Things to Consider When Recording

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Things to Consider When Recording

Part 1: What should you be recording?

It is increasingly becoming fact that at the moment, album sales are decreasing . iTunes and digital downloads have become the main way to get music out to the public. The audience wants instant access to the songs they want to hear, whether it be a download or streaming.

The audience’s attention span has also decreased. Without regular updates about what your band is doing, the audience can tend to get bored or distracted away from your band. You need to constantly update and keep fans aware of what the band is doing. The audience needs to feel connected to the band, and wants to hear new things!

There are a number of ways to keep your audience aware of your band. It can be uploading videos from live performances (try to get a desk mix to put with the video, no one likes to hear distorted audio, they will stop listening!!), videos behind the scenes at rehearsals (showing the band working on new material), studio diaries etc.

Another option is recording singles. If a band of 4 people put $50 aside each week, they can record a new song every 6 weeks. This can keep audiences interested as they will keep coming back to hear new songs. By the end of the year, the band will have 8 songs recorded. If the songs are released via iTunes or http://soundcloud.com/ or http://bandcamp.com/ and even MySpace, you can track which songs have the most downloads/plays. Pick the most popular 4 or 5 songs, and at the end of the year release this as your E.P. Your dedicated fans will still purchase the EP even though they have heard the songs, because they will want a proper physical copy. You could also record a new song to add to the EP so there is further incentive for the dedicated to purchase it.

The most important thing, is that you have a solid EP that is already made up of your most popular songs, so now you need to do a large tour to play to new audiences, impress them with your live show, and they will purchase your EP, and be blown away by the fact that it’s a solid EP full of great songs. This new audience will then tune in to you releasing a new song every 6 weeks. At the end of that year, release another EP of the most popular songs, impress new audiences and build a solid reputation as a great band. If you put out a couple of EPs full of songs that have been proven to impress audiences, more people will take notice and there is more chances of the band breaking through!

The other benefit of this is that you don’t need to save up thousands of dollars and take a week or so off work to record your EP. By spacing it out, the money isn’t one large sum, plus it’s easier for the band members to all get 1 or 2 days off work every 6 weeks.

Why record an album?

Recording an album to find a label and get signed is kind of like hiring a reception hall; buying the rings and wedding dress, then waiting until you find a bride… That’s not exactly the right way to go about it. If a label has already expressed interest in you, and asked for an album to see what you are capable of, that’s a little different. If you are recording an album before you have a solid fan base, it’s going to be extremely hard to get people to notice you. Build your name and reputation first, create a demand for your album, make people want you to record a full length.

The best reason for a band that is still relatively unknown to record an album is purely for the love of music. Not to make money. You are making an album that you want to listen to and hopefully some more people will hear it and enjoy it too.

Part 2: How Can You Promote/Release Your Music?

In the past there have been numerous formats to release music to cater to what the audience was using for music playback. Over time, some have dramatically decreased (vinyl), while others have pretty much died (cassettes & 8-tracks). You need to look at your target audience and find out what format suits best.

How many people do you see walking around today with a discman?
How many people are actually buying CD’s? (Musicians, dedicated fans and older people are buying more than the general population).
If the majority of your target audience isn’t purchasing CD’s, why would you get so many CD’s duplicated?

There are plenty of sites to release your music online –
http://soundcloud.com/
http://bandcamp.com/
http://www.triplejunearthed.com/
http://www.numberonemusic.com/
http://www.cdbaby.com/
http://www.tunecore.com/
http://www.iTunes.com/

The first thing you need to ask yourself, is “Do I want to make money from the songs I record, or do I want to reach as many people as possible and create a fan base that will give me larger audiences at gigs?

If you want to create an audience and fan base, then the best thing to do is give your songs away. If more people are able to listen to your music easily for free, that can equal a larger audience. Not everyone who downloads your song may like your music, in which case, you have lost nothing but they may have friends who they think will like your music, in which case you may gain some fans. If people who download your music for free DO like your music, they will turn up at your gigs, giving you an audience, and if you have merch for sale, they may buy some of that too.
It isn’t so much about losing money as it is about gaining an audience. If you are selling your music and you only have a small fan base, once they have bought it, there will be no more sales. You need to draw as many people as possible in, so when you have gigs, albums or shirts for sale, there will be more people to buy them.

