Ask If An Engineer Is Included: When you ask studios about their rates, be sure to find out if the studio charges hourly or by flat rate. Is an engineer included? If not, what would the extra cost be? Make sure you will have everything you need when you begin recording.
Ask ‘Will I be charged extra for fixes?’: Listening to a mix in the studio can be deceptive. Everyone’s on a high and the monitors are first class. Later, after your ears are rested and you’re in the comfort of your home, you may hear things you didn’t notice before. Consequently, you need to know what the studio’s policy is regarding fixes. Some studios have a 24-hour fix policy, while others are negotiable.
—Jan Linder-Koda, artist developer, producer June
What Style Of Music Has The Studio Produced? If you know the style of music a studio generally produces, you’ll have a good idea of their sound and how they hear things. You wouldn’t want to record a country act in a studio known for heavy metal records.
—Joshua Aaron, Audiolot Studios June
Develop A Style Of Language For The Studio: Clear and precise communication is essential in the studio. During pre-production you can develop special words and shortcuts to use. Using language everyone understands will cut down a lot of “explanation” time. For example, if someone gets too fancy, plays too many notes, you could tell him, “Simplify. Less is more.”
—Jan Linder-Koda, artist developer, producer June
Put Someone In Charge Of Your Project. Someone has to be in charge of the overall production or you’ll have chaos. So decide who’s going to make the tough calls and final decisions. If you’re not working with a producer, one person in your band should be appointed the decision-maker. A democratic approach does not work well in the studio.
—Michael Lloyd, producer (Dirty Dancing) June
Know What You’re Recording For: Is the recording going to be a demo, an industry submission or a commercial product you want to sell? The approach to each is different (time-wise, money-wise and studio-wise), so determine the ultimate purpose. Veterans often say, “If the recording’s not perfect, it’s a demo.”
—Michael Lloyd, producer (LeAnn Rymes, Frank Sinatra) June
Choose Your Recording Studio Wisely: [When shopping for a recording studio], it’s better to pick the studio that has a few great things (equipment, gear, etc.) over the one that has a lot of average things.
—Michael Lloyd, producer (Kimberley Locke) June
Ask About Analog: Combining analog with digital gives you a superior sound. An all digital recording can cause digital artifacts, especially at the top end. To compensate for that, record a performance at a high sample rate and then mix it to a two-track 1/2-inch analog tape machine. Then put it back into the digital realm and record it at a lower rate for CD transfer. This produces a high-resolution mix that has a transparent high-end with a panoramic, dynamic sound.
—Magic Moreno, producer (Commodores, Barbra Streisand) June
Bring In An Outside Mixer: When you’re making a record, there is inevitably going to be some time when you spend a day-and-a-half trying to make an eight-bar keyboard part perfect. Later, when you’re mixing the record you remember how long it took to get that part, so you give it an added importance that maybe it shouldn’t have. When you bring in an outside mixer, he might say, “This works, this doesn’t, this might be better.” They’re not attached to the record making process. They’re just trying to present what’s there in the best possible way.
—Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie June
Don’t “Go Cheap” When Mastering: Do not skimp when mastering and duplicating your CD. Mastering is the last step in the recording process, where the final polish is put on your recordings. Be aware that if you master at “off times,” when the mastering company is not busy, you can save some bucks. Later, when you need your CD duplicated, shop wisely. Numerous CD duplicators advertise in Music Connection, offering special deals.
—Mark Winkler, songwriter (Joshua Redman) Sept.
Ask For A Group Discount: The economy, in case you haven’t noticed, is in bad shape. People need work...a bad thing for mankind but a good thing for “musiciankind.” Ask for a “group discount,” with songwriters, arrangers, etc. To save money on production costs, you have to do some homework, learn the fair market price of the services you need and then ask for a break on the price.
—Mark Winkler, songwriter (David Benoit) Sept.
Feed Your Clients: When producing, always make time for meals. When the food comes, drop tools. I learned that when working with B.B. King at Townhouse Studios in London. When the food came, I got on the talkback. Before I could get my finger off of it, everyone was out of the room. Well-fed musicians are happy musicians.
—Joe McGrath, producer (AFI) Oct.
PDF Your Word Docs: If you do the publicity for your band, be sure to send properly formatted press releases. Files such as .doc and .txt can be adversely readjusted depending on the reader’s version of certain programs. Instead, save each of your press releases as a .pdf, to ensure that the layout you created remains consistent throughout every e-mail sent. And please, always avoid sending “docx” documents!
––MC’s Editorial Staff
Find Your Contacts: Bringing people together, and networking within your communities, is the key to success. Relationships are the most important aspect of developing your business. Remember to ask, “What can I do for you” first before you expect something in return. Also, capitalize on your current contacts. Go through your Rolodex (E-mail list, Facebook, etc.). You’ll be surprised who you know that might be just the person you need.
—Gilli Moon, singer-songwriter April
Define Yourself As An Artist: If you can’t do this, don’t go any further. In today’s brave new world, you have to be your own A&R Dept. Ask yourself the following questions: What’s my genre? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What two artists could I be compared to? If you’re having trouble doing this (or even if you can), it’s a wise idea to hire professionals in your field to come to your shows, listen to your demos and give you a perspective on your “performer identity.” There are plenty of journalists, producers or engineers who will do this for between $50-100 an hour. It’s money well spent.
—Mark Winkler, songwriter Sept.