vocal mic)
$100 – Steven Slate drum samples (great starter samples)
$100 – Pod XT (which has obviously been replaced with software options these days)

I may be missing a few small items, but so far we’re at $4680. If I would have purchased this all used (which is what I typically do now), it would have been even cheaper.

“Well what about software, Brian? Don’t tell me you PIRATED stuff!!!”

That’s actually a decent question!

Hell yes I did. As an absolute noob working out of my parent’s basement, do you think I’m about to drop $400 on something like Melodyne, when I know I can download a pirated version of it?

Those big software companies will be fine….at least, that’s what was going through my head at the time. I now realize how stupid I was.

Now, let me clarify that I am 100% legit in my software purchases at this point in my career (just ask my assistant). If I use it, I buy it. I just want to be completely transparent for the sake of this blog, and tell the whole story of how I started out.

I am not condoning the illegal use of pirated software. I just know kids will do it, and that I too was once a thieving, pirating sack of shit.

I realize I had a flawed start, and some people will hate that, but that’s something I can’t change after the fact.

I could make an entire blog post about the topic of software piracy, but I’d rather not bore you with that.

My 124 Hour Week

It was January 2009, and my first batch of recording gear had finally arrived from Sweetwater.com.

Based out of my parent’s basement, and armed with just enough gear to record a band, this was the humble beginning of 456 Recordings.

Because of my obsession with learning, I spent the following 44 uninterrupted hours learning how to set up and run everything. I stayed up nearly 2 days straight as my parents questioned my sanity.

Here is how the following 44 hours unfolded:

1pm: I woke up (remember, I was still still living with my parents so I was usually up until 4am playing Call of Duty 4.)
1:30pm: I unpack the boxes of all my new gear.
4pm: I’m balls deep into “learning mode”. You know nothing, Jon Snow…
10pm: Mom goes to bed – “Goodnight Brian, sweet dreams.”
12amFuck, I forgot to eat today.
5am: Mom wakes up – “You’re still up??”
8am: Mom leaves for work – “OK, I’m going to work. Please get some sleep.”
1pm: I’m Googling stupid shit like “How to change tempo in Pro Tools.”
5pm: Mom gets home from work – “Please tell me you got some sleep…no?? BRIAN DAVID HOOD!”
10pm: Mom goes to bed – “Brian I’m going to bed and I’m worried about you.”
12am: Have I eaten yet? I really don’t know…
5am: Mom wakes up – “You’re STILL up??? You might seriously die…”
8am: Mom leaves for work – “…what…are… you doing? Are you on drugs???”
9am: I hit the point of “literally can’t even”, and passed the actual fuck out.

Once I could no longer physically function, and had eaten maybe 2 meals in 40 hours, I crashed for 12 hours. As soon as I woke up, I proceeded to spent another 40 hours straight learning how everything worked.

After another 12 hours of sleep and a THIRD 40-hour shift Googling stupid shit, learning whatever I could, and recording my own demos, I finally got back on a “normal” schedule.

Why do I tell you this? It’s to drive one single point into your head:

If you don’t have this same obsessive, burning drive to learn, you will never make it.

There is one caveat to this…

My insane drive to learn ended up affecting my work/life balance in an extremely negative way. This eventually lead to depression a couple years into the studio, which obviously was not the goal.

There is nothing wrong with being obsessive about learning once you start out, but be aware of your limits. Don’t feel like you have to eliminate or neglect all of the people/relationships in your life.

My First Paid Project

After about a month of taking in as much knowledge as I could, I recorded a friend’s band (and I didn’t do it for free).

There’s lesson number 1 for you: Never work for free (there are actually rare exceptions to this, but I’ll go over those some other time).

Want to hear the first band I ever produced? This was done in January 2009:

That should give you an idea what an absolute beginner would produce with bare balls basic gear, after a month of binge learning. It’s a pretty bad recording, but you have to start somewhere. I’ll admit, I was pleased with myself at the time.

From this crap recording until now, I’ve hardly changed gear. I still honestly have nothing more than a fancy bedroom studio. The only difference in my sound is the knowledge I’ve absorbed over the years and the constant trial and error I’ve gone through. I spent my time learning how to make the most out of what I have, not the technical aspects of every preamp and compressor ever made.

To this day, there are such huge gaps in my knowledge about “legit” gear, that I couldn’t even tell you the difference between an API 512c and a Neve 1073LB. The majority of my recordings were done through the Digidesign 003 preamps (I still use that same interface).

I may not be able to teach you much (or anything) about gear, but I can definitely show you how I do what I do with what little I have, and I can try to teach you all the “behind the scenes” knowledge I’ve gained to help you run your studio as a profitable business.

Your Next Steps…

Now that you know a little about me, I’d love to know more about you.

It’s weird opening up publicly like this, so I’d be super grateful if you’d introduce yourself in the comments below and tell your biggest goal when it comes to your home studio.

Don’t feel pressured to respond with a novel – I just want to get to know you a bit.

So please scroll allll the way to the bottom and leave a comment. I read every single one of them:)

For those of you who are just starting out, or are thinking of starting your home studio, I made a free PDF to go along with this article.

It includes the 5 keys of bootstrapping (self-funding) your home studio. It also includes the specific gear list of what I would buy if I were to start my home studio from scratch today with a $3000 budget.

Click here to get “The Lean Home Studio” PDF sent to your inbox for free.

I promise to keep your email address safe and sound in the warmth of my bosom. There will always be an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of every email for an easy 1-click removal this mailing list.

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80 Comments

  1. I see you there…lurking. Tell me about you and your studio, then tell me about your main goal with your studio!

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    • I love the challenge of concert recording. Sometimes i have the luxury of tapping a digital multicore but my faithful rig is a tascam 422 and a pair of matched nt-5’s.

