Ask Me Anything

Get Your Biggest Questions Answered Here

I’ve answered a lot of questions through email over the years, and I always kept a notepad of all of my “longer” replies. I wanted to include some of these answers in this “Ask Me Anything” blog post.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to, simply scroll to the bottom of this page and leave a comment!

I’ll answer as many as I can, and I’ll add some of your questions to this article…if they’re good enough 😉

Here is a list of the topics I cover in my answers below:

  • What to do when graduating from Audio Engineering school, and trying to get started in this industry
  • How to balance time between multiple studio projects
  • What to do when you’re struggling to find serious bands to work with
  • Trying to balance a day job with a recording studio on the side
  • How to determine what gear to buy
  • My advice to someone that feels like their life is becoming stagnant

The Six Figure Home Studio

What to do when graduating from Audio Engineering school, and trying to get started in this industry

Question: I graduated from recording school last summer, but I’m still struggling to find paying gigs. My living arrangement is at the moment very limited in space, so I have my studio gear set up in the bedroom, but it makes it quite awkward and not ideal to record bands at home. Do you recommend that I focus on only taking mixing jobs which I can do in solitude at home or renting a studio short term to record drums if I’m taking recording jobs? I have a very “if you want something done properly, do it yourself” mentality, so I dislike receiving poor quality recordings and turd polishing expectations.

Answer:  While you’re establishing your name and figuring out your differentiators, you’re better off keeping your expenses to an absolute minimum. Your current low overhead is a huge advantage. You can take all this time to get the fuckups/trial and error out of the way before you have real bills to pay for your studio. Also, you have more time to devote to learning instead of constantly being forced to generate revenue.

If you get the occasional band with a healthy budget, then feel free to rent out a studio to track drums. No matter your path, there is going to be a huge learning curve to get to the point where bands are seeking you out. Better to keep expenses to a minimum during this time (in my opinion).

If you need more room, the compromise is possibly moving into a (slightly) more expensive home that has an extra room you can devote to recording bands. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew as far as expenses. Always make sure you can more than make up for the difference in studio income.

How to balance time between multiple studio projects

Question: The only question that I really have for you is: How do you balance time between tracking and mixing? I realize you said you’ve moved away from tracking to focus on mixing, but when you were tracking, how did you manage the two? I work at a studio and I feel like I might have too much lined up. Any thoughts on how to better manage my schedule?

Answer: First off, If you have too much lined up, that’s a great problem to have. While you do want to make sure you’re maximizing your efficiency to handle as much work as you can, you have to start raising prices once you’ve hit your ceiling.

You need to place a value on your time ($ per hour), and make sure it’s constantly increasing with your demand.

The way I balanced between tracking and mixing (back when I tracked bands) was this:

– Wake up at 5:30am
– Go to the gym
– home by 8am to shower
– Breakfast and mixing by 8:30
– mixing until 11am.
– My tracking engineer wakes up the band while I eat lunch
– tracking starts at noon and goes until 8pm.

While this seems like a lot to handle, it really wasn’t. I could mix/master about 20-25 songs per month while tracking/producing 12-15 more at my peak. I became more of a “project manager” during tracking hours, where I wasn’t necessarily sitting there tracking and constantly working (this was my engineer’s job). I was there for quality control, and to make sure everything was done to my standards.

That being said, I realized I was making around $40/hr for tracking after paying my engineer and I was making at least $150-$200/hr when doing mixing/mastering. This is why I no longer track bands (well that, plus I hated it).

What to do when you’re struggling to find serious bands to work with

Question: My biggest issue has been getting clients who follow through on work. I’ve had 8 clients so far, 2 of which have finished/released material. The rest ran out of the little money they had if any to begin with. And while I’m down to work for free to boost my portfolio, these bands cancel regularly and I need to keep up at my day job. I downloaded your book to see if I could find a way to get more reliable clients who will finish their projects so I can get more of my work out there and spread my name.

