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How Much Do Music Studios Cost to Use?

If you are a solo artist or a band looking to record your breakout hit record, perhaps you’ve wondered how much music studios cost for you to use them. There’s no set answer to this question, because studios offer a wide range of rates. The bigger questions to ask are:

  • How much time do you need to record your record;
  • How much can you afford to spend; and
  • How do you get the most out of the music studio for the money?

The thing is, you have to be realistic about how much time you’ll need in the studio. After all, you can’t just stand in a sound room and record an album from start to finish in the hour or so that the album will last when it is played. You’ll have to do numerous takes and re-record specific portions of songs, as well as working on separate parts individually so they can be layered together later. You will also need a studio engineer to work with you as you record.

Most music studios charge an hourly rate, ranging from around $30/hour for budget studios to $100/hour or more for a studio with fine-tuned acoustics and equipment.  In music hotbeds like New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, this rate can go even higher.  Some project studios will negotiate a set rate per day, or per song, so if you find a talented up-and-coming engineer who is looking for opportunity and experience, you might be able to cut costs a bit. The important thing is not to shop a studio on price alone—make sure the studio you choose is going to help you produce a high-quality project, as well. Like many other things in this world, with recording studios, the axiom “you get what you pay for” often rings true. For example, you might opt to record fewer songs in the more expensive studio than to record more songs in a cheaper one.

So how much time should you expect to spend in the studio? On average, a full-length album will take somewhere between 90-150 hours to record, and even longer for complicated or conceptual/experimental albums.  If your record takes 100 hours to record and mix from start to finish, you’re looking at roughly $3000 to $5000 in studio time for budget studios, and $10,000 minimum for more upscale studios. If you hire a good engineer to oversee tracking and mixing, you’ll want to add about $200 per song.  Additionally, you must not forget to have your album or songs mastered for potential duplication, and this process usually costs around $100 per song.

As you can see, the expenses of recording in a music studio can add up quickly, which is why many musicians try to get signed to a label, in which case the label fronts the money for the record.  However, in this day and age, getting a label’s attention is something of a catch-22, because they usually won’t look at you unless you already have a high quality recording and a history of sales!  Since that’s the case, if you’re like most bands and artists these days, you probably don’t want to wait to get “discovered”—it’s still a good idea to try and fund the record yourself.

That being said, there are ways to cut your costs without cutting your quality. For example:

  • Record any MIDI tracks on a laptop or desktop computer on your own time. Putting together a small home recording rig for this purpose is fairly inexpensive, and recording virtual instruments doesn’t require any acoustic tuning for the room. Recording these tracks at home, then bringing them into the studio for mixing, will save you hours of paid studio time.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Lots of musicians waste precious hours in the studio doing take after take because they weren’t prepared ahead of time—and in the studio, time is money. Know your stuff before you start paying an hourly rate. Also, be professional and don’t waste time goofing off in the studio.
  • Put together a home studio. With the advent of modern technology and the computer equipment and software now available for home use, you can put together a fairly decent home studio for a fraction of the cost. This will, of course, require that you learn to use the gear and become your own engineer, but it is a cheaper alternative that gives you more creative. You may still want to use a professional studio for certain aspects of your record, but the more you can do on your own, the more you can save on the costs of music studios.