How should we open a local music venue where bands will be recorded professionally?
August 9, 2010 5:01 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to go about opening a local venue, where artists can record their music, and play music live and have it documented (photographed, and recorded [among a lot of other ideas])?

A friend of mine has a really great idea to open a space where local artists could make music. There are a lot of ideas that he's trying to juggle and I just want to try and get some help from the best people I know (I like you, Metafilter.)

My friend has been booking and promoting indie rock/ska/punk/folk shows in my area for around 8 years. He's also a really great musician and artist, skilled at the trumpet and screenprinting. He's been recording local bands for the past few years in a small recording studio which he's had to move out of. He's also gone to school in the music industry / recording. He wants to open a space where he can record local bands, as well as produce album art and other design for websites / myspaces. At this point the project is A. Recording Studio B. Graphic Design Studio

He's also been booking shows for a while, and while I can think of maybe 2 good venues in the area, I think that there is a real need for a new more open-minded place for people to play music. He'd like this place to be able to have live shows adding C. Live Venue to the list of ideas.

He also has some friends who make really great microbrewed beer. My friend thinks to have a venue he really needs to have a 9-to-5 weekday money-making place (like a bar) and has been considering going in with these people who make microbrews. This would be idea D. Microbrew Bar

What I'm really interested in is the documenting live shows aspect- I do concert photography and recording and I'd love to start doing videos and my friend has offered to work with me in buying the equipment necessary to really professionally document the bands who would be playing. This is would be plan E. Show Multimedia Recording - which would be able to be marketed to bands so they could make music videos, put their shows up on YouTube and have them look really professional, etc.

So the different ideas thus far are:
A. Recording Studio
B. Graphic Design Studio
C. Live Venue
D. Microbrew Bar
E. Show Multimedia Recording

These ideas are all floating along, and I personally believe we'd have to sort them out and focus on one before the other, and possibly a couple without the others. But I'm curious for your input. Musicians- have you ever happened upon really cool venues? What about venues that charged for professional recording (audio & video) of your shows?

Have you ever worked in a place like this? What was it like?

Are there are resources for something like this? Any step in the right direction would be nice, and any advice is appreciated and heeded.

Thanks, all.
posted by ejfox to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Pianos in NYC offers recordings of your show. I think it's something like $100 for a stereo and $300 for a multi-tracked ProTools session. Might be worth looking to see how they set it up.

This is probably really mundane advice, but be sure to do everything by the book. It's not worth the effort and money if you're going to get shut down for breaking some ridiculous state or city law after 3 months.

I agree that starting with just a couple of the ideas is best. The microbrewery will take considerable start-up capital; maybe just a DIY venue/recording effort would be a good place to start, as you could probably do that with the gear your friend already has, a few bucks to transform a cool warehouse space, and minimal legal hassle.

Good luck! Sounds like a cool project!
posted by nosila at 5:07 PM on August 9, 2010

You might want to try googling for cooperative spaces or co-working spaces to see some similar ideas. Those are usually run as nonprofits which may or may not fit your plans. Other than that my suggestion would be to sell memberships to artists and musicians. They get discounts on space rental and services, you get some cash. It also gets the members to buy in to the idea. If they're already invested, they'll work harder to get this thing going.
posted by entropyiswinning at 5:21 PM on August 9, 2010

Pianos in NYC offers recordings of your show. I think it's something like $100 for a stereo and $300 for a multi-tracked ProTools session.

Pianos charges $20 for a room recording and $120 for a multitrack, which is still too much, but it's New York.

Another place you can look at is Mr. Smalls outside Pittsburgh.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 6:49 PM on August 9, 2010

A. Recording Studio
B. Graphic Design Studio
C. Live Venue
D. Microbrew Bar
E. Show Multimedia Recording

Couple things to consider: Microbrewery is going to have the highest start up cost, in terms of brewing equipment as well as licensing from state/federal agencies. Second is going to be Live Venue, which is kind of part and parcel with Show Multimedia recording. Graphic design will be cheapest to get started, as well as require the least amount of staff, equipment and licenses.

How much money do you guys have to get things going? All those things have different requirements. Construction - getting the place up to code for whatever you want to do there - is going to cost $$$$$$$$

I recommend checking out some forums like to see what people who are really really quite serious about their hobby have had to go through in order to try and do it as a business. Talk to microbreweries in your area about their startup costs. Most homebrewers are pretty cool folks and are willing to talk shop. They could probably give you an idea of what's involved. It ain't cheap.