      Mic placement and good mixing. I aim to be enveloped by the sound in my masters as if im at the event. Fantastic challenge and you often get only one shot to get it right. But you dont need wanky brand names to get good tone.

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    • Brian,

      I want to take the time to appreciate you both for following up via email, and for posting this blog. I’m usually not one for lengthy (ish) reads on the internet, but as an producer I’ve always respected you. For that reason, I was interested in reading about your process and how you got started. I see some similarities in myself, when you mentioned the part about pirated software I could certainly relate ha.

      But, I’m stoked that you were able to turn a passion into a tangible reality of a stable source of income. I currently do my work at my parents house, but I’m happy with the gear and some of the mixes I’ve been able to deliver. If you wouldn’t mind sometime, perhaps via email I could send you a short list of my gear and a sample or two of my mixes? Some honest feedback from someone like yourself would help tremendously going forward.

      Thanks again for keeping in touch! Looking forward to future correspondence.

      -Sean

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    • After having a “beat making” studio for years. I’ve gotten pretty good at making beats! I’ve even sold a few. I’m currently trying to get that off the ground. I’ve learned how to mix fairly well in the process. So my current goals are to get some speaker stands for my monitors and a few choice plugins and start up a mixing service! I’ve been using free multi-tracks to practice. So yeah that’s the goals beats & mixing. (I love both) Looking forward to reading the e-book. Cheers!

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    • Hey Brian,

      I’ve been following your work for awhile. Your mix on Sworn In’s first full length is still one of my favorite heavy mixes to this day – that guitar tone is insane. I’m Jordan, a 20 year student studying finance. I started audio engineering about a year or so ago after doing an internship with a producer out in Denver, Colorado.. Unfortunately, school has become a full-time gig so engineering is on the back-burner, especially with my studio being 2 hours away in my parents basement. I’m really hoping to land a good financial advising job out of college, which doesn’t always have to be your typical 9-5. With a more flexible schedule and decent income, I’m hoping to build a decent studio in my house.

      Keep up the dope posts! It’s always cool to read from someone who’s successful, but down to earth.

      -Jordan

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    • I run a modest home studio. Nobody wants to book weekdays ever. I have a ton of bands that want to work with me, but they all want Saturdays and Sundays. I’d be far more financially stable if I could get them to come in on weekdays. My main goal is to make enough money that my girlfriend can quit her day job and pursue her interests in photography.

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    • Brian,
      I get a lot of junk email in my inbox that I have to always unsubscribe to. When I see yours, They seems addressed to me in a way that is welcoming. It makes me want to read what you have to say. I enjoy your articles and it seems like our past experiences with recording is very similar and our set up is very close in comparison as well. I had some momentum going until I moved out of state, and seemed to have lost my spark a little with finding clients. I’m sitting on some decent gear but not finding the energy to reach out and find people to record. I think I let myself become intimidated by the rise of home studios and wonderi how to convince someone I can do better than they can at home. I enjoyed your article about missing meals and staying up all night because that was me exactly in the beginning. I had so much drive to become successful, but I let myself stray, Time to “re-spark.”

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    • Not going to lie. I was not even remotely aware of you until I was catching up on a URM podcast you were a guest on.

      I was so inspired by your no bullshit approach in regards to how us aspiring engineers need to put ourselves out there in order to get clients (something I have been struggling with dearly).

      I am active duty military so I have always felt like running a profitable home studio would have to wait until I got out. After listening to your feature in the URM podcast and watching your mini series on getting a website set up. I think it was the swift kick in the ass I needed to stop putting it off and start taking my craft more seriously.

      I will be back again and again to see what your blog has to share. It’s refreshing to see such a down to earth approach to a topic shrouded in misleading information.

      Thank you!

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    • Hi Brian! I’m Tyler Hanson. I’m 22 years old and I’m currently a stagehand/sound technician and a drummer that gigs/tours from time to time with a “regional” soul-funk band. I just graduated from college in the spring with a degree in drumset performance and audio engineering.

      My ultimate goal for my home “studio” is to go full time. I’m currently working with an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R, Cubase 6.5, a pair of Samson Resolv 65a monitors, and a few mics here and there. I’ve invested a small amount of my income from stagehand work into expanding my “studio” a bit, but I have to buy a car for working/gigging and I’m saving the bulk of my earnings for that at the moment.

      I haven’t had any clients yet, mainly because I’ve been so busy with stagehand work, but also because I just don’t know where to start when it comes to “hustling.” I’ve gotten some interest from a few bands here and there for some recording and mix work, but even after following up, it seems like they’re not very interested.

      I don’t think I’m marketing myself to the fullest right now. I know I’ve got the skills to track and mix pretty well, but I’m not sure how to stand out among a sea of “studios” surrounding a small pool of artists. Nonetheless, I’m still pushing. It’s tiring to stay persistent when little is made of your efforts, but I keep going because I love what I do.

      Thanks for all that you do to help us “little” guys, Brian.

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    • I’ve been recording rough guitar and vocals for probably 5-6 years. I’ve just recently been able to acquire a few recording tools such as Cubase, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and a few Mic’s. I’m working my way up to drums and learning to master tracks consistently and what “mastering” actually means. Any tips on drum recording and mastering would be incredibly useful. Thanks Brian!

