Music Garage: Fine Tuning Music for Chicago Talent

Music Garage: Fine Tuning Music for Chicago Talent

Many musicians start their musical experience by first practicing in a garage.  When Joe Lardieri opens up his business for the day, he has aspiring musicians walk into a garage that contains his car and a few pieces of equipment, but that’s not where they will practice.

Going through a door that leads out of the garage, musicians are taken down a hall of rehearsal studios, each one containing a soundboard, drums, amps and a few mic stands.  Looking down his “Hall of Fame”, musicians become inspired seeing that legends like Jennifer Hudson, The Wanted, John Legend and Sting have performed there as well. 

Hall of Fame at Music Garage, . (Brendan O'Brien, 14 East)

Hall of Fame at Music Garage, 345 N. Loomis St. (Brendan O’Brien, 14 East)

Located at 345 N. Loomis St., Music Garage is a rehearsal space for local musicians in Chicago. While the business originated from Brooklyn in 1989, Music Garage opened an additional space  in Chicago in 2007.

Before Music Garage began, Lardieri looked for an opportunity to do something new for business. It ended up being one of his friends that got him to start Music Garage.

“I spent most of my life in the corporate world and got to the top of that pyramid,” he said. “When my friend asked me to come out for this entrepreneurial experience, I thought it was time to do something that I really love.”

With a love of the arts, Lardieri decided to do something in the field of music. Lardieri was a frequent concert goer during college and loved the experience of going to a concert and seeing musicians perform a piece they worked tirelessly on. Becoming the CEO of Music Garage, he wanted to help the musicians of Chicago hone their talents and work on their performance.

Hitting the right notes for business

To maintain business, Joe relied on three revenue sources: monthly studios, hourly studios and the showcase room.

Music Garage has 96 monthly studios that bands can use for practice. Bands can rent a private room starting at $525 each month or can share a room with another band for $400 each month.

While used for temporary rehearsal space, hourly studios prices vary by the day and time. Musicians coming in from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. pay $5 per person and musicians coming in from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. pay $7 per person. Customers using studios between 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. pay $6 per person. On the weekends, pricing is $6 per person during all hours of operation. The showcase room is also used for small events for bands at $75 per hour.

Hourly studio space. (Brendan O'Brien, 14 East)

Hourly studio space. (Brendan O’Brien, 14 East)

“The monthly rooms make up 60 percent of the business, the hourly studios make up 30 percent, and showcase rooms bring in 6 percent,” he said.

The studios also come equipped with a variety of music equipment and recording stations. Vic’s Drum Shop, another business Lardieri owns, provides drum sets to hourly studios so drummers do not need to bring equipment all the way there for a short session. The studios also contain amps, microphones and recording stations.

“They have great recording studios and they come fully equipped with a variety of equipment that makes it easier for a short session,” said Eli Rowell, a drummer for the band UnderFire, a local, hard rock band in Chicago.

To assist the musicians, Lardieri has a team of interns working for him. While working in different areas of the business, all interns work with bands to set up their space and practice times.

“While we assist with setup, we also do fun stuff with the bands,” said Skylar Fitzpatrick, the artist relations intern. “I work with bands to promote their brands on social media, it really lets me have fun with developing their music.”

With promoting bands, Fitzpatrick did “Featured Artist” posts through Music Garage’s Facebook page. The posts highlight the musicians’ genre and the inspiration for their music. The posts can do single musicians like Ezkiel and Shawnee Dez or bands like Capital Vices and Friday Pilots Club.

Out of the garage and into the community

Despite the flow of customers, Lardieri saw the decrease of the music industry’s ability to sell music as a problem. With streaming services taking over, it makes it difficult for musicians to profit from their work.

Streaming services allow consumers to access music easily but do not result in a major profit for musicians. According to an article from Forbes, several of the biggest streaming services pay a minimal amount every time a subscriber downloads a song. A business such as Pandora pays $0.0011 per download while Spotify pays slightly more at $0.0038.

Because of this low pay, Lardieri found that streaming services provide a unique opportunity for his business.

“This trend is somewhat beneficial,” he said. “Because bands need to tour more to make a living, they need a space to rehearse.”

Lardieri gives musicians the freedom to perform what they want instead of having his business control what these musicians sing. While Lardieri said his business could easily become corporate by deciding the music performed by musicians, hat would stifle creativity. By giving musicians a place to practice without interfering with their music, Lardieri believes that this helps musicians grown in their genre. He wants his customers’ music to be as “diverse as possible.”

“You don’t see many places offering spaces for musicians to rehearse,” said customer Erica Sanchez. “If a place offers rehearsal space, it shouldn’t limit a musician’s creativity.”

To give musicians full support, Lardieri utilized other venues for assistance. His business partnered with local music venues such as Bottom Lounge, Empty Bottle and Lincoln Hall to give musicians a chance to show off their hours of practice. Due to Music Garage’s connections to the community, the staff work with these locations to organize shows for local bands that practice at the facility.

“There’s this synergy we have with all these places. Working with them creates a sense of community,” Lardieri said.

Despite the changing music industry, Lardieri wants musicians to have a place where they have the freedom to experiment with new sounds and enjoy the music creating process.

“For our culture, we hit on three things important in this business: creativity, tolerance and really good music,” Lardieri said.


Header photo by Brendan O’Brien