Everyone, at some point in time, has dreamed of being a rockstar. Finding a massive audience for music that’s a direct reflection of who you are. Finding a platform to create artwork that’s a sincere reflection of your thoughts, opinions, and experiences. However, most people leave it as a daydream. It takes a very rare type of person to take those dreams and pursue them even further. To go out into the world and find bandmates, buy gear, and start trying to play small gigs in order to make a name for yourself.
It takes an even more rare type of person to remain committed to this ideal and push through the sea of crushing rejection and say, “let’s record our music.” It’s one thing to play a couple house shows, find a way to rehearse a few times, and even write some original music, but it’s a completely OTHER type of situation to want to invest the time, money, and resources into recording your music. The question is, how to get your music recorded?
Thankfully, it’s a lot easier now than it used to be. Previously, your options would have been very limited. Unless you had a rich uncle or a record deal, the best you could hope for would be to crank out a modest demo at a local recording studio and hope that would be enough to convince a label to sign you.
However, thanks to modern technology and the digital age, independent artists are now able to make high quality recordings for a lot less money, and many are able to record and distribute full-length albums on a modest budget. You now have more options for getting your music recorded than ever before. Here are a few ways to go about it, listed from least expensive to most expensive.
1) RECORD ON YOUR OWN GEAR
Among indie musicians, home studios are almost a given these days. Digital technology enables you to record high-quality audio directly to a laptop or desktop computer, and you can incorporate some very real-sounding virtual instruments and samples via MIDI, as well—all for a fraction of what it costs to record a full-length in a high-quality recording studio.
Believe it or not, Beck even recorded his album Morning Phase in his own home studio, and then went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year! Of course, you’ll get better results if you know how to run the gear, if your home studio is acoustically treated and if you buy the best gear and software that you can afford. But at the very least, you’ll be able to create a presentable recording that could pass as a decent demo, if not as an EP or LP.
2) Team Up With A Producer
Let’s say you’ve gone the home recording route. If you’re looking for an extra little oomph to push your recordings over the top, you could find a local producer that’s about at the same level as you, or maybe a bit above, and have them help you put the finishing touches on your project.
You could do the heavy lifting of the recording and rough mix, and then you could invite them over to your home studio and have them polish off the last 10%. That way you’d have an album that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg, but still feels more professional that what you’re capable of.
3) COMBINE HOME RECORDING WITH STUDIO RECORDING
Many artists today, even a lot of the major label artists, like to do some of their pre-production work or partial recordings at home, then bring the tracks into the studio for fine tuning, for additional recording of tracks in a better acoustic environment, or for mixing the project. In other words, record what you can record at home, then take it to the studio for parts that can’t be recorded well at home.
This not only offers significant savings on the hourly rates of your local studio, but it also allows you the flexibility to record parts on your own time, rather than wait for the studio calendar to open up. This is kind of the leveled up version of option two. It still sees you doing a lot of the initial work, but then having a professional assist you in the polishing phase.
4) DO A SELF-FUNDED RECORDING IN A LOCAL STUDIO
Even with modern technology, there is still likely to be a limit to the quality you can produce in a home studio, unless you’re a professional audio engineer, or producer living with you, of course. If you want your recorded music to be as competitive as possible, you may still want to go the route of recording the full project in the studio.
Hourly rates vary among studios, from around $30/hour for smaller project studios to over $100/hour for state-of-the-art or in-demand recording studios. Many indie artists fund their records these days using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. They raise the capital themselves, then go into the studio and build the record there. This is obviously a bit more expensive than doing it yourself, but it also offers a large sonic palette, most of the time.
5) GET SIGNED TO A LABEL
Of course, if you have confidence, connections, tenacity and patience, you can always still try the traditional route of convincing a record label to sign you. You’ll still likely need a demo or a decent self-produced recording to make this happen. A strong fan base doesn’t hurt, either. So start posting online.
If you get signed, the label will fund your recording. In many cases, this budget will include a professional producer and access to some of the best, and most expensive, studios. These days, it’s sort of like playing the lottery to try to get signed, mainly because there’s so much competition, and because the labels don’t want to take risks on unproven acts. But with the right connections and a bit of luck, it can still be done.
Recording Music to Start Your Career
As you can see, there are many more ways now to get your music recorded than there were a few years ago, and the path you choose will likely depend on your budget and resources. But the good news is, you no longer have to wait to be “discovered” to get your music out to the public and start winning fans. You can get started right in your own bedroom.
The existential frustration of having to wait to be seen by the right person is gone. These days if you’re not doing it yourself, the likelihood that you’re going to be picked from obscurity is pretty low. You need to go out and build yourself a body of work. As much as it sucks, the first few options on this list are probably the only ones that are realistic.
You need to build yourself a portfolio. You need to find an audience. You need to prove that there are people who are willing to fork over their hard-earned money for your music, before anyone else is going to really bet on you. It’s frustrating, annoying, and discouraging, at times, but it’s honestly the truth. You’re not going to find a starting position in the industry just by saying the words, “I want to be a rockstar.” You have to go out and earn that position.