So you’ve finally got a band together and you’re ready to record your magnum opus. We’re sure your creative juices are flowing and you’re chomping at the bit to get into the studio. Not to burst your bubble, but it’s important to think about how much it’s going to cost.
Money on my mind
We’re going to start by saying that there isn’t a single figure for how much an album costs. For instance, Nirvana spent $600 to record their debut album Bleach. At the other end of the scale, Guns N’ Roses’ 14-year production of Chinese Democracy reportedly cost in excess of $13 million.
So what can make this bottom-line figure vary so wildly? It depends on the music you want to make, and what you’re looking to get out of your album. Zach Phillips from Freq Lab Recording in San Francisco puts it quite succinctly, “A simple three-piece rock band recording a 4 song demo for friends and family can expect to pay less than a 6 piece jazz ensemble that’s recording 18 songs to shop to labels and sell at their merchandise booth.”
So, how much does it cost to record an album? If you’re looking to use a professional recording studio in a big city, a realistic ballpark estimate is roughly £8,000. This may seem quite a large amount for studio space. However, you’ll learn throughout this article how much goes into recording an album.
She works hard for the money
We all know you can’t rush perfection. However, the reality is that studio time is one of the biggest expenses for an album. So just how long does it take to record an album? Again, this is somewhat of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. There are several factors that determine how much money you should be prepared to invest in your album.
It may go without saying, but if you’re relatively inexperienced it’s going to take longer to record your album. Established artists will have a clearer picture of what they want from their recording. Previous time spent in the studio means they’ll know which parts of the process are likely to be more time-consuming. Finally, they’re likely to be recording with people they’ve previously collaborated with. This means they’ll be able to jump right into the studio, rather than needing time to figure out what works well for everyone.
Here are just a few more questions to help you decide how much time you should set aside to record your album:
How much trial and error are you expecting in your recording session?
You might be full of ideas for songs, but are unsure as to how they might work in a recording studio. Therefore, you might need to allow for time to go back to the drawing board.
How much equipment are you going to need?
If you’re considering a lo-fi or acoustic vibe for your album, then a pared-back arrangement means you have fewer elements and tracks to mix. In comparison, if your band is more inspired by the progressive plucking of Jethro Tull or Tool and need to pull off some more complex compositions, you may require a much larger repertoire of instruments.
Cash rules everything me
When you decided to pursue your ambitions of music stardom, we’re sure you didn’t think about developing a knack for budgeting. The reality, however, it’s that it’s called the music business for a reason.
It’ll be helpful for you to break costs down into ‘hard costs’ and ‘soft costs’. Hard costs cover everything you have to shell out to make an album. These include studio time - which we’ve covered - and equipment. If you’re working with a producer to help perfect your album, you also have to think about their fees.
If your goal is to record your album on a shoestring budget, it’s possible to do it for next to nothing thanks to the rise in availability and affordability of home recording equipment. This can be a fantastic asset if you’re confident it will deliver your desired sound.
The ‘soft costs’ are the indirect expenses of recording an album. In the golden days of record sales, the anticipated return on costs meant successful bands had no qualms about living a lavish lifestyle whilst taking their time in the studio. The history of popular music is littered with anecdotes about such acts of fiscal extravagance. 90s nu-metallers Korn, for instance, spent millions on living costs in the two years it took to record their album Untouchables.
With today’s online streaming services, records are no longer a guaranteed moneymaker. Therefore, you’re probably not factoring in the costs of trashing an executive suite. Soft costs more or less cover your living expenses, so recording your album can be your primary focus.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems
So you’ve finished recording your album. Now you can finally put your wallet away, right? Not necessarily. The real work starts when you’re putting your album out there.
Most artists today stick to digital platforms such as Soundcloud and Spotify. Not only are they the fastest and cheapest ways to distribute recordings, but they’re the channels most listeners and label executives use. However, you’re probably thinking about pressing physical copies to get into stores or sell at gigs.
There’s always the temptation to go overboard with special packaging or limited edition vinyls. While this is part of the fun of being a recording artist, these kinds of costs can’t exactly be called necessary. You should also be smart about how many physical copies you order. Be realistic about how many you expect to sell, and don’t be lured into ordering in bulk if you don’t anticipate a decent return on your costs.
Finally, you need to think about the costs of promoting an album. You could decide to work with a PR firm. However, this could involve a lot of upfront expenses without a guarantee that your album will catch on. Our personal advice? The best kind of publicity for a fledgeling artist is good old-fashioned word of mouth. Keep gigging to grow your fan base, and never underestimate the power of social media to generate buzz. At the end of the day, if people want your album they’ll do what they can to get your hands on it. And if they like what they hear, it could kick-start your career to the extent that you may never have to worry about album costs again!
Ready to dive into recording your new album? We have the perfect space for you to hone your sound, with an eclectic range of equipment and an attentive team of experts. Contact Kore Studios today to arrange a session.