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    • Thanks, Brian for this post. I recently started a new studio about 6 months ago that still in progress. It’s amazing, because today I can put together the same type of setup that you outline – and it’s even cheaper!
      * Rodes NT-1 LDC – $169 – great clean sound and great for vocals or instruments.
      * Standard SM57 – I was struggling to find deals on these – seem like they don’t come around that often, but only $100. Industry standard mic
      * Reaper DAW – only $70 for small business use – and I’ll be happy to pay the full $225 to make it big
      * $14.99/month for the entire Slate plug-in suite – sweet
      * My big ticket item was A&H QU-24 – super clean pre’s, DAW control, good for studio and live sound – this was $2200 – and worth every penny – and probably WAAAAY overkill for what I need immediately, but I wanted to buy something that was going to grow with me rather than replacing it later over many years.
      * And I got me a really cheap DI box for like 16.99 – probably won’t last that long once I’m really into it, but it works great for now.
      * And I’m borrowing an old 2012 Macbook Air that I can’t use for work anymore….(I’ll be giving it back once things get started and I can afford my own – or if they ask for it….).

      Less than 3 grand, and I’m starting to record the band I’m in, and starting to spread the word, and working with a lot of the free stems out there to play with mixes, plugins, and creating my engineering and production style. Learning a ton, and gaining some great momentum.

      Thanks for the inspiration. Good stuff.

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    • Hey Brian!

      Finally got around to reading. Major KUDOS to you for putting yourself out there and being an example of the fearlessness that it takes to really break into the industry!

      In the past I have composed sound for film (i.e – https://vimeo.com/35063208) along with producing a variety of content while in school, but after touring for several years I’m slowly moving toward working a new home studio setup. ProTools and Reason are my primary weapons of choice, but after having my attention torn away from the digital recording industry for a couple years, I feel I’m still catching up with a lot of all the new progress that’s been made with samplers, software, and what have you. To be fair, however, I try to keep myself within my means, which is why I’m not in the mindset of needing the newest, fastest, coolest, more expensive gear.

      I will be looking to this blog for more insights and stories as I work to leave my day job and make my studio work for me.

      Cheers!

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    • I first heard you on the URM podcast and started reading through your book. There are a lot great things on it and I’ve started to read through some of the other articles. I really like that you have articles on the business aspect, creating a website and taxes. My go biggest goal is to make my home studio my full time career so it is great that you talk about everything that goes into it. I plan to read through more of your articles and look forward to more from you. Thanks, Andy

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      • Thanks for reading, Andy! You’re definitely in the right place if your goal is to go full time with this 🙂

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    • My general goal is to help my husband build his own home studio. We have a two year old and a two month old, but we are taking it step by step to get there. So far we have built up some gear (not all that we will need), built a basic website to add his portfolio to, and are currently working on learning and mixing some friends tracks as well as recording some of our own stuff. It is a little bit crazy, but we are narrowing our goals down and looking for all the best ways to move forward. Thanks for your blog post!!

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  2. Come over from URM Academy. Loving the information on this blog.

    I’m a live Sound Technician but my dream is to run a home studio full time.

    To be honest, I’ve got perfectly adequate equipment, MacBook, focusrite saffire, simulate starting mics, NT5 pair, Shure sm57 / 52 etc etc and skills enough to charge with a lot to learn still. My problem is the networking aspect. Really that’s it. I need to meet bands and get out there and bring clients in. I work long hours within my current job but I’m planning on going full throttle from January. Really pushing for it. Determined.

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    • Sounds like you’re on the right path! The question I have for you is this: What changes with your job between now and January? Do your hours reduce?

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  3. My ultimate dream is to run my studio as a full time business and quit my 9-5. I do get (some very good) paid work but at the minute it is nowhere near frequent enough to even consider going full time, and I really struggle getting new clients.

    I started out exactly like you Brian in my parents spare bedroom but now I have moved out and have my own place where I have converted the garage into my studio space and it’s awesome!

    I do have some (really) nice gear – I’m a total gearslut to tell the truth but every item I have, I fully researched and tested beforehand and is fully funded by paid studio work. One thing about the steady 9-5 is that there is no pressure on my studio side business and everything I make I can re-invest.

    My biggest goal would be to attract new clients, and get a more steady stream of work coming through the door so that I could make it my full time. My biggest problem is that many of the local artists in my area don’t seem willing to pay what it costs for studio time.

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    • Thanks for posting this, Adam! Glad to hear you’re using earnings from the studio to reinvest into better gear:)

      As for reaching your goal of a full-time home studio…

      1. What have you been doing to try and get a more steady stream of clients than you currently have?

      2. What have you think you could do to attract bands with larger budgets?

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  4. Hi Brian. I’m Jordi and I’m a producer/engineer from Western Australia.
    I’ve been doing home recordings on and off for years but have only just started taking it seriously in the last year or so as I moved into a professional space for super cheap. It’s since been a massive learning experience being in the same space as other engineers just chatting, learning and sitting in on sessions.
    I’m now looking at moving house further into the city and moving my small setup back into a home setup as I feel like I’ve progressed enough as a recording and mixing engineer to confidently do good work and keep my overheads as low as possible.

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    • Hey Jordi, thanks for posting! It sounds like you have a great thing going there. As for moving out to a home set up, this is something I always advocate. Lower overhead = more profit = less stress = more fun. Best of luck!

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  5. Loving the info, Brian! Thanks for helping those coming up in the mixing industry!

