An open letter about rising studio rates…

An interesting perspective about rising studio rates:

Looking at my hourly studio rates over the past thirty years, I was curious about how much inflation has affected that amount over time. The results are pretty interesting and should be taken into consideration by anyone who thinks my rates may be high…

Let’s start with a baseline: The first studio I ever worked in was in the basement of a house in Rockville in 1977. He had an 8-channel TASCAM reel-to-reel deck (80-8) and we mixed down to cassettes. No other processors, not even a reverb unit! He did have an awful-sounding grand piano which was never in tune and made a lot of clunking noises. He charged $12.00/hr. which we thought was a lot, but he was the only studio in town at the time! Adjusted for inflation, that $12.00 becomes $59.74/hr. in today’s dollars.

Skip ahead to 1992, when I opened my first studio, Harvest Recording, in the basement of my townhouse. I also had an 8-channel TASCAM reel to reel deck (TSR-8), a fairly respectable assortment of microphones, some compressors and reverb units, and we mixed down to DAT. Quite an upgrade from the old place in Rockville. I charged $22.00/hr., which works out to $47.87/hr. in today’s money.

In 1996 I upgraded the TASCAM recorder to an Alesis ADAT, and eventually a second one which gave me 16-track capability. (They were very expensive at the time!) My rate went up to $25.00/hr., equal to $51.39 in today’s dollars.

In 2003 I changed the studio name to Catoctin Mountain Recording and spent a couple of years in a rented house in Emmitsburg. $30.00/hr., equal to $49.79 in today’s dollars. My rate remained there for 10 years, including moving back to Thurmont, building a studio in the basement of the new house, and completely re-vamping into a Pro-Tools based system.

In 2013 we decided to turn the studio into a “real” business, and leased a large building in Thurmont, took out a large loan to finance a bunch of new equipment and “build to suit” the various rooms inside that building. We purchased a beautiful Yamaha grand piano, paid a web designer to create a professional, competitive website, put up a big sign outside and lots more. Customers were now getting MUCH more for their money, but In order to keep the price in a range “that the market could bear…” I opened Commodore at $40.00/hr. This is $52.22 in today’s dollars.

Notice a pattern? Every price increase has brought the hourly rate to an inflation-adjusted level right around $50 in today’s money.

By 2016 it was becoming clear that with all the additional expenses associated with running a business in a commercial building, $40.00 was not going to be sustainable. The price rose to $50.00 which equals $63.31 in today’s dollars. The first actual “price increase” since first opening in 1992!

In 2020 we had to do it again, taking the rate up to $60.00/hr.; equivalent to $70.47 today.

Now step back for a minute, and consider that since opening in 2013:

*Our rent has doubled

*We have had many equipment and software upgrades, many of which we’re still paying for

*We have had to incur new COVID-related debts simply to keep the doors open

*Our utilities are more expensive

*We have been responsible for building repairs and upkeep

*and much more…

Also keep in mind that once the studio’s monthly bills are paid, it is only whatever is left over that we get to take home for our own household bills. And as all of you know, things have gotten expensive lately!

So when we implement our next price increase ($75.00/hr.) on October 1, 2023, please remember that although it looks like a big 25% increase to our clients, from our perspective it only represents an inflation-adjusted increase of $4.53/hr., or 6.4%.

This is a simple cost-of-living increase!

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