27 Mar

A space to call your own

What to expect when you’re booking a rehearsal room.

I was recently pointed in the direction of an article on facebook that aimed to give musicians an idea of what to expect from a rehearsal space if they are booking for the first time, the first time in a long time or if you’ve been at it for as long as you can remember. As I’m able to comment on things from both sides of the counter as a player as well as a studio worker I thought I’d have a look through what they had to say and see if the points they made were valid or if some the expectations were a little more than they should be, especially as most of us are musicians that do it as well as a full time job and don’t have a label/management company to pick up the tab. In these situations most of us are happy with a clean, tidy, well equipped and friendly atmosphere for a good price rather than wanting all of the bells and whistles at a price that can sometimes be at least 2-3 times more per hour than you would expect to pay at your local rehearsal studio.

So here are some extracts from that article with comments wearing both my musicians and studio assistant’s hat. 

It’s important to note at this point that the writers of the original article freely admit that they were not able to visit ANY of the studios in person and their conclusions were based solely on web presence. While this doesn’t negate any of the points they make, you have to remember that you should always try and visit any studio you are considering using in person, as a well cropped photo or slight exaggeration of the truth on the website blurb can make things seem more reasonable and attractive than they actually are. Just like everything else on the internet!

Anyhow, here are a selection of points from the article and a few responses.

"Sick of visiting a practice room where the gear looks like it's been pulled from a skip?

Tired of using a dingy practice room that smells like a cesspit?

 No longer want to wear three pairs of gloves and a parka coat in the winter?

Well get a load of this. We followed hundreds of music rehearsal spaces' websites and Facebook pages to see what was on offer. This article takes the best of the lot and distills our findings in an easy to follow summary.

We didn't compare prices but rather grouped common offers to create three proposed levels to give an idea of the range of services available to a rehearsing musician. The more services you require the higher the cost.

We were not able to visit the spaces in person so we wholly relied on how well they presented themselves on the internet.

To start with we took the perspective of a rehearsing musician. Many musician's requirements for a workspace are modest. It is also likely most users of music rehearsal spaces live no more than 30 minutes’ drive-time away.

We are all driven by budget, but make sure you factor in all the costs when you use a practice room. If a space is local and convenient, this is a big consideration. If a band member can’t get to a rehearsal for the start time, then that is effectively money wasted."

At the most basic level most musicians would be happy with a practice room that is:

  1. Well lit
  2. Warm and dry
  3. Open till late in the evening 
  4. Basically clean (vacuumed regularly)
  5. Near to a clean WC with running water
  6. Safe and secure (fire escape, fire alarm light)
  7. Easily bookable by phone, email and/or website
  8. Full of accessible power sockets round the walls
  9. Nearby to good public transport links and/or parking
  10. Big enough to work in with ease - for a 4-5 piece band
  11. Providing basic refreshments such as tea & coffee (some spaces may charge)
  12. Reasonably priced - cheapest is not always the best, and you get what you pay for"

This list is quite comprehensive as to the sort of thing you should expect from a rehearsal studio and looking through I’m happy to say that we easily put a big tick next to all of the points. Clean, dry, well lit, regularly hoovered (by hoovering experts!), lots of power points in the room and we’ll even make you a cup of tea if you don’t want to raid our drinks and sweets cabinet! With our new online booking form it’s never been easier to book a room.

"Often music rehearsal spaces advertise the dry hire cost of the practice room, meaning no amps, no drum kits, no mics, sometimes no PA. All these items can be chargeable extras. You may have your own mics, drum kit and amps to use, in which case a dry hire may be the most economical option. But if you want all the gear supplied as part of the deal, then what seems the best price can soon escalate."

In our experience, most bands tend to prefer to use their own equipment at rehearsals. Sometimes a band member won’t have a particularly suitable bit of gear and will want to hire something. We operate a system of a dry room cost plus a flat rate for equipment hire on top. Previously we used to offer the hire on a per item basis, which when added could end up costing quite a large amount, so we simplified it so that you can have up to three pieces of gear for one price. The price changes depending on how long you do, so remember when you are booking to be completely clear about what it is you need to hire, what does and doesn’t come with the equipment and how much the total will be. Click Here for our current prices.

