How This Music Mogul Turned Setbacks into Opportunities
By Maya Leon
I got to connect with yet another incredible human being, Walter Randall. He uses Schedulicity for his business. Walter’s the owner of Lounge Studios in New York City, and let me tell you… I’ve never met anyone who has the art of manifestation so deeply dialed in.
Every time one opportunity fell through, an even better one would take its place.
How? Well, continue reading and you’ll admire Walter as much as we do!
Why did you pursue music for your business?
Growing up, I was an athlete. I played football through high school and even got a football scholarship. I thought I was on the way to the NFL, but all of that came crashing down when I tore my ACL for the first time. After my second ACL accident, I felt like God was telling me to do something else.
That’s when I decided to not play my senior year. I finished up college, and instead chose my second passion, music as my career.
Wow, I love that you used your injuries as an opportunity, rather than a setback. How did you turn your passion for music into an actual business?
My goal was to be a music mogul, but obviously, you need money to support your goals. So I had to find a way. For me, that was owning a studio in a city where most of the music happens: Manhattan.
That’s when I drove my truck to New York and got a temporary room in the Bronx for $125/week while I looked for a permanent place. Now, that process was not easy.
I first hired a broker, but ended up with a place that had no 24-hour access. Recording studios need to be open all the time.
So I decided it’s better to find a place on my own. I ended up finding a commercial space right in Times Square, but it was out of my price range. I thought, “How would I afford both a commercial space and rent at the same time?”
I couldn’t. I had to get rid of the apartment and just went for the studio space!
That sounded like a difficult decision to make. What was the next step to opening your studio?
I started building, of course. With a small budget, I couldn’t hire a contractor.
At the same time, I had never built anything in my life! There were many, many trips to Home Depot and Barnes & Noble to learn how.
Remember, there wasn’t even YouTube back in the day. It took a whole year to build the place out. And that would be the first room that I built: the Brown Sugar room.
Yay! Your first studio! How did you market your studio and when did you start making money?
Building the studio, as hard as that sounds, was nothing compared to marketing and strategy. With that, it was different. I couldn’t just force my mind like I could force my body.
My grandmother made me business cards, which I passed out wherever I could, trying to get some sessions.
It wasn’t successful. I ended up not having enough money to pay rent for 2 months straight.
I had to get a temporary job at Macy’s the next day, but halfway through… I had a revelation: “Leave here and go to 125th Street and pass out cards all day.”
And I did.
I didn’t leave until it was nighttime, but I pretty much never struggled with rent after that. People just started calling the card and that was the beginning of me having a client base.
With everything you’ve accomplished, it seems like there’s something unexplainable that is guiding you to be at the right place, at the right time.
Yes, exactly. It’s like a divine intervention that takes me off the path I’m on and puts me where I need to be. It’s stressful sometimes because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You just trust your gut. Whenever there’s a “no” it always leads to a bigger “yes.”
What was a memorable setback that turned into an opportunity?
While I was building out my 3rd studio, I began working with the Knowles family on an exclusive studio just for Beyonce. Word got out and Atlantic Records was interested in the same space.
I had to turn them down because I was already working with the Knowles on that room.
But then that deal fell through.
Soon after, Atlantic Records contacted me again, offering me more money!
It was the first 7-figure deal I ever had!
They even paid me upfront for the whole year, which I used to build my 4th studio, Vanilla Sky!
You have 4 successful studios now, but when did you feel it was time to grow Brown Sugar Studio?
We were doing really good here with Brown Sugar, always packed and working with some major labels. It was all just word of mouth. Then, the next thing you know, the labels are calling and booking sessions.
People like Kelly Rowland would try to come by, but we couldn’t get her in and had to turn her down.
That’s when I realized we were losing business because we didn’t have enough rooms.
You mentioned the record labels were calling to book studio sessions. How did you manage it all?
When I just had one studio, it was manageable. I would just use Google Calendar. But when I got the second room and was building the third, it was all really weighing on me. It was hard to focus on the rest of my construction where I had to stop every two seconds to make sure I was getting people booked.
My brain wouldn’t be totally working, and some days I’d double book.
This was when I could barely pay rent. I definitely couldn’t pay anyone to do this for me.
So I Googled “scheduling help” or something and saw Schedulicity! I think I did a trial or free version back in 2013, just to see how it ran. It was everything that I’d been trying to do on my own.
Schedulicity changed everything for me. I would never have been able to keep up, so that literally changed the game. It was the first time I stepped away from being the owner-operator and just got to be the owner.
I wasn’t delegating to a person, but I was delegating to a software. It freed up so much of my time and cut back on mistakes I was making when with manual booking. It really changed my life.
Wow, we’re glad to see that we can provide a software that works so well for you! What would you say is your most favorite feature on Schedulicity – that others can benefit from, too?
No-show policies. I had so many clients coming in, but people would start to no-show.
I sell time, so there’s only 24 hours that I have to work with. If somebody takes up that time by not showing up, I can’t get that back.
So, that was starting to hurt me.
But then you guys started a thing where you could take the person’s card and charge them for a no-show. To book now, you have to put in your card, and if you don’t give a 48-hour notice, we’ll charge you for the session. That was all done automatically through Appointment Policies.
Even so, credit card fraud became an issue with prepaid cards or cards clients didn’t even own. So, you guys rolled out another development for full payments or deposits!
We also started taking deposits on everything and we still do to this day.
What would you say sets you and your brand apart?
All the big studios are out of business now and the reason is that real estate costs have skyrocketed. My rent has gone up about 200% since I first got this place.
Again, time is our money-maker, the only way to keep up is to raise the prices. That coupled with smaller recording budgets, mainly because people stopped buying music as much.
How I combated this trend was by accident.
I always made my prices affordable, just enough for me to make a little bit of money.
“I knew that if I made a little bit of money…a lot of times I could catch up with the bigger studios that weren’t booked as much.”
One of the things I got known for really fast—in a bad way—from the labels anyway was that I would not move small clients for bigger clients.
The labels used to hate that because they were used to dealing with the old way.
The regular people loved that about me. They were recording where the big people were and they weren’t getting screwed in the process. So, it really built up my relationships with the everyday people who were just pursuing their dreams, just like me.
That’s how Schedulicity is too! We know that small business owners are the backbone of our economy and they have struggles that big businesses just don’t have. We want to give them the same opportunity as the rest!
Do you see other recording studios using scheduling software like you do?
When I told guys who’ve been in the business longer than me that I use a scheduling software to book my sessions, they almost laughed at me because they don’t think that’s a viable way to do business.
The traditional way you book a recording studio is…you don’t even call. Even if you call them, they require you to send an email. So, you have to wait for somebody to get back to you, which might be that day – if you’re lucky.
But I think that using Schedulicity is why I’m one of the few ones left.
Because of Schedulicity, I haven’t had the overhead that the other guys have had through the years. I don’t think they get that.
When I switched over, so many people said, ‘Yo! It’s so easy to book the studio!’
That’s one of the pluses about our business: You don’t have to wait for somebody to email you back, check prices, or see what times are available.
Did Walter’s story inspire you?
Walter has all the key ingredients necessary to own a successful business.
He works with integrity and passion – and with everyone. While working with big labels like Atlantic Records, he still supports independent artists.
Walter’s recording studio business is a prime example of how Schedulicity can grow with your small business – from one location to multiple locations. Learn more about our software here.
Thank you, Walter for sharing your story with us!