Community-Based Recording Studios: A Look into the Future

A proposal to build free recording studios within communities as a way to increase the Public Domain and circumvent the recording industry.

This article provides a description of what would be needed to create a recording studio and provide free recording services to residents in a community. In return, we ask that those produced in this studio be placed in the Public Domain, thereby broadening the base of our precious Public Domain. This article also introduces, an open-source project in a community setting. Aside from the equipment, all software will be open source and available to everyone. Future articles will chronicle the development of a "typical" recording studio, from start to finish.

To assist the reader, here's the breakdown of what are the important pieces of equipment to be included in a community-based recording studio. Cost runs somewhere between $2,000 and $8,000, depending on the quality of the particular items purchased:

  1. 12- to 24-channel powered mixer: ~$600-$2000

  2. Stereo compressor: ~$200

  3. Other stereo effects:

    • Stereo graphic EQ

    • Noise Gate

    • Aural Exciter

    • Digital Reverb

    • Digital Delay

    • Digital multi-effect processor

    • Patch bay

    • Total cost: ~$200-$1500

  4. Professional monitor speakers, single or multispeaker with crossover: ~$300-$1500

  5. Professional power amp, 200-1000 watts: ~$200-$600

  6. Microphones (1 to as many as you want), Shure or EV: ~$100-$2000

  7. Assorted cables: ~$100-$300

Add your PCs, cheap, middle and high-end, as provided by donors, and you're up and running. Still interested? Well, let's get to it.

Up until recently, the cost of putting a studio together ran way too high to be considered as a potential community-based project. Further, the idea of providing free recording services to musicians and artists was not a widespread ideal for most. Today, though, the need to consider what steps can be taken to mitigate the damage and harm caused by our legislators in Congress and by activities taking place in the United Nations, countries and governments around the world, makes it important that we all think about what the future might hold for us.

Some Concepts to Mull Over

Over the last forty-some years, there has been a shift in how our copyright concept, i.e., works of authorship, are handled. Economic theory developed in the 1960s (see Resources) led to a kind of thinking that placed great emphasis on allocating resources to maximize profits for owners of copyrights/patents. The term "efficiency" was a favorite. What we have witnessed is a blurring of the line between a copyright and a patent. In fact, as Neil Weinstock Netanel explains, in his law review article , the Neoclassicist (variation on the term Neoclassic theorists) merges the copyright and patent terms into one term: intellectual property.

The activities of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) exemplifies this "new" thinking. Extending copyright into perpetuity, consolidating ownership rights and maximizing the market opportunities through as few doors as possible can only benefit society, so they say. It costs money, time, effort and is wasteful and inefficient in a world economy to insist that many authors and copyright holders engage in negotiations with customers, suppliers and manufacturers. Better we leave everything in the hands of the fewest number possible, in order to efficiently grow the market place, (you'll recognize this as a description of a monopoly). It's even better if the rights of copyright owners be expressed in terms of physical property characteristics. Now, such a transformation will certainly enhance everyone's ability to grasp the economics of efficiency. Yes, we now can legislate technology and economies and market places with clarity. You're either in compliance or you're illegal. What's left out of the equation, so far, is that Neoclassicists run into trouble when issues such as personal freedoms, free speech and fair use are raised. There's no place for a Public Domain in such a scheme. And, that's where the community-based recording studios come in.

The Model
  • A community-based recording studio is a facility that will provide free recording services for musicians and artists to record their works.

  • The facility will be created and developed using federal, state and local grant funding opportunities, private-public partnerships and local donors and volunteers.

  • Residents of a community and surrounding communities will be able to use the facility without charge, in return for placing their works in the Public Domain (sounds a lot like our public libraries).

  • Collaboration with Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons Project will enable the musicians and artists to access legal assistance at no cost, limited primarily to licensing and contract issues.

  • Collaboration with the University of North Carolina's Project will establish a central repository of all works placed in the Public Domain.

