Should I build a podcast studio in my coworking space?

TLDR: It’s complicated.

Question(s): Should I build a podcast studio? How do you manage it? How much did it cost?

I get this question often. Most coworking spaces (including my own) provide familiar amenities like coffee, wifi and a place to sit. -When we built our podcast studio, we were looking for a way to stand out. I knew the studio would pay for itself, but its growth, use and value to our space has exceeded expectations.

On the flip side, there are definitely times where care and maintenance of the podcast studio are a headache for me and my team.

Should every space have one? No. We built one for very specific and personal reasons, and they might not make sense for you.

Why did we build a podcast studio?

Podcasts are huge right now. There’s a new wave of podcast enthusiasm that’s been consistently growing over the last few years. Everyone’s listening and everyone wants to create one.

I’ve started a few podcast projects – but they  all failed to take off for various reasons. One consistent issue that plagued each attempt was poor audio quality. If you’ve ever listened to a poorly produced podcast, you’ll know that at its best, lackluster audio quality is extremely distracting. When I opened Hygge, I finally had a place for a nice studio to produce my own podcasts.

I’m also an avid podcast listener. I’m constantly referred to new podcasts and a common reason I’m turned off is the lack of audio quality. Often, amateur podcasters are recording in their house with an iPhone or single Yeti microphone. That’s a good place to get comfortable with your voice but if you’re really looking to create a high-quality show you need high-quality equipment. Still not convinced? I recorded myself reading the first paragraph of our post on coffee on my phone, and again in the studio.  The difference is clear.

iPhone: slight static, room noise, and hollow voice.

Podcast Studio: no static, no room noise and clear voice.

 

How it works

  • Podcast studio can be booked by members of the public on our website.
  • Members can use their allotted meeting space hours to book the studio.
  • Reservations are handled via Calendly, and we require a tiny training session for new users of the studio (more on this below). ,
  • Using the facility doesn’t require an audio technician to use – it is self-serve
  • Best of all, it only costs $15/hr

Why do we only charge $15/hr?

The vast majority of people using the studio are amateurs or first-time podcasters. A low hourly cost makes the studio attainable and sensible for newcomers.  Recording studios can charge as much as $100/hr – which makes our self-serve option much more palatable. The podcast studio also doubles as a marketing hack: everyone who records a podcast gets a tour of our space, which often results in them meeting members, and seeing what we’ve got going on.  Word of mouth takes over from there – podcasters know other podcasters, and end up selling more studio time and memberships for us.

How do we manage it?

The studio costs $15 an hour which means it’s not printing cash. The goal is to get it operating as efficiently as possible so that profit margins go up as you get better at managing it.

The original and very inefficient way we managed the studio was as follows:

  1. User fills out a generic form requesting a specific time.
  2. We check the calendar to confirm it’s available.
  3. If it’s not available we go back and forth via email until we find a good date/time.
  4. If it’s available we let them know and send an invoice to be paid online.
  5. Cross our fingers that this person pays the invoice and actually shows up for their session.

As the studio got more popular we were spending too much time going back and forth to get someone booked. We also had a considerable amount of people never confirm, pay their invoice or show up for their scheduled session. It sucked. Something had to change.

The new process is as follows:

We use a calendar booking tool called Calendly. We vetted a couple options for booking and Calendy was by far the best option for single appointment booking. The reasons we like Calendy:

  1. It’s beautiful. It embraces a minimalist style. We can’t get enough of its look.
  2. We can control session length and bookable days.
  3. It syncs with google calendar so we have no longer get double bookings.
  4. We can send out customized emails to people who book the space. (*Note: This is a paid feature.)
  5. They recently added a feature where people pay right away for their scheduled event. It’s amazing.

We split sessions up into First Timers and Repeat Users. Both groups of people have access to a one, two or three-hour session. If someone needs more than that they need to email us directly.

First Timers

No matter what, I want to meet everyone that is coming in to use the studio the first time. No exceptions. We’re a locked environment and safety is the most important thing. I restrict first time sessions to my schedule: Monday thru Saturday 7am-6pm. I don’t do first time sessions on Sundays.

Training is provided 10 minutes prior to the first session. We built the studio to be very easy to use for first-timers. It takes me no more than 10 minutes to train someone. That’s it.

