The answer to the this question never ceases to amaze me:
Producer: What’s your recording budget?
Artist: My what?
Let’s be honest, recording costs money. Whether you DIY, or hire T Bone Burnett you’ll have to spend something. It could be on anything from buying a laptop and a USB mic to renting Capitol Studios in LA. Either way, you should plan for this. But how much should you spend?
Assuming you’ve made a decision to starve for your art and live uncomfortably until you build your audience up enough to make a decent living, you should pour everything you have into your music career: Time, Energy, Love, and $. Recording isn’t the only thing you'll need to fund in your startup, so surely don’t blow the bank on a large scale recording effort out the gate, but by all means, if you’re going to make a single, EP or full -length record, make sure it’s high quality. Rough demos don’t cut it anymore. To get your song heard, even in a pitch, it’s got to sound like a finished product.
This does not mean you need to spend an arm and a leg. A recent EP project I produced took one day to record and another to mix. It ended up sounding great and the artist was thrilled. Total cost, less than $1,000 for six great songs. What was the key factor in making this miracle happen? The Artist had good songs and a ton of talent. 1 - 2 takes of everything, including overdubs and it was done.
So that means how much you should budget on recording depends in part, on you. But talent isn’t the only factor here. Are you a solo artist and need accompaniment? Or, are you in a 12-piece rock orchestra that needs a large recording studio and isolation booths with 12 separate headphone mixes?
These variables will affect your recording budget and should be considered when planning your recording budget. Here’s a general breakdown of recording related fees in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Commercial Studio with Engineer/Producer: $500+/day
Studio Musicians: $50 - $150+/song or $300+/day depending on who you ask
Mixing: Anywhere from $100+/Song - $300+/day
Mastering: $50+/Song or $75+/hr
The next step is to figure how much studio time, studio musician costs, mixing and mastering you expect you'll need to complete your project.
In Part II of this discussion, I’m going to break the recording budget puzzle into two different scenarios: Solo artist and Band.