At the time of our interview, Doppler Studio is due to open in Leicester as a recording and rehearsal space with a difference.
Owner Nico Singh has big ideas for his new place and hopes that a combination of daytime co-working space and nighttime music production and rehearsal rooms will provide the local creative community with just what they need.
Nico tells us how he came to acquire the space and how his vision for its purpose has grown and taken shape.
What inspired you to start your studio?
It was actually the space where I just went to be for my business. I run an event promotions company and three years ago I started to run a record label spinoff to the events company. Coming out of Covid now it means that it's given me an opportunity to start rebuilding and building on the foundations of the record label. I'm trying to not make it like a side project, I wanted it to be a viable business just like my events company.
So I remember seeing the listing for the building on RightMove and then actually didn't get a call back till maybe a week or two afterwards. I got the call and I was with a new member of staff and he said 'do you want to come and see it now?' I couldn't remember which property I asked to have a look at because I tend to look at properties quite often – I've also opened a couple cocktail bars before in the past and started to dabbling commercial leases. So, yeah, just went to go have a look at it and I thought it was an amazing space. The layout and the rooms, it just feels like it's got a bit of character to it before I've even started on the renovations.
The layout and the rooms, it just feels like it's got a bit of character to it before I've even started on the renovations.
I'm used to going into properties where you renovate it to turn it into something special, but if it already has a special something then, yeah, it can be a great space. Then I got the terms of the lease and I started to learn a bit more about the history of the property. In Leicester, there’s a huge live scene and I think this is probably one of the most famous studios in Leicester. I think it dates back to the 90s.
It used to be called Wong Studios. There's a few pictures online of what it looked like and it looked real cool. And I think there's going to be a lot of people really wanting the studio, so I'm quite pleased that we've managed to get a hold of it keep it in the same stead as what it previously was, but not so focused around live music.
I think in Leicester, like I said, live music is so big. I predominantly dabble in electronic music and that's my passion and this is what I'm about. Even though my events are quite large and there is quite a big electronic scene here, I guess there aren’t spaces or facility for people to use [to create and record music], so it's kind of apart from Pirate which is like on a very basic level. But creating a strong community around something like electronic music … it's not just going to be electronic music … anyone that's creative [can use it]. It could be even like arts and visual arts, graphic design and things like that.
So, like a working space for creatives?
Yeah, so it's got five different rooms, so I was thinking, cool, I can have loads of different things like a recording studio, a DJ studio and office space, but then because there’s only myself that really works on my business (I have a lot of people that work part-time and a few of those people are in different cities) it didn't make sense for me to have this whole big space just to use by myself when it's probably not going to get used.
More of a hub and community space. That way its self-sufficient and I'm able to give back something to the wider community and give other people a platform rather than just my own business.
Then I thought, you know what, why don't I just hire it out? More of a hub and community space. That way its self-sufficient and I'm able to give back something to the wider community and give other people a platform rather than just my own business.
So yeah, I can help other people to use a space and make it accessible. And because of the terms of the lease being quite favourable, it means I'm able to offer fairly decent prices for people to access it as well, which I think is cool. So yeah, that was the whole idea around it.
I usually speak to established studios, but it's interesting to hear your story starting this fresh
Yeah, I've no I've no experience in running a recording studio whatsoever!
What kinds of people are you designing the space for? What communities are you looking to work with?
So for the daytime 9–5 with the co-working space, I guess that would be pretty much open to everyone. I’m not going to be like, oh well, are you interested in music? It's pretty open. There'll be options to pay daily and monthly and then along with the monthly one there'll be an ‘access all areas’ pass where you can use the co-working space along with all of the rooms. So what you'll get is like an allocated amount of hours a week and you can choose however you spend them along with all the optional extras.
So, you know, you’ll have access to our SLR cameras and memory cards and the DJ stuff, anything that we have you can use. I'm hoping that encourages creatives to want to use this space. So that would be around £300 a month I think and then if you don't want that you just want to co-working space to have your own desk, it'll be £100 a month and then it'll just be like a tenner a day for anyone that just wants to use it on a kind of ad-hoc basis.
And then in the daytime, the DJ studio won't be in use because, obviously, we'll be working from there and I don't really want any music bleed while we're working. That room we’ll be able to use as a photography studio, so it's kind of like just making use of the spaces as much as we can if it's not being used and being a bit more clever with it. One of the meeting rooms I want to turn into a podcast studio as well. So yeah, having different use of the spaces at different times.
