The music industry is a tough beast, but it’s easier than ever to start a music production business from home. Unlike in the past, modern technology has made the bar of entry low. Even Billie Eilish, who performed on "Saturday Night Live," recorded her biggest hits in a bedroom. You can start at home, rent a small space and craft your dream studio once you have enough business.
Remember that music production companies are like any other business. You’ll need to create an LLC, get a business license and pay taxes on your income, but there aren't any special licenses or permits required. Success in this industry is largely based on talent, networking and word of mouth.
Consider Going to School
You definitely don’t have to go to school to become a successful producer, but you will need to know how to use recording technology and how to make the best sounds. If you’re not an engineer, consider taking classes to learn how to record music or hire an engineer to work alongside you. School is also a great place to network because you never know where your classmates will end up.
Rent Studio Space or Create Your Own
There are two ways to launch music production companies: You either rent out space at an existing studio or create your own studio from scratch. Sometimes, a music production team will do both. They’ll opt to rent out a studio for live instruments like drums and record the rest from a home studio space, which is increasingly more effective since most modern pop sounds come from plugins that can easily be loaded into a USB.
Because it’s much less of a long-term investment, you may want to rent out a studio space for your music production team until you have a solid list of clients or some wider music industry clout.
If you’re not planning on recording artists and launching a music production team that scores for film and TV, you can easily have a bare-bones home studio since your comfort is the only comfort that matters.
Get the Equipment
A recording studio is a huge investment. The equipment alone can run you from $20,000 to $50,000. The most professional, A-list music production companies can have equipment and recording booths or live rooms worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions. The good news is that if you want to start a music production business from home, you can start small.
Many beginning producers start with just the basics before expanding into a place where they’ll have huge pro mixers, perfectly crafted live rooms and cool places for artists to relax. Even a simple recording booth can be built for less than $1,000. There are a few things you absolutely need, or you can’t get started at all:
- A laptop or desktop computer: Go for the upgraded RAM because the more tracks you run at the same time, the more likely it is to bog down your computer and cause your sessions to crash.
- An audio interface: This converts analog signals to digital signals. In other words, you’ll plug your microphones and guitars into an interface so your computer can process the sound and play it back to you. A decent audio interface for a music production team will start at $200.
- The software: You need recording software on your computer. The most popular are Pro Tools or Logic Pro X. Pro Tools can run between $599 to $2,599. Logic is much more affordable at $199, but it only runs on Apple computers. Remember to budget more for updates, plugs and samples too. Home music production companies are only as good as their sound banks.
- A MIDI keyboard: This is considered optional, but it’s the easiest way to control sounds. Since MIDI can run a vast array of software instruments (including lifelike drum samples, orchestras, guitars and choirs), it’s important to get this even before you invest in studio instruments like expensive drum kits and guitars.
- Microphones: Recording is pretty difficult (read: impossible) without a microphone if you’re using any analog sounds. Though MIDI comes close, nothing can quite replace a perfectly microphoned tube amp or drum kit. You don’t need a lot of mics to get started. Even legendary bands like The Doors only needed around eight microphones to record live. A high-quality condenser mic can cost around $1,500.
- Studio monitors and headphones: You’ll need headphones for recording and high-quality monitors to play it back.
Network Your Music Production Team
You can’t start a successful music production business from home if you don’t have any contacts or clout in the music industry. Networking is the most important thing for your success.
Have a website with a portfolio of projects on which you’ve worked and research record labels, management companies and booking agencies. Most of these have contact addresses to which you can reach out and offer deals, discounts and trial projects. A demo you record for free can lead to a paying gig in the future. You never know!
Though cold calling occasionally works, it’s better to actually meet artists and their teams in person. Some of the more successful music production teams spent years touring the world in the music industry, where they built up an army of friends and acquaintances who need their services. If that’s not you, consider going to local shows or music industry networking events to market yourself. It only takes a couple of good contacts to have your business snowball from referrals.
- Recording Connection: How Much Does A Recording Studio Cost To Build?
- CD Baby: The Art of Networking: 5 Steps to Making Better Music Industry Connections
- Musician on a Mission: Home Recording Studio Setup (8 Essentials You NEED)
- CareersinMusic.com: How to Produce Music on a Tight Budget
- E-Home Recording Studio: Chapter 6: The Complete Recording Studio Equipment List
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.