"Spaces that rent gear in often require the hirer to collect and set it up. To unpack and set up a drum kit can take up to 20 minutes. Some spaces require it all broken down again. This process can lose you the best part of an hour. It is a good idea to check exactly what comes as part of the deal."

Where at all possible the equipment is in the room for you when you arrive, although if you are having a later session and the band before are using all of their own equipment then it will be brought in when you change over. Most drummers are used to setting up and breaking down their hardware in the high pressure situation of a gig changeover so the laid back atmosphere of the rehearsal studio shouldn’t result in you losing up to an hour of your rehearsal.

"Some spaces charge an extra hour if a hirer is one minute late leaving the room, or double time in 15-minute units. Some may charge for room cleaning. Whilst it is good manners to clear up your mess, it is always worth asking about the space’s get-in/out policy."

We run quite a relaxed ship at Farm Factory. As long as you are aware of the time that you have booked and that if there is another band following you into the room after your session it’s just common sense and courtesy to leave it the way you found it and to be out on time. Hitting people with penalties and being overly strict doesn’t help anybody.

"There are more features musicians may want according to their work, instruments and working methods. In addition to a basic workspace, they may wish to have some or all the following additional features (in no particular order):

  1. Lighting rig 
  2. Air conditioning
  3. Raised stage area
  4. Floor wedge monitors
  5. Access to Wi-Fi and/or broadband
  6. Space to run education workshops
  7. Car parking close to entrance of room
  8. A small shop to purchase consumables 
  9. Help to promote your gigs and releases
  10. Reception, administration support and facilities
  11. Ground floor room access to ease load in/out or has a lift
  12. Attention to detail to make your rehearsal more pleasurable
  13. A larger performance or showcase space, perhaps with mirrors
  14. A space that encourages inter-band networking through its social media site
  15. Informal relaxation and social space to break out, take refreshments and chat 
  16. Resource base such as a noticeboard with information on opportunities, vacancies, etc"

We cater for musicians right across the spectrum, from beginners to professionals. We like to think that we treat all of our customers the same way, and whether you are turning up in your own car or a tour bus you will be treated the same way. If you are booking a lockout for an extended period of time we can provide extras such as tea making facilities in the room itself. Looking through the list above from a personal level, I’ve always worried more that the facilities are friendly, comfortable and well equipped musically before I begin to worry if there is a raised stage, air conditioning etc. Another key factor is ground floor access and somewhere to park. The thought of turning up at a studio only to discover I have to park sometimes up to 5 minutes’ walk away as there is no parking space and then that I have to carry gear up or downstairs can immediately turn a potentially good rehearsal into a bad one. We carry a selection of spares/strings/picks etc. If your guitar stops working or you have a catastrophe with your drum kit, we’ll always try and help you out with a soldering iron, gaffer tape, or in extreme circumstances we keep a bottle of superglue!

"A good rehearsal space should provide you exclusive access to your selected practice room and its facilities with no distractions such as people walking in and out interrupting your productivity. Ideally your practice room will not double up as a live room in a recording studio - the space will make more money from a recording session and may cancel your rehearsal booking."

The exclusive access part of this should be a given wherever you are rehearsing. If access to another part of the building is only available through your rehearsal space then you should definitely be looking for somewhere else. The only time there should be any interruptions is to let you know that it’s time to finish up and pack away. We do this as we are fully aware that sometimes you lose track of time. While we do use our studio live room for rehearsals we would always honour bookings and wouldn’t cancel yours, as we have had phone calls from bands that this has happened to, and we ALWAYS try and help out or accommodate where we can.

"Before you book a practice room ask to have a look round while it is not in use to avoid the four hates:

Members hate travelling - ensure the space is located centrally

Hate having a faulty or under-powered PA – check with a quick mic test

Hate hearing another band in the next room - check it has good soundproofing

Musicians hate being roadies – find a space with ground floor access and no stairs

Remember, professional bands pay extra for a larger room, good quality PA and extras such as foldback, fridge in room, whiteboard, chill out lounge etc."

I think we’ve pretty much covered most of the questions we get when new bands (or old ones who have been away for a while!) call up wanting to know what we offer, what we don’t, why we do, and indeed sometimes why we don’t! Our main aim at Farm Factory is to make sure you have a good rehearsal experience, whatever level you are at.

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