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Record producer making a crust and loving it

Michael McGlynn knows the secret to running a business in the arts sector: love what you do.

Passion, integrity and support are the qualities that Michael has sought to enshrine at the heart of his “Vienna People” boutique studio business located in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Annandale. He’s frank about the purpose of his studio: he wants it to produce quality art. The higher the quality of the product, the better it is for business.

“Being in the music industry is a slightly different thing. We generally tend to be more concerned with the quality of the art we make rather than amount of money we make,” he tells Dynamic Business. “The satisfaction I get out of hearing records I’ve made on the radio and working with such a diverse range of people more than compensates for the lack of millions”.

Already Michael has recorded two internationally recognised artists including indie folk group Little May and hip-hop artist, L-FRESH the LION. Part of the reason for his success is his belief in offering artists more than just the usual studio experience. Michael extends a level of commitment and encouragement to artists’ projects not generally found in the cutthroat music industry.

“It really comes down to the heart that you put into it. No one goes into it thinking, ‘Where can I make the most amount of money?’ People go into the music industry because it’s in their DNA.

“Integrity is the most important thing in what I do. I’m not in to chase a buck and I’m not in it to create some horrible music that I would never listen to in my wildest dreams. I’m after the artist who wants to make music for music lovers. That’s kind of where I think we place ourselves.”

Having always wanted to buy his own recording studio, Michael made the leap four years ago in 2010. He went on to pick up the business for $45,000 after attending a rehearsal at the studio. He kept its name “Vienna People” to maintain the goodwill already linked with the enterprise. He immediately went about refurbishing the interior and updating the look of the studio. But the going has been tough. Even today Michael says he works 13-hour days, six days a week and still supplements his income by playing at hotels, pubs and weddings. The only difference is he loves it.

“I’d always wanted to have a recording studio and it always seemed like it was a bit of an unattainable dream just because the start-up costs for a recording studio were so high that I just thought I’d never be able to afford it,” he says. “I wanted to create a studio that felt more like a cool bar. It had to be a place that people just wanted to hang out in. I didn’t have any money after I borrowed the money to buy the business. So I did it in dribs and drabs and slowly but surely, painted it, put in a chandelier and LED strip lights. My number one priority was to get a space that people walked into and said “wow”. Then they’d want to create music there.

“I started building up a Facebook page, trying to show a diverse range of clients that come through the studio. I knew it was going to take a bit of time. Certainly, initially I would take on jobs for $25 an hour to get some sort of income coming in.”

To stay competitive, Michael offers advantages on price and production value for artists. On production value, Michael is a multi-instrumentalist and experienced pianist with 25 years as a professional. He brings his trained ear to the recording process and can offer artists cost savings by playing on their tracks. Rather than simply renting out the studio to artists, he will commit to projects and often sit in on sessions, engineer, produce and offer informed advice. On price, he offers competitive rates in a market often dominated by larger corporate style studios.

Michael now has one full time employee after he was approached by the bar manager, Scotty Donnelly, at a gig venue in north Sydney about sitting in on some recording sessions. Soon Scotty became an essential part to the running of the studio.

“It got to the stage where I needed him more and more… I drew up an employment agreement between me and I put him on a profit share arrangement and also paid a full time salary which is above the award and that was on the first of July last year. A year and a bit later we are just going from strength to strength.”

While the businesses is still young, Michael is confident it can leave its mark on the Australian music scene by virtue of the artists he records, the unique qualities he brings to the recording process and the strength of the music he produces. Looking to the future is hard and, despite well made business plans, much still hinges on luck.

“The thing about running a recording studio is you just don’t know what’s going to happen. The next person who walks in the door might be your meal ticket and, to a certain extent, you’re in the lap of the gods in terms of needing the right people to come and work for you. There’s so much luck involved. My long-term aim is to make a lot of really great quality music that touches people all over the world. And by no means do I not want to make money out of it.”