I own Jackpot!, a recording studio in Portland, Oregon. There are many other recording studios in this town, including Kung Fu Bakery, Supernatural Sound, Smegma, Type Foundry, Dead Aunt Thelma's, Falcon, Mississippi, 8-Ball, MastanMusic, Audible Alchemy, Sound Impressions, Northstar, Dig/No Moving Parts, Magic Closet, Haywire and Insta-Fame to name just a few. In fact, Googling "Portland Recording Studio" turned up a number of studio names I've never heard of. There appears to be a lot of competition. But is there?
When I first opened I was wary of other studios. Understandably, I harbored a bit of an insecurity complex about my place. I had a tiny selection of oddball gear and had been recording in my basement for only a few years. Not yet a legitimate engineer, I felt that I would be perceived as someone trying to steal clients from other businesses, and therefore did not reach out to any of them to announce my opening or make contacts.
Years later some of these people have become friends, many are a phone number or email away and all have become resources and assets to my studio. "Resources?" one might ask. What do you do when a client will spend a week on overdubs in your studio, but you don't have Dolby on your 24-track to dump tapes to Pro Tools? What if you have a deadline for album completion and need to do overdubs while your studio is booked up? One of the reasons I first bought a 24-track tape deck was so I could take projects between my place and other studios — and of course Pro Tools has only made this easier.
I guess I first saw myself in a situation where we were all vying for the same jobs, and maybe sometimes we do to some degree, but usually the musicians seem to pick the places they wish to work on their own — by looking at liner notes, gear lists, room sizes, prices and the ever present "word-of- mouth" from their peers. It seems improbable that Kendra or I have swayed someone who was determined to record elsewhere and made him or her realize they should record at Jackpot! And if this is true, then what brings clients to your studio is the work you have done and the facilities you have built up. And if that is true then how could we all be in competition?
Years into this studio ownership I forget I even once felt this way. I want to keep my studio busy, and by offering low day rates and a plentiful selection of outboard gear, mics, tape decks and Pro Tools HD it seems most months are well booked. But I also work on albums where tracks were done elsewhere in town, even booking myself into other local studios to take advantage of stuff my studio doesn't have, like grand pianos and giant live rooms. Other studio owners have shared equipment, business tips, bookkeepers, beers and road trips with me. We email each other on the NW Studios group where we can find gear or services that come recommended by our peers.
You're helping people record music. Even if this is a part time hobby out of your bedroom, you do not live in a bubble. The other people in your immediate area are not your competition, they are not looking to sneer at your junky equipment and they usually do not see you as a threat to their business. We all have different methods and choices in achieving the goals we have before us, and the best of us recognize that and see what is interesting and beautiful about these different ways of working.