Plugins Are Putting “Pro Studios” Out Of Business (Thank God)

Why “Pro Studios” Are Dying Off In Droves

I was browsing a Facebook group related to pro studios, and I saw an argument break out that actually seriously absolutely literally blew my mind…literally.

This is a quote from the owner of a “Pro Studio” owner based out of New England.

We’ll call him Richard, because he sounds like a bit of a dick :tim-and-eric-mind-blown

“Plug-ins put pro studios out of business. They are the reason why most people think they can do their recordings at home.”

-Richard The Dick

This is such a shitty mindset on so many levels, that I had to write an entire article about it. Thanks for the ammo, bro.

I will be using the term “Pro Studio” as a proper noun and in quotation marks for a very specific reason – “Pro Studios” (as this guy is referring) are their own entity.

I don’t want the term to be confused with the real professional studios that are out there dominating today’s world of pro audio. There is a huge difference between a “Pro Studio” and a pro studio.

Let me define what I believe a “Pro Studio” is.

“Pro Studio”: A studio that is owned and operated by a gearslut who thinks a “real studio” is one that invests large sums of money into gear and facilities before he has the clientele to back it up. The owner’s self worth is directly tied to his facilities and gear. Debt is his best friend. 

Bottom line: Don’t be a “Pro Studio”. It is not very effective. Read on if you want to know why.

Adapt or Die: The Modern Reality

Flat Studio 1 facebook_life is hard
Good or bad, the internet has changed things in the music industry forever.  Talk to anyone in the studio world that has been around for more than 15 years, and they will tell you that things will never go back to the way they were.

You have a simple choice: adapt or die.

This is not something exclusive to the music industry. Just look at how much Uber has devastated the taxi industry, or how much Airbnb and other short-term-rental websites are affecting the $500-billion hotel industry.

Technology has disrupted (and completely destroyed, in some cases) TONS of industries in the past. This is nothing new.

Blockbuster bankruptAnyone remember Blockbuster Video? They once had a chance to buy Netflix for $50 million. Now Blockbuster is bankrupt, and Netflix is worth $56 BILLION.

The only people that survive these massive disruptions are the ones that adapt to (and take advantage of) the rapid changes.

So let’s go back and look at our friend Richard’s quote.

Plug-ins put pro studios out of business. They are the reason why most people think they can do their recordings at home.”

This is partially correct. Yes, plugins are putting “Pro Studios” out of business. The change from expensive hardware to cheap software plugins is the reason why people CAN do their recordings at home (not just “think” they can).

In many cases, home studios are to putting out higher quality work than these “Pro Studios” that are stuck in their old ways. Adapt or die.

The Lean Home Studio: Profit First

Which would you rather be?

A.) A lean, mean, profitable home studio machine that makes smart use of your money (buying plugins instead of hardware, wherever it makes sense).

B.) A fat, bloated, struggling “Pro Studio” with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars worth of pretty gear and facilities, and nothing but debt to show for it.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ll choose plugins over hardware any day of the week if it means I get to do what I love for a living. The old-school “build it and they will come” method is risky, ineffective, and dead.

Disclaimer: If you are a real pro studio with pretty gear and facilities and the income to back it, then I’m not referring to you. Keep doing what you’re doing. 

But Wait, There’s More!

Let’s go back to our boy, Richard. He had more to say…

If you all want to know how to get a get an actual good tone…. Stop using plug-ins.

Mic a class A amp with a 57 or royer r121, use a great preamp for that mic, use a great hardware compressor, then record into your daw with great converters. If you have to eq like crazy you’ve recorded a bad source….You really can’t skip any steps or cut any corners.”

-Richard The Dick

Virtual BitchslapFirst, let me just give him a virtual bitchslap for implying that you can’t get a good tone using plugins (some of the biggest pros mix in the box now).

Second, let’s break down the cost of what it takes to “get an actual good tone,” according to Richard the Dick.

class A amp – Vox AC30* – $1200

Microphone – Royer r121 – $1300

“Great” preamp for that mic – Chandler Limited TG2 – $2300

A “great” hardware compressor – Tube-Tech CL 1B – $3100

“Great” converters – Apogee Symphony I/O 16×16 – $4000

Grand Total: $11,900

*Note: Vox AC30 amps are technically AB class, but I’m going to assume that our friend Richard doesn’t know this.

Oh is that all it takes for a good tone?

This gearslut mindset is what’s putting “Pro Studio” out of business.

Not plugins.

I promise you that anyone who can create “an actual good tone” using this expensive gear will be able to create a comparable tone in the box for about 3% of the cost.

Instead of being bitter about “plugins putting pro studios out of business,” learn how make better use of your finances so you can lower your operating expenses and compete with all of us bastards running lean home studios.

You don’t need to spend $12,000 to get “an actual good tone” in your mixes.

I know guys that could wipe your ass with their free amp sim tones. I’m not kidding – I actually lurked the internet to find examples of his “Pro Studio” work, and it was exactly what you would expect from someone with this sort of scarcity mindset (It was bad).

I have never met a successful pro (or home) studio owner with a mindset like this…probably because most of those have died off by now.

Free Guide: How To Start And Run A Profitable Home Studio (With Less Than $3,000)

The Lean Home Studio PDF Cover

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.