Answer:  To answer your questions about finding reliable clients, there definitely is a way. First, read these two blog articles:

Part 1

Part 2

This should help with some of the issues. The biggest thing is this: If you don’t position yourself as someone is serious about recording, and 100% dedicated, then you’re not going to get serious/dedicated bands. You need to come across as professional as possible (this is covered extensively in the book).

Also, make sure you’re getting deposits from these bands. If they’re not willing to pay a nonrefundable 25% to 50% deposit, then they’re not serious about recording. In the past 6 years, I’ve only had about 2 bands cancel on me after sending in their deposit (in which case, I kept their deposit).

Trying to balance a day job with a recording studio on the side

Question: I’m a pro bass player, band guy and I also manage a business for a friend when he is off touring… I’m struggling to find a balance between maintaining my day job while trying to expand into the recording industry. I want to get to the point where I’m comfortable enough to quit my day job. It’s tough to say no to paid work and see the bigger picture when you have a mortgage/rent to pay.

Answer: I have an article planned for this topic in the future, but here is one thing I always ask people when they tell me they don’t have enough time for _________(fill in the blank):

How many hours of netflix/hulu/TV/video games/bullshit to you fit into your life every single week?

9 times out of 10 it’s not a matter of time management, but a matter of screwed up priorities and unwillingness to put in the work. The average american works 40 hours/week, but what do they do with the other 72 hours/week that they’re awake?

I’m definitely not saying that’s you, but it’s something people need to hear from time to time.

How to determine what gear to buy

Question: So i will be purchasing new equipment small mixing board, microphones, new sound monitors etc (which is what the money is for). I’m really excited about this, I’ve been working with the same VST’s and plug-ins for awhile now and i know there’s so much more out there to experiment with and now with my business I REALLY, REALLY want to find MY unique sound when I Record/Mix artists and bands. You know start building a reputation as well that’s my biggest goal right now. I don’t know if you have any tips on cost effective microphones or gear that could give me some really great sound for starting out new.

As for gear recommendations, I honestly keep it as simple as possible (especially until your business is profitable). It’s important to follow the 80/20 principle when buying gear – basically 80% of the gear you buy is meaningless to your overall sound or level of success, and the core 20% is what matters. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up spending 80% of your budget on “nice to have” instead of “absolutely need to have” gear.

Figure out what your focus is going to be at your studio, and shape your gear acquisition around it. The track you sent me sounded great, but if you’re going to be focusing on pop/electronic music, then why get a mixing console? You literally only need 1 incredible vocal chain, solid interface, great monitors, room treatment, a nice (used) computer from ebay or craigslist, and a shitload of software.

It’s important to separate the hobby of gear collection with the actual business-centric purchases that are necessary for you to do what you need. Forming your own sound is about 5% gear, and 95% your ears/knowledge/techniques/methods/etc. A lot of people use their gear list as a crutch to entice people to record with them, but the truly successful people let their past work speak for itself.

My advice to someone that feels like their life is becoming stagnant 

Question: You’re crazy. And I’m crazy. So I guess it’s normal. My fear is that I’m missing out somewhere, that I won’t accomplish what I set out for, that I should wait until I feel healthier like hydrate or exercise and cool healthy food. Everything else is more important than what’s most important. I have grown stagnant in my life, but I’m slowly building momentum back up. I also fear what the point to my work is. I’m stuck between a recording/performing artist and a producer so what work so I focus on first? Bam! Procrastinate.

Answer: I totally know what you mean. The key is to start from the top down. There’s an order to the madness in your head. Start with these 3 steps:

  1. Determine your 5 , 10, and 20 year goals.
  2. Break those goals down into projects
  3. Break those goals down into actionable tasks.

Here are examples:

1. Determine your 5 , 10, and 20 year goals.
Example:
My 5-year goal is to have one of the largest online platforms to help home studio owners succeed in creating and profiting in their businesses.
My 10-year goal is to be 100% financially secure, with a passive income of ~$30K/mo and net worth of $4+MM
My 20-year goal is to give back by providing mentorship to as many young entrepreneurs as possible.

