This is a “guest post” taken from an email exchange with Adam von Gootkin, co-owner and producer at Onyx Soundlab.
How to Maximize your First Studio Recording Experience
You have to have a plan going in. Are you recording to put together your first demo to hand out at shows, or are you ready to start submitting material to record labels? Will you be selling the material, or just trying to get something simple recorded? Having a good plan going in leads you to putting together your reasonable budget for a project. Your expectations should match the size of your budget. I get a lot of clients that call up and their main question/concern is what is our hourly recording rate. One of the things I try to educate our clients on, is that it’s better to have a budget in mind before you start calling studios. If you know you’ve got $1,500 and want to do a demo, then we will customize a package based on that price.
Pro Studio Rates: Value vs. Cost
It is VERY important to understand that cheaper prices don’t mean anything. I often say, if you’re primary concern is finding the cheapest recording rate, then we will not be the studio for you. You really get what you pay for in terms of recording. For example, we include a producer with ALL recording packages we offer to independant artists. That comes included in our standard recording rate, which is very rare. And our prices are comparable with other high end studios in the area. An experienced producer can sometimes charge upwards to $250 an hour, so there is a lot of value there and it definitely shows in the end product. Remember to shop for studios on a value basis, not necessarily price. If you find a home or garage based studio and there price is super cheap, recognize it is likely the acoustics are not great, the equipment is cheaper and the skill set of the engineer/producer may not be to the level you require.
One Great Song is More Valuable than Five Mediocre Ones
It is important to look at the big picture. If you’re a young band with no funding, and your intentions are to get a pro-sounding 5 song demo for $300, the fact is that will not be a reality. So you have to alter your plan. I always say having one really well recorded songs instead of 5 songs that haven’t been well mixed is a much better way to go….but again, that depends on your end goal.
Have a Plan
At the end of the day, you have to look at pro recording and a music career as a business venture. You have only one product, you and your music. If I was getting started in a band or as a solo artist and had a limited budget, I would spend a few months saving and raising money to do a pro recording. I would look for a studio that could offer guidance and help with production in addition to just recording. That would ensure I could do the recording once, and have some solid material to hand out, shop out, or sell for the next year or two. It will save you money over the long run and likely get you where you want to be faster. Have a plan, know your goals, organize your funding, and have reasonable expectations. Like they say in construction: "Measure twice, cut once!"
Thanks again to Adam for giving his feedback. As a pro studio owner, he didn’t necessarily agree with my previous post about sticking with my home recordings for the time being because my limit budget has led to some disappointments in pro studios in the past.
1 thought on “How to Maximize Your First Studio Recording Experience”
Great post. All I would add is that you should try to ensure that the producer/engineer you end up working with is into what you’re doing. There is no guaranteed way to do this, but the best “chemistry check” I know of is an in-person conversation. Doesn’t have to be long, just 15 minutes or so, but it has to be focused: talk music, movies, books, art, life, not what kind of coffee you like! In the end, if you can find common ground, this is where you will meet to resolve artistic issues going forward and it will prove invaluable.
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