At the beginning of everyone’s journey, most music creators ask themselves: should I build my own home-studio or should I pay to use a professional studio to record?
Before we delve into how to answer this big question – we first need to evaluate your preferences, abilities, expectations and future ambitions. Look at the following questions below and answer them honestly to get started:
Important Questions To Answer First
What’s your role in creating music? (Producer, engineer, artist, songwriter, etc.)
Answering this will help determine how much equipment you need, whether going to a pro studio is beneficial to your career, and how quickly you can get a return on your investments.
For example, if you’re trying to focus on engineering, you can work with clients and eventually charge them to mix their songs, which can help recoup money invested into a home-studio. However, if you’re an artist, you may find it beneficial to use a pro studio or both in order to reach more people, achieve better quality recordings, and make new connections.
How serious are you taking music right now? Are you a hobbyist doing it for fun, or are you trying to be a professional and make a full-time living from it?
Answering this will help determine how much should really be invested into building a studio, and if you should focus on using a professional recording studio at all. For example, if you’re a hobbyist, it will likely be more beneficial that you build your own studio and keep costs down since you probably wont be trying to get a return on your investment like a touring artist would.
Are you comfortable with engineering and learning the technological aspects of making music? Or are you purely looking to perform in order to create art and let someone else handle the technicalities?
If you’re not as good with technology, you may want to consider going to a professional studio as buying a bunch of gear that you will struggle to use wont get you very far. Paying for a studio with a professional audio engineer in a situation like that would be more beneficial so you can focus solely on creating and performing the parts that you want, while letting them handle putting it together properly.
Are you creating something for a specific project? Or are you loosely writing music with no specific aim at this time?
Most creatives work towards a specific end goal or project – such as creating an LP or EP of their best songs. Focusing on a specific project can help get rid of the cluttered thinking and confusion and allow you to think solely about what’s best to complete this specific project.
For example – if you’re an artist looking to create an EP, you may want to write and record demos at your home studio, then take the best songs to a single professional studio to re-record, mix and master to get a cohesive sound for that project. The next project, you can do the same but do it at a different studio to potentially achieve a different result.
Depending on your answers – you may lean towards building a home studio, going to a pro studio, or both. Lets now take a look at the pros and cons of having a home studio, versus using a professional studio to record.
Pros & Cons of A Home Studio
- CONVENIENCE– Walk in and create whenever you want to.
- AFFORDABLITY – One-time expenses to purchase all of the equipment. Ongoing expenses required for maintaining gear and paying for electricity to run it.
- ACCESSIBILITY – Always able to access studio without having to go through third parties to book (because it’s yours)
- MEETING PLACE – Private studio can help facilitate meetings and collabs with fellow creators, and allows you to control the setting without having to rely on others.
- LEVERAGE – Provides a competitive advantage as its something you can use to provide value to others in order to cultivate better connections (if set up as its own room and not a part of a bedroom or other living space)
- NO NETWORKING – Will not facilitate in-person networking opportunities as it’s in your private home which likely doesn’t see varying clients every day
- TAKES TIME TO BUILD – Music is an expensive hobby and it may take time to acquire all of the gear and proper treatment needed for it to be an ideal working environment
- DISTRACTIONS – Other people in your home can be distractions and pull you away from your creative work, which is the opposite of what you want the studio for. Sometimes having somewhere to physically go helps with creativity, as you know you are going to the studio with the specific intention to create. Not being able to go in there whenever you want helps make the time spent creating more impactful.
Pros & Cons of A Professional Studio
- SETTING – Professional studio settings with highly musical aesthetics can help inspire and enhance creative moments
- NETWORKING – Being at a studio can help facilitate more professional networking opportunities amongst engineers, producers, songwriters, artists and even labels that you cross paths with while attending sessions. This usually leads to connections being made which doesn’t happen in someone’s bedroom studio.
- QUALITY – You’re paying a studio for a service – partly for the space to rent, but also for the time of a qualified engineer to make your music sound the best it can. That – coupled with high-end equipment is usually a recipe for better quality music than what you could achieve at home. (Results may vary based on engineer, studio and artist)
- COST – Long term higher cost as you are usually billed per hour of studio time, starting at $50+ per hour.
- SCHEDULING – Booking studio time will always depend on studio availability. Busy studios may not have any time for your sessions, or you may have to book well in advance to secure a slot. This may be challenging for certain types of music makers who are less organized and more sporadic with their creating.
- BUILDING CHEMISTRY – As you are booking a studio, you will likely be working with an engineer from that studio. While they are there to service you, you must also be mindful that you two need to build chemistry and become familiarized with each other’s sound and taste. This generally takes a few sessions and can be challenging depending on how personalities connect.
Should I build my own home studio?
The short answer – yes. It’s never a bad idea to have a professional or project studio in your home so you can always work on music when it’s convenient for you. You never know when inspiration may hit.
Depending on your role, this may require more or less equipment and be more feasible to set up. For example, a music producer can get a lot of use out of a basic set up consisting of a sufficient computer, software, 2 speakers and an audio interface. An artist, however, would need those same things plus a microphone and potentially an external microphone preamp depending on the quality of their interface in order to record.
Should I go to a professional studio to record?
The other short answer – yes – especially if you’re trying to pursue music professionally.
It’s good to diversify where you record and write music. Not because you can’t record at home in your home studio – but because you can expand, reach new people, make connections and become inspired by creating in a new environment. Not to mention having another person (the engineer) work on your music can add a whole new dimension and enhance your overall sound.
If you’re a hobbyist – you likely already know the answer – focus on building your own home studio and have fun. Unless it’s important for you to invest in a professional studio just for the experience, I encourage you keep your on-going costs down.
If you’re trying to pursue music professionally, however, I highly recommend you do both. You will always need a place to create, which is why it’s important to have your own home studio. Simultaneously, you should make an effort to go to professional studios in your city to show face, build more rapport with the community, and enhance your sound by having other people work on your music.
A best of both worlds approach is ideal as you can write and record music and demos at your home studio to save on recording and build a catalogue of songs in your arsenal. Once you have created some material that you are very happy with, you can go to a professional studio to invest in re-recording, mixing and/or mastering these songs. This will still provide an advantage and connection that would be missed if you did everything alone at home.
After all – music is better made together. You just never know how much farther someone can take your idea until you try it.