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    • More than happy to help, Tim! This stuff is fun for me:)

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  6. Hey Brian, (novel ahead)

    i’m Sascha, 26years old from Germany, touring metal musician and i just graduated from recording school as an audio engineer.

    during my studies i invested a lot into my studio setup, i bought pro tools (i finally grew up from piracy) neat interface, kemper profiler, neumann speakers, some acoustic panels, stable workhorse computer. it is a dedicated system that is laid out for songwriting, mixing and mastering. i dont offer recording as long as the client would pay (hah) for going into an actual studio with an actual live room (which i dont have). otherwise i would absolutely refer them to colleagues that are doing it in their dedicated space.

    my mixing room/mancave is in my appartment and i’m not sleeping in the same room (which is fucking awesome to realize)

    my first goal is to eliminate my 80hr/month job as a stagehand which ABSOLUTELY SUCKS. the only good thing about is that they pay my health insurance and i get to choose when i work. thats totally a benefit for touring. but still –

    first step is to make up those 700 bucks a month (after taxes and social security) with stuff that i actually like doing. i mean messing uround with peoples fucked up drum midi sucks as well, but if i would get up in the morning and realize that this is part of making my living instead of unloading trucks i wouldnt mind editing drums 3 days a week.

    so i came over to your internet empire from the nail the mix podcast, which i listen to a lot, i actually made my website straight away. thanks for that.

    as well i just finished the 4 hour work week book and i 80/20ed the shit out of my life! hahah. ( i read 80/20 somtimes in your texts so i thought you might have read it as well) (i only have two pair of pants left, my girlfriend thinks i’m insane)

    so i dont have paying clients yet unfortunately. another thing i (falsely) did was advertising that i would mix some songs for free. (only one each artist) just to build some kind of portfolio. i ended up with one band sending me midi drums, guitar di’s and vocals. so its actually creating a whole recording. i mean – i did it just to keep up with my word and they’re definitely interested in working with me again but i said i would only continue to work with them if they pay me. they agreed. but they dont have any additional songs haha.

    so the people getting in touch with me are not real bands, they are one or two dudes messing around with ez drummer and cubase light and i get to make this “demo-ish” stuff sound as good as possible.

    i’d love to actually get stuff to mix.

    thanks for making this a forum,

    sascha

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    • I love the novel-type posts, so keep them coming!

      First off, I have to laugh at using the term “internet empire” with anything I’m doing. While flattering, I’m simply a one man operation who likes to post articles and make videos. If it comes off as anything close to an “internet empire,” then I’m all for it!

      The Four Hour Workweek is one of my favorite books. It’s amazing how many insanely successful people I’ve met who got their start from reading that book. It’s almost like a bible for millennial entrepreneurs. As for pants, I have two pairs that I wear regularly until they have holes worn into the crotch (then my girlfriend makes me buy new pants).

      As for free work, it’s not something I like advocating, however, it’s not the worst way to get started. You did it the right way, only offering 1 song for free, then refusing to do more until being paid. As you get better and better, you’ll start attracting more and more serious bands.

      Serious bands wont have problems paying you, as they typically spend a year working hard on their songs. They don’t want to simply pass off the songs to some kid doing shit for free. They want a professional who will take time and care with their music.

      Anyways, sounds like you’re on a good path! Keep it up.

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  7. Hey Brian,

    Cheers for consistently sharing your knowledge for the benefit of others.
    I’ve been engineering and producing for about 5 years now (part time in-between uni and other work), and have about 7-8 records in my arsenal. Not much, I know, but one of them was my own band’s which took a lot of time to write and work on. I spent some time studying the courses on CreativeLive from Eyal Levi, Kris Crummett, and Sam Pura which was really helpful – helped me streamline my processes and structure my approach.

    A lot of my work in the past was done on an iMac, 2012, with Pro Tools 10, some Mackie MR8 monitors, and a focusrite Liquid 56 firewire interface. I’ve since changed my approach and outsource recording to local studios by having the client dry hire them, and I get paid for my time engineering. My current interface is a UAD Apollo Twin, and I’m working off a Macbook Pro, with Pro Tools 12, and some Sennheiser HD25 headphones which I’ve had for about 5 years. In the process of getting myself set up with my own space, but living situations have been a tough one for the last couple years. Looking to get out of New Zealand though to move somewhere where I can take engineering a bit more seriously. The market over here is quite small.

    My soundcloud with production work I’ve done is here: soundcloud.com/meiringkeegan

    Cheers

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  8. Hey man,

    Always good to read your articles, they’re a great source of inspiration.

    I’ve been recording and mixing stuff in Scotland for a few years. Usually tracking stuff at a studio then mixing at home. I’ve got a real basic set up; pro tools and waves gold plug ins with krk rokits and sennheiser hd25s for monitoring set up at home. I’m a pretty big believer in the less is more approach. I’ve released something like 8 EPs and maybe 12 single tracks here and there. Here if anyone is interested: https://soundcloud.com/grazmanmusic/sets/andrew-graham-show-reel-2015

    My goal for the next year or so is to increase my clients base and take the recording and mixing full time ish. I know I’ve got to focus on getting in contact with more artists and such and reading your articles gives me that kick in the ass I need to get back on it. It’s also great reading everyone else’s goals

    Thanks man.

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    • That is a solid goal:) I’ll be creating a lot more content with that goal in mind in the near future!

      thanks for reading!

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  9. Hey Brian,

    Your blog is tight. I am just a dude from Madison, Alabama and I am studying finance at UAB. I am also doing a music technology minor, but it isn’t really substantial at all. I read your blog more for the music business info and my own person education more so than actually looking to start a studio. I like to do my own preproduction but my main “recording” sort of thing is running my band’s live set. We do the whole of course this metalcore band has a laptop thing; of which I am responsible for. I want to get really good at that and I don’t think I will ever have the desire to be a full on audio engineer.

    As far as content goes, it would be really cool to get some info about low level touring band stuff. I know that doesn’t really fit your blogs’ topic at all but I think you would have some really insightful things to say about it. I think it would be especially cool because you’re from right down 72 west and you did the thing.

    Thanks for your time.