2. Break those goals down into projects
Example:
For my 5-year goal, I know that I need to produce more content for my blog. This means more frequent blog articles, live events, online courses, a podcast, etc.
For my 10-year goal, I know that to achieve that amount of financial independence, I need to own ~40 rental properties free and clear. This means acquiring around 4 rental properties per year
For my 20-year goal, this is a bit trickier, but it all comes down to developing and grooming myself as an entrepreneur so I can properly give back when the time comes.

3. Break those goals down into actionable tasks.
Example:
If i want to write more blog articles, my actionable tasks would be

  • 1. Research for article ideas.
  • 2. Outline those articles.
  • 3. Block out time each week to write them.
  • 4. Edit the articles.
  • 5. Post them on my blog.

For my real-estate project, my actionable steps would be

  • 1. meet with brokers to start the conversion on acquiring properties.
  • 2. Save up the capital required to make my purchases.
  • 3. Search the MLS every single day for properties.
  • 4. Analyze any that meet my criteria.
  • 5. Put in offers.
  • 6. Buy

Etcetera, Etcetera, and Etcetera. You get the idea though. You daily actions are determined by your projects, which are determined by your goals (both long and short term).

Sorry for the novel-length reply, but I hope that helps you sort out the shitstorm in your head!

Ask your own question!

Is a question bouncing around in your own head? Simply ask a question in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer it!

Leave a Reply 79 comments

brianhood Reply

Ask your question in the comments!

    J man Reply

    Hi,
    What do you think about using the psychological aspects of gear hype to your advantage? I knew a guy ho would light up a bunch of v.u. meters in his studio that were not even routed to anything other than the clients gear lusting brain cells and it would somehow change the clients sonic perspective. Today with so may small studios around using a lot of low end gear, do you think that using props is a good way to get clients? There is so many myths in the audio world, how can you convince artists you are the person they want for their work.

      brianhood Reply

      While gear hype can be an effective tool for positioning your studio as a premium service, I personally think it’s one of the least effective ways of attracting QUALITY clientele into your studio.

      If someone is having to use this as the main tactic to impress clients, then they could be completely ignoring some of the most important factors when it comes to running a studio that’s set up for long-term success.

      I could go on for days about this, but just know this – there are a few pros with relying on this approach but there are many many cons.

    Tyler Syphertt Reply

    Hey Brian, I have really hard time mixing vocals. Either they stand out in the mix or buried in the mix. Any tips?

      brianhood Reply

      Turn them up if they’re buried, and turn them down if they stand out too much. Problem solved;)

        Marcus Stone Reply

        Very serious question:

        ¯\(°_o)/¯ How do mix drums?

    Evan Schirle Reply

    When referencing my mixes, I find that sometimes I don’t really like the results, even if I was okay with how it sounded on my mixing monitors… I know it may be subtle things, but I think it’s really important to pay attention to these things to improve my mixes. Basically, I would like my mixes to achieve a more consistent sound across listening mediums that I sometimes notice with my reference mixes.

    With that in mind, how do mixes achieve consistency across different listening mediums? What are some things to listen for while referencing your mixes on different speakers?

      brianhood Reply

      While I’m trying to stay away from mix-related topics on this blog, I think consistency is an important topic.

      Answer this: how many songs have you mixed this year?

    Jordan Reply

    Hey man! Love the blog. Just a quick one. How you would promote your studio, what key things would you suggest a small start up studio would do to start bringing In customers?

      brianhood Reply

      This is very dependent on your personal situation. Most of the time, the best thing you can do is leverage your current relationships to bring in your first batch of clients. If you do a solid job with these first few, it will start a snowball that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger:)

      The issues that could possibly keep your snowball from growing can be numerous, however. I don’t have enough time to even begin that discussion here, unfortunately.

