Your Recording Goals
So you're a songwriter. It's what you do. It's what you've trained yourself to do through countless hours of study, practice and effort. Your songs are yours and no one can write them for you. In other words, you've become an expert at writing your songs. That's how it should be.
However, if you're going to treat your songwriting as a business that you hope to profit from, then it's in your best interest to employ experts at every level. In other words, unless you're also a recording expert, it’s strongly advised that you to employ the people who are. Writing a great song is the first and most important part of the process. After all, content really is king! But a high quality, well-performed demo of your song comes a very close second.
Unless you've devoted as much time to learning the art and craft of recording as you have to your songwriting, you will be doing your songs and your career a disservice by attempting to record your demo yourself.
We've all heard the argument that a great song is a great song and anyone with ears should be able to "hear through" any recording no matter how rough. This is the music industry equivalent of being set up on a blind date with a person who may very well have a heart of gold but who doesn't bother to shower. In other words, you've only got one chance to make a first impression with your song and given the competition out there, it had better be a great one. You might even meet a music industry person who can genuinely hear through a rough recording.
This may be true for that one individual, but if you're planning on showing your song to a variety of artists, managers, producers and A&R reps as well, it's never safe to assume that anything less than a first-rate recording will do. “First rate" doesn’t mean “with a full band and elaborately produced.” It simply means your song should be recorded and produced by professionals.
There are several general reasons for recording a song. By knowing your goals before you begin recording, you better avoid any possible frustrations later on in the process. Here are a few of the most common reasons for recording.
“I just want to record for fun.”
Unless you’re incredibly rich (and if you are, please call us), a professional studio is probably not for you.
Usually these types of recordings are what you would call “demo” tracks. They exist solely for personal use, crafting and fine-tuning your song, pre-production with a producer, etc. You might give a few copies of the recording to friends or post it online, but the song is not intended for retail or commercial purposes.
“I need a CD to send to venues to get gigs.”
This is usually a recording of several “live” songs to showcase your skills as an artist or band. Oftentimes, a venue will want to hear what you sound like before hiring you for an evening gig. Having a quality recording available for them to hear is a surefire way to get the gig.
“I want a fully produced, radio-quality album that will make me freaking famous and make me a butt-load of money!”
Well, kudos for thinking big!
However, there are some other annoying realities involved. Are your songs completely written? Are you well practiced? Do you need preproduction on your songs? Will they require any orchestration? These are all factors that will impact your album quality and budget.
Recordings don’t lie, and they certainly don’t falsely inflate the ego. The truth is, recording is hard work. It requires a unique blend of musicianship, discipline, patience, and acting. Mixing engineers can only improve raw material so much. The better your performance and tone, the better it will sound. There is no piece of gear or plugin that can compensate for a lack of practice and musicianship.
Professional recordings also require a significant budget.
The typical cost to record a full-length album is anywhere between $40,000 and $150,000. Some major labels are still spending a couple hundred thousand dollars on albums, but most indies are spending $30,000.
Now… take a deep breath… a full album won’t cost that much at SFS. But like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Everybody wants their recording good, fast, and cheap. Unfortunately, reality makes us pick two.