What you need to do before you record a band
So, you’ve finally worked up the courage to start advertising your studio and got a client to agree to record with you. Beyond enjoying your initial excitement of having your first paying client, there are a few things you need to do before you even think of hitting that record button.
Before the recording process begins there are certain things that must be accomplished to ensure a smooth and enjoyable session for both you and the band. Beginning with the pre-production meetings to reviewing and creating a schedule, you as the head engineer of your own studio must learn these steps to create a more professional working environment which will lead to more clients and higher rates for your studio.
This first step I had to learn the hard way when I first started out. When I would receive confirmation from a band that they were interested in recording with me I would typically just say, “Awesome, I’m available on this date from this time to this time.” Little did I know how much headache and confusion I was creating not only for myself but for the band as well.
First things first:
When a band expresses interest in recording at your studio, setup a meeting with the band immediately. Set a strict time with a definitive date for them to show up and have a sit down with you. From the get-go, you will be demonstrating that you are indeed a professional engineer and will work with structure towards creating a good sounding recording with them.
Upon the band’s arrival to your first initial meeting, have your studio ready to be showcased. Be sure to highlight your gear and have samples of past recordings, even if they are your own demos, to show the band. This will not only impress the band it will lead to them becoming future clients again and again because they understand that you are there working for them. They are the primary focus of the recording process. This makes the band feel like they are in good hands when they are paying out of their own pocket.
Below are the things you will review with the band once you have given them a tour of your studio and what you have to offer.
Review the Genre and Instruments Being Recorded
If you manage to become a well-established studio in your town, you will get bands or individuals from all genres. This is a tell-tale sign that you are becoming a well-known engineer and producer.
When a band first arrives, you need to ask them what type of music they are involved in. What genre do they want to be associated with? These questions will begin the process of you understanding what they are going for when they begin recording with you.
“What band do you most sound like?”
This question above will give you the greatest insight as to what the band is trying to accomplish sonically. Allow them to show you a song from that band. Be sure to have YouTube or Spotify ready to explore so that they may show you.
Hearing a recording from a similar band will instantly give insight on the certain recording techniques you will be using. Which microphones you’ll need. The type of vocal style you will be working with. The amount of editing, if any, you will have to do. The type of drum samples you will need.
This first step not only gives you the greatest advantage of preparing for the recording process it gives the band the impression that you truly care about their vision and final sound.
Create a schedule
Now that you have a good idea of what type of band or individual you are working with, now it is time to create a schedule for you and the band to follow. This process will involve the times your studio is open and available and allow the band to plan accordingly.
Be sure discuss the way you approach the recording process and the style you work in. Explain the order you create your sessions and why you use that approach. Show the band that you understand the recording process, even if you are barely starting out.
Discuss what will be recorded first and on which day and at what time. Although in my experience, most band members want to be there through the entirety of the recording process, the reality is that you really only need who you are tracking that day to be there. By discussing who will be recording on what day will allow the band to plan around their lives and work schedules. This further emphasizes that you care about them as a band and understand that their time is valuable.
Have them take out their phones and view the calendar while you are discussing dates. Have them enter important dates and times and have them write notes about what to expect or have accomplished on certain dates.
Set a budget
Next comes the all mighty dollar. Honestly, this step was the one that took me years to understand. I typically tried to charge less than everybody to get more clients. Let me begin by saying that this is the wrong approach. What ended up happening was that I began to get swarmed with business but the work I was putting in was not worth the money. Yeah sure I had tons of clients, but I was working my ass off every day. Because of this my work began to suffer, my relationships with my family and friends began to suffer. My studio was draining me.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was good at what I did. I became confident in my mixing abilities and knew that I could obtain a consistently good sound for my clients. This is when I knew I should charge what I thought I was worth. Amazingly, the demand didn’t drop off nor did my return rate. Sure, some interested bands saw the price increase and walked away but I saw it as their loss. If you are not willing to invest in yourself or your band, you don’t deserve quality. I began to see myself as an investment for bands because of the quality I provided them.
Do not be afraid to charge what you think you are worth!
Get to know that band
Finally, after all the scheduling, budgeting and music listening in your meeting comes the last phase. Getting to know the band. For years, the majority of my studio income was provided by bands who kept returning to record with me. I had proven myself worthy for so many bands in my town. Why? Because I got to know them as individuals and not as a band. My main goal as a studio owner was to create an environment of friendship and comfortability that was not fake. I wanted bands to feel like my studio was their studio. I wanted bands to feel that they could open up to me and to understand that I was there for them and not just for their money. Below are a few things you could do to begin the friendships between you and the bands after your meeting.
- Provide the band a drink and if old enough an alcoholic beverage
- Sit down with them and ask them to show them their favorite bands
- Ask each member why they got into music
- If old enough, go out to a bar
Getting to know a band is one of the most effective tools you can use to get bands to return to work with you and your studio. The more popular you get, the more important this last piece of the puzzle will be. The more popular you get; means the more money you can charge. If a band views you as a peer and colleague, the price won’t ever play a factor in working with you. They will continue to pay to have the privilege of working with you because you are good at what you do, and you truly care about their success.
By following the steps outlined above you will begin to establish yourself as a professional even before you hit the record button. Not only are you creating structure in your workflow with predictable outcomes making the recording process easier for you, you are quickly on your way to establishing yourself as a compassionate and trustworthy studio owner and engineer. Word travels fast in every city and when bands start talking about how professional and relatable you are, the more potential clients you will find heading your way. Your mixing and producing skills will be the icing on the cake for your reputation as a studio owner.