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Studio And Equipment: Studio Owner


The studio manager oversees the daily operations of the recording studio, including booking and maintaining the facility, engineering, marketing, and all administrative tasks.


“I'm a big believer in college. I've noticed that some people that come through tech school and are just 18 or 19 aren't mature enough to handle the problems that arise. They get insulted if you say, ‘Go make coffee,’ whereas, for some reason, the people that have gone to college realize that is a small part of the job. I also think they are more well-rounded and can carry on a conversation that's not just about recording.”

“Try to learn an instrument. You don't have to be extremely proficient at playing it, but it will help you better understand music. Learn to read chord charts and things like that.”


To succeed, you should have patience, people skills, and an understanding of business and marketing. “When you're in school studying to be an engineer and you're made to take marketing and accounting classes, you think it will never help you,” says Tom Harding, “but all of that has helped me. You understand that you've got to keep your checkbook balanced. It all sounds logical and a bit silly, but you'd be surprised at how many studio owners don't understand finance and marketing.”


“The first thing I do is check to see what is booked in the studio,” says Tom Harding. “If I have an outside engineer coming in, I make sure I have an assistant here before anybody arrives to get everything set up. If the session is tracking, we make sure that we've got two-inch tape on hand, DATS, and cassettes. If there are any maintenance problems in the studio, we make sure those have been taken care of. Electronics constantly need repairs; it is vital to the session that everything is working. I make sure that we've got coffee and that the machine is working. If I need to arrange for catering, I take care of that. I meet with the client and make sure everyone is happy and they have what they need. Then I might have some invoicing, bills payable, and other business to take care of.”



“I don't think you could ask anybody about any job that they wouldn't say that the politics is what they dislike.”


“I just love that point when you're putting music down for the first time, when I'm recording a band and we're in the studio for around six hours, it's gotten dark and everybody is tired, but everybody is in that zone where everything is clicking and it almost seems surreal.”

“To manage your own studio, you better know your clientele and who you are gearing your studio for first. There was a studio built just a mile from Tombstone and they spent around three million dollars making it very state of the art. It lasted 14 months. Number one, the room was too complex. Even if they were booked every day, they would not make enough money to pay their bills. Number two, they didn't have a client base to build on; they had a few people who weren't from the area using the studio. You need to have a client base so that you know certain people will come use your studio. Don't overbuild or overspend, so you're affordable and competitive in your prices.”


“My job is to give the client everything they demand to make their session go as smoothly and as technically perfect as possible,” says Tom Harding. The son of an air force officer, Harding grew up mostly in Utah. After nearly flunking out of college, he followed his family to Saudi Arabia, where his father was stationed for a year, then returned to America determined to become a recording engineer. At a recording workshop in Ohio, he learned about music recording courses at schools in Miami, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), and Memphis State. He contacted all three and made his selection based on the fact that Memphis was the only school that sent enrollment information. MTSU sent a catalog, and he never even heard from Miami. “I was accepted to Memphis. I was cleaning out my desk drawers and packing, and threw the MTSU catalog in the garbage. It fell open in the recording department section and there was a picture of a console and the studio. I picked it up, looked at it, and said, ‘Wow, this is the school that I want to go to.’”

While at MTSU, Harding served an internship at Elektra Records in the public relations department. When an employee heard his college recording project, she was impressed and encouraged him to return to engineering. The employee arranged an introduction to Gene Eichelberger, who in turn alerted him to an assistant's job at a newly opened sound studio. Initially standoffish, the studio manager changed his mind when Harding stated that Eichelberger had sent him, and he was hired for the position.

With free run of the studio when it was not in use on weekends, Harding started bringing in rock bands from around town to play while he practiced the effects he had seen the engineers do. One of the engineers was Ed Seay, who began handing off demo sessions to Harding, giving him the chance to operate in the first engineer position. When Intruder, one of the weekend bands, was signed to a label, he produced three of their albums, and won eight of the 1991 Nashville Music Awards, including Producer of the Year and Album of the Year.

Harding went on to produce recordings for Kennedy Rose, BB King, Etta James, Buddy Guy, and Cissy Houston, and engineered for ZZ Top. In 1995, he and a friend looked at a studio that was for rent, and the two decided to go into business together. They leased space on Music Row, bought a load of used equipment, and set up Tombstone Recording. Three months later, the tape machines broke down and had to be replaced. When the landlord raised the rent, Harding found another building, bought it, and began remodeling. During the process, his partner dropped out and he continued on alone. Since that time, numerous record labels and publishing companies, as well as artists like Burt Bacharach, Brooks & Dunn, and Pam Tillis, have made Tombstone their studio of choice. www.tombstonerecording.com

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessRECORDING - Production: Producer • Record Producer, Recording Engineer And Mixer, Engineer • Second Engineer, Mastering Engineer