Music studio company Metropolis has turned to a software system it believes requires only a light touch to run its business and back up its expansion plans.
Half of the UK’s top 40 is recorded, mixed and mastered at Metropolis’s Grade II “Power House” complex in Chiswick, but the studio’s future depends on diversifying its business into video, events, publishing and music management, as well as geographical expansion – including a facility in Doha in the Middle East.
Oli Sussat, director of marketing communications and technology at Metropolis Studios, relates how the studio replaced its SAP Business One enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with Apple-centric FileMaker 14 software.
“My role is to help the business become more than a recording studio. Metropolis is 25 years old, and the recording studio model does not work as it used to, with big rooms full of expensive gear,” says Sussat.
“It’s now more of a creative complex. The facility in Doha, for example, is the world’s most advanced centre for orchestral composition and recording – it even comes with its own resident philharmonic orchestra,” he adds.
Metropolis was acquired in May 2013 by Kainne Clements and two other investors. Clements also acquired the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford in September 2013 and runs the two in parallel.
On acquisition, Clements’ management team found Metropolis to be run on SAP Business One.
“The whole business was geared towards putting information into what was effectively a closed box. We were getting nothing out of it. The organisation was working for a software package – it was like that.
“We couldn’t get basic information such as ‘what are the occupancy rates of our studios?’ and ‘who are our biggest paying customers?’,” he says.
The company switched to FileMaker 14, which it uses for its financial accounting, booking and reservation operations, and as data capture for information about audio and video created at the studio.
Connected and creative
FileMaker 14 works across mobile browsers, which is useful for when Metropolis's musician clients bring in their own devices to work in the studio.
“We’re a better connected business thanks to FileMaker. We’re expanding our international credentials and we get to spend more time with our clients, rather than worrying about lengthy administration,” says Sussat.
“I had previous experience of FileMaker, and we already had skills in-house to build the system ourselves. Filemaker allows us to extend our systems to Doha and make changes to deal with local peculiarities. It comes down to the speed of integration.
“We were done in a matter of weeks with the switch from SAP to FileMaker, including purchase orders and sales invoices, as well as the custom changes we do with our creative processes,” he says.
According to Sussat, the switch to FileMaker meant the studio was able to provide more hospitality for artists, as previously it was difficult to know who had what, making it hard to bill them correctly.
FileMaker also allows the studio to make full use of its 24/7 facilities, says Sussat.
“When artists decide to arrive at 3 o’clock in the morning, we can deal with that. Before, the bookers did not have the information at their fingertips. Now, even if at home, they have their iPads and can book studio time,” he says.
The cost of implementation was around one-quarter of the SAP licensing fee and the annual licensing cost for FileMaker is about 5% of that for the previous system, says Sussat. Metropolis is now profitable, whereas it was losing £1m per year prior to acquisition, he adds.
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