    Blaythe Steuer

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  10. Hey,

    I’m from Panama, Im a self taught music producer, been learning for over 7 years and now im starting to make good, radio ready productions. My goal with home studio is to make it profitable enough so I can live comfortable in my city, (making at least 4000 monthly) and get to work with new artists as well to work with A list artist from around the globe. I dont want to be famous, but I want to produce top-charting records that may be heard arond the world.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Martin! If that’s your goal, then you’re at the right place:)

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  11. Hey,

    I’m from DFW Texas. I started out playing various bands when I was 14 and used a line 6 tone port with gearbox to lay down demos. I used to look for songs that had bare drums hits in them and us those to paste in ever hit before I got a drum program. I took a kick from a ghost inside album and a snare from a blink 182 album. I did that for a few years. I found myself in a band with a lot of potential and big goals to tour and get signed. I would always be the guy to record our demos and eventually I started learning more about recoding. Got an m audio interface, superior drummer, sennhieser headphones and a Mxl condenser. Got some Yamaha hs5 monitors on Craigslist which is still mix on. I made few tracks for my self and showed them to local bands at shows I played. I agreed to record a band for 50 dollars a song. Did a few bands and decided to go to audio school. While in school my band fell apart and it made sense to do my best to be able to record full time. .
    Since then I have focused on learning and have learned more online through sources like this than I did in audioschool. (Save your money Student loans suck btw)

    I met with you (Brian) in Dallas in may and we talked about lead generation. So I’ve been focused on that and getting more work.

    I’ve had some great bands since then and have made more money recording than ever before.

    I’m still not at a point where I’m full time I still work part time as a server.
    My goal is to make it full time by May of next year.
    I’m also finding my self in a niche that I didn’t anticipate.

    end of novel.

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    • Hey Brandon, glad to see you here! I love your scrappy start (I don’t think you mentioned that over our lunch). My first recording ever was in 2005 and consisted of mic’ing up a “Kustom” (with a ‘k’) 10 watt guitar amp with a computer mic. It was worse than it sounds.

      What niche did you find yourself in, and how did you unexpectedly find yourself there?

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  12. Hey Brian,

    I’m working from my home studio as a side job, in the last 4 years variously responsible for 10% to 40% of my monthly income. More so before I had a full time job but lately I have been focusing my efforts more on production/mixing instead of live/sound design and such.

    Right now my day job is technical assistant at a big studio, Galaxy, in Belgium but I’m planning on going full time in 2017, maybe early 2018. I’m in the middle of establishing a strong business plan and goal list to go with it, to be sure that the timed goals are achievable.

    I am also picking up education a bit more seriously, especially geared towards mixing.

    I do 1 project/2 months on an average, I hope to be able to do 1/month for the upcoming year, hopefully more.

    Thank you for sharing the difficult and seemingly unsexy info about this business, I very much appreciate it.

    Take care, always a pleasure to read your insights!

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    • Hey there, I run a part-time studio out of my basement and my #1 goal is to replace the income from my day job so I can do this full time. Each year I double my gross sales and this year my gross will be 1/3 of my day job net income. I’m on my way there! Thank you so much for doing what you do.

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      • That’s badass! An upward trend is always a positive sign:)
        Keep hustling!

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    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Andre! While many think this topic is unsexy, I think it’s the sexiest topic of all! haha

      As for your plan, the slow and steady approach has it’s pluses and minuses. It’s safer, but there is the risk that you’ll get caught up in the “planning phase” forever, and never get around to making an attempt at doing this full time. You know yourself better than anyone else, however, so you’ll know if you’d be susceptible to that type of issue. I personally get too distracted to try to do this full time while having a job on the side, so I wouldn’t be able to split my focus like that.

      Best of luck!

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  13. Always love reading your blog posts Brian. Altough I already do this full time and make a liveable Income stream, I would love to be safe and have that ’emergency 6-12 months’ like you talk about. I’ve been really working on a few minor things you’ve suggested and I look forward to reading ‘How to Win Friends and Influence people’ as per your suggestion. Keep doing your thing!

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    • That book is a huge mindset shift for some people, so I hope it’s helpful for you! No matter how successful people get at this, there is always room for improvement;)

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  14. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been involved in diy recording for almost ten years now. Mostly just recording my own band/solo projects etc. I had to move city’s (I’m in Australia btw) a couple of years ago for work. My focus changed to solo stuff and my production/mixing skills have improved to a point where I feel confident enough to start working with others and getting a small studio up and running.

    For me the ultimate goal out of this would be to get to a position where i can pursue the studio thing part time or maybe full time in the near future.

    Thanks for all the great info and keep up the good work!

    Cheers
    Mark

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  15. Hey man!

    Absolutely love the blog and have been following you closely for the last year man! Reading your articles gave me the kick in the ass to invest smartly into to getting a small budget studio/business up and running.

    I’ve been on and off for the last 3 years with it, from mixing an E.P straight out of college to assisting at 606 studios in LA to then interning at studios 301 in Aus to then finally realising that I wasn’t that good at mixing and realising that I hadn’t put enough time and effort into making this a full time career. You’re blogs are what sparked the change to start working my ass off to make this full time man! (I’m also doing Jordan’s mixing course) Thank you for sharing the wisdom and love mr hood you’re a legend!

    Dylan

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  16. I ran into your e-book in a facebook group I can’t remember the name of. I’m an audio engineering student based in Finland, the promised land of heavy metal. I’m just starting out so my bedroom studio doesn’t really have the gear to do anything more than record DI from guitars and bass and vocals in my wardrobe. I recently produced and engineered my first two songs for a band but I’m a little shy to market myself to anyone else at the moment since I believe they deserve better.

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  17. I may be slightly different to most people on this blog as running a home recording studio is quite a long term goal for me. Currently I’m a student at the University of Lincoln, UK and i’m working my way into the radio industry. However I deal with band recording quite a lot at Uni and can see myself one day ditching whatever job I have to run my own studio full time.

