Over the last couple years, I've been extremely fortunate to meet some very gifted musicians from all over the world. A few of them I've enjoyed some conversations of our past experiences as musicians, and share some insights in regards to things related to music. I've even been thankful enough to have offers to collaborate online, and record our parts separately to mix down and master. Through the current age of technological advances, the days of needing to book a studio to record an album has become less and less demanding, as more and more artists are figuring out methods to do the music themselves, and make their supporting team smaller. While the upside of this becomes the costs saved by doing it yourself, the downside becomes the expanded vision of the potential your material can reach, both in audience and creativity. Now, if you've explored your options and have come to the conclusion the best choice is to do the task yourself, then I applaud you for at least taking the time to do the research. If on the other hand you're getting ready to just go for it on your own and put yourself out there, then here's a few items you may want to keep in mind as to whether to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. Please keep in mind there is no right or wrong process to any of the items mentioned, but merely items to keep in mind as you go along.
Some people have a natural talent for it, some have to truly work at it. While country singer Garth Brooks wrote quite a number of hits on his own over the years, Some of his greatest singles were actually written by others:
- DeWayne Blackwell/Earl Bud Lee: Friends In Low Places
- Tony Arata: The Dance
As well, Garth co-wrote several songs with others, including:
- If Tomorrow Never comes (w/ Kent Blazy)
- Unanswered Prayers (w/ Pat Alger, Larry Bastian)
Whether you decide to write every instrument piece yourself and record yourself playing every piece, or decide to get some studio musicians to help you along the way, the results can make or break the entire sound of the album
What's it Worth?
Costs can rise quickly if they're not controlled or monitor when creating your project. While there are grants available to cover the costs of recording and distributing your material, you still need to come to a realistic price tag in which to not only determine the costs, but also whether your costs can be recovered. If you spend $5,000 on a demo release, you need to justify not only to yourself, but any potential investors you may have for other projects on where the value was for that $5,000 spent. While music and entertainment go hand in hand, you have to remember that record production and distribution is a business, and in the end the artist needs to have something to show for it. If the demo brought you 100 sales of the demo itself @$10 profit, a half dozen shows at $250/performance, and additional merch sales which gained another $1,000 after costs... you still lost money, as that only accounts to $3,500 in return revenue. Budget yourself with a realistic goal that will make YOU a profit, not just those you pay to.
Where to record
The idea of recording outside of a recording studio isn't new. In 1971 the Rolling Stones rented a 16 room mansion in Southern France and utilized a mobile recording studio to record their album "Exile on Main St." released in May of 1972. In 1973, Black Sabbath recorded "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" in Clearwell Castle. Since then, several artists have recorded from some unique locations:
- In 1992, the band Nine Inch Nails used the house where Charles Manson murdered Sharon Tate in 1969. The house was demolished two years later.
- During his 15 years in prison, Varg Vikernes continued his one-man black metal project. Two of his albums, 1997’s Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf (1999) were both recorded while he served his time for murder and arson.
Album vs Single vs Demo
Part of the success of a release is knowing not only WHEN to release it, but what to release it as. On the local scene, it may not sound like a big deal, but timing is key for a lot of reasons. Example: If you decided to release your catchy little tune in April as a single, then re-release it as a track in a full length album, then you need to know whether or not the single actually caught on, or if you're re-releasing it because you think the timing wasn't right for the single to catch on.
Sometimes an industry professional will know if a release is the right time to meet award opportunities, or if it will conflict with a more popular artist's release. Another part of releasing an album is telling the story the way you want it to be heard. Arranging the tracks in an order best suited for the album it's a part of is an essential piece of composing an album a lot of folks take for granted. You want to be sure your listeners are tuned in to the entire release from front to back, and the storyline doesn't confuse the listeners or bore them to find something else. Take your favorite album, regardless of popularity, genre or age, and listen to it on shuffle - Chances are you feel it doesn't quite sound the same.
Plan it out front to back
A successful release is one that gets HEARD. If you finished recording the last track today and threw it out there for the world to hear tomorrow, chances are you may be disappointed in the results. Part of the excitement about a release is generating a buzz for it - an interest for your audience to actually want to listen to what you've been working on.
Hype up the release with quick photos or videos of you collaborating on the songs, in the studio, or whatever stage you're working on. If you're looking to get that sound effect of a raw egg hitting the parking lot from the top of a building, capture it to share with others so they can identify that sound when you release the final track.
Once that release is out there, the promotions don't stop. You need to keep on it through social media hype, press kit distributions, and whatever means you can find effective and affordable. And don't just tell everyone "available everywhere" because it's not. Provide your own details so others can contact you or provide a webpage that gives exact details where others can listen to or purchase your music.
In the end, no matter how big or small a team you assemble to create your project, If you exceed your goals when you budgeted for the project, you have created a successful album. On the other hand, if the revenue didn't come in as expected but the fan base has exploded, it's not necessarily a loss there either. Write. Collaborate. Build. But plan out the project to be successful. If you don't know or aren't sure how to put together a budget to suit your project, consult with someone who can. Finance students, more experienced artists, or if you're in a pinch, reach out to me if you like.