My Band Wants to Record, Now What?
So, you’re in a band, and it’s getting serious. Practices are going well, you’re building a fan base with live gigs, the songs are coming together nicely, the musicians are gelling, you’ve got a solid sound, and now you want to take things to the next level—the band wants to record.
It used to be that the game plan for making a record was generally trying to get signed to a label, at which point the label handles all the costs and processes for getting your album recorded, mixed, printed and distributed. Nowadays, though, more and more bands are handling these things independently, without the help of label or distribution. Thankfully, digital technology has also made this process cheaper than it used to be, and more accessible for indie acts like yours.
Recording an album can be a daunting process, to say the least. It’s not just about jumping into the recording studio and laying down some awesome tracks (although that can certainly be the fun part). There are lots of important decisions to be made, and most of those decisions are going to cost money. Speaking of which—you need to raise some money. If you don’t go into the process prepared, the stress alone might be enough to break up the act before the record ever gets done. Fortunately, having a game plan can greatly reduce the stress and help you and the band actually enjoy the recording process. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to be thinking about and planning for.
If the band wants to record, it starts by making some basic decisions about what the project will look like, and how it will get done. Here are some questions you need to answer together:
- What songs are you going to record? (Start a running list—it’s okay if this changes up later.)
- How many songs on the record? (This may also be determined by budget, which we’ll discuss in a minute.)
- How are you recording the project? Does any of you have any engineering or production experience? Does anyone have a home studio where you could do some of the recording, or will you need to hire a studio for the entire process? Will you have a producer? Is there a studio you have in mind?
There are obviously more decisions to be made, but you can argue over things like artwork and CD printing later. Right now, just focus on the music and how you’re going to get it recorded. Start shopping and pricing studios now, because it will play a major part in the next step…
DECIDE ON A BUDGET
How much money do you have to spend on this project? How much will it cost to get the album you want? Can you come up with more money if you’re a bit short? Here’s where you estimate how much studio time you’ll need to record, mix and master the record, how much to allocate for album art and printing, etc. If you need to, consider doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise money from your fans.
DETERMINE A STRATEGY
If none of you have any experience in producing a record, here’s a good time to suggest getting someone to produce the project. A producer’s job is to oversee all aspects of the recording with you, from helping with song selection to allocating funds, to coming up with a studio schedule as to who-tracks-what-when, to working with you in the studio to make the most of your time and get the best performances from you. If you’re self-producing, make sure you go into the studio with a game plan to get things done, so you’re not wasting time and money.
Studios charge by the hour. Unless you’re borrowing your cousin Biff’s studio for free, you probably don’t have money to waste on working on your parts in the studio. Every bandmate needs to go into the studio with parts well prepared and rehearsed.
HAMMER OUT THE DETAILS
Somewhere along the way, you’ll want to figure out the rest of the details about finishing the record, which may include:
- Where will you have the recording mastered?
- Who will do the album art and design the cover?
- Where will you get the CDs printed and duplicated? (or are you doing an all-digital release?)
- How many copies will you print?
- Are you doing any special edition copies, and what will be included with them?
COME UP WITH A RELEASE STRATEGY
If you record a fantastic album with the band with no strategy for getting it out to the public, you’ll wind up with a garage full of product and no money in the bank. During the post-production phase of the recording, come up with a game plan for releasing your record. Talk it up on social media; consider doing a release show locally. Work on deals to get your record up on iTunes, Amazon, streaming outlets, indie record stores, anywhere you think the fans are most likely to buy it.
If your band wants to record, planning these steps beforehand will help make the process easier, less stressful, and more fun—and in the process, you might just be releasing the album that’s going to jumpstart your career together.