  • Within each community, there will be local control over the community-based recording studio. Programs that meet the needs of the local communities will be developed and coordinated with the facility. Such programs might include music-related programs such as music history, music genres and recording basics, but they also could include programs addressing internet and web site development for marketing, as well as distribution strategies used by the musicians and artists.

Not all communities will have the resources to develop a successful community-based recording studio. With that in mind, this model provides a central resource, where funding, training and education, along with legal and professional services, can be provided. Such an approach removes some of the obstacles that otherwise would hinder the success of many community-based recording studios. For example, if a community in the Appalachians wanted to set up a community-based recording studio, but they just didn't have access to the funding resources necessary, Studio For Recording, Inc. would handle that aspect. If, after operations were begun, the community wished to expand its educational programs to include web-site development, but there were no computers available, Studio For Recording, Inc. would assist in locating, preparing and shipping computers donated by companies and individuals, to the community. Most importantly, however, is the establishment of a centralized help support team that can remotely access and support all community-based recording studios, lifting a critical burden on each community to secure competent technical expertise.



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Ill advised plan

Anonymous's picture

I'm all about opening access of recording facilities for non-profits and making them affordable, but how is anyone supposed to eat? Will these recording studios be built in the midst of a self sustaining farm, that gets free water and power as well?
no wonder the domain is listed for sale - you dont have any money to build a website - wait why aren't you giving that away fro free? stupid idea....sounds like someone trying to figure out a way to get a free recording studio for his own use. Obviously has no idea of the amount of time and effort it takes to hone this craft.

Verifying the legitimacy of this project

William Stewart's picture

Greeting from the Caribbean Island of Vieques.

I'm wondering if this is an active project and or website. We noticed that the last comment was from 2005. I'm hoping that someone will reply to me so I know that I am not reseaching in vain.

Your response is respect.
William Stewart
President of VCS Corp

We need one......


Living in Texas now in days people look at us in a different way for being the presidents home town, and its not in a good way. Ive been living here in south Texas all my life and was born here as well. Throught my life I have come accross many musicians with different music genres. But in the end we all have had one thing in common. That would be not being able to afford a recording studio for a demo cd or for the simple fact that some just want to see their music on a cd and be able to die in peace knowing that they did everything they could to make it into the music business. Lately a friend and I have been playing some good o' blues and have been recording in a tape recorder that my 1st grade teacher's was in better conditions. I tried looking for a recording program online that I would be able to download for free and could not find one but thank God i found you people. Recording programs are expensive and I would have to quit college for a semester and get a full-time job in order to afford it with all the proper equipment....maybe even drop out college. Honestly i have been thinking about it lately. Even our church among others have been considering investing in a recording studio which we have not been able to accomplish due to the low salaries that the Presidents hometown offers. If some of you would come out here and just look around for talents i gurantee you that you would get a few platinum albums in almost every musci genre. From hip-hop to the good o' Blues. Let me know if you could give us a hand. Thousands of us would really appreciate it and I gurantee you wont regret it and your investments would triple along the way. Remember its not only for the blues, its also for a whole community and the satisfaction of a musicians ear....thanx

P.S. For questions or comments or and God Bless

Free Community Recording Studios

Stephana Childs Caviness's picture

Great Idea! I'm the CEO of Busting Out Entertainment, Inc. A new entertainment company out of Cleveland, Ohio. I would like more info on how to apply for Government Loans and Grants to create a free recording studio. Please contact me on the web @ if you have any suggestions.


