Recording Your Music is the 1st Step.
Do You Have Money to Support the 2nd?
by Christopher Knab ,
Updated May 2011
Back to The Academy
Many musicians have finally wised up to the idea that they must do more
to further their careers than just record a few demos and send them out
randomly to a list of A&R reps they found somewhere on the Internet.
I rant about how "70's" that idea is all the time, so don't get me
started on that topic.
The smart musician finds a way to record
and manufacture either a single track, or a full length CD, and then
not stop there... they take the next step.They realize that it takes money to promote and
market the danged thing. Today, more and more bands and solo acts are
just recording and manufacturing a single, and making it available for
promotion and/or a give-a-way at their website or on MySpace etc. But
recording and releasing a product is just the first step. What's more important is
having money left over to promote what you recorded.
need to look closely at the basic economic issues of creating and
promoting musical product. This subject definitely separates the men and women from the boy and girls. For starters, you must know what the
standards of excellence are for the "sound" of your recording as it relates
to your particular genre of music. By this I mean, whether youíre a rocker, a rap
or hip-hop act, a potential Top 40 pop artist, a country musician, or a
singer/songwriter, the recording quality thatís expected of each genre
is different. Think of it this way; the more mainstream sounding your music is, the more money youíll be spending on your recording.
read many helpful articles and books with great ideas about raising money for recording
projects. You can save
up money from each of the gigs youíre playing. (You are playing live
arenít you... duh 101, please and thank you!) You can borrow money from
family or friends. Itís a long shot to get a business loan from a bank
(good luckóit's a very high risk and banks rarely provide such loans).
You can do fundraising gigs with other artists. Whatever.
the money for an unproven musical talent shouldnít be the
responsibility of anyone but the artist. There are thousands of
independent records in the musical landscape. The musicians who put out
their own music found a way to raise the money. Others have gone before
you and gotten the job done. You too can raise the money to record and
fund a proper marketing campaign if youíre serious about it.
Let me give you some tips on recording expenditures that might save you a few bucks.
- Looking for a studio? Ask around. Talk to other bands and musicians in
your neck of the woods. What studios did they use? What was their
- Call the studios youíre interested in and ask for a tour of their facilities. Donít use a studio just because someone else
said to, check it out for yourself. If you donít feel comfortable there,
how can you do your best recording there?
- Check for deals. Ask about slow times or off-hours when the rent is cheaper.
- What comes with the studio time? An engineer? Is that person right for your music?
- What about a producer? Do you have someone in mind? Does the studio recommend someone? How much will they cost? (Be sure to sign a
producerís agreement with any producer too!)
- After youíve found the right studio, at the right price, rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse!
Many musicians spend precious time in the studio rehearsing. The clock
is ticking! Before you waste expensive hours in a recording studio, be
sure youíve rehearsed your songs until you dream about them at night. In
the studio the motto is: Get in, get out.
Youíve now determined a
budget for the recording project, and youíve stayed to it pretty well.
What about the CD cover artwork, design and the manufacturing costs? I
usually deal with this topic for several hours in classes and
consultations. Think seriously about these topics.
months writing your songs, practicing and recording them. This was the
creative stuff. From here on youíll be leaving your comfort zone to
enter the world of business. Youíll be making a product that will
represent you for the rest of your life. Your choice of cover design and
manufacturer will determine the quality of that product, and once those
choices are made, they canít be undone. If you are releasing a single
for internet downloads only, or submitting your recording to various
broadcast outlets, you will at some point need to create a graphic for
that single, just as you do for a CD release.
distributors now rejecting countless CDs with amateurish cover designs?
One reason. Those musicians didnít want to spend money on a cover design
for their CD. The music is what itís all about, right? What difference
can a CD cover make? But think about it. Have you ever purchased a CD
just because the cover was so cool you had to buy it? Someday, your CD
will be in a store bin filed next to your favorite artist! Will you be
proud of it? Will it reflect your image and your music? If not, youíll
be hurting yourself in the marketplace.
So, youíve gotten your
music recorded and manufactured, youíve spent a lot of money, but youíre
not done. Itís now marketing time! I suggest you budget an amount that doubles, or better yet, triples what you spent on recording, manufacturing, and design. (Thatís only for a local or regional do-it-yourself release.) Here again are some promotion and marketing costs:
- Stamps and mailing envelopes for sending your promo copies to the media.
- Phone bills for the hundreds of follow-up calls you must make to the media after they receive your promo copies.
- Gas money while driving around to put your CD on consignment.
- Internet connection fees, website design, and promotion costs for making a killer-looking site that offers your music for sale using the
new methods available.
- Hiring an independent record promoter and their retail counterparts. If you think you can get significant national
airplay without hiring someone who has experience and contacts in
college and commercial radio, get real. The
reason a recording costs so much is because of the hidden costs of
promoting and marketing it. And without promotion and marketing your
recording has little chance of getting heard. Budget $400Ė$1,000 a week
for this, for two to three months.
- Advertising costs. A distributor or even a local record store will presume you have money for
this. For example, the listening-stations you see in stores are not
free; they cost around $100 per station, per store, per month! This
practice is changing right now, so check your stores to see what they
- Printing and copying costs for distributor one-sheets, promo packages, response cards, posters, and flyers for live concert sales
- Miscellaneous: Other expenses that will surely come your way.
you have it. An introduction to why you must find a way to properly
fund your recording and marketing costs. If you need encouragement after
reading this, go down to your local record store and walk up and down
the aisles. Look at the thousands of other artists and bands who got
their music into the store. That is an accomplishment, and if they did
it, you can too. Also, donít forget to go online and check out all the
CDs that the Internet music sites have for sale!
Remember, it ALWAYS costs more to market and promote your music then it does to record and manufacture it.
Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He
is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: email@example.com
Chris Knab's book, 'Music Is Your Business'
is available from the Music Biz Academy bookstore.
Visit the FourFront Media and
Music website for more information on the business of music from