From Hobby to Commercial Studio: The Story of 'Zolder Studio Noord' in Amsterdam
Perhaps you're an audio engineer who's just finished their qualification. Maybe you're working in a studio and thinking of branching out to start your own thing. You could be a studio operating as a 'side business' while you're waiting to get some traction, or perhaps music is just a hobby...
Whatever stage of your career you're at, there's always opportunity to grow and improve your business. From humble beginnings with his studio (literally translated to english as "the attic"), Oskar Glasbergen of ‘Zolder Studio Noord' in Amsterdam has been running his own business for over 6 years and has been working in the industry for over a decade.
"I started recording bands in my bedroom when I was still living at home. Since I moved in here 6 years ago, things having been getting more serious."
Oskar had a vision for his studio back in his early teens. A humble setup in the attic of his parents' house. Now, 6 years later, it's evolved into a thriving commercial studio.
"It was this idea that we had when we were 14. Like we're gonna have a studio in the attic, it was gonna be so cool and I sort of stuck with the idea. I think the name sounds cool. It still feels like an attic, too. It has low ceilings and it's an interesting space to move around in. This has turned into a commercial studio, bands come to me to record their music. I work with a lot of reggae bands and one of my favourite bands are Jaya The Cat who recorded here as well."
Like many outfits of it's size, Zolder Studio Noord started out as just one of Oskar's hobbys. He liked to record his own band and enjoyed the process of tweaking settings on gear and getting "very geeky" with the production process. As he invested in equipment and his space, his hobby started bringing in income from bands who wanted to record with him. But not everything has just fallen in to place, again like many studios of it's size, the ongoing business side of things isn't always easy. He admits that he has relied heavily on his reputation, and from word-of-mouth referrals from one band to another.
"I think every job eventually will lead to another job."
"Yeah, I'm not going to lie, it's hard to keep this place running…I guess one of the hard parts is to get enough bands in here to do this full-time. It's a tough industry. Sometimes I approach band that I really like. It's also by referral, bands that I record will talk to other bands. Especially when you do a touring band, they meet a lot of other bands, for them my studio sounds like a place to be. I think every job eventually will lead to another job."
Oskar also admitted that when you're focussed on the production process, and ensuring each band has a great experience so that they can refer others, it's hard to find time to work on improving business systems and processes.
"I still keep track of everything in a Word and Excel document and manage my invoices and reminders that way. I've seen some other business management software but to be honest, I've never seen one that has everything I need... well at least until recently with Studio Assistant [laughs]."
Interestingly, when looking at the state of the industry currently, he considers himself fortunate to be part of a generation that got to "start cheap". He recognises that the influx of consumer interfaces have dramatically reduced barriers to entry. While this has forced some of the larger studios out of the market, he seems confident about his place in the market.
"I think I'm on the safe side, I'm not a big expensive studio, I offer quality that is higher than what most bands can do themselves, but I'm not 1300 Euro a day, you know what I mean? There is a bigger mid-field now maybe."
I think you need to feel you can take your shoes off, grab a beer and record some music, that's important.
These sentiments are certainly echoed in last year's IBIS World report on the $1bn recording studio industry in the USA stating that there is no substitute for the expertise that keeps many studios in business through the decreased barriers to entry of recording due to cheaper technology.
Finally, Oskar shared his vision for Studio Zolder in the future:
"I hope it's still here [laughs]. For sure, it's still a steady line up, I'm doing alright. I do hope that I can do this full time. I want to get some gain out of all of this. Three years down the line I'll still be here, still recording bands, get some more bands in and maybe even put something in the top 40."
"I don't think music flourishes in a nine to five environment. I think you need to feel you can take your shoes off, grab a beer and record some music, that's important. If we can do that well, we'll still be here for a long time to come."
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