The free studio

Anonymous's picture

There is a free studio on Cleveland Heights by the Cleveland Merchant Music Family and to find out about Busting Out Entertainment, go to

Let's Do it!!

starvingguitarist's picture

I'll make it short and sweet.
I've been waiting to do something like this for a good 4-6 years now. When I started Starving Guitarist Records (a temporary site has been setup and rarely updated at, this is pretty much what we wanted to do. We currently are in a bind because of funding reasons. The fact that I haven't charged a dime extra for projects I've done has meant that we have had no money to put towards equiptment. If it can happen, I say let's go for it!
I am in the Fort Collins, Colorado area, and am willing to go forward on this. What I really need is space, as my basement just wouldn't cut it. Also sound isolation is an issue, my basement simply is inadequate for handling a full band at once.
Also needed is a new mixer (I have a few in mind), but I think we can provide a good lot of the other stuff needed. I can get my hands on an Echo Layla if needed (an 8 track Rack-mount DAW that works in both PC and Mac), and I have a Compaq SP350 Workstation currently allocated to production. Next we'd need to either use some better monitors than I already have, or buy new ones. Software may also be a concern, I am happy with SoundForge and Vegas for production on the PC, but I'm sure the software couldn't be used in both my home and the studio, at least legally. The nice thing about using software like this is that it eliminates the need for outboard effects- or at least the need to spend money on them if we don't already have them.
There are lots of other things involved, and perhaps I will start talking to local vendors and shops to see about getting some ideas if not donations, but I know that I will be unable to support this project on my own. This economy has hit me pretty hard and just about wiped what was left of my company off the face of the planet. So if anyone in the Northern Colorado area is interested in pushing forward on this, email me at or and we'll pow-wow about it. I'll start trying to rally support around the local LUG and whatnot too, but this article has totally rekindled that old drive in me to do this!
One more idea I would have is to push it just a little further- to include video production as well as audio- once you have the setup it's not that far of a stretch. Heck, we could even look at the first feature-length open-sourced movie if we played it all out right. Or if nothing else, perhaps a soundtrack to an open-sourced CG project!

Re: Let's Do it!!

tompoe's picture

Hi: Well, you're off and running. The video is absolutely a part of the studio, and needs to be right up there with the audio faculties. I'll send you an email, and maybe we can help you.


Tom Poe

Reno, NV

It's a start

Anonymous's picture

uhhh... I think this is the *start* of what could be a good idea, but I see quite a bit of practicial road blocks.

1) The opening price tag is really high for a local government (at least from my experience in the U.S.). Not impossible, but high. To get around that, it must be started with a grant. I would suggest, finding an old building the city has and can't use. Pitch it to the city that you wish to turn it into a community cultural center; a musicial park. The broader the plan, the more people who will vote for (and use) such a place.

Make sure the facility has a large room to use for recording local choirs and such; it's easier to get 3 groups of 20 on your side than 20 groups of 3, so to speak.

Also make sure there are two rooms reserved for broadcasting. It doesn't take much to set up a community radio station that get public radio grants from the fed. governmnet. However, you then save that money by NOT joining npr. This will be important later when trying to staff such a place. It's not so hard to set up a low power radio station, and it will searve as cheap and easy pr later. I don't think you'd need that in place to start, but having it later to serve as a community voice and resource is powerful.

Get the high school involved. They could use it as vocational training, recording their bands, and even speech and drama. Most likely the high school is already has the connections with the community. The band director may just love the ideas, especially if you'll have better equipment than he has, and it won't have to come from his budget any more. The band director will be able to hook you up with the other directors and music people in the area.

2) Such a project will be very high maintaince, and in pitching such a plan, that better be very well covered.

I don't see how, a self run studio, would prevent theft. Studio mics are small and cost a couple grand - how do you keep them from walking away? What about the school is doing a performance and wants to borrow the dat recorder? What if they don't return it, or it was dropped and damaged? The city now has thousands of dollars in *depreciable* equipment now to maintain - equipment that has a high likely hood of walking away on its own.

What about training? How do you keep people from blowing up stuff? How to you help the communities groups that supported you - and the ones that didn't, but now want to get the most from it - how do you teach them to make recordings. It's not hard, but it does require some basic training to start.

What about promotion? I needs to be kept as busy as possible to get the most return on investment. What about scheduling? You can really have people wait in line. If they self-schedule, what if some one runs long? What if two groups think they are scheduled at the same time?

Workability, like any other cool ideal plan such as this, is the main problem to be addressed.

