Every musician is basically a start-up entrepreneur. You’re always hustling, looking for ways to make money off your music. You’re trying to pull all the pieces together to fully make your career a sustainable thing. And when you’re a newly-on-the-scene musician or producer the hardest aspect of anything is getting your foot in the door. So, the questions inevitably come up: How much time can you afford in a studio? How do you get the most out of your studio time?
The thing is, you have to be realistic about how much time you’ll need in the studio. After all, you can’t just stand in a sound room and record an album from start to finish in an hour. You’ll need to work with potentially a team of people. You’ll need to do take after take after take, in order to really make things happen. You’ll need to afford a professional studio engineer. These things aren’t cheap. It’s that time-honored adage. “Cheap, good, fast. Pick two.” That’s any creative industry. You’re always going to be working with that paradigm.
How Much to Rent a Studio for Recording
Most music studios charge an hourly rate, ranging from around $30/hour for budget studios to $100/hour or more for a studio with fine-tuned acoustics and equipment. In music hotbeds like New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, this rate can go even higher. Some project studios will negotiate a set rate per day, or per song, so if you find a talented up-and-coming engineer who is looking for opportunity and experience, you might be able to cut costs a bit.
So how much time should you expect to spend in the studio? On average, a full-length album will take somewhere between 90-150 hours to record, and even longer for complicated or conceptual/experimental albums. If your record takes 100 hours to record and mix from start to finish, you’re looking at roughly $3000 to $5000 in studio time for budget studios, and $10,000 minimum for more upscale studios. If you hire a good engineer to oversee tracking and mixing, you’ll want to add about $200 per song. Additionally, you must not forget to have your album or songs mastered for potential duplication, and this process usually costs around $100 per song.
As you can see, many of these costs are just prohibitively expensive. This is why prosumer home recording setups have risen so much in prominence over the last decade or so. Many of the people in positions of power will tell you that recording in a studio is the only way to go. That’s not true. It’s a way to go, but not the only way.
Do You Need to Rent a Music Studio?
Being a young musician is like running a company. It’s taking business risks. It’s betting on yourself. It’s setting yourself up to win, by creating a world in which you can’t fail. It’s making sure that your overheads are manageable because you know as a young musician, you’re going to have to market, sell, and position everything yourself. No one is going to help you set up a tour, you’re going to be doing it yourself. No one is going to help you make merch, you have to do it. Therefore, it’s important that you’re able to save the most money you can.
For some people recording their album in a recording studio is essential. They need the help, they don’t have the expertise, they don’t have the skills to do it themselves. And that’s where it makes sense to dedicate your time and resources. For other people, it’s important to control every aspect of the recording. It’s important that they have all of the details exactly the way they are in their head. And that’s a scenario where it makes more sense to record at home. On your laptop. It’s absolutely the only move to make because it enables you to really make sure you’re spending your time and money correctly.
Ultimately, it’s up to the individual. Does it make more sense to build your skillset and buy the equipment you need for a home set up? Or does it make more sense for you to make a project happen with talented and skilled professionals. It’s going to be a different answer for different people. However, the only constant in this discussion is what you do with the music once it’s recorded. Are you going to go out and actually be able to sell your music? Or is it just going to sit on a hard drive. That’s the true mark of a professional musician. What they’re able to make happen off of the back of their music.