What about after a gig, when people want to purchase your songs while still on a high from your performance and/or alcohol?
http://www.bandtag.com.au/ tries the concept of selling a card which enables people to download the songs when they get home. You get the cash there and then. The audience gets the music in a format they can instantly add to their iPod.

An idea that is still new and used by a couple artists (Blink-182, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu) is to use USB sticks.
A bulk purchase of USB sticks can be in the area of $5.50 to $13 per unit depending on the casing itself, the memory size and the number ordered. You can even get custom-made USB sticks shaped like the band logo or a guitar or pretty much anything!
The benefit of a USB stick is that you can store more than just your music on it.
You can put album artwork, video clips, the behind the scenes footage you shot during rehearsals and recording sessions, desktop background images, phone background images, photos, a complete Electronic Press Kit, links to your website/facebook etc…

Not everyone enjoys listening to MP3’s, some still enjoy the quality of a higher resolution. On the USB stick you can have a folder with the MP3 versions ready to be put onto the iPod, as well as a folder with the full quality WAV files so people can make their own CD.

Plus, as you record new songs, you can very easily add these to the USB stick so it’s updated ready for the next gig…
While the initial purchase of the USB sticks can be seen as expensive, because they can be added to and updated over a couple of years, they are more likely to recover their cost over time, and because people can delete the data off the USB once its one the computer, it has the band logo/name on it, so when they take the USB to school/work/uni the band name is clearly on display just like a t-shirt.
If you release a new EP you can have it bundled with the previous EP on the USB. That creates a stronger incentive for people to purchase as they are now getting 2 EP’s as well as the extra data in one package. Plus if the band has evolved and there are songs no longer relevant to the sound of the band, simply delete them from the USB sticks.
Because the USB sticks are easily changeable (just takes the time to load your content on each stick, but this can be done by each band member at home while watching TV), you will never have old stock sitting under your bed that you can’t sell.
You could also encourage people who bought the USB stick previously, to bring the stick to the gig to receive the new EP and content transferred to their USB for a lower price, that way they aren’t purchasing a new stick every time you have a new release, just the data.

As I said above, there are still some people buying CD’s, so there is still incentive to release CD’s, but probably not to the point of duplicating 500-1000 copies of an EP.
Here is where you can cater specifically to your dedicated fans. By creating a package that is exclusive or limited, you create a demand among the dedicated.
If you print up 100 CD’s with exclusive artwork in nice packaging, the dedicated fans would want to get their hands on it. Years later these may be the releases of the EP collectors pay hundreds for, the band before they got big.

Well known bands are doing similar things on a larger scale. Nine Inch Nails released a deluxe box set of Ghosts I-IV for $300 and limited to 2500 copies which were sold in a flash. Smashing Pumpkins are releasing 11 EPs over the next 2 years as free downloads for anyone, but also releasing a limited number of boxed sets for the dedicated fans.
Dead Letter Circus released a limited edition version of their album with bonus DVD as well as 5.1 mixes of the album this was limited to 2000 copies and has been selling very well.

While “limited” numbers for these well known bands equals the thousands, a good band that is building its reputation while playing around Australia should look at the size of their dedicated fan-base and cater to that (even if its 150 CDs at $30 for example). Doing this method with a strong enough fan-base, it’s actually possible to cover the cost of recording, duplication and make a profit based on the limited edition copies alone.

When artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Josh Freese (who offered different packages with his album, including selling his car ) and Radiohead are looking at new ways to release music, shouldn’t the up and coming bands be looking at new ideas and concepts on their own scale?

The old methods of releasing music are dead or dying.

Part 3: Where Can We Play?

