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  • Writer's pictureDave

Recording: At All Costs


A question we get asked a lot, here at the studio, is how much it costs to record a song, EP, album, demo, [insert project idea here]. I thought this blog would be a good place to talk you through how much a recording costs, how to budget for a studio project, and how to effectively use the cash you have.

The problem when it comes to quoting studio prices, is that literally every project is different. Some studios are hired with an engineer, some are not, some places have high spec, well maintained equipment and others use budget gear, artistes work at different speeds, and all creatives need a wide range of creative and technical help, from simply hitting record, to help with how an instruments sounds, to writing and arrangement help with their material.

This is why I opt not to charge "per song" for work here - maybe with the odd exception.

Here at Circa 16, we tend to price every project independently based on what we think is involved and use "per-hour" or "per day" pricing - whatever suits the artiste better. We're always happy to chat in advance of a project and lay out an accurate cost and ways to scale it up or down. I think it's really important this takes place - we can then deliver within your desired budget.

Experience will undoubtedly mean that you become quicker and more accurate in your budgeting, and won't need actual quotes from studios to roughly work out how much your latest single will set you back, but if you're new to all of this, the point I can't stress enough, is "just ask". We're here to help!

The vast majority of us, even those with deep pockets, don't have limitless barrels of cash to fund their recording projects. So how do you make this all important budget work wonders for you? I'd have a few key tips when it comes to this:

1. Research what is involved. I'll give the example of "Mixing" - a generic term for taking all the recorded parts for a song and making them into one piece of audio that we'd deem a "song", with everything balanced in volume, the vocal well defined and any nice effects added. It is not 1970 anymore - this process is not a 30 minute "volumes up, everyone can be heard" job. Modern mixing involves pulling every instrument to the tempo, tightening the performance, tuning vocal performances, re-amping basses and guitars, supplementing drum tracks with samples and a whole host of time-consuming tasks. A basic understanding of all of this generally means an anticipation of the associated cost. Yes, it is possible to create a record without all of this, but also appreciate that it won't stand up next to the latest U2 release (whether or not you'd want it to should definitely be left for another blog post!).

We regularly talk studio clients through these processes at length, and can explain what is possible, and the time and cost associated with that, all you need to do is ask.

2. Establish what you really need from a project. Lets say your band want to showcase your material on Spotify, to get yourselves out there for prospective labels and festival bookers, and have three songs prepared. Do you really need all three, right now? A label scout, or festival booker is looking for a knockout single, they don't really want to trawl through a lengthy back catalogue to work out what exactly it is you're up to. Using one or two days to get one really well-done song can be a lot more valuable that completing three tracks to an average quality.

3. Think about prospective value in your choices. For this, you might need to be a bit objective on your strengths and weaknesses! Lets say your chief songwriter has a really, really good arrangement head. They know exactly when they want certain instruments to come in, they know exactly what they should sound like, and they know where the focal point of the song should be from the first note to the last. In this case, you might not want to hire a producer in and spend that cash on a more experienced mixer, or a few extra days studio time with an engineer. The key to this point is being totally honest with yourself when it comes to your weaknesses!

4. Put in some of the leg work yourself, before hitting the studio. This works wonders if done in discussion with the place you're going to record. If you have discussed recording a rock track with us, we could advise that you create your own guide tracks using a budget iPhone recording app, which would save doing all of that in the first hour or two of recording time. You'd be able to rehearse to these in advance, and when you hit the studio, your performance will be second nature!

5. Communicate what you want from others, well. Speak in musical language if you can, or show examples of work when describing sounds. You might chase an evasive guitar tone all day, when it could be identified and set up in 5 minutes by hearing an example of another track (a reference track).

Above all, be realistic in your budgeting. Don't just "hope" you get the album finished within 7 days. If you can't afford an album, do a really high quality EP, or wait a while.

This might all seem common-sense stuff, but it is often overlooked, and the artiste can loose out as a result. Any questions, just get in touch via our contact form here, and we'll drop you an email back.

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