I would say the best option would be to open a space where bands can play, and work on printing merch/graphic design. Look at something like Daytrotter - they work with some amazing bands, provide recordings of live performances, and have a recording studio.
A setup like that works well if you're off a major highway or somewhere where touring bands can come through on their way to other shows.

good luck!
posted by dubold at 8:36 PM on August 9, 2010

Great combination of ideas, and I think it sounds very do-able if you stay focused. Here's how I would put it together:

Establish a venue for live music. [C] Have your sound equipment set up for live audio recording [A] and charge performers $25 for a cd of their live performance if it's just a line off the board, $50 if there is actual mixing/ engineering work happening during the show.

Also have the room set up with at least one, but preferably 2-4 video cameras that feed into a recording/editing station with a video engineer. Now you can simultaneously record a multi-camera video of the performance [E] , send a live feed to monitors in the room to augment the show (like you see on the big screens at major concerts), and/or stream the live video to a webcast. Charge the band $50-$100 for a dvd, depending on number of cameras/ quality. Kulak's Woodshed in Los Angeles and The Gig in Hollywood are two venues that offer video services and as a performer, it's much appreciated. (The Gig doesn't seem to have a website anymore, so here's a total self link to one of our videos shot there.)

Get a liquor license and get the bar going. Offer a contract to your friend's friends to stock and sell the microbrew beer [D] they are already producing. Because of the cost outlay, I'd focus more on being a supplier of microbrews than becoming a brewery yourself.

The graphic design studio [B] is the hardest to fit in, but also a really unique angle. The studio with all its art supplies and equipment wouldn't be able to occupy the same space as the stage or audience area unless you want to be constantly moving stuff, but if you can carve out separate space for artists to use, it might work well. You could be open during the day as an art studio, maybe offering lessons or custom design work, then shift the business over to music in the evening. I'd definitely use the art as a design theme throughout the venue and reflect it in the name to give it a unique feel.

Best of luck!
posted by platinum at 12:05 AM on August 10, 2010

I had some friends do this for a while, couldn't afford to keep it open. It was a lot of fun, but the logistics just caught up. Bands were unhappy about their cut of the door, kids thought the cover was too expensive, still didn't make enough to cover the rent, lots of money sunk into getting the place into code, couldn't get a liquor license so people went next door and probably dropped all that money that could have paid the rent at the bar next door.

About recording, your friend probably knows this and/or has the gear together, but good lord, don't go broke in the 'recording gear arms race', check out something like tweakheads and figure out the most efficient way to record without trying to turn it into some half-million dollar tube museum. Play up the DIY-ness of it. Should probably think about that in early branding and everything, probably not good to be too 'slick' or you'll get tired of telling people what equipment you don't have.

Also, it is a problem that PA stuff and recording gear are sort of at odds, so the direct vocals just aren't going to sound as good as isolated condenser mic recordings. Drums can be a pain. Make sure someone with experience running live sound is involved, it's a different animal than recording in a studio. I guess just manage expectations if people are expecting a studio recording.

If I was going to do the live recording thing, I'd probably try to make a deal with some place that is already paying for itself or get a nice portable set up and record smaller shows and try to deal directly with the bands.

About pricing, I mean, if you can afford to only charge bands $25 bucks to record, why charge anything? That'll barely buy you an XLR cable, and cables and stuff will go bad at an alarming rate compared to a studio setup.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:29 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's also been booking shows for a while, and while I can think of maybe 2 good venues in the area, I think that there is a real need for a new more open-minded place for people to play music.

There's a place in my area that is like this, some details:

- It's in the suburbs about halfway between two major cities. There are other small venues in the area where local artists play, but those are mostly bars or restaurants that happen to have a stage rather than places where people go specifically to hear music.

- They don't have a liquor license, and all of their shows are all ages. This basically means that most of the crowds and bands are high school kids. It does help them draw an audience though, because most other venues exist mainly to sell alcohol and don't let underage kids in.

- They will let literally anyone play there. Anyone can just talk to the guy who runs it and pick a spot on the schedule that isn't booked yet. Most of the bars around will only let bands play that can draw a big crowd to sell a lot of alcohol, which makes it hard for a new non-cover band to play shows. They don't seem to have a hard time filling their schedule and they are open six days a week.

- The artists don't really get paid much at all for playing there. They can sell merch but most of them are just happy to be playing a show in front of their friends.

- The venue has free coffee and sells tea, has hookas, and a few other random ways of making money. Most of the time they have around a $5 cover charge to get in. They also have a recording setup where they can record a band's show for a fee but it's not exactly a professional recording studio.

I honestly think you have to be somewhat crazy to run a place like that, because it sounds like a ton of work and they can't be making much money. But the way that it's setup gives anyone in the area a chance to play a real music venue and it's a great place for local kids to hang out. I wish there had been a place like that in my area when I was in high school.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:33 AM on August 10, 2010

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