The only workable solution I see off hand is there would have to be at least one full time employee to run the thing. He'd probably be mainly PR, training, and engineer. He'd have to be well tied to the community and region. He'd have to understand recording technology well, and be able to teach effectively to both young and old. Most likely, he can build up a group of volunteer producers to do the real work of the studio. The volunteers can be bonded and made responsible for inventory.

However, full time employees are expensive - much more so than equipment. That is why I mention the community radio grants. It is unlikely the city will ever pay contribute enough to cover employment AND housing the project AND equiment. There are likely to be state and federal grants to help. However, it's not all that easy to find them. Find a grants writer as soon as possible.

As a side note: Try not to exclude anyone based on content of music. That will likly be an issue at some time. How it will happen will be either Johnny death band shows up, Johnny religious band shows up or Johnny jingle band shows up. In all cases, make sure and have a written policy to cover your ass. I think there may be good reason to have a way to deny johnny death band based on it pissing off the community that vote on the budget for the studio. However, the written policy will cover you for those who are sue-happy with church/state issues (both sides). Basically, most school meeting halls rent their facilities out to community groups, including religious groups. You need to have the same set of rules in place as that have to keep churchs and the aclu off your back.

I think people should be allow to record commercial projects there too. While the studio recordings will be public domain, there's no reason a jingle can't be public domain. The main thing the a business wants is the jingle, not so much ownership. Perhaps I'm off on this point, but it seems like another way to promote the studio; locals can come in, and record jingles, most likely promoting local businesses. It increases the tax base both through the jingle-writer's fee and local commerce promotion.

I wish I could work a tip jar into this idea ;)

I think it's also vital to the sucess of this project to make sure that the studio is for locals only. If you're a part of the main tax base that helps support it. There may be some occasion where some famous person is in town and would record something. He/she would be denied. However, you just get a local to play with them to make it legit (and then drop their sorry performance from the final mix).

3) Incresing the public domain is something no one cares about. Now you and I may care about it, but pretty much no one else even *knows* about it. I think this is a great idea on many other levels. Honestly, the RIGHT way to incread the public domain is for copyrights to be replealed or to exist for a limited time (as designed).

If you sell this idea as from the public domain point of view, you will get no where. However, if you sell this as a great way to help deal with the ever diminishing music education emphasis and budgets, you will get support. Sell it as a cultural lightning rod for the area. Get buy in from as many angles as you can.

As for your goal of increading the public domain, I hope you mean the *recordings* are public domain, not the compositions. If you require that the compositions be released too, that would be suicide. Not many are going to do that, but worse is that no one would be able to perform covers of songs.

I hope that gives you some ideas. Good luck. If you need help, you can reach me a linuxjournal at chaosmt dot net. I'd like to hear what town you'll be trying to get this going in.

Re: It's a start

tompoe's picture

Hi: Thanks for your input. All excellent points to consider. If our article stimulated such thoughts, then we feel we've accomplished a great deal with this introduction.

In particular, our Board Members bring collectively, many experiences that point to much of what you mention, and noone at our end, has the slightest anticipation that this is an easy road to follow. The goals are lofty, and the work will be hard. Volunteers are welcome, and, if their eyes are as open as yours, we know we will be successful.

Studio For Recording, Inc., is an organization that assists communities in obtaining the funding necessary to set up a recording studio. We will work with contacts from any community, anywhere, and provide, or assist in acquiring resources with them. This is a project that develops a "Model" for how to set such a program up. For example, in your town, you might want to set one up. We then, work together, to make sure you have all the pieces, whether through federal, state or local funding, etc. As for the programs, staffing, etc., we work together to find solutions. It's called FREE advice, service, and assistance. You can find a similar model for legal assistance in Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons Project.

Thanks, again, for your suggestions and advice.