    Denzel Caldwell Reply

    Hello Brian,

    Music has always been an integral part of my life. But, as I am sure you have been posed with this quirk like me; that pursuing a SUCCESSFUL music career is a “pipe dream”. I apologize if this has already been addressed in a comment already. So my question is what are some ways one can discover if they have the talent and skills required to make a living from their music? Not necessarily to get rich or become famous as this is not what I aspire too. But to have the privilege to live the lifestyle I would like, doing what I love. Also on a side note, if I do not gain the position with your company. Is there anyway I could perhaps be an unpaid intern or something of the like, that I may learn from successful people?

Andrew Graham Reply

Hey,

How did you specifically go about building a client base when starting out? I have clients who recommend me to others which is great but I feel I should be talking to more bands. Do I just wander up to them and say “hey, I’d like to record your band”?

    brianhood Reply

    Think about this in dating terms. Do you just walk up to a random girl and say “hey, wanna date me”?

    It simply doesn’t work like that, and it reeks of desperation.

    You have to learn “the game” (which, interestingly enough, shouldn’t be a game at all).

    While word-of-mouth is the #1 source for pretty much every successful producer I’ve talked to, the way they got their is through the relationships in their life. Genuine relationships.

    They approached potential clients as potential friends, not just seeing dollar signs hovering over their heads. While this comes down to having basic social skills, you need to form friendships with people, even if you don’t have an immediate “use” for them.

    I can’t tell you how many times a random friendship in my life turned into a massive business opportunity.

    The last advice i’ll leave here is to make sure you’re leveraging every single happy client you have in order to get more word-of-mouth clients and referrals. Simply asking if they know any bands looking to record soon can lead to additional work, as you can do more “warm” outreach to these bands vs “cold” outreach.

Sander Reply

Hey Brian,

How would you approach offering bands (free?) test mixes without coming off “desperate” ( or If you would at all) ? Please keep in mind I’m already a decently established producer/engineer in my area, I have a pretty steady amount of work coming in already, but It feels like i’m about to hit a plateau.

    brianhood Reply

    I can’t recommend doing free test mixes at all if you actually have steady work coming in right now. The only exception being a free “test mix” that leads to landing a band above your current stature in the industry (i have done this in the past, and it paid off).

    If you feel like you’re about to hit a plateau, there may be other issues in your business that doing free work will not solve. Any other additional info you can give me will help assess your specific situation.

Matthew Reply

Hey Brian, Just recently listened to your URM podcast and i was over whelmed with all the knowledge you had so i decided to come over to your website and check it out! Really think the blog and mini courses are rad and i cant wait to learn more! Anyway my question has to do with gain staging. That being is this a common practice for all mixing engineers and producers? Its not something a lot of them go over in the videos they post of mix examples so I am curious if it is a general practice or does is very from person to person? Or maybe its something that is so common that we should all already know? Kind of a loaded question but i look forward to your answer thanks again!

    brianhood Reply

    Hey Matthew, thank you for your question! Unfortunately this is more mix-related than it is business-related, which is not the topic of this blog. Definitely a question for the URM facebook community.

THE DECKERATOR Reply

WHY IS THE SKY BLUE?…..lololol…..

    brianhood Reply

    A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. When we look towards the sun at sunset, we see red and orange colours because the blue light has been scattered out and away from the line of sight.
    😉

GP Reply

Hi Brian,

I’ve found some artists who are:
1. Artistically and creatively talented
2. At a point in their career where they are in need of someone to produce and record their music
3. They also appear to need a team to help them launch said career.

I’ve worked as a booking agent and have launched my own solo and band records, booked and managed tours etc. I feel one of my strengths is that I have experienced the pressures Recording artists face first hand.

Here’s my question: In order to make my target salary off a project with this type of act or artist, a portion of my compensation would be back end likely. How can I protect my investment by making sure the recording, and artists career in general, will be seen through and launched/promoted well?

I don’t want to start a label but DO see how people end up down that road.