    Beyond that I just think the blog in general is excellent with lots of no-bullshit help and advice that can be carried over into lots of different work. Keep up the good work Brian; always loved reading this from the start.

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  18. I have been following all your posts with interest.
    My immediate goal is to rebuild my home studio so I can finish recording and master some of my own work. My goals are to steadily expand on the studio and work towards doing some work for a friend or two. And then I’ll see where I go, I would like to eventually have a side business studio but I will take my time getting there 🙂

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    • sounds like a solid plan! Keep it lean and keep hustling!

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  19. Hey Brian, Chris Lazzaro here. I’ve obviously been following you and your work for a while. My goal is to start pushing my name out there and pick up label work as soon as I can as I feel like I’m ready to jump into that domain.

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    • Hey Chris! Keep in mind that most label work you get in the beginning is going to be from unsigned bands you’ve worked with in the past that eventually get signed. That’s how my first 5 or 6 projects came – all from bands coming back to me after getting signed.

      If you’re still doing a lot of unsigned bands, then that’s great! I just want to make sure you don’t approach this with the mindset that you can’t get paid to record until it’s from a signed band.

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  20. I don’t set goals. I view my studio as a tool to actualize and monetize my vision. I use it to generate income that supplements my broadcast engineering income. I use it to realize the ideas of others around me. It’s a powerful tool, be wary of that.

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  21. It’s worth noting that Brian actually paid quite a bit MORE than was strictly necessary for a working setup.

    That’s even if you ignore he didn’t buy used. That’s even if you assume he paid for all his software. That’s even considering it was 2009.

    The first, biggest part of that equation is that he bought into Pro Tools. In 2009, this had 2 major ramifications for cost: hardware-dependency, and plugin compatibility.

    Prior to version 9 (came out in late 2010), Pro Tools would only work with hardware approved by Digidesign/Avid, which typically meant their own hardware (including M-Audio). This meant users would end up paying a premium for hardware that was Pro Tools-compatible.

    You might argue that the benefit was that the hardware was typically bundled WITH Pro Tools (like Brian mentioned), but there are two BIG counter-arguments there: (1) this ignored that OEM versions of OTHER software were typically bundled with comparable hardware devices (e.g., in 2009, certain E-mu interfaces came with LE versions of Cubase, Sonar AND Ableton Live), and (2) the version it came with was Pro Tools LE, which is the “starter” version. Typically the cost differential between the hardware w/ Pro Tools would be comparable (or MORE) than buying different hardware and using the “big kid” version of different DAW software like Cubase. So Pro Tools, in itself, is a more expensive baseline.

    The second major cost element for Pro Tools was that it was only compatible with closed-source, proprietary plugins: RTAS and TDM. TDM was actually ONLY for HD systems, so we’re really talking RTAS here. Because of its closed-source nature and licensing structure imposed by Digidesign, RTAS was NOT a big player in the freeware plugin market.

    Especially on Windows (which, at least, Brian DID use), VST is too big a format to ignore if you’re trying to build a DIY studio on the cheap. There are literally GIGABYTES of freeware plugins (FYI: most plugins are individually a few hundred kilobytes to several megabytes in size) to be had, many of them quite good. There are very few paid plugins out there doing something that can’t be passably replicated with free plugins (maybe hardware emulations or similar processor-intensive operations, but I’d argue that those aren’t vital anyway). This was even true in 2009: I’ve been using a stock of freeware plugins exclusively since about 2005, with only minor additions here and there for up-and-coming freeware devs.

    Presonus, Focusrite, and Tascam all made hardware with comparable features to the Digidesign 003 Rack for about $600 (sometimes as low as $350, depending on the seller and if there was a sale). So if you’re using OEM hardware (some of which was comparable to Pro Tools LE), you can cut that $1400 down to $600.

    You could also invest in less expensive DAW software, like energyXT or REAPER (FYI, REAPER v0.999 was free, and is still available). Other options have also sprung up since 2009, like Podium (including Podium Free, which is only lacking features you probably don’t care about right away), and Tracktion 4/5 (both of which have been made free by the developers).

    So, even if you skipped OEM software altogether, you’re really looking at another $0-100 max for DAW if money is your chief concern.

    Brian also bought drum triggers and Steven Slate drums. Completely unnecessary, especially if you’re just starting out. And that’s especially true if you’re a drummer (like Brian) and can presumably make your drums sound good in the room. Even if Brian was REALLY fixated on using drum samples in his work, he could have made his own (he had the gear for it). Or just gone to websites like Noisevault, FreeSound, etc. and found public domain (or similarly licensed) samples to use. You can also get them out of free demo software, or open-source software (Hydrogen Drum Machine, DrumTrack, and LMMS were all available in 2009, for free). Then combine that with free trigger plugins, like KTDrumTrigger or boxsounds Replacer.

    So save another $300.

    The computer itself is a little bit on the pricey side for 2009, but I happened to buy a mid-level computer for audio that same year and spent about $850, so I think he did okay in this respect. HOWEVER, nowadays you can probably get something very up-to-snuff for audio work (even at high track counts; modern computers are FAST) for $500 or less. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

    Lastly, Brian also purchased a “studio desk” for $200. He could cut that number in half by getting a folding table for about $50-75, and if he REALLY wanted to, a table-top rack stand for another $30.

    So, just by avoiding Pro Tools, not splurging on a “studio” desk, and putting his nose to the grindstone for drums, Brian could honestly have saved about $1100 over what he actually paid in 2009.

    Nowadays, a similar setup is even cheaper, since computers and 8-channel interfaces have come WAY down in price.

    Just some food for thought if you’re just starting out.