Being a great live band that plays shows around a wide area is the best way start to building the band’s name. If you only ever play the same venue to the same group of friends and family that seems to be getting smaller and smaller each gig, you are probably over-saturating your local venues with your presence.
Venture out-of-town regularly. Put on a great show to whoever turns up (even if its only 5 people). Building a reputation takes time, but is also exponential. Once there is enough groundswell you will find gig attendance take off, but you need to play as many shows as you are able to get to in as many places as you can!

The most important thing is that the band is entertaining to watch. If there is no stage presence or the band is boring and dull to watch, you are fighting an uphill battle. This doesn’t mean you need to be extravagant with a stage show, but watch some of your favourite bands for inspiration on how to be comfortable and relaxed on stage.

Image these days is very critical (this can be a positive and a negative depending on your attitude…). It doesn’t mean you have to dress in matching clothes or dress like you are in Good Charlotte… It means finding a style and image that suits the band. A lot of bands have a tendency to wear on stage whatever they normally wear everyday. This can sometimes lead to a band on stage looking like the guitarist is a skater, the drummer is a metalhead, the bass player is indie and the singer is into hardcore. While these clothes may represent the individuals, is it a good representation of the band as a whole entity?

People go and see bands for different reasons – some have heard and like the songs, some think the lead singer is hot or the guitarist is amazing to watch live and some may be there to see the other bands playing. These are the people you need to try and win each gig. You friends already like you (or at least say they do).

Let’s say you have a fan-base made up of friends and local people as well as from the outside areas you have been playing for the last  6 months – year. If you have been releasing a new song every 6 weeks (see Part 1), these fans have heard the songs, downloaded/bought them, they know the words and have been telling their friends about you. When you play a gig, a percentage will be from this fan-base and their friends, but most likely, a larger amount will have never heard of you before.
Play an amazing set that will blow the other bands off stage. Make sure you play the songs that are the most popular downloads, as obviously these are your stronger songs.
The fans that have heard these songs will be singing along, which will impress the people who have never heard you before. A lot of bands hire a bus to play venues outside their local area. This is a great idea, the more people you can bring, the better you look to the audience that don’t know you as well as looking good to whoever books/promotes the venue if they think you draw a large crowd (this will lead to more gigs).
Hopefully a percentage of this new audience buy the CD and discover that most of the best songs you played at the gig are on the CD. These new fans will follow your band on the internet and tell their friends about the band so that the next time you play, you will have a larger percentage of the audience there to see you, many will have heard of you, but not seen you live yet, now you have to blow them away with your live set!

All of this is going to take a lot of time and a lot of gigs!

So where can we play?

This depends on how far you are willing to travel and how often.
When they were first trying to build their reputation, NOFX used to travel all over American playing gigs everywhere. Playing small towns that very rarely have bands playing is a great way to pack out a venue; the smaller towns have been known to turn up at venues simply because it was something different! NOFX traveled almost the same tour path for a couple of years, playing at established venues as well as small towns, all while they were still an unknown band. They built up a solid fan-base all over America simply by playing shows everywhere. By the time the band was starting to break through, there was already a large crowd of followers.
This was done in the days before you could run a search on the internet, find a list of venues and pubs and plan out a tour itinerary using http://www.whereis.com/.
There are a lot of country towns and mining towns throughout Australia. Once a year, in support of your latest release, you should do a tour hitting as many venues as possible. Not all venues will be able to pay the same amount, but some of the smaller country town venues can provide food and accommodation which is good when you are on the road for a few weeks, others may only have a budget that covers petrol money to the next venue, but if you put on a great show, you should be able to sell some merch!

During the rest of the year, it’s important to play outside your local area more often than you play in it. If you play too often at your local venue, even your dedicated local fans won’t mind missing a show because they know they can see you again there in a couple of weeks.

On your website/Facebook/MySpace have an area people can either request where they want you to play, or where they are from. If you are able to create mailing lists, you can look at creating targeted lists for different areas. If you are playing a gig in Sydney, contact the people who have said they live with 2 hours of Sydney, etc.

The main thing that I cannot say enough, is that it is going to take time, money, effort and a lot of gigs to create and maintain a fanbase, but without a fan base eventually the only person turning up to your local gigs will be your mum… if she has nothing better to do.

