[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Writing great music takes a long time, but recording it is what can really hurt a band, as it can require every dollar a group has to their name. Recording a song or an album in a bedroom is a possibility for some acts, but it doesn’t work for every artist out there, and recording studios are still needed for many groups trying to put great tunes out into the world. Completing a full-length record can be a massive expense, and it’s one that’s nearly impossible to avoid, so how is a band to limit the cost as much as possible?
Here are a few tips that might help you (and in some cases, your bandmates) lower the sky-high price of recording an album, if only a little.
1. Make Sure The Songs Are Ready!
When you listen to superstar musicians talking about the work they’re doing on a new album, they often say they’re “in the studio,” and they use that phrase when it comes to developing ideas, writing songs, practicing, and so on. They always seem to be in the studio, and while that’s the goal for many artists who want to create as much music as they can, it can get very expensive if someone else isn’t footing the bill.
Most of those artists either have enough money to live in a recording studio if they like, actually do live in a recording studio (if they have one in their own home), or their record labels are willing to pay for a seemingly unlimited amount of time in a pricey locale where many hits have been crafted. It sounds wonderful, and in some ways it is, but if you’re a new act, you shouldn’t set foot in a recording studio until you have everything ready to go.
By the time you’re in the studio, you should know what you want to walk away with, both from you and your bandmates, and also from the producer. That person might have some suggestions, and you should be willing to discuss them with him or her, but don’t go into the room without a vision.
If you don’t want to tack on too many extra hours onto your probably already sizable bill (a few hours you weren’t counting on is an inevitability when it comes to making an album), try to be as set as you can before you even book your studio time.
What’s the best way to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be before you and your fellow musicians begin recording? Rehearse! Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse some more! While it can certainly get boring after a while, rehearsing your tunes is something you’re going to need to do a lot as a working musician, so suck it up and keep practicing until it’s perfect!
These rehearsals you and your band go through before you record your album aren’t just a great way to save some cash when it comes to your bill with the studio, they’re what you will need to do no matter what.
After the album is done, you’ll be touring it, won’t you?
Gearing up for a full trek will require you to master your own songs so you can put on the best show possible, so think of your constant rehearsals as not just a way to keep some money in your bank accounts, but also as an investment in your future touring.
3. Make Sure The Producer Knows What They’re Doing
This is a bit trickier than simply being prepared for your time in the studio, but you should do your best to find out if the person who will be working the software and the machines on the other side of the glass actually knows what they are doing.
If the producer employed by the studio (which is typically how it works for those musical acts just getting started, as they don’t often recruit their own producers) isn’t any good, you may need to pay for more time, or possibly even book other sessions at different locations later on, which can cost you a pretty penny.
See if you can find a list of bands that have recorded their full-lengths at that studio (which the company might have available, or which you may have to do some digging to compile) and give them a play. Are they good? Is the quality what you had in mind? If you can consistently hear issues in the recording, someone didn’t do something right along the way, and you might want to look for another option.
Also, once you find some bands that have recorded at the studio you’re thinking about, feel free to reach out to some of them, especially those that are smaller, and ask about their experience. If you come across several bad recommendations in regards to the studio or the producer, stay away from one, or possibly both.
4. Strike A Deal
If you just need to record one song, you likely won’t be able to lower the advertised price per hour on studio time, but if you and your bandmates are going to be booking many hours in order to lay down every instrument, vocals, and add some extra time to make sure everything is perfect with the producer, the company is looking at a lot of money, and they might be willing to work with you to save a few dollars.
Politely ask whoever is in charge about getting a discount if you book a certain number of hours.
You never know what you can get until you put the question out there, and many owners of these types of establishments are willing to grant upstart bands a slightly better rate if they know you’ll be returning for more. It might not save you a ton, but every little bit helps!