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    • very good comment! As you stated, I could have done this for less than half what I started with had I just purchased everything used (and been a bit more frugal on some purchases).

      So don’t let any excuses get in your way to get started.

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  22. Hey Brian,

    Ive been in the recording world now for about 6 years and I work at a pretty nice studio (rbjproductions.com) if you fancy to look but over the years ive really struggled with consistent clientel. Im out in the suburbs of chicago and there are studios left and right though i know its no excuse but my lack of work has really frustrated me and is almost driving me to seek a different career path, any advice?

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    • Hey Jason, thanks for commenting!

      It looks like you have a wonderful looking facility there. Could you tell me what you’ve done in the past to find artists to work with. Have you found any success with any specific niches in the past?

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  23. Brian,

    I found you through the URM podcast and really liked what you had to say. I’m in a very similar position as the one you were when you started out, trying to improve with my modest home studio. It just becomes more and more evident every day how actual honest, true, everyday work is what really translates into results.
    I’ve been devouring your content and really enjoy it so far. Unfortunately, I’m not surrounded by a lot of people that share that same passion for their goals, so its refreshing reading from somebody who is.

    Best,
    Andres

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    • Thanks for listening to that episode! I hate to hear that you’re not around people with your same passion. There are plenty of people like us on the internet, so do whatever you can to find more of us!

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  24. Hey Brian!

    Really great article. Most notably, I LOVE this bit:

    “If you don’t have this same obsessive, burning drive to learn, you will never make it.

    There is one caveat to this…

    My insane drive to learn ended up affecting my work/life balance in an extremely negative way. This eventually lead to depression a couple years into the studio, which obviously was not the goal.

    There is nothing wrong with being obsessive about learning once you start out, but be aware of your limits. Don’t feel like you have to eliminate or neglect all of the people/relationships in your life.”

    I think this is incredible advice to anyone, and especially to those just starting out.

    Anyways, in regards to introducing myself, my name is Frank and I grew up as a guitar player that became fascinated with recording. I got my hands on a Fostex 16 track recorder when I was in 8th grade and became obsessed with trying to find mic positions with these crappy nady mics to make our demos sound the best they could. Began experimenting with vocal layering and techniques I’d find online and kept pursuing it. After my band recorded our first EP at a buddy’s great home studio (that also happened to be down the road from house… convenient for recording bro hangs, right?), I continued to pursue recording and ended up with a Tascam US-1800 interface that I, similarly to you, tried to spend as much time as I could learning about recording techniques and different ideas and whatnot. Ended up recording my band a year or two later, and by the end of high school I had even had my first few paying clients.

    Ended up attending a university for recording/upright bass with a minor in enterpreneuship (thank goodness my Dad taught at the school, free tuition!), and I’m currently in my last year (maybe year and a half, we’ll see how it goes lol) at school. After the past few years of studying with classes and outside articles from guys like you and Graham Cochrane, I finally “officially” opened my studio after getting all the proper papers squared away with the state and whatnot. It feels great to not be running under the table anymore, and feels even better that I have a steady stream of clients to allow me to not have any other jobs outside of school and recording. Your article about recording studio taxes helped me quite a bit as well in easing my nerves of being a “legit” business and how to go about taxes and whatnot.

    Sorry, this got a bit long, but I wanted to give you some backstory and just say I appreciate your articles and your overall attitude you have to writing them. Keep it up, sir!

    Take it easy,
    Frank

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    • Frank, that’s an awesome story! Love how you didn’t have to pay for school:)

      I love that you follow Graham Cochrane as well, as he teaches some solid stuff.

      What did you find to be the most difficult part of becoming a “legit” business?

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  25. Always an interesting read on here, Brian!

    Whenever I’m home from touring I write songs with my wife and run a studio out of our apartment building tracks for other artists and songwriters in Nashville. My goal is to be able to get off the road and transition to full time once we buy a house in the next year or so.

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    • Thanks for reading, Josh! I’m also here in Nashville, so hit me up any time you want to grab coffee.

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  26. Hey Brian, I started recording and mixing about 2 &1/2 years ago. I started out of necessity because affordable studios in my area were not good at all. And my band could simply not afford the high end ones. I have a MacBook Pro, focusrite scarlett 18i20, rode nt1a, and sm57s, that’s it. I feel and have been told by my friends that I do great work and I owe it to people like you. Thank you a million times for all your great advice and knowledge.

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    • many many successful producers have a similar story of how they got started, so stick with it!

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  27. Hey, i’m a current audio student getting involved in as many online groups as i can to help attain some versatility in what i do. Making bank in this business is not what i’m all about – but it’s a vital part of staying alive so i can’t ignore it. I have a small budget to set myself up with a home studio (i’m already halfway there with the main gear, but this blog has kept my mind on the right track. Reading about how you focused on mixing how it’s your main money making practice is awesome to hear. I personally love to be involved in all aspects of a project, from start to finish. But currently my mixes are not up to a standard that i like, so i’m focusing on production (writing, pre pro) and engineering, and handing the tracks over to others to mix. Everything i’ve read from Brian is pure gold and i know everyone appreciates what you do for us all man, cheers.

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    • thank you for the kind words Jordan! Not everyone needs to have big dollar signs in their eyes when building their careers. I know I talk about money a lot on here (hell, it’s a business blog), but my main priority is to “demystify” the whole money thing so you have a better understanding of how it all works.

      Once you figure out the money thing, it’s up to you how you implement it into your business!

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  28. Hey Brian,

    I love your tips and your ‘down-to-earth’ approaches in your blog. I enjoy reading them (even though I’ve been relatively swamped with school and whatnot lately). My biggest wish was to be able to produce decent pre-productions for my band that eventually could be sent to studios to give them the best impression possible without having to worry about quality and excusing yourself for sending a recording you did with your phone. From there on out I’ll always be on the lookout to improve!