Downsizing Everything In Your Life (For Profit)

I’ll finish things off with an update about my studio.

I recently moved (aka downsized), which cut my expenses to $1500/mo. This includes all of my operating costs for doing business as well as my personal living expenses (including food).

Despite 2016 being my highest grossing year ever, I’ve managed to cut my expenses to the lowest I’ve had since living in my parent’s basement.

Why make this move?

I simply don’t buy shit my studio doesn’t need, and I don’t spend money that I don’t need to spend. I take emotion out of my business. I don’t confuse “nice to have” gear with “need to have” gear. 

Now that my studio is only taking on mixing and mastering projects, a bedroom in a smaller house is all I need for a mixing space (no live room, and no wasted space for unnecessary band lodging).

I even have a roommate now because I’ve latched onto the idea of building wealth for the long haul, and I’m ok with putting off a “high roller” lifestyle today so I can focus on building wealth for tomorrow.

This isn’t just good advice for a lean home studio. This is how any single person in their 20’s should be living. Sacrificing now so you can build for your future (delayed gratification) is something the world seems to have forgotten.

Eventually I’ll start a separate blog for the other things I have going on in my life, but those ventures really have nothing to do with the studio, so I keep it off of here.

So what about you, personally. Yes, you.

What is your opinion of plugins putting “Pro Studios” out of business?

Do you think you should keep expenses low and “bootstrap” your studio?

Do you think you should take loans for your studio so you can expand quickly?

Do you buy a lot of gear?

How much did you spend getting your studio started?

Do you think I’m the dick here?

Let me know in the comments! I read and reply to pretty much everything.

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48 Comments on "Plugins Are Putting “Pro Studios” Out Of Business (Thank God)"


Nice read. Consider proofreading or getting a proofreader. There are a fair bit of written hiccups in this. It’s obvious that you already know the benefits of adding perceived value by quality of presentation. Keep on writing these great articles!

Corey Pettit
Corey Pettit
HERE’S MY DAMN COMMENT! But in all seriousness, ever since I started learning about people with home studios I thought it was the way to go. Just like most things nowadays that you referenced, the world is becoming convenience driven, but not only that – the world (or, the people in it) have used ingenuity, creativity and their own laziness to create ideas which bridge gaps and make things that were once out of reach become much, much more attainable. You CAN out-mix “Pro Studios” with cheap plugins now with the know-how, you CAN save money by staying at an… Read more »
Mike Froedge
Mike Froedge
A very misleading article, in my opinion. Of course you are able to lower your gear needs and overhead to that level, since you have moved to a “mixing and mastering-only” model, which you failed to point out until the END of your anti-big studio rant… Live tracking is a whole different animal, and DOES INDEED require the proper gear of a certain (meaning high-end and expensive) quality level to truly achieve world-class results. Not to mention the critically-important acoustics of the room itself. If you want to track live instruments with mediocre results, then yes, mediocre gear in a… Read more »
Always a pleasure learning more about your process. I agree completely with you. More affordable software can match if not surpass analog gear. The key to that are the ears behind the drivers seat. I’d take a $3,000 budget for equipment over a $100K studio if the right producer is the one making the decisions. I myself have recorded two records with under $2,000 worth of equipment that sound almost as good as records recorded with $10K worth of equipment friends of mine have had done at studios. While someone on your level would probably say my mixes “lack clarity”… Read more »
Kelly Cook

I remember stopping and thinking that there should be absolutely no excuse that I shouldn’t be able to get top notch results from quality plugins even in a home studio situation. I’ve prevented myself from falling into this trap and spending stupid amounts of money on outboard gear. I’m just working really hard to get quality sounds from what I have and it seems to be working pretty well so far. Thanks duder.

John Stewart
John Stewart
Loved the article, and sorry if stuff has already been covered in the above comments. People don’t like change, myself included but it is a fact of life. I read an excellent comment years ago that has always stuck with me. Expensive gear does not make better mixes (sorry but it doesn’t) it just makes the mixing experience more pleasurable if you know what you are doing. I have official plugins (no crack copies) and the fact of the matter is that now the technology is available to make studio life way more accessible…thank God because if this was not… Read more »

You say it like it is. No bullshit. Not even “fanboy”ing here, but I agree with darn near everything I’ve heard you say or write. You are a smart dude. Smarter than a lot of people out there. I’m stoked that you provide this resource to all of us. Thank you.

Steven Brindisi
Steven Brindisi
I agree with this article. I started my studio with $1500, and I use plugins exclusively, not because I want to, but I have to…and I don’t see a problem with that 7 years later. I’ve found some great plugins that were free or almost free and came out with better results than using waves plugins or other expensive types. Can’t comment on physical hardware vs plugin, but to me the price isn’t worth it for a very slight (if any) boost in the quality of my mixes. To top it off, my clientele likes my mixes and are willing… Read more »
I totally agree with this approach. The only hardware I own is a decent Interface, one dynamic mic, one condenser mic and everything else other than musical instruments is digital. I only use amp sims and plug ins and decided to go this route from the start when I began taking recording and mixing more seriously. I can now produce mixes and songs that wipe the floor with my previous band work, which was all recorded in Pro Studios. Plug ins are a godsend. I can create and process sounds in any conceivable way, all 100% in the box and… Read more »
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