Many musicians have finally wised up to the idea that they must do more to further their careers than just record a few demos and send them out randomly to a list of A&R reps they found somewhere on the Internet.
The smart musician finds a way to record either a couple of professionally recorded songs or a full length CD. But that is only the 1st step in being a professional musician/band in today's independent music universe.
The 2nd Step is really the answer to this question. "You've recorded your music...now, what are you going to do with it?
If you have very little money left after recording your music, that you are going to have to be very creative in what you try to do to get the word out.
Nobody is waiting for your music until you have established yourself in some fashion. You have to be the one to push your music through all the clutter that is out there so people can find and listen to your music, and hopefully buy it.
So the activities you choose to do when you are a very small budget are going to be fairly limited...AND there will be some costs involved along the way to exposing your music.
You may be surprised to learn that too many recorded projects end after the songs have been recorded. WHY?, because many acts spent their whole budget on recording and have little or nothing left to market, promote, and find ways to sell the damn thing.
Yes, it actually costs money to take the 2nd Step. "How much?" As much as you've got!
I am NOT trying to flippant, it just the truth.
There are now more than 110,000 new releases coming out each year so apparently there are a lot of artists and bands that actually have money saved up for things that involve this 2nd Step. Things like: designing the artwork and manufacturing the CD, or to not just rely on a MySpace or Facebook page, but create an actual professional looking website of your own, for starters.
The smart acts realize that it takes money to promote and market their music.
We need to look at the basic economic issues of creating and promoting musical product. This subject definitely separates the boys and girls from the men and women. For starters, you must know what the standards of excellence are for releasing a CD in your genre of music. By this I mean, whether you’re a rocker, a rap or hip-hop act, a potential Top 40 pop artist, a country musician, or a singer/songwriter, the recording quality that’s expected of each genre is different.
You many have to spend money on several types of re-mixes of you music, depending on the needs of that part of the music business that exposes your style of music.
Think of it this way; the more mainstream sounding your music is, the more money you may need to spend on re-mixes for your release.
I’ve read many helpful articles and books about raising money for recording projects. They go into detail about the options available. You can save up money from each of the gigs you’re playing. (You are playing live aren’t you... duh 101, please and thank you!) You can borrow money from family or friends. It’s a long shot to get a business loan from a bank (good luck—because financial institutions see music as a very high risk and rarely provide such loans). You can do fund-raising gigs with other artists. Whatever.
Raising the money for an unproven musical talent shouldn’t be the responsibility of anyone but the you, the artist.
There are thousands of independent records in the musical landscape. The musicians who put out their own music found a way to raise the money. Others have gone before you and gotten the job done. You too can raise the money to record and fund a proper marketing campaign if you’re serious about it.
Let me go back for a second and take a look at Step 1 issues in more depth.
Let me give you some tips on recording expenditures that might save you a few bucks.
I know it is very popular to just record your music on you laptop these days, but do you really have the skills to create a recording that is considered 'professional' by industry standards?
• Looking for a studio? Ask around. Talk to other bands and musicians in your neck of the woods. What studios did they use? What was their experience like?
• Call the studios you’re interested in and ask for a tour of their facilities. Don’t use a studio just because someone else said to, check it out for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable there, how can you do your best recording there?
• Check for deals. Ask about slow times or off-hours when the rent is cheaper.
• What comes with the studio time? An engineer? Is that person right for your music?
• What about a producer? Do you have someone in mind? Does the studio recommend someone? How much will they cost? (Be sure to sign a producer’s agreement with any producer too!)
• After you’ve found the right studio, at the right price, rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse! Many musicians spend precious time in the studio rehearsing. The clock is ticking! Before you waste expensive hours in a recording studio, be sure you’ve rehearsed your songs until you dream about them at night. In the studio the motto is: Get in, get out.
Moving on...determine a budget for the recording project, and stick to it.
Now, as for Step 2 what about the CD cover artwork, design and the manufacturing costs? I usually deal with this topic for several hours in classes and consultations. Think seriously about these topics. YOUR IMAGE IS EVERYTHING in the entertainment industry.
From here on you’ll be leaving your comfort zone to enter the world of business. You’ll be making a product that will represent you for the rest of your life. Your choice of cover design and manufacturer will determine the quality of that product, and once those choices are made, they can’t be undone. Image issues are crucial when creating anything that your potential fans can see.!
Why are distributors now rejecting countless CDs with amateurish cover designs? One reason. Those musicians didn’t want to spend money on a cover design for their CD. The music is what it’s all about, right? What difference can a CD cover make? But think about it. Have you ever purchased a CD just because the cover was so cool you had to buy it? Someday, your CD will be in a store bin filed next to your favorite artist! Will you be proud of it? Will it reflect your image and your music? How about when a postage stamp size picture of you CD is on Amazon.com or iTunes, will it look good whatever size you may need for marketing your music?
If not, you’ll be hurting yourself in the marketplace.
So, you’ve gotten your music recorded and manufactured, you’ve spent a lot of money, but you’re not done. It’s now marketing time! Now I know I said, that you can use whatever amount of money you can to market your music here in Step 2, but I will give you now a tip that is more specific.
I suggest you budget an amount that doubles, or better yet, triples what you spent on recording, manufacturing, and design. (That’s only for a local or regional do-it-yourself release.)
Here again are some promotion and marketing costs:
• Stamps and mailing envelopes for sending your promo copies to the media.
• Phone bills for the hundreds of follow-up calls you must make to the media after they receive your promo copies.
• Gas money while driving around to put your CD on consignment in the few remaining independent record stores that are out there in your area.
• Internet connection fees, website design fees and promotion costs for making a killer-looking site that offers your music for sale using the new methods available.
• Hiring an independent record promoter and their retail counterparts. If you think you can get significant national airplay without hiring someone who has experience and contacts in college and commercial radio, get real.
The reason a recording costs so much is because of the hidden costs of promoting and marketing it. And without promotion and marketing your recording has little chance of getting heard. Budget $400–$1,000 a week for this, for two to three months.
• Advertising costs. A distributor will presume you have money for this, if you can get a distributor on board these days. For example, the listening-stations you see in stores are not free; they cost around $100 per station, per store, per month! This practice is changing right now, so check your stores to see what they offer.
• Printing and copying costs for distributor one-sheets,publicity and promo packages, response cards, posters, and flyers for live concert sales promotions.
• The unexpected. Other expenses that you cannot predict will surely come your way.
There you have it. An introduction to why you must find a way to properly fund your recording and marketing costs. If you need encouragement after reading this, go online to your favorite digital music site, or go down to your local record store and walk up and down the aisles. Look at the thousands of other artists and bands who got their music into the store. That is an accomplishment, and if they did it, you can too.
Yes, there is more to it than just recording your record.
If you want to stand any chance of your music being appreciated you need money for Step 1 AND Step 2.