What it takes to make a CD

gold record

The other day on Facebook a really good conversation thread about Kickstarter was started by Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids fame.  He was inquiring why musicians needed to raise so much money to make a CD these days. Many great replies from Zooglobble, The Rock Father and others. It was a very valid question.  Why is it, it takes 10K to make a CD.  I know a couple things about making a CD having produced 2 in the last 5 years (and not much more).  While making music is free… Recording it can be a bit expensive. Unless your a talented engineer as well as musician (see Todd McHatton) and have your own studio (which is a sizable investment in itself) you are going to have to pay someone to record your band.  Now how much depends on who you hire and how long it takes.  Do you pay a set rate or are you paying hourly?  Is the band ready to play the songs?  Do you need to hire musicians and or singers? How much to Mix? Master? Are you traveling the recording studio  (I know a lot of folks travel to record with Dean Jones) or is it local.  Are you paying for a producer or self producing?  How much does he charge (I’ve been quoted 5k for a producer).  The whole idea of making a record is to make the best music you can and get it to your fans and make some money so you can do it again.  Phew!   Recording is a lot of fun but paying for it sucks.  Recording costs ranges from 30 – 100 dollars an hour.   You can get weekend rates, some places have a  flat fee and others discount for pre-paying for large blocks of time.  Know this.  You get what you pay for and a good engineer is priceless.  No matter how good you are live recording is a completely different animal and the guy recording you is critical.  Know your budget and expect some costs you didn’t consider. Know that mistakes will be made and re-recording is a reality.  Some bands record the bass and drums and then lay tracks over that.  Poochamungas usually record as a band with my vocals and guitar as a scratch and then fill them in later.  This works for us because it’s more energetic, efficient and cost effective.  Then we add vocals, additional guitars, etc.  Then after recording there’s the oh so important mixing part.  Some people specialize in only mixing.  This is also critical to your sound so get someone who knows what they’re doing here as well. Know that hearing in things in the studio is different than hearing things for gigs. All of the above takes time, effort and money.  This leads to success or failure. Mistakes usually means spending more time and money. Lets not call them failures but learning experiences. Which then leads to success.   Which happens when your creating art.  Which is what making music is… ART.  I know very little but I know this. If your goal is to just sell  records you get lousy art. But if you go out to make great art you may get to sell some records (Which by the way for kids artists means pressing CD’s and more money).  Making great art takes time and time costs money. For some it cost more than others.  Is 10k unreasonable.  Depends on the perspective.

One response to “What it takes to make a CD

  1. Well stated John! I’ve lived on both sides of this discussion. In 2003, long before being a children’s musician was on my horizon, I recorded a solo album at home. All drums were programmed meticulously on a computer and I recorded virtually all the instrumental and vocal parts. I got a few great collaborations via acquaintances over the Internet. I did the engineering, mixing and mastering myself. Artistically, I think the album represents nicely what I was trying to say in those songs. But as closely as I tried to approximate a band sound, it doesn’t quite get there, and I’ve had rock-n-roll fans call me out on that.

    Fast-forward to this year and my current kindie debut album “Everyone’s Invited.” I recognized that the vibe of an album is quite different when you have a team of people working on it with you. An engineer who knows how to coax the right sounds out of the drum kit and mix the tracks so they sound lively and engaging. A mastering engineer who can add a subtle “sparkle” to the finished sound without over-doing it. A band made up of players who “get” what you’re doing, but also bring their own style. Going from total do-it-yourself to leading a team through making an album is about loosening the reins enough to let people do what they’re good at. And it involves paying people fairly for their work to bring this product of your imagination to life.

    I found some ways to save money along the way. That which must be recorded in the studio – the drums and bass – were recorded in the studio. I took those tracks home and recorded my guitar and keyboard tracks at home when I wasn’t on the clock. Some vocals were recorded in the studio. Others were recorded at home; I had rented the studio’s good mic and pre-amp in order to meet some tight deadlines for certain singles that were seasonal, like our summer anthem “Stay in the Pool.” That move saved a little money as well.

    Ultimately I’m glad I went into the studio and invested significant dollars in putting together a fine team to record and produce these songs for families to enjoy. My attempt to raise funds direct-to-fan via PledgeMusic probably came a bit too early in our development as a family-oriented band, since we need to work with a much larger fanbase to successfully fund even a portion of our recording budget.

    My advice to fellow musicians is that if you can create some magic in a studio with a team, it’s well worth doing. But don’t keep your music to yourself if you can’t afford the full studio experience. At least make a demo at home and steer it toward those people who will embrace it.