[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Gary Gray.]
UPDATE: Read Part 2 of this series here!
As indie musicians, many of us spend countless hours in our home studios. When seeking help or advice on how to turn those hours into money, certain mantras (statements or slogans repeated frequently) can be heard in response. We hope the source of those mantras are there to help and guide us toward musical happiness with financial reward.
Some mantras are more workable than others. Some are more realistic than others. Some are more true than others. And just to make things interesting, some mantras conflict with, and are even diametrically opposed to, other mantras!
“Stick With What You Do Best.” “Expand by Creating as Many Genres as Possible.” Or: “Only Certain People are Born with the Talent it Takes to Earn a Lucrative Income.” “Anyone Can be Taught How to Earn a Lucrative Income.”
Who do you believe? Who can you trust? How do you choose a path that will pay off for you?
Well, we’re going to take a very close look at what it actually takes to make a living with your home studio, brushing aside all mantras, marketing catch-phrases, and memes.
In an age where countless tutorials and training programs exist which promote the philosophy of microwaving one’s education and career, I believe it’s time to get back to the basics and to address not only the complete and fundamental technology of each subject, but the integrity and purpose of each student (and mentor as well).
Having built my first home studio at the age of 10, and never having given up on this unpredictable and sometimes unforgiving profession ever since, you could imagine how many paths I have attempted to walk, towards what I believed for quite a while was an impossible goal: musical happiness with financial reward.
For the last 30 years, my indie musician students have flourished quite well in their careers, and therefore, I come to you with a certain level of confidence, knowing that I can actually help you for real. So, for a refreshing look at the truth — put your ringer on silent for five minutes and let’s have a heart-to-heart talk.
Walking The Walk
I’m very fortunate and feel humbled to service clients on a daily basis like 20th Century Fox, The Disney Music Group, Megatrax, Hollywood Records, CBS Daytime Television, ABC, A&E, etc., all from my home studio. Last year I was singled out by 20th Century Fox to create and produce the holiday version of their iconic Fanfare Theme – that’s right, in my home studio.
Two weeks ago I received a call from one of my corporate clients that I have been servicing for the last seven years out of my home studio. The purpose of the call was to let me know that I was being hired for the largest and most lucrative project of my home studio career.
The call was from Disney/20th Century Fox (they had both been separate clients of mine prior to their recent merger). I had up to that point completed ten major projects for them — seven for Disney and three for 20th Century Fox. And now, with this latest phone call, I was being asked to produce, record, mix and master six new projects. I am currently making a six-figure income, all from my home studio. This one project (recording, mixing and mastering six songs) will account for more than a third of my yearly income this year.
Two years ago I came up with a five-year plan of how I was going to take an already consistently lucrative home studio up to a whole new level of quality, quantity and income. That plan, by the way, turned into the outline for the online masterclass The Lucrative Home Studio which can be found at NewArtistModel.com. And now, two years later, three years early, that plan has become a reality.
Before we get into all the details, and before any cynics get too excited, my home studio is in a small 14 by 14 foot bedroom and I don’t own or use any “high end” equipment – I don’t own hundreds or even scores of plug-ins.
I learned and now teach a valuable lesson:
Upgrade yourself, your education and your ear, not your gear, as priorities when creating, mixing and mastering music.
You will then have a proper foundation from which you can conduct business on a corporate level from any home studio.
I know, that may sound like another meme, catch-phrase or sound-bite. However, this one happens to be carefully distilled from over 5,800 hours of research I personally conducted at “The Abbey Road of America” — Springs Theatre Studios in Tampa, Florida.
The main subject of my research I had studied for years: Differences and Similarities Between Analog and Digital Audio Technologies, Practices, and Results. For some fascinating findings from my research you can read these two previous TuneCore articles I authored on music production here and here.
How Can You Know What You Don’t Know?
Every student that I have mentored for the last 30 years reminds me of me when I was being mentored. I was very lucky and fortunate to have personal mentors such as Phil Collins, Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone. They really opened up my eyes to what I see my own students going through. It’s a fascinating aspect of mentoring and education:
They don’t know what they don’t know.
And to a greater or lesser degree, each believe they DO know what they don’t know. In other words, by being students, they are obviously saying, “Teach me, I don’t know everything, I want to learn.” However, when asked what they would like to learn, none say to me, “I would like to learn about things that I don’t even know that I don’t know. Please unveil those subjects to me and everything you can teach me about them.” Instead, they rattle off categories of knowledge that they already know they don’t know. See the difference?
