YOU'RE NOT READY YET.
Why? What are you going to do with 950 CDs after you give 50
of them to your friends and family? Do you know what recording
and duplication will cost? How long it will take? Where you should
record? Artwork? Film? Separations? Mastering? For those of you
who think you're ready, this is a master list of some helpful
BUDGET. If you're selling
something, you need a good product. Produce only your best work.
Nobody gets a deal by recording an average product. Spend the
money to do a good job or don't do it at all. You can't really
budget your money until you decide on the studio and CD manufacturer.
Studios charge from $0.00 to $150.00 per hour. The efficiency
of the engineer and the organization of the studio can make a
lot of difference to your budget. An efficient engineer at 50
bucks an hour will even out with an inefficient engineer at 25
bucks an hour. Your friend Bob might really be a good choice,
especially if he's free but be sure he can do the work!
GOT MONEY? GET MONEY.
Most of the logical ways to get money are: 1) Play a lot of gigs.
It helps in lots of ways. Of course along the way, you have been
developing your mailing list, right? 2) Take advance orders by
selling to that mailing list you developed. Don't be shy. Your
family and friends want to buy more than anyone else. You'd better
have your act together so you have the product when promised.
3) Borrow from Mom and Dad, or a bank, or an uncle. Show them
how you'll pay them back and when. 4) Save money from your real
job. Remember, most record labels want to sign you when you're
GET READY TO RECORD. Should you spend time rehearsing in
the studio, or at a gig? I'd say, surprise, a gig. If you're
rehearsed before you go into the studio it will cost you much
less to record. DUH! Your live show will stay more like your
recording and the audience response is a good gauge to know what
material you should record. Most projects are to land a label
deal. If so, your recording will be the tool to get an A&R
guy to come see you at a gig, hopefully more than once. You will
be signed from your stage performance not your CD, so it helps
to be gig tough. By the way, now's the time to get started on
how you want your CD to look and feel (concept). Think about:
title, cover photo, liner notes, taking photos at your gigs,
copyright and publishing information, etc...
THE ENGINEER. The engineer
is critical, and you depend on him for his input. You're going
to spend a lot of time with this guy. You need to trust his judgment
technically and creatively. A good engineer can draw out the
energy you normally achieve live, which takes lots of experience.
You want to use someone who will listen to you. You don't want
an engineer that will bully you into doing something you don't
want. LISTEN. You don't need a "say nothing" engineer.
You need someone who will speak up when needed, back off when
necessary and always ride the creative edge.
THE RIGHT STUDIO. Check
out as many studios as you can. If not, you may pass up the place that's best for you. If
you're doing a music project, pick a music studio. If you're
recording a commercial, pick a commercial studio. In general,
a facility is good at one or the other. If a studio costs quite
a bit more during the day than at night, chances are their thrust
is commercial work. As a musician, what if you work better during
the day? I wonder if the quality changes at night? Don't be a
secondary client. If a bunch of suits are walking around in the
lobby and/or the magazines are about advertising, think twice.
Unless you need the room, size doesn't really matter either.
Keep your budget in mind. A basement studio can be just as good
as a large facility, but not necessarily so. Make sure the feel
of the studio is conducive to your own individual creativity.
Ask for an appointment to have an engineer play material for
you. Ask how much that recording cost, and how much time it took
from tracking through the mix. Bring a CD with you that you know
really well to compare. Ultimately, listen.
EQUIPMENT. Equipment makes
very little difference (SHOCK appears on most faces at this point).
Most every recording device ever made works well, in the right
hands. Great gear in the wrong hands will never work well. Think
about some of your favorite recordings. When were they recorded?
Today, gear is out of date in five minutes or less. No one can
stay up-to-date. If they are, odds are they don't understand
the equipment very well.
MIXING. If it's at all
possible, limit the bodies behind the console during mixdown.
Leave the groupies, Uncle Al and Mom at home. For that matter,
if you can appoint one person in the band to be the producer
dude, you will save mucho time. Let the engineer do the job he's
trained for. He will be more efficient without someone pointing
out that a cymbal might be too loud. Remember that most engineers
do this mixing thing everyday, and you should trust the reason
you picked them in the first place. Also, don't be afraid to
look ahead and go where no one has... Think different. No label
signs safe. Normal is boring. If it sounds like now, you're too
MASTERING. What the hell
is it anyway? Most people don't understand mastering. Simply
put it is: putting the songs in order after they're mixed; making
all of the songs the same basic volume; adding equalization to
each song so you won't have to change while listening; adding
limiting/compression or nominalizing to maximize the overall
level of the CD (way overdone in lots of cases); fixing minor
discrepancies in balance. All of this can be done in two ways:
analog, using individual pieces of outboard gear, or digital,
using a computer based system. Don't
be confused with the guy who can "Master" in his home
computer with an application that cost $300 or the professional
who has invested $40,000 in his system. There is quite a difference
in the equipment and how the music gets in and out of the system.
Both ways of mastering, analog or digital, are fine in the right
hands. Again, listen.
PRODUCT. Here is one of
the important things to consider when ordering CDs: Make sure
you know what you're getting. To compare apples to apples, you
need to know what may be an EXTRA charge with some companies.
Mastering included? (After 20 minutes of music, extra charge
of $175.00 per hour.) When they say free artwork, does that include
the color separations and film? Is artwork just the cover or
all panels? Scanning included? (Is that more than one photo?)
Is shipping included? (What kind of shipping and where?) Delivery
date, usually four to six weeks is the industry standard. When
does that start? When you place the order or when the artwork
is completed? Also, don't book your release party until you absolutely,
positively know when you will have the CDs in your hands. When
you order 1000 CDs sometimes in the process you get 984 and sometimes
1032. This is called an overage or underage. You should be charged
accordingly. Tax? Bar Code?
ARTWORK. "Damn it,
I'm a musician not an artist, Jim!" I've heard that
a lot. Partly a correct statement. The first part is, you're
creative and you know what you want. The second part is, you
zone in on what you do best in the artistic world, and that's
to create music and perform. Give your ideas to the designer
and let them do what they do everyday. Let them develop something
that looks like your music but not like everything else on the
shelf. HOW MANY CDs SHOULD WE GET? The more, the cheaper. But
if you don't need 'em, don't get 'em. You can always reorder.
Oh yeah! Did you remember to have some money left to promote
and market your stuff? At least a third of your budget should
go into the pie after the product is completed. Unless the right
people hear it....
FINALE. Write good. Play
good. Record good. Sell good.