Thanks for your thoughts on this Brian!

    brianhood Reply

    Unfortunately I’m not the best person to answer this question, as all of my income is on the front-end. I’ve never worked out any sort of backend deal with an artist.

    One thing i’ve seen in these sort of development deals is where the producer will have a contract with an artist to where they can’t record with another producer without your permission or a buyout (from label or otherwise).

    Whether or not I agree with that model, or whether it’s even effective or not would be a completely different topic!

      GP Reply

      Hi Brian.

      Completely agree. Any friends I’ve had enter into these production deals with producer’s end up resenting said producer in some way.

Cody Stewart Reply

Hey dude, love your classes and videos, always personable and to the point about your methods. My one question is guitar/bass/kick drum relationship. Other than levels, how do you go about getting your balance?

    brianhood Reply

    Thanks for the compliment, Cody! As for your question, I’m focusing on answering questions more centered around business struggles:)

Joseph Herald Reply

How (specifically) do you go about getting feedback from others on ways you can improve?

    brianhood Reply

    Ask! Find a community that is helpful with this sort of stuff, and participate. Don’t be one-sided about it though.

    For example, back when I used to frequent the Andy Sneap forum, they had a mix critique sub forum. Any time I went to post a mix for feedback, I’d be sure to give my own feedback to at least 3 or 4 other mixes.

    If it’s business related, there’s always The Six Figure Home Studio Community on FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/230014927336105/

Sascha Reply

So you are about to get kicked out of your day-job which brings you 750 bucks a month (Paying rent + power + 70% of the food) because you focus ALL your minds power on your mixing business and accidentaly dont give a fuck about your boss’ company.

You are really confident in your mixing skills but have not enough clients yet to cover the 750 bucks.

what would you do?
(this is a real life scenario taking place right now)

    brianhood Reply

    Well…I’d be busting my ass to do whatever I could to start bringing it paid work haha.

    I’d start by reading my free eBook, if you haven’t already.

    Then I’d look into signing up for Soundbetter.com

    Then, if you’re still not replacing your income, I’d read this (even if you’ve already gotten your first paid project).
    https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/fromshittogold/Bonuses/FSTG+-+Your+First+Paid+Project.pdf

      Sascha Reply

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks for your straight forward answering. (as always)

      Read your ebook around 5 minutes after i paused the nail the mix podcast with you haha.

      Signed up for soundbetter.com

      https://soundbetter.com/profiles/49303-arden-sound-ii-mixing-studio

      Do you think the 39$ a month are worth it? Did you get any work through it?

      The pdf by the way is an ebook on my phone now. Thanks for doing this!

        brianhood Reply

        Is it worth it? That depends on two factors.

        1. Are you currently booked solid with work?

        if not

        2. Can you acquire more than $39 worth of work each month from SoundBetter?

        If that site leads to getting paid projects you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten, why even question the cost? You’re confusing cost with value here.

        I know someone to has made $10k+ per month from SoundBetter…so cost=$39 but value =$10k+

        make sense?

          Sascha Reply

          Make sense. sometimes you just need someone to tell you whats already in your head.
          “make money, buy houses, never work.” – Me, today.

John Mckiddie Reply

How do you keep up motivation when you aren’t bringing clients in?

    brianhood Reply

    While motivation is important, it’s not to be used as a crutch.

    The best thing you can ever do for yourself is get yourself into a routine that sets you up to succeed at your goals. That is only thing that has gotten me past “the dip” in any business.

    For example: If you’re not bringing in new clients, this is obviously demoralizing. Most people would stop trying due to lack of motivation (I’m guilty of quitting things for that exact reason).

    The key here would be to simply commit 30 minutes every other day to finding new clients. This could be cold outreach, or it could be going to events in your niche.

    Whatever you do, create a habit of it, and stay consistent (even if it’s just 30 minutes every 2 days).

    Habit>Motivation

    Once you get your first big win, that’s all the motivation you’ll need to start the snowball:)

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