Part 4: Do We Need a Video Clip?

In a short answer, Yes

You tube is currently the 3rd most viewed website, while MySpace is 9th…

More and more, people are going to you tube to find music, where as a couple of years ago, MySpace was the destination to hear music. http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/051110twoyears

So if you don’t have a clip up on video sites, there are potentially people looking for your music but are unable to find it.

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when making a clip.

What is the aim of the clip?

Is it to show the band in a performance set up so people can get an idea of what to expect live?

Is it a story video clip telling the story of the song or relating the themes of the song in a visual representation?

Is the aim to have a video that will go viral whether it be comedy/graphic violence/porn etc?

Naturally, each of these has their pros and cons…

First let’s look at Viral Videos

The viral video is a trend that has taken off over the last few years. Sure it can lead to thousands if not millions of views and a lot of buzz, but then after the initial attention, if the song in the clip is not a great song, the band will fall aside and be forgotten.

If the song is good and there is more interest, then the problem of what to do for a second clip arises. Does the band need to then rely upon gimmicky videos to sell their songs, if the band stops with the gimmicks and tries to appear as a band, will it be the start of their downfall?

OK GO are an example of a band who are known not for the traditional reasons of great songwriting or live shows, they are a band who has become global sensations for their videos with each new video being listed as a must watch by the online community as the next viral video, often before it is even released.

They have so far managed 3 videos which are unique and have millions of views each.

The video which launched them as a global phenomena

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTAAsCNK7RA

4 million views at time of writing

Their follow-up video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

25 million views at time of writing

Third video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHlJODYBLKs

9 million views at time of writing

Obviously the band’s success depends on how good the band are at writing songs and how they want to present themselves visually, but the important thing to remember with quick success and attention is that it can be gone just as quick when the next gimmick comes along.

The hardest thing about creating a viral video is coming up with the idea that will cause the video to become viral.

An example of a video which is far more memorable than the song is the video for “Ritalin” by Dancing Pigeons. This is a video which is truly memorable, but it makes the mistake of being a video which is more memorable than the song. To the best of my knowledge the band are not in the video clip and it could be any song being played over the video.

A quick search of YouTube for “flame thrower vs fire extinguisher” shows up this video and it is only once you look in the details of the video that it is revealed who sings the song and what the song is called.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZziLdaAaRIg&feature=related

The viral trend has become such a phenomenon that now marketing people worldwide are using the viral concept to sell every kind of product under the sun or make ads that don’t appear to be ads. The idea needs to be something that is seen by the general public as not being created by a team of marketing people trying to sell the band as a product. This can often lead to a negative backlash from the wider audience that can lose respect for the band.

Atomic Tom released this clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAllFWSl998

Upon research listeners realized that the video was not entirely as it seemed. The band were actually signed to a label that was responsible for the video and the song itself was given away as part of one of the apps for sale on iphone. So this band that was at first perceived as having bad luck by their instruments being stolen but coming up with a new idea, was revealed to actually be a commercial for iphone apps.

Video Clips with a Story

These kinds of video clips can be great at putting a visual image to the story of the song. The actors can help put a face to the feelings and emotions portrayed in the song, that is of course, if they are good actors.

If you have ever tried to make a short film with friends, you have probably discovered that not many of them can act well. In fact, not a lot of people can appear convincing on camera as actors.

The other thing to consider when doing a clip with a story is that in effect, you are shooting a short film, so you must therefore consider all the requirements that go with that process (including budget, catering etc).

Doing a video clip with a story “on the cheap” looks just like that – Cheap.

Not everybody can afford a full Hollywood film crew to shoot an 8 minute long short film with your music video in it. Even then, it is 2 minutes into this video before the song even starts playing. The line between music video and short film is very blurry on this 30 Seconds to Mars clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpG7FzXrNSs&feature=relmfu

Performance Clips

These clips can often be the cheapest option, but can also be the most effective. They can straight away showing what the band looks like (remember that these days, whether you like it or not, image has become a very important thing).