So, what does a day in your life look like?
I tend to tackle some of my emails first. So the settings on my phone, you can turn apps off, so I have a me-time one which basically just turns off most of the apps apart from some of my health ones and Spotify. And then I have a work one which will turn off my social media apps and just keep my Gmail, WhatsApp and things like that so like I'm fully in work mode. I get such a bad habit just picking up my phone and scrolling on TikTok, that is such a such a bad habit! Since I've been using this kind of flow of work with these apps, it's improved my workflow, so so much. I find I'm getting so much more work done.
Also, when I do my emails, I'm trying to not do it on my phone; I'm trying to sit down and take the time to run through them all because I probably get like 10–20 emails a day and I find it a lot easier if I sit down and do them all at once. And once I've gone through them, I tend to maybe go to the gym and then I'll just start my day completing some of my other tasks really.
What will happen now in terms of the lease, what I will do is all the operations side of things, so getting the website ready, liaise with the designers, sort the licensing out for the bar. I should have mentioned earlier with the co-working space I'm looking at getting some like decent folded foldable desks and putting them away so in the evening we can put on events. I've been sorting out the licence for that.
So a lot of the organising emails, a lot of the communications is kind of what I do on a day-to-day basis and I guess just overseeing some of the bits and bobs that one of the guys that works with me will manage to build. A good friend of mine called Mikey is an interior designer. He previously designed my cocktail bar and he's a really great designer. What he is doing at the moment is doing all of that for all of the rooms - he's done the DJ room already and I can then pass it onto my DIY guy and then he'll start bringing some of the contractors in to make it what it is. So yeah, when I'm not doing emails, I'm overseeing these other things.
Did your plans change after Covid? Was that the instigator for your studio?
Before Covid we were on quite a good path in terms of growth, just moving 100 miles per hour then Covid happened. It stopped us in our tracks immediately, to the point where one day we were working real hard every single day, seven days a week and then bam. It was like I'm at home and I don't know what to do. Just sitting down in my boxers playing Call of Duty every day. I haven't been a gamer since I was young and I try to avoid it as much as possible because I get addicted, but that was literally me for like a long time.
Yeah I didn't handle Covid as good as I could have. I literally just did the complete opposite of what I was doing before and just chilled and did nothing for a long time and I think in hindsight I wish I had planned a lot more things and just adapted to what we could do within the parameters rather than not doing anything.
I think I was so bitter about the whole situation - the growth trajectory that we were on, it was just too disheartening, so I was just like fuck it. I'm just gonna wait, I'm gonna wait till things are just completely back open and I was just waiting waiting waiting. It affected my business too much. So after Covid there was a lot of rebuilding to the point where I'm slowly back to where I was before.
So it's only now where I'm able to make the decisions like building this recording studio and having the confidence to really go full force of it really.
What are the biggest challenges in the music industry in your opinion?
We're slowly getting there to be honest, but we're growing on places like TikTok and using Instagram reels and working out what content we need to get on there for it to engage.
It's currently going through massive massive change, in terms of how creators and artists communicate with their fans. I think that's the biggest one at the moment and it's something that I've not really hit the nail on the head on yet.
We're slowly getting there to be honest, but we're growing on places like TikTok and using Instagram reels and working out what content we need to get on there for it to engage. I guess the next thing for me is, once we have those followers, is how do we then direct them in the places that we want to direct them. I think the biggest problem is not so much for the younger artist because they were brought up with this. It's more the artists that were trying to break through previously and them not really grasping on it especially if you're an introvert. If you're not someone that is really comfortable with putting yourself out there then it's not looking good, because to gain any traction you've got to be able to put yourself out there.
You've got to have a bit of something about you – a bit of charisma. You don't have to do things that you don't want to do, but I think what’s for people to understand is find what you feel comfortable doing and having a bit of confidence to show your personality and things that you like. And I think for a lot of people it's a bit like, oh, I'm not doing that because they just see people doing dances on TikTok and everything else, but I think you can do what you do, you just need to show it in a different way. But I can understand it's hard for people that feel uncomfortable doing that especially in the music scene when a lot of people are introverts. A lot of people just like to hide away and be creative and work by themselves and I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges in the industry at the moment.
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