I had a recurring theme coming up this week at the studio and in my meetings with new bands.
They all wanted to record full albums because they felt it was the “proper' thing to do or they had self-produced their own album, got stuck on technical issues and sat on their music for far too long as they tried to figure it out.
The way I look at it - as of right now, July 2018 - there is no need to record a full-length album if you’re starting out as a young independent band.
Maybe that's always been true but especially so at the moment.
Look-I love albums- Its what I grew up with and I love recording albums- Going on that journey with a band is one of my favorite things in the world. You make new friends, it can take you to cool, new places and you get to view life through the lens of others. It can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life.
Heres the pros and cons of making a full-length album right now -
Satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment- you get to leave your mark on the world.
it's 100% Super fun
A truly cohesive piece of work that represents every side of your band.
The ability to print merchandise and vinyl to hopefully make some $$ to recoup the recording costs.
Gear has got a lot more affordable, so self-recording is possible with great results.
Possibly more cost effective because you can batch certain elements like tracking live drums if you are working in a studio.
More songs for fans- better value.
You spend maybe a week to 6 months or even YEARS on your album. The big day comes- you release it, the reviews come pouring in. It's A MASTERPiECE!!! - you buy a yacht.
You spend maybe a week to 6 months or even YEARS on your album. The big day comes- you release it, the reviews come pouring in. It's A MASTERPiECE!!! - you buy a yacht. …...Hmmm- not so fast. This can happen to unknown bands (you never see the prior hard work ) but the reality for most is- a few blogs will pick up your album and then the real work begins,-building a fan base. After a few weeks, the buzz will die down, your fans have to wait however long it takes for you to record album #2 and now the blogs don’t really have a whole lot to talk about anymore. You lose momentum. If you are a social media superstar this may not apply but most independent bands tend to not be super aggressive with their social media and need a better strategy.
$$$$- Making an album properly can be insanely expensive. With a lack of a proper budget and proper planning, the quality always suffers. So the thinking with a lot of bands is if they buy some affordable gear and go to the google academy they can DIY it. Now, I 100%, wholeheartedly endorse DIY and home recording but for a lot of people, this can actually be counterproductive. It's a colossal rabbit hole that you can lose years of your life to and it can find you chasing problems you never knew existed instead of making music. We all have stories that inspire us of an artist who recorded their song on an iPhone or cheap gear and the song was #1 for 35463 weeks but a lot of those success stories are based on outliers. That's what a lot of the gear manufacturers are selling to you, the dream of the outlier. You may very well be one yourself but be careful you don’t paste someone else stories onto yours when in reality you may be doing something completely different that could never apply to you or your music.
it's 100% hard work
You pick the wrong producer and have a battle on your hands.
Maybe there are 4 killer songs on your album and the rest are filler. That worked in the past but today??. Nope.
More songs equal more expense or can be more time consuming - corners can get cut - quality suffers.
- There are actually fewer opportunities for merchandising.
The music industry is changing at an alarming rate so this post may already be completely irrelevant by the time I post it but- If I was a new band right now I would focus on recording singles and releasing one every month or two until I had a decent fan base. I would print 7's and make t-shirts based on the individual artwork and possibly even compile 5 or 6 songs into an Ep at a later date.
Recording singles will keep costs down or at least break them into easier to manage chunks, it also gives you immediate feedback on your songs (blogs, friends, comments sections) and it allows you to work at a higher quality so your work can actually stand up against the other artists in your field.
If you are self-recording, here's just a few tips.
Hire a studio to track live drums -this is where many DIY projects suffer- just go in fully prepared.
Can’t get a good vocal sound? - go to a friend who has better gear or to a studio with an insane vocal chain that you can hire for a few hours.
If your guitars suck or you can’t play loud in your apartment. Track with a Di and use amp sims or re-amp at a studio.
Program all of your keyboards at home and keep the midi files so a producer can swap sounds if needed or record through their chains
Hire someone else to edit your tracks if needed.
You KILLED tracking the song at home but your mix/master sucks- Hire an engineer. There's a billion out there of varying price and quality so please choose wisely.
Don’t underestimate the power of having a second set of ears on your songs- super important. Is there a friend or producer you can trust to give you positive feedback?
So, as you can see. There are a ton of ways to make a killer song in an affordable way. This is a subject very close to my heart as I want as much good music out there as possible. There really is no excuse for bad products anymore.
It's on you to make smart decisions.
If you take your music seriously-and you should- a couple of hundred bucks from each band member to do it right will get you a product you never realized you were capable of. You owe it to yourself to do it the right way - no matter how it is accomplished.
Results win every time.
Also, don’t aim for being 'better' than your local competitors, that's counterproductive. You should be building a healthy community so you can rise as a scene.pulling each other up! Find a like-minded band maybe even in a different genre and do a split 7" with them .You could even split studio and vinyl costs if you go that route.You will both win and both end up being heard by new people.
Aim for being admired by your peers. Picture your favorite band listening to your song.
Now blow them away!
Thanks for reading,
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