It can help your fans identify who does what in the band if they have never seen the band perform live.

The performance can be done to appear live (mining to the recording) with a group of friends as an audience, or done with just the band performing in a scene that they feel suits their image.

These days with the technology available on computers you can add some great visual effects, making sure not to look as though someone has gone crazy with the “Starwipe”.

This video directed by Mark Romanek is about as simple as they can come, sure their budget is bigger than yours probably is. But look at the essence of the video, band + fans + lights + camera = music video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYU-8IFcDPw

Some lesser known options, which can be just as equally effective to creating video content.

The photo slide show – also a cost-effective was of showing what the band look like visually.

Live videos footage with the studio song over the top. These can show a true live performance from the band or behind the scenes insights that would not otherwise be seen, the viewer is often more forgiving of dodgy camera quality if the performance looks energetic or has a unique quality to it.

An example of this can be seen with Gold Coast band Helm. They have done a cover EP of Icehouse’s track Great Southern Land. At the time of writing the official video for this track had not been shot, however the band have released a sideshow of studio photos to the studio quality recording of the song. It gives fans the option of sending the video to their friends, which in the case of a cover song such as this is a great way to break the band to a new fanbase who otherwise would not have heard of the band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7OBM88gVbE

Live videos with live audio – we have all seen and heard these videos on YouTube. It seems only the truly dedicated fans are able to sit through a distorted recording, but generally not new fans. These are often not the best videos to upload as often people can struggle to sit through them!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otNnPKP9AZc

The most important thing for your band is to have content on the net. The more content, the more likely your band will appear at the top of searches. More content also keeps your fanbase interested as they can find more and more things involving the band.

Part 5: Building and Interacting with your Fanbase

These days there is more new music being put out than ever before.

What are you doing differently to stand out from the crowd? What attracts people to you rather than another artist?

How do you build a fanbase?

This goes back to Part 3, play as many shows in as many places as possible. Put on great shows and people will become interested in the band. Once they are initially interested, you have them on the hook and now you need to reel them in.

The most important thing to remember about your fanbase is that they are the strongest tool you have to spread your music. If you keep your fanbase involved and interested, they will tell their friends about you, bring them to your gigs, encourage them to purchase your music.

With all the music being released, it is easy for people to move on and forget about your music if you aren’t keeping them updated and interested.

You need to promote your band heavily, but without being annoying to that people block your feeds online.

Keeping Them Interested

There are so many ways in which you can keep your audience interested in what the band is doing.

The most obvious one is to keep releasing tracks, as stated in Part 1, if you release a new track every 6 weeks, your audience will constantly be hearing new and fresh music from the band, therefore their interest will be maintained, rather than 1 release a year of only 4 or 5 songs.

You need to create content online and it needs to be updated regularly. Rather than re-posting the same YouTube videos constantly, create new videos. Whether it is behind the scenes at a rehearsal or a song writing session or even just the band hanging out, the more videos and content online, the more your fanbase can find and enjoy.

Another way to keep your fanbase interested is to include them in what the band is doing. Don’t make it seem as though the band is separate to the audience, make them a part of the band. One way to include your audience is to let them design artwork for you. Fan art can range from gig posters, computer wallpapers, t-shirts and other merchandise or even CD covers. Fan art gives those with a creative flair the opportunity to connect with a band, the fan gets to feel a closer connection and the band gets free graphic design. In reality all it could take to decide on your next piece of artwork is to post all the fan art online and have a fan vote, what could be better for the band that having the person who designed the art tell every person they know that THEIR design will be featured on as the bands next tour poster or release.

The band Totally Unicorn (http://totallyunicorn.wordpress.com/) have been interacting with their fans by putting together a free compilation CD. Each member of the band has been putting together a CD of songs they like, are influenced or inspired by. These CDs are done in a limited number for the first 10 people who email when the CD is ready. It’s a simple enough idea, but will keep dedicated fans checking the blog to see when the next CD installment is ready so they can be one of the few to receive the CD.

