4 Tips for Negotiating the Best Rate for Studio Time

Money is always an issue for the independent artist. Booking time in a recording studio is the most expensive but also the most important step in music production. Because musicians largely are defined by their sound, a recording can make or break a career. This is why studio time is not the place to skimp when your budget is stretched. Instead of cutting back on studio time there are plenty of ways to negotiate a cheaper rate.

First, it is essential to understand the nature of studios and their business. Smaller recording studios generally see huge fluctuations in business. A smart studio owner may try to diversify their customer base, offering services to a wider range of customers. Despite this, nothing is guaranteed from week to week. Knowing this information can make it easy for artists to negotiate better deals with a studio.

Tip 1: Bulk is Best
Try to book block sessions whenever possible, as engineers would rather work one long session than two or three short ones. They will always be willing to discount your rate to do this, sometimes up to 30%.

Tip 2: Standardize your sessions over time
If a recording engineer can pencil you in for the same session every week, it creates stability for the studio in scheduling and income. Your reliability will be an incentive for the studio to offer you more discounts to maintain that flow.

Tip 3: Nothing is sweeter to a recording engineer than pre-paid hours
Once you have found a trusted studio, pre-pay for everything. Most studios offer options to leave deposits and pay after the session. Engineers are also more likely to work past booked hours if they already have the cash in hand.

Tip 4: Be a model citizen
Studios and recording engineers are largely fans of good artist and love being on the inside of the creative process. Showing respect for the engineer, the studio, the job and the music is the best way to get on their good side. Building a report always helps in price negotiations.

While each of these tips will net you some money back into your pockets, using all of them can net some serious cash and give an artist that creative space to really work without boundaries.

Professional Studio Tips Virtual Canvas

Whoa, 6am comes awfully early when I spend all night in the studio. I can’t help it though–I’m stuck in the moment like a deer in the headlights. The studio is virtual reality and was so long before it migrated into the realm of microprocessors. In that environment anything and everything is possible–and it happens on a second by second basis. And you know what? No matter how well you conceive the final product to be, and how diligently you plan, practice, and prepare, the end is always greater than sum of your anticipation. You can’t foresee how your internal rhythms will respond to the bright snap of a snare, your imagination will perceive the wail of a blues harp rippling through consciousness carried on by a spacious echo, or the sweetness of an acoustic guitar joyfully ringing a chorus. These things first happen in the playback. There always is your faith that the world will love and wholeheartedly accept what you hear too. That is what it is all about.

The studio is a blank canvas. There are four points of reference on this canvas, but you should not look at it (or think of it) as a white sheet of paper before your eyes. If you take that sheet of paper, look at the EDGE of it, and tilt the back upward a bit, that will give you a physical picture of the canvas dimensions. Can you picture it? The four dimensions of recorded music are Left and Right (of course) imaged by the pan control, and “painted” by the left and right speakers. Obvious reference points–it is the way we experience live sound.

What are the two other dimensions? Top and bottom? No, in order to simulate that we would need top and bottom fade controls and speakers to deliver those dimensions. When you hear a band do you hear music down low or up high? No. The other two canvass reference points are front and rear. How then, do you sonically move something from the front to the rear you might wonder? Volume. Our brains are wired to perceive that which is loud as closer than that which is quiet. It’s natures way. This is why we must look at our sheet of paper canvas on edge, to get left, right, front and rear.

With those four dimensions in mind you can begin putting down sonic paint on your canvas. It is not important at this point to know where everything will be placed, but these reference points will help you think about your sound, and plan your work. When it is time to mix down, you will place all your colors on that virtual canvas–which is of course, the air itself.

There always is a drive for ultimate perfection in the studio, but take if from a guy that has lived in a studio for years, perfection is relative–relative to the moment and your state of mind. The first hour in is ultimate perfection, and twelve hours later the definition of perfection warps. Consider this, most of us will not have the opportunity or funding to spend in a commercial studio, with top gun players, distinguished producers, or leading-edge engineers.

Think back at the songs that you have loved over the years, especially vintage songs of the sixty’s and seventy’s. Imperfection is part of their characteristic charm. You probably will not be able to match the perfection of today’s commercial music–so decide what is important. I have always been a huge advocate of a great performance and lively presentation over a flawless output. People will respond to the music–not necessarily the complexity of the song. Remember that, it will help you think about your sound. I’ll have more professional studio tips next article–until then stay on track.