Repeat Users

After their first time in the studio, podcasters have full access to the calendar. After their second time in the studio, we also give them access to the building using a door system app which we can track and log use online. The hope is that users become self-sufficient very quickly and go from first-timers to super-users with no interactions needed. They book a session, come in and record and we get $15.

A couple other  tips we’ve found helpful:

  1. Use Calendly to block times/dates you don’t want to use for first time sessions. You’ll save yourself lots of headaches with back and forth rescheduling.
  2. We don’t do studio demos or tours outside of the first session. Hold strong on this. People will push and push to see the space before recording. Explain clearly what’s in the studio and show lots of pictures on the website. Remember, any time you spend in that studio quickly cuts into the $15/hr you make off it.
  3. We allow drinks and food in the studio. Yes, I know. What about the equipment? Have a little trust in your users –  people actually don’t want to ruin a good thing.
  4. We don’t offer refunds. We’re happy to reschedule but get people to commit.

How else does it benefit the space?

Coworking is still generally an unknown concept. I can’t tell you how many times a first-time podcaster comes through and goes “What is this space?!”. These interactions give us the opportunity to spread the word on what you’re doing and coworking in general.

Take advantage of this. Podcasters might never become members but they will advocate for your space. We have had more than a few new members come our way because of a podcaster’s recommendation. You just need them to know what you do.

On top of that, if you build a studio that’s picture worthy people will snap and insta (more) the crap out of it. In fact, the majority of Instagram posts about Hygge are people in our podcast studio. People love taking photos of themselves behind the mic.

🚨🚨 NEW PODCAST ALERT! 🚨🚨 The Date Night with Jake and Page podcast is back, baby! We laid low in December and January, but we’re breaking out of our holiday slumber with AIRHORNS. @margaritatalk is probably Charlotte’s most well-known and most listened-to podcast. Hosted by @lifewithlauren1 and @aliwashburn, the show has grown a crazy following in the Queen City and has now even moved into iHeartRadio and live events at restaurants and bars. Lauren and Ali had us on an episode of theirs back in 2016, and we’ve been planning on turning the tables on them ever since. We finally got them in the studio, but you know we had to make it a date night, so they brought their current boos, @brad.corriher (Lauren) and @_patent_pending_ (Ali). What transpired was an hour of so…much…fun. The guys got vulnerable and talked about what it’s like to often be the topic of conversation in a popular dating/lovelife podcast. The gals…well, they pretty much talked about the same. It’s a really neat peak behind the curtain of one of Charlotte’s most popular media teams and their current dating lives. We also took them out of their comfort zone in a big way and made them drink beer. Yeah. A link to the show is in the bio, or you can find it wherever you get your podcasts by searching “Date Night with Jake and Page.” Thanks for listening! #datenightclt

A post shared by Jake Fehling (@jakefehling) on

What’s gone wrong?

In the beginning, it was really just the amount of time we were spending chasing people for unpaid invoices and no shows the day of recording.

It’s inevitable that the settings on the equipment get a little messed up here and there. We’re getting better at training and teaching people to troubleshoot the mixer and recorder. There are still occasional fires where nothing works and we’re needed on hand on off hours. We have created a laminated cheat sheet for the mixer and recorder that shows the optimal settings for each. This small addition has helped eliminate many of the issues we were seeing.

Only once in over a year did we have a spill that required us to have to purchase a new mixer. It’s a risk we’re willing to take by allowing food and drink in the studio.

Does it make money?

If the podcast studio were an office, it would cost  $750-850/month. As a podcast studio, it definitely makes more than that on a monthly basis-  so revenue generated plus the marketing we get from exposing potential new members to the space is worth it.

It took some time for the podcast studio to really take off. There a couple things we did right out the gate that brought regular usage. We’ll talk more about marketing the studio in a future story.

How much did it all cost?

$3,671 total.

The Equipment List

To see the full list of equipment we used to build the studio please subscribe to our weekly newsletter.


2 replies
  1. Tami
    Tami says:

    This post was great. Thanks for sharing your tips and insight. Question about your podcast room. Did you equip the room with soundproofing as well? How do you handle the sound?

    Reply
    • Garrett
      Garrett says:

      Hey there Tami. We actually didn’t do any sound proofing/padding on the room. The compressors set up correctly and proper setting on the gain leave the sound coming in crisp without the risk of weird ambient room noise.

      It’s also in a part of the space that’s not super high traffic so there’s not a ton happening outside it’s door.

      Reply

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