A variation of this can be done on Facebook quite easily, one night a month the band can be online and post videos from you tube of songs they like and would like to show their fans, this can also lead to further interaction with fans by chatting and messaging. You no longer need be a guest programmer on  Rage to show your fans which music videos you really love.

The important thing to remember is that you are competing with all the other music available for the attention of your audience. Just because other bands are on major labels and have $100,000 albums, does not mean you are not competing with them. The music buying public only has a certain amount of money to spend on music; you need to offer them something that goes beyond the music, something that major label bands can’t offer –  interaction!

Once you have a fanbase you virtually have an army at your disposal. You can ask them to vote for your songs in online competitions or pass your videos around to their friends etc. Your fanbase will want you to succeed so they can say that they were there first and helped your band go to the next level.

Amanda Palmer has built up a strong fanbase which she interacts with via Twitter.

Granted that she has a larger fanbase, but this is an example of how interacting with the fanbase can lead to generating some income – http://mikeking.berkleemusicblogs.com/2009/06/23/how-an-indie-musician-can-make-19000-in-10-hours-using-twitter/

Recently at Soundwave after their performance, We The Kings said that they will be on Twitter after the show and for fans that want to meet the band or get items signed, they should contact the band on Twitter and they will come out to the fans.

Having a large dedicated fanbase that will get attention from other people. Your shows will get bigger, your tracks will get more plays. You then need to make sure you interact with your fans and never forget them. It’s this sort of interaction that builds loyalty with your audience, so they will stay with you for the length of your music career.

Part 6: Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself, but be prepared to lose money.

If you want to try to make a serious career out of music, you need to remember that it is a business and being a band is your job. Just like any job, it takes time to work your way through the ranks. You need to dedicate the time and make the commitment.

You need to invest your time and money into the band. If you are not willing to invest in the band, why should a label or booking agent?

All bands over a certain size (basically as soon as you’re ready to tour) are registered as a business with the government, a quick look on the Australian Business Number website ABN Lookup shows that ALL Australian artists big enough to tour are registered as businesses. Go on, give it a look.

After a quick search for the iconic Silverchair it shows that they are registered as 2 businesses. One business deals with recording and the other deals with touring.

Like any business you will require start-up capital, this is the investment in equipment necessary for the running of your business. Instruments, leasing of rehearsal spaces, petrol to get yourself to shows, posters and merchandise, money for the recording of your music. They are all expenses that are vital to eventually turning a profit, and the more money you spent on producing it the better the product which you are selling.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Business researchers have spent millions of dollars and years of research on finding out how long it takes to make a first impression on someone, some articles say 7 seconds for a website, 20 seconds face to face. They haven’t published studies on bands performing live, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to presume that the first impression of a band can be formed by one song.

When performing live, everyone should look like they belong in the band. If that means that clothes need to be bought as part of the image, then so be it. The same thing goes with instruments, if you are on stage singing a love song, dedicated to your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife and playing an instrument like this chances are you should see if you can borrow a more subtle instrument.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

When it comes to putting up songs on the web, again, there is only one chance to impress. If you upload something that sounds like it was recorded on a mobile phone in a rehearsal room, people won’t play the songs more than once. Then after you upload more songs, you have to fight against the pre-conceived notion they now have that the songs are recorded badly.

Understand the difference between a Demo and an EP. A demo should be just for the band to record the song ideas and find a producer to listen to the songs to come up with ideas for the EP. Demo recordings are not as polished as the EP product so it may not be the best idea to upload demos. Compare it to releasing a first draft of a book, full of spelling errors and fractured grammar to the final edited and published book.

When you take the band on the road, the tour is more likely to cost money than return a profit, but you have to look at what you gain by the tour – making new fans, getting your songs to a wider audience and selling band merchandise.

There are a few things bands can look at for financial assistance such as arts grants or websites like http://www.pledgemusic.com/ which allow bands to receive donations from people to fund releases and tours.

You need to decide how committed you are to giving your music a go. Would you prefer to look back on your life knowing that you at least tried to give it a shot, or live with the regret of never trying?

Part 7: What Should we look for in a Producer?

