I go to a lot of gigs in London. I have a
lot to choose between. It's Western Europe's biggest city
and has possibly the largest unsigned music scene anywhere
in the world. I talk to these bands all the time, and when
they find out I'm a music producer, they say "Oh man,
we'd love to record an album, but... "
What follows the "but" is usually
one of the following three excuses. All three are nonsense.
However, I understand why the bands believe them. There's
a lot of misinformation floating around the lower ends of
the music industry, much of it put about by people who are
either completely ignorant or have something to gain by propagating
untruths. The tragedy is that bands believe them and that
a lot of great music never gets heard by millions of people
who would love it.
So let's destroy some myths here. So, you'd
"love to record, but... "
1. "... we can't afford it."
This is the most common problem bands cite.
They come to this conclusion either by over-estimating the
costs of recording or by under-estimating the amount they
can raise to fund an album.
Most bands try to get an idea of how much
an album will cost by contacting a producer or a studio and
asking how much it would cost. This is the very worst way
to do this. The producer or studio will sense a sale and quote
for the most expensive, luxury package they have on offer.
Instead, take control of the recording process.
Audit your band's skills and find out which parts of the process
you can do yourselves. Anybody who tells you that it's not
possible to record/mix/master/produce to a professional standard
in your bedroom is probably trying to sell you something expensive.
It's not that professionals can't help, or that money you
spend on them is wasted, it's that you should only be calling
these guys in to perform tasks that are not in the reach of
your band's skill set, not handing them over a vast amount
of money to do things you could easily do yourself. Take ownership
of the project and make it clear to professionals who is paying
who, the value you expect and what they should, and should
not, be doing with your money.
Depending on what you can do in-house, the
potential savings from this approach are vast they can reduce
the price of a professional quality album from tens of thousands
of dollars to just a few hundred.
2. "... we want to get signed first."
Big mistake. But again, an understandable
one. A lot of people, especially established stars, turned
professional decades ago, when you really did need to get
signed by a record label to record, and are offering advice
that is no longer relevant to modern unsigned acts. The idea
of bands hawking a demo around A&R men is part of the
imagery and folklore or rock and roll, but it is at least
20 years out of date.
Most record companies these days will not
touch your band unless you have already recorded an album
yourselves. That was certainly my experience. I spent 10 years
in bands that tried to get signed, firing off crappy demos
to record companies who filed them straight in the bin. Then,
in 2010, my then band released its first album. A week after
the press copies went out, I got a phone call. It was an independent
record label, and they wanted to talk about a deal.
Some musicians spend their entire lives waiting
for that phone call. They're usually the ones who tell me
they want to get signed before they record. It's not the '60s
any more. Wake up.
3. "... we're not in that league yet."
Like the second objection, this is a confusion
of cause and effect. These guys see small-time bands without
an album, and big-time bands with one, and assume that those
other bands got big before they recorded. In fact, chances
are that the album was recorded while the band was small and
played a major part in its growth.
Again, this was something that I noticed myself
in my own experience. Once my band had an album, and I had
one as a producer, doors opened for us that we never knew
existed. Instead of us scratching around for management, record
deals, big gigs, tour support, festival slots, those things
were coming to us.
Why was that? Well as much as I'd like to
say that it was the sheer brilliance of my mixing, it was
nothing to do with the music on the album. It was to do with
what having an album said to the industry about us as a band
and as individuals. Rather than talk the talk as so many bands
do, we had walked the walk and spent 18 months of solid work
on writing, recording and releasing a full-length professional
quality album. We proved that we were willing to invest, and
risk, our own time, effort and money in the pursuit of our
dreams, which the majority of bands, when it comes to the
crunch, aren't. That was more than just a CD, it was a passport
to the big time, and it's one that your band could have in
a few months from now.
James Scott is a music producer in London,
UK He works with unsigned and independent musicians to help
them get noticed in the industry.