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  29. Brian – I’ve just begun my journey. I’ve already spent a little over $5k (including a $3k iMac) and am still not up and running. I cringe at the thought of the 003, so I’m taking a longer and more expensive route. I graduated from a music school with a degree in music engineering, so I’m definitely a gear-head. I’ve used thousand dollar microphones and recorded onto an SSL Duality, but I still understand the principles to making good records. I’m working to get decent quality (mostly mint condition used) gear of some of my favorite stuff, instead of a ton of beginner stuff. I want to start off with a lot of vocal production stuff and grow from there. Space is a crucial factor that you haven’t touched on a lot and wish you did because I’d love to know more about leasing and remodeling spots, buying and remodeling a house, and other space options that I don’t hear anything about out there. I’ve learned that the environment for a musician is the most important, so I’m beginning to focus on that once I have all this gear to record them. Thanks man!

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  30. I have nothing to do with music just use to hang out a little back in the day. Glad to see you doing well. Really like the business mindset. Hope all is well.

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  31. Hey Brian,

    So growing up I was homeschooled , my mom never really made me do any work so I kinda screwed myself over. I became a highschool dropout and didn’t get my GED til I was 19. I grew up playing in local bands, worked my way into a decent sized touring band out of Knoxville. that band got a record deal from an indie label and it went to the heads of some of the members. So I quit. I never thought I was “smart enough” to understand anything about audio engineering and so I never pursued it. Until a friend at church showed me a free introduction course on Coursera. Now I am slowly trying to work my way into some sort of career in audio. I just got a job operating a boom mic for a documentary film. Thank you for your advice and encouragement.

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    • Keep at it! I know it can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you start getting some “small wins” with this, you’ll eventually hit this “runner’s high” with learning. It’s honestly an amazing feeling once you get there, as you feel like everything finally starts coming together.

      With that in mind, I also still learn new things constantly. You will never know everything about this career, which is part of what makes it exciting:)

      best of luck!

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  32. Your blog inspired my business launch. Now I have a decent website which has allowed me to book a variety of projects throughout a comfortable time length.

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    • That’s great news Donny! I’d love to see your site if you could link me to it.

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  33. Love the blog dude! i do this full time and make a decent living. Own a house with my fiance that has an 1100 sq foot studio built into the basement, but I still feel like I sometimes live paycheck to paycheck so I’m trying to be the absolute best I can be with what I have and make a better wage. Main thing I need to do is price and market myself better in the mixing world. You’ve helped me change my goals for the future as far as gear (Though I still absolutely love my Manley Reference and Kush Tweaker and won’t ever be selling them). I’m definitely not in a hurry anymore to have a ton of high end pres and lots of analog gear though. Like you say, I’d rather be a lean, mean money making machine.

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  34. Howdy Brian!!! Name is Ian. Played drums since the age of 3. Moved to California with my old band Regret in 2002 after high school with our plans to get more experience and exposure. Moved back home to good ole Ohio 2 years later after playing at the ROXY and a bunch more local and other shows all around the state of California. Great experience. 2005 I joined a band called Straight Line Stitch playing drums. Did that for a number of years then was in an instrumental band called ARC and all through this time I was slowly getting the bug for recording myself at home. Rejoined SLS for a year and then found out I was having a daughter so left and decided that it was time to just have a solo project. Been doing that since. Slowly learning the ways of recording while being a stay at home dad and releasing a song at a time whenever I have a few minutes of sanity to work on things haha. That’s my “story” in a nutshell.

    Thanks for the blog and what you do. Any piece of advice I am grateful for!!!!

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    • Thanks for commenting, Ian! Sounds like you’ve had a long, winding, interesting path, but I’m glad it’s led you here:)

      Do you have a studio up and running yet? If so, hit me with a link to your site!

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  35. Hey Brian,

    I’m a 25 year old guy from the Netherlands and I’m currently studying audio-engineering. I’m focussing on increasing my mixing skills in order to independently release my own music as a film/game composer. Just downloaded your E-Book, gonna read it tonight!

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  36. Since the 90’s I wanted to make albums like trent reznors, I used to use anything that recorded sound to make music on and now I have a better studio (room at my place for mixing and a shop at a friends house where I can track drums) I want to record bands and make great sounding music out of my studio. I would like to do this for a living at some point as it would be more fun, and its easier on my body then my day job.

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  37. Played drums in a band with a professor from a local university who taught audio engineering, and he showed me Pro Tools and how it all worked…holy smokes I was hooked! My day job is a high school band director so my time is limited and pretty soon my funds were limited when I took on additional mouths to feed with a wife and eventually 2 kids-A day of editing videos of my high school band performances made me realize that I could make a little money on the side doing video editing, which lead to the purchase of some audio gear and just like that I was back to where I started wanting to do audio recording. I’ve always used my audio gear for recording friends and my own music but I’ve recently decided to see if I could branch out and do some audio recording. My business is in a small town where I think I will have to continue doing both video, voice over work, etc in addition to small recording projects but I want to spend my time and effort into growing a more profitable business.

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  38. AWESOME ARTICAL MAN!
    Seriously.
    My name is Steven and the dream is to become a full time mixing engineer. Been doing it for a awhile and have always known that I need to do something with music with my life. Just recently I have really been pursuing it and trying to figure out how to support my family and myself by doing it. It’s the dream and a goal.
    Stoked for future blogs Brian!
    Thanks

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  39. Hey B.
    I am the owner of a lets say fancy home studio in Mx City , got great gear , drums etc but i am really struggling to get it to start.
    I´ll start reading your e-book asap
    thankyou!

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