If you are interested in the academic “book report” answer to this question, click here.
“For the Do It Yourself-er on a little small Pro Tools rig that you probably paid $400 for, you can do it for free, do it in your bedroom. Or you could go to a project studio and maybe spend, you know, a few thousand dollars. Or you could go to a big studio and spend, you know, 10, 15, $20,000 to cut a track.”
– Rick Camp, RC1 Productions & Master Mix Live, Las Vegas, NV Credits: Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Usher, Dr. Dre, Earth Wind & Fire
“A demo’s cost is approximately $1000 minimum. The price includes putting the songs onto a physical disc (the increasingly popular hard drive or traditional CD format). It takes roughly two hours per song to lay the track; each song would cost a minimum of $150 each for that time. Lastly, for the cost of discs and cases, and minimal distribution, it would cost around $400-500 more.”
– Fabian Camacho, Miami Recording, Miami, FL Credits: Waka Floka, Pitbull, Lil Wayne, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, 2 Chainz, Natalie Cole
One of our mentors, Doug Boulware, of The Abstract Los Angeles Recording Studios, documented the process of building his studio.
“This is tough question. I’ve seen demo records get made for $100 and then become huge hits. And I’ve also seen people spend multiple thousands and not get anywhere. The way to keep the costs down is to always negotiate with the studio. We will always work with you on a rate that can be justified by all. We can work late at night when the studio is usually not booked. Or, we can work on other off hours or holidays.
“Sometimes I’ll call an artist just to see if they want to get in and record that night. We might have a cancellation and I want to fill up the time so as not to lose it. An empty studio is not a happy place. Always ask for any special rates and ask if there are any times that are cheaper that you can get in on.”
– Donny Baker, ES Audio Services / Open Call Productions, Glendale, CA Credits: Beyoncé, Brandy, The Klassics, Alex Cantrall, Silk the Shocker, Candace Glover
“Well the word ‘demo’ is tricky. If you’re talking about Los Angeles and the demo is for a music act that you’re trying to put out, you want to make sure that it’s more than one song. Typically, three songs sort of make the statement you need to say, and you want to make sure that it is representative of the essence of the artist. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the hit song but it has to really represent what the artist is all about.
I’ve seen records where people will come in, having worked on a lot of it at their house, and they come into a really good studio to cut vocals with an experienced vocal producer. Typically, that’s handled hourly in a production room at around $85 an hour for the studio, $50 an hour for the engineer. A session like that might run about four to six hours, and then after that, there’s a production component to it. They’ll get all the takes and elements they tracked with the artist and spend four to six hours assembling and cleaning up, tuning, comping, adding to the vocals, and then getting a rough mix together. If the heavy lifting is done at a home studio you should be able to save your budget for tracking and mixing. I’ve seen budgets on indie projects in the $3500 per song range turn out great.”
– Cameell Hanna, Serenity West Recording, Los Angeles, CA Credits: Justin Timberlake, Adele, Florence & the Machine, Eva Simons, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg
“In the world we live in today, you can make $2,000 go a long way — much farther than previously. Back in the day, it would cost you $2,000 just for recording quality tapes to get you in the front door. We cater to budget projects here. For example, a rap demo can be made for as little as $200. You can see our venue and do a video tour at www.BunkerOP.com, and see the difference. See why you truly need a good engineer.”
– Steve Foggin, 31st Street Studios, Chicago, IL Credits: Emerson Lake and Palmer, R. Kelly, Yolanda Adams, The Who, The Muppets, Rolling Stone
“In the 70’s, you could record a song for anywhere between $350-500 a song. You could record an artist on tape in about an hour. Studio demos were expensive. Many of the options we have today weren’t available — especially the experiences of meeting with artists and professionals who have been in the industry for a long time.”
– Bill Davidow, Virlouise Recording – Anaheim, CA Credits: Darren Vegas, Israel Houghton, Coca Cola, Powerade, Guitar Center
“Every project is different. The number of songs, complexity of arrangement, level of skill, knowledge of material, scope and scale of project, cost of professional services, and goals for the project are all major factors. For example, a simple three piece rock band recording a 4 song demo for friends and family can expect to pay less than a 6 piece jazz ensemble that’s recording 18 songs to shop to labels and sell at their merchandise booth. I would say the range is somewhere between $500 and $5000.”
– Zach Phillips, Freq Lab Recording – San Francisco, CA Credits: The Kooks, Talib Kweli, Dnae Beats, Jayleez, J Banks, The Game, Alice Russell, Comedy Central
Sound like something you’d like to do?
Sure, it’s possible to record a demo song on your iPhone. But would you want to? Most likely, your demo will serve as your first impression to the folks who might sign you, fund you, sponsor you, or play your music on their station, etc. Your first impression may be the only shot you’ve got, so do everything you can to make it your very best shot. We encourage you to read and listen to what the pros say on this page. If you have any questions, contact us. We’re the Recording Connection, a program area of RRFC. We’ve been getting hardworking individuals training inside the industry with working pros for more than three decades.
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Here’s the academic “book report” answer:
Playing live is the ultimate thrill and most musicians live for it. However a good recording may be what you need to take your music to the next level. So just how much do music studios cost?
Music studios vary greatly in quality and affordability. Booking time in a good professional studio can cost anywhere from $50 to $500 dollars an hour. Keep in mind you usually get what you pay for when it comes to recording studios.
Most studios do include an audio engineer as part of their hourly rate. Still, even recording a 3-song demo can take 2 or 3 days and even $40 or $50 an hour can add up quickly.
If you and your band are going into a professional studio to record you’ll want to be as prepared as possible. Have your parts down pat and have a good idea as to how it should sound. Unless you’ve got money to burn, using the studio to experiment is a luxury you may find very costly.
So just how much do music studios cost? Well if one were to spend three eight-hour days in one at $50 an hour it would cost $1200. Not much for some people, but a rather large sum for most struggling musicians.
Thankfully the digital age has ushered in a new era in music production. With programs such as Protools or Ableton Live which are designed to emulate studio hardware, it’s literally possible to record an entire album on a laptop with a microphone and a little bit of hardware.
One could spend two grand on studio time and work under the gun trying to beat the clock, resulting in a rushed amateurish sounding demo. Conversely one could invest half that money into the basic hardware and software one needs to record on a computer.
However while it is possible to create professional, studio sounding music on a computer it is much easier to produce songs that sound amateurish and underdone. And going to music or recording school to learn studio production is not an attractive option for many people.
Mentoring programs, such as those available from Recording Connection, give participants the chance to learn music production on their own time. One can learn the basics of recording music while working in a real recording studio with a real recording industry professional as one’s teachers.
*Job placement statistics represent the percentage of students who graduated between May 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014 and found work related to their studies within six months of their graduation.