And then one day (hopefully) the student discovers a painful yet empowering truth. They discover something new that they literally never even considered before.
For example, I didn’t even know that I could service corporate clients from a home studio.
So, if you have no corporate clients, but would like some (or would like more), I invite your attention to the following unknown (to many people) subjects.
Herein you will discover lies, myths and brainwashing that I, and every person I know involved in this industry had (or has) to face, and eradicate, in order to acquire and successfully service corporate clients.
MYTH: You can close corporate clients based on the quality of your music and production alone.
TRUTH: As stated earlier, I strongly suggest that you upgrade yourself, your education and your ear, not your gear, as priorities when creating, mixing and mastering music. Why? Because you will then have a proper foundation from which you can conduct business on a corporate level from any Home Studio.
Getting the quality of your ear and your music up to industry standards, in my opinion, is the FIRST thing you should learn how to do and apply. However, it is not the only element when it comes to closing corporate clients. But, as you will see, it has everything to do with keeping the clients you close, and securing other clients.
The first action that needs to be done is not always the most obvious one to do first — but the sequence is vital.
Let me explain. What I have discovered is the most important element when it comes to closing corporate clients, is knowing the basic buyer types and being practiced at closing deals. (Much more on this coming up, so keep reading). But, it’s not the first action to take in order to be successful at closing clients (plural).
In your home studio, if you don’t become (or team up with) a trustworthy ‘ninja’ as a composer, songwriter, producer, engineer and musician as a first action, it may not STOP you from closing a corporate client; however, closing a corporate client before you become (or team up with) a trustworthy ‘ninja’ as a composer, songwriter, producer, engineer and musician can result in a short-lived relationship with that client.
And bad word of mouth in the community.
Hollywood (or Nashville, New York, London) are all tight-knit and rarified (rarified: reserved for an elite group) “small towns” of executives, and any one of them can determine your fate today and your financial future tomorrow. A-List projects are best served, in my opinion, by you first establishing a super-strong foundation as a trustworthy ninja with your music craftsmanship and your studio skills, before you go out and attempt to close A-Level Corporate Clients.
Let’s not skimp on this foundation step. Let’s look even closer. Here are several great lessons I learned. These would come under the heading of “Things I Didn’t Know That I Didn’t Know” about this foundation:
What I didn’t know that I didn’t know:
Music is both a science and an art. I considered that music was an art, and all I had to do was be an artist, which in my youthful dictionary meant, well, not necessarily organized, ok to always be eccentric, ok to be kind of broke, not fully responsible and most importantly – not tied down by anyone’s rules or guidelines.
More of what I didn’t know that I didn’t know:
The science of music is music theory, and music theory is the most awesome, liberating and freeing subject a musician could ever learn. I call the knowledge of music theory “the most important plug-in you will ever own.”
More of what I didn’t know that I didn’t know:
Learning music theory is what gives one the confidence and skill set necessary to ensure that corporate clients will remain corporate clients year after year. Becoming a ninja at music theory should have been something I worked at every day. It actually doesn’t take as long as you might think to build up a very good knowledge of music theory. This would include music production ear training.
Learning music theory like a ninja gave me an unshakeable and undying level of confidence unlike anything I had ever experienced before, which still persists to this day. That level of confidence, as I learned, can be sensed a mile away by people who are in a position to hire you. And the corollary is also true: a LACK of that level of confidence can also be sensed a mile away, and when it is — good luck closing and especially keeping a corporate client.
If you don’t know music theory, that’s like a mechanic not knowing the parts of an engine.
Good luck to that mechanic in finding a top level job in his profession.
More of what I didn’t know that I didn’t know:
I had no idea that a sales technology based on honesty existed that I could adapt to the music industry which could help me make a great living closing and servicing corporate clients.
The Formula For Closing and Keeping Corporate Clients
1. Build the foundation first (become [or team up with] a trustworthy Ninja as a composer, songwriter, producer, engineer and musician).
2. Learn How To and Practice Closing the 2 Basic Buyer Types.
A Fool-Proof System for Closing Corporate Clients
The Two Basic Buyer Types
In Part Two, I’m going to share with you a fool-proof, tried-and-tested system for closing corporate clients for your home studio. We’ll go straight to the bottom line, straight to the skill set necessary to consistently close and maintain corporate clients.
Gary Gray is a voting member of the Grammy Recording Academy; a two-time Telly Award- Winning Producer, Arranger, Mixing and Mastering Engineer; the author of The Home Studio Bible, and creator of the online Masterclass The Lucrative Home Studio.