I think this message is really important

Anonymous's picture

I think that this idea is great but i don't think that you or anyone else for that matter take into consideration the time and effor it takes to do what recording engineers do. I think that your idea would damage the way things are and make it hard for the people of this profession to make money. I'm offended that you take this type of work so lightly but this is my career and how i plan to provide for my family. I tell you what why do we provide for people to do what you do and make it out of public domain and when you are forced to join the welfare line then you'll soon see that this idea is not fun at all...oh it's okay well just get a group of computers and instructors and teach it free and then make this type of work public that way you don't sent any work and starve...then write your report

school recording studio

Karen Fleming's picture

I am very interested in this conversation. I am a teacher in a project-based secondary school. I have 3 students who are trying to do a project of this type as their senior project. They want to build a recording studio in our school that can be accessed by the community. This is project-based learning at it's best. We are a first year school so funds are not readily available. These students are in need of mentors as well to help them through the design and implimentation process of this project. We are at a loss for how to move forward on this project. Any advice would be helpful.

Karen Fleming
Northern Lights Community School

Excellent idea!!

Romulus007's picture


I think this is an excellent idea! Its high time that, we the CONSUMERS, control our own destinies and eliminate the greedy middlemen altoghter. It's sad to hear about groups like TLC "going broke" because of "recording fees, promo fees" and this and that fee. I'm with you all the way and let me know how I can help!

Here's another RADICAL "open" idea: Open Sourced or "Community-based" Government.

Let me explain!

In the same fashion that great open source software (a la Linux, MySQL, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Postgre, PHP-Zend, Apache, Eclispe, NetBeans, et al) is developed by talented, passionate technologists who "care" about the "good" of the community above PROFITS, I propose we have a project on SourceForge called OpenGovernment.

It would be a best-of-breed framework for the formation of a government (country, city, state, province, etc.) and would exclude corporate and lobbyist monies from "influencing" policies based on profit as opposed to policies based on benefit for the greater good.

For example, a piece of the framework would be on setting up a huge web-based SAP-like government information system so that the "people" can see the current state of the government such as:

-Total Debts Owed to Countries, etc.

- Expenditures by Government departments (perks, travel allowances, etc)

- Educational and/or Employment "history" of the decision-makers in power so that the masses can determine if said persons are qualified to run a particular department or office. Heck, why would you make a LAWYER the head of the Department of Health? Or, why would you appoint an accountant as head of the Department of Energy? We need talented people in the RIGHT areas!!

- Virtual Town Hall Forums so that the people can voice their opinions on numerous issues

- Trade and Employment numbers so that the people can get a pulse on what the heck is going on, etc.

- an Education & Health framework, which would provide a roadmap to achieve inexpensive education and health care services

- a Government Business framework so that entities like the US Mail Service only operate at cost and NOT at ridiculous losses.

- a Justice framework for truly establishing sensible laws that BENEFIT society at large and not business entities, etc.

- a Military & Security framework for establishing a peaceful law-abiding service to provide the most minimal security without creating a Police State, etc.

- Etc.

Do you see the implications of this?? First of all, if this project is known in every corner of the world, then mere citizens can participate in creating a BEST of BREED government that emphasize HARMONY and COLLECTIVISM instead of the present form, which is for the rich and the corrupt.

But here's the best part of this idea!! Whenever a revolution takes place in an impoverished country or whenever the masses are "fed" up with their corrupt governments, all they need to do is "look" to the OpenGovernment FRAMEWORK to create the perfect government.

Please, everyone...let me know your thoughts!!

And don't be so negative! With today's political climate benefitting "special interest" groups with lots of MONEY, it's high time we take back our government and create harmony WITHIN our borders before we can DICTATE to other countries in a hypocritical manner.

Romulus. ( Email: )


Re: Excellent idea!!

tompoe's picture

Hi: Thank you for the compliments, and offer to help. Just sign up for the mail list, at: and we'll talk about how this "model" fits in your community. Your comments regarding a Sourceforge project should not be received lightly. If I recall, there are quite a few sites that contribute towards what you are thinking, starting with You might want to discuss this idea with them.

Thanks, Tom