What are we recording and why?
Hey Guys, Often bands or artists walk into my studio knowing they need to record, but not really knowing what they want to do..
This means that they have some songs, a band to play them but no one is entirely sure what their recording is supposed to achieve. From what I’ve seen there are generally three different things bands record; Demos, EPs and Albums.
In my experience a demo’s job is to be handed out or sold for a very small amount of money in order to expand the artist’s fan base, get gigs at local clubs, and basically let the world know that they are a band, and that they take themselves seriously enough to record something. The demo is usually the first thing that a band will record because it’s generally fairly short, and most of the time it’s the first thing the band has recorded together. The demo can be printed out on CD-Rs or even just written on with a sharpie before they are given out to people. Packing and presentation isn’t too terribly important at this point. The demo exists to “Demonstrate” (get it?) the abilities of your songs, or your band, or whatever. I would not recommend recording other people’s songs on your demo, because the point of the demo to show off what YOU are doing that makes you different from everyone else. You want the demo to speak for YOUR band, not someone elses.
The EP or Extended Play harkens back to a time when there were several different kinds of vinyl records you could buy, all of them with different playing times. These days an EP is between 5-7 songs and gets sold for around 5 bucks. An EP is like a mini album, so you want to treat it as such. Sound quality matters, packaging matters, performance matters, and choosing the right songs to go on the album matters.
The EP is the first step into a serious record. Big “national” bands often record EPs when they have a little time off from a tour but not enough time to do a full length album, or because they have a few songs leftover from their last full length release and really like them. EPs are a great stepping stone between big records because they can be made relatively cheaply and quickly.
An EP shouldn’t have any handwriting on it. There are two reasons for this; one, no one wants to have to write legibly and neatly on hundreds of discs and packages that will hopefully be sold and two, most of the time these are going to be sold at shows where the only impression of the band is in a potentially awful sounding club, so half of what sells the disc is the presentation. If you present yourself seriously, people will take you seriously.
So at least have the CDs be printable CD-Rs with neat printing on them and some kind of case, paper sleeve, or better yet a paper sleeve with your band’s sticker inside. That’s a good way to get a few stuck on parked cars outside the venue.
So, to recap, the EP is the next step between the Demo and the Full Length Album. They are a great way to expand your fan base and offset, the cost of recording it. Hell, you’ll probably make some cash if you price your EP reasonably and have it available at shows.
Last, but not least, is the album. The no holds barred, take no prisoners, “you-want-to-sell-more-of-these-than-you-have-blood-cells” Album. This should be the best your music has to offer. The best sound, the best songs, the best performance, the best packaging, the best everything. This is what is going to allow you to pay for a tour because hopefully, you’ll be selling them every night, and paying for your gas money, or Taco Bell, or whatever. In the long run, these should become highly sought after collector’s items because of their early and limited release, you know, after you make it big and everything.
The album is the thing you take off work to record. The thing you rehearse the asses off your songs for, the thing that you may break up with your girlfriend to finish and, with any luck, the thing you are going to use to expand your career as a musician. The thing you barter or pay a talented graphic designer to help you design the artwork for. This is what you want to be when you grow up, and you take it seriously because it’s serious. It really pays to get someone you trust to give input on the Album. More about this in the next article.
All of this is even MORE important considering you’ll be selling these things for around 10 American dollars, people want to get their money’s worth. Sure it’s great in the short term if they just buy it, but if they only play it on the way home from the venue and never listen to it again, chances are they won’t tell their friends and they might not even come see the band ever again. What all careers want is LONGEVITY. You want these people to tell their friends the next time you guys play out, you want them to play the disc for their friends, or their parents, anybody really as long as they come to the shows, buy merch, and TELL THEIR OTHER FRIENDS. Word of mouth is the best advertising in the world, and you can’t really buy it, you have to EARN it.
So taking an album seriously is important. This means getting good sleep, being focused, and knowing your songs. If you want to be a professional musician, this is a HUGE part of your job. Yes, your job. You want to get paid for it right?
Ok, next installment, we will discuss the difference between a producer and an engineer and why most bands hire BOTH. It’s about to get crazy go nuts up in here.