Studio Etiquette Rules Every Artist and Engineer Should Know

As more and more recording studios pop up all over the place, I feel like studio etiquette is becoming a lost art form. Studios are seeing more indie artists than ever, as opposed to label artists who may have more understanding and appreciation for the lab! That being said, I feel it is important to go over some basic studio etiquette rules – or just rules in general – that may be overlooked by today. Many of these “rules” may be common sense to some, but this intention is to make your studio recording experience better. I’ve geared this blog to both artists AND engineers, so both sides can have an appreciation for what is expected of them.

Be on time

Artists, you may be famous on the stage but when your in the studio it’s work time and time is money! Don’t have your engineer waiting on you – they have life to live too. Keep in mind your sound is what will make or break you, so have appreciate the fact that your engineer is making time for you. In most cases, artists will be paying whether they are on time or not, so don’t waste your recording budget by being late. And engineers, the same rules apply. Make sure you get to the studio before the artist so you can setup accordingly. Have the artist tell you what they need ahead of time so you can be prepared.

Be prepared to work, not to hang

The studio is a creative place and many studios today provide “extra comfort” items to make sure you can do your best work. However, these “extra comfort” items – TVs, food, drugs, alcohol Wi-Fi – can make it easy to get distracted and forget why you came there in the first place. If you decide to take a one-hour blunt break and run out of time – too bad. Remember you are there to make music, not chill out with your friends. Have your song lyrics written out – unless your free-styling – and your beats ready to go so you can get started right away. Engineers, same thing. If you are looking to hang out, make plans somewhere else. Don’t encourage the artist to chill with you when they should be working, push them to get their songs done. They will appreciate it in the end.

Pay the price

Having great studio equipment is expensive. Having a great engineer is expensive. The electric bill for running a studio is expensive. So don’t think that you won’t have to pay to work in a great studio. If you want a shitty sounding mix, you can find tons of cheap studios to give you one. But if you want quality sound, you will pay the price. Just like everything else in life – you get what you pay for. Keep in mind that good clients will get batter rates – if you have never worked with a particular studio before or never met the studio owners – don’t expect to get a discount. Just because you have a buzz or a big fan base doesn’t mean the studio owes you anything. You have to invest in your sound. Your overall goal is not to work for free and for your engineer it is the same thing. It’s a business, not personal! Now if you have built a good relationship and you do get the hookup, don’t run around telling every other artist about the great rates you pay. Keep your hookup prices to yourself. If someone is willing to work with your budget, be grateful not braggy. As for engineers, inmost cases you are paid by the hour, so more hours means more money for you. But don’t run the session out long on purpose just to make extra money! Not only is it super shady, but it gives off the impression that you work slow and are greedy. Being efficient and effective is what will keep your clients coming back, so do your best to stick to their booked time frames.

Know the studio’s rules

Again, studio equipment isn’t cheap! Artists, that fancy machine with all the lights and buttons that you love to post on your Instagram while you work isn’t just for show. That equipment is there to make sure you sound good, so respect it. The mixing counsel is not a beer coaster or an ashtray, the preamp is not a place to rest your feet. The microphone you just breathed your garlic breathe into cost at least a thousand dollars, and the headphones you just tangled up weren’t cheap either.  In most studios if you break it, you buy it! If you do happen to break something, spill drinks or drop food – let the engineer know. Accidents do happen, but if you are honest when you mess up it is easier to work something out. For the ganja smokers, if you like to get high during your sessions, make sure you book a studio allows smoking in the recording room. Smoke is VERY damaging to electronics, so not every engineer is down for it. Also it often sets off fire alarms which usually end in a high fee from the fire station if they end up coming out. Engineers, don’t be afraid to let an artist know your rules! If you never speak up, you can’t really get mad when shit hits the fan. Be clear from the beginning what you expect so you can have a productive and rewarding experience.

Say no to cell phones

Now when I say “say no to cell phones” I don’t mean not to bring it or have it on during your session. Obviously many artist today have their lyrics typed in their phone or may need to be reached if there is an emergency. What I’m talking about is the artists who have their cell phones glued to their hand, mindlessly scrolling down social media, texting the whole time or taking every singe call that comes through. Not cool. Now again, your time is money so if you choose to waste it on your phone instead of focusing on the project, that’s on you. Same for engineers, stay on task and don’t take calls or respond to texts in the middle of a session. It isn’t fair to the artist.

Don’t get starstruck

If you are recording at a major studio it is quite possible that a big artist or producer is there working at the same time. If they happen to drop into your session or stop by to say hi to your engineer – act normal. Don’t go gaga or turn into a crazed fan, just relax and keep on doing what your doing. If they like what they hear, they may want to work with you. On the flip side, if you happen to hear that someone famous will be at the studio you record with, don’t try and squeeze your way in just to try and catch a glimpse or get them your music. I have seen many up and coming artist and producers wait outside a studio or try and force there way into a session – never a good idea. Don’t ruin the opportunity by looking desperate. If it was meant to be, it will be.

Respect the work

Last but not least, make sure you respect the work. This goes for both the artist and the engineer. It takes a lot of time and money to put an album together and one party can’t exist without the other. For artists, understand that being a good engineer is a serious craft that takes time and education. It is not an easy job; they take a lot of time to make sure you sound good. Recording, mixing and mastering all come with experience and skill so have respect for a great engineer if you are lucky enough to have one. For the engineers, a real artist who is trying to establish a real career is working hard and paying you for their time. If you don’t like everything they create, remember it is their artwork and not yours to judge. Every artist is different, so just do your best work and show them encouragement and respect.

Good luck indies 🙂


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Nicky Dawkins

Nicky is crunchy, DIY mama and established entrepreneur based in sunny Miami, FL. She is the founder of HypeGirls and Werk it Moms LLC. Nicky also launched PERIOD.org's Miami Chapter - PERIOD Miami. She has a love for feminine health and is currently a Doula (DT) under Mama Glow. Nicky holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Florida International University and a Master's of Science Degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University. To contact Nicky email her directly via [email protected]

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