Every legendary studio, in fact every successful studio I know shares a common trait, great management. For all the high-tech facilities, music production is a relationship business and the nexus of those relationships is often the studio manager. Great managers are an investment, and their time should be treated as an asset. Every hour they waste on manual admin is an hour not focused on servicing clients or meeting new ones.
For over twenty years the founders of Studium33 have had a front row seat to the challenges of studio administration running Sterling Sound, one of the world’s busiest studios. "We bought Sterling in 1998 and for the first five years we operated with paper work orders and a "home-rolled" database. We would hire talented managers with hopes of new initiatives and client interactions and watch them bog down with the same repetitive admin tasks month after month. To our credit, we recognized the risk to our business and approached solving it with the same intensity as technical and engineering challenges".
We brought in a small, highly experienced team of developers to profile every session transaction looking for patterns we could automate including; estimating, scheduling, booking, communications, invoicing, receipts, and reporting. The first version of Studio Manager took two years to develop and overnight it transformed Sterling’s business. From there we focused on small iterations to further streamline the workflow. In 2019 we completely re-developed Studio Manager with a modern cloud architecture and it’s now available to recording and mix studios for license.
Whether you’re a one-man show or a large commercial studio, the same administrative tasks are required for every project. Our value proposition is simple; your studio administration will be sharper in every way with 30% to 50% less effort.
I’ve been in the studio business a long time. In 1991, I co-founded my first studio and my role was the “business” partner. It seemed so unglamorous compared to working with artists all day. But over time I came to appreciate both the challenges and rewards of running a service business. For me, there’s a real satisfaction in delighting clients with operational excellence. Back then there was no software available, so everything was done by brute force – lots of highly trained staff doing repetitive tasks manually.
As the studio business got more difficult (higher volume, lower margins) doing things that way became untenable; the workload was just too great. But necessity is the mother of invention. With no alternative, we began developing custom software to automate studio operations. We got really good at it, not because we were always right (we weren't), but because we were so persistent. We just kept iterating and improving until we got it.
Now, for the first time, our software tools are available to recording and mix studios. I enjoy speaking with people about their studios. There are universal problems to solve, but each studio has unique requirements. I learn something in every conversation and that works its way back into our software.
I've been developing software for thirty-seven years. At eighteen, just out of high school, I cut my teeth at Digital Equipment learning mainframe programming in FORTRAN and COBOL. From there I moved to Lotus Development and later Iris Associates developing for Lotus Notes. When Lotus was sold to IBM, I co-founded several startups in the Boston area including Groove Networks (acquired by Microsoft), Glassbook (acquired by Adobe) and Director (acquired by YouTube).
In 2003 I met Murat, beginning a five-year collaboration developing management and workflow systems for Sterling Sound. So often software projects fail because the requirements are not clear. We had the luxury of sitting with the engineers and booking managers over months and years to really understand the modern studio workflow. The systems we built became the backbone of Sterling’s operations.
In 2009 I was recruited by my old boss and partner Ray Ozzie who had just been named the Chief Software Architect of Microsoft. For eight years I worked on various development teams including the Azure Cloud Platform team.
In 2017 Murat and I reconnected and sparked up the old discussions. It was immediately clear that we could harness cutting-edge cloud technologies to build fast, secure and highly scalable systems for running studios.
In previous articles I made the case why handling “client facing” accounting transactions in Studio Manager is a great benefit to the studio and the clients. That said, you still need to produce financial statements and tax returns from your accounting system. So how is this best accomplished?
For many studios, accounting software is their first and only “management system”. Accounting systems are important and no studio should be without one, but they handle one specific area of the business, accounting.