The Producers job is to help you get the recording that you want to make. In most cases the music producer is also a competent arranger, composer or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to your tracks.

Sometimes it’s good for a band to get an outside perspective on their songs. Picture the band in a boat heading towards their goal, they are all focused and looking towards their destination. Since they are all looking in the same direction they can’t see the hole in the back of the boat that is going to prevent them from getting there. To a person outside the boat, the hole is clearly visible.

Engineer and Producer are 2 separate roles, although some producers engineer sessions while others prefer to focus solely on the producer role and have a separate engineer.

The role of the engineer is the technical side of the recording, while the producer is focused on the songs.

What should we look for in a producer?

When looking for a producer you can look at who has worked on some tracks you like to see who is working in the style you like.

In Australia there are a large number of producers that work freelance that are able to travel to where the band is located to record. You can decide to go with a person that works with bands in the same style or you can decide to go with someone who would bring an outside perspective, it’s up to the band. There are pros and cons to both.

If you go with someone who works primarily within the style of the band, they will straightaway know where you are coming from and where you want to go. A problem may be that it could lead to the band not standing out form other bands in that style if the producer is known for a particular sound that they bring. In that case it is important that the songs stand out from the other bands in that style, as the sound may not distinguish the band above others.

The pros of a producer that works in a different style is that they can bring in other influences to help shape the sound of the band. This is what Tool did for the Aenema album, choosing to work with David Bottrill who had done a lot of world music previously as well as King Crimson. That Tool album launched Bottrill’s career with that hard rock sound and he went on to produce releases for Mudvayne, Godsmack, Staind among others.

The band can decide what level of involvement they would like the producer to do, but obviously the band has chosen their producer because they value their opinion and musical knowledge. The producer may be there to help shape the vision for the song, offer advice with regards to the sound or even help with the arrangement and lyrics of the songs.

The producer will need to be someone you trust to improve your music with their input, if you choose an award-winning producer they clearly have experience in taking artists tracks to the next level. However if you feel that the songs you are working are perfect already and that any changes made by an outsider will no longer have them feeling like your songs the perhaps a producer is not for you. Producers work by listening to your tracks and analysing them, offering criticism and if needed suggesting changes.

If the band is not yet ready for an outsider to offer criticism and advice, they may not be ready for a producer.

The important thing about a producer is that they are a separate person to bounce ideas off or help find a solution when a problem arises, so you need to make sure you get along with the producer!

Part 8: How Should we Prepare for Recording?

Before going into the studio the band needs to do some pre-production and rehearsals.

Pre-Production should involve recording the songs and listening back. Because this recording is just for the band, it can be as simple as a one mic recording in the rehearsal room.

When listening back to these recordings there are certain things to look for;

Do everyone’s parts work together? Does is feel like a guitar part is clashing with the vocal? Do the drums have the right feel? Is the bass player hitting the right notes in the bridge? Does the solo suit the vibe of the song?

If you have chosen to work with a producer they should be involved in this process, it saves a lot of time to do this before going to the studio!

One thing you should try in the rehearsal room is everyone taking a turn at not playing and just listening to the song. This can give you perspective on where you sit in the song. Doing this can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the song, or show parts when someone is overplaying or a part that doesn’t gel with what everyone else is playing.

Another thing to try is playing the songs just on an acoustic guitar. This can help show how the melody of the vocal works with what the guitars are playing. If the song and melody feels right when stripped back, but doesn’t feel right when everyone is playing, perhaps the arrangement needs some work to see what is changing the feel of the song.

Once you have listened through the recordings and fine-tuned the arrangements and what everyone is playing, rehearse the songs so everyone knows their parts! An all too common argument bands have in the studio is “Have you always played that?”, it is a time-consuming and expensive argument to have in the studio and with proper preparation should happen in the rehearsal room so that studio time can be as smooth as possible.

Being well rehearsed will save time in the studio. This will save you money and give you a better final product.

It is important to be aware that things will still change in the song during recording. Inspiration can strike once things start coming together, but the more preparation beforehand, leaves you more time to add the little extra ideas that make a recording sound complete.

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