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.

How To Be a Music Producer

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No Budget No Experience

When I first started out getting into producing I had nothing. School loans were killing my pockets, school work was taking all of my time and if I did have some time to try and do something I didn’t have a very good way of doing it. But hopefully with this article I can help out a few people find out what all is out there to work with, what to use and how to use it.

First off I’m going to list some stuff that can be very helpful.

1. Learn an instrument. Because training your ear and learning musical theory will benefit your career. You should also try to compose your own songs, master tempos, and understanding music from the other side of the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

2. Master a DAW To create, you’ll need to learn how to use a DAW and as many music-processing programs as you can. Some producers use programs such as Cakewalk Sonar, Reason, Pro Tools, and FL Studio. If you don’t a have some background in sound production, a good program to start off with is FL Studio.

3. Create instrumentals. Try Hip Hop, Dub step, Rock, Pop, R&B. The more genres you become good in, the more clients you can get!

4. Remake your favorite song. Take a known song try to remake it and give it your own flavor. Think about. What kind of potential does it have? How can you make it better?

5. Get Networking. Tell family and friends you’re producing music. Create business cards. Post bulletins around your neighborhood. Make your prices are reasonable, you’ll get clients in no time. Charge cheap per hour or per song. (Remember to keep family and business separate, though.)

6. Intern at a studio. Sure, it’s tough work, but you might get some free time in a real recording studio. You’ll make friends in the business (and bring home that paycheck). Start low if necessary; the point is to get your foot in the door.

7. Get educated. So if music production doesn’t work out, you’ll have something to fall back on; if it does, you’ll be able to get higher positions with better pay.

8. Save up. Now that you have knowledge of the business, steady source of income, and a client base, you can start your own studio.

Tips On How To Promote Yourself As A Music Studio Producer

As a music studio producer who is keen to create a buzz for himself, you can easily find numerous websites on the Internet to showcase his talents. Social networking sites that connect people, like Facebook and MySpace, can also offer musical artists the unique opportunity to interact with their would-be fans and friends.

On a website like MySpace, producers and musicians and producers can design and manage their own page that lets them upload mp3 tracks their profile, that allows you to upload mp3 tracks to a play list. Through free steaming, the clips are available for fans to listen and enjoy. Make friends with people who share your tastes and identity. Your news feeds and updates will give them a glimpse into what you are doing musically. By adding friends you can network and include people into your news feeds and updates. MySpace can also be used as a platform for videos.

While Facebook is less specifically geared towards the needs of music producers, the website has attracted millions of users. By setting up a fan page, you can address anyone who likes your music directly. To make your fan base grow and generate a buzz about your music, add other musicians who produce within your genre. Join groups and post links but don’t overdo the self-promotion. Nothing chases people away faster than overkill.

On YouTube, you can upload your own videos to put your music out there and bring it to the people. It is a bit like managing your own TV channel on an enormous network. Starting with your own recorded track of music, you can use Windows Movie Maker, which is already on most computers, to create your own slide show. Add a few of your own pictures and use the drop and drag technology to add them to the right place and even add a few effects like fades, for instance. To add it to your YouTube channel, you will need to save it in another format. Make viewers notice your channel by adding friends and subscriptions, by commenting on videos created by users with similar content and even by posting video responses to clips you like.

Music Studio Equipment for the Novice

Do you have dreams about starting your own rock band? Want to learn the guitar but don’t know the first thing about chords? Even the most inexperienced musician can create a home studio for jamming, recording, and experimenting without much knowledge. You might think you need a bunch of fancy music studio equipment to make it happen, but you really only need a few basics to get started. If you’re headed to the music store, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pick your instrument. This might seem obvious, but have you decided what you really want to play first? Of course you can pick up other instruments as well, but start with the one you’re dying to get your hands on. Whether it’s a guitar, the saxophone, or the bongo drums, follow your passion.
  • Get a good amp. If you love the sound of things now, wait till you hear it through a good amp. Getting at least one amp will help you rock out in style until you’ve got a full studio.
  • Research some free recording software. Did you come up with a new song but forget it? If you get some free recording software, you can make sure you don’t lose any brilliant riffs or genius progressions.

It doesn’t take much to get started even if you don’t have a lot of money to buy expensive music studio equipment. Pick up the basics and upgrade them over time. Before you know it, you’ll be making and mastering beats like the pros.

Where to Buy Music Studio Equipment

  • Talk to other musicians. Oftentimes, the best resource for this subject can be your music teacher, mentor, or other musicians in your area. They can probably tell you which local places will have what you’re looking for, or where to get it elsewhere. They may even be able to get you a discount if they’re plugged into the local music scene.
  • Go online. The internet is becoming a one-stop destination for buying music studio equipment. There are many different websites that sell both used and new equipment. You can buy everything from guitar straps to drum sets. A simple Google search will bring up hundreds of resources.
  • Read reviews. One of the best ways to find good retailers is to read the reviews of other customers. You can usually find them on the retailer’s website or other places, like Yelp. If a company has enough good reviews, it’s usually a good sign their products are worth it.

Make the most of your money by being a smart shopper. Even if you know exactly what you want, you can usually find it at a cheaper price if you look for a while. As always, don’t be afraid to negotiate when looking for music studio equipment.

10 Simple Music Marketing Tips For Indie Artists

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We live in a strange time. With the internet exploding in exponential chaos, we find almost all aspects of our lives are splintering to take new shapes and forms because of this hyper-connectivity. The music industry-and the artists creating within it-finds itself in a place of constant change. Finding target demographics is now a breeze with the multitudes of analytic software available. Music has changed from primarily physical product to almost completely digital. Traditional marketing has turned to social media marketing and branding for guidance.

Thanks to Spotify and other instant music streaming services putting music literally a click away, record labels barely beat out indies for total revenue in 2014. Now is the perfect time for artists to forgo the backing of a major label and tread through the murky waters of the music industry alone-aside from sometimes hiring out services like social media marketing and merchandise. Indie artists traditionally have much more creative freedom than their major label counterparts and usually get a much higher cut of any income they bring in. If artists are paying out of pocket for these types of services, they will sometimes want to take a stab at social media marketing themselves. Check out our list of 10 simple music marketing tips for indie artists.

1. Connect with your fans – Fans like to know what their favorite artists are up to. This simple concept is one of the reasons why interviews are a huge step in a band’s promo. Take the time to tweet something about yourself or post a quick video of you in the creative process. One step further: retweet and respond to your fans-it makes them feel even closer to you. Take the time to give your fans a peak behind the red curtain.

2. Keep Social Media Up To Date – Nothing is worse than going to a band’s Facebook or Twitter page and their tour schedule is from last summer. You should be editing performance dates and venues the day you confirm them. Give people time to work around their busy schedules and allow them to make it out to your shows. Beyond tour schedules, ensure that content is updated frequently so that fans have something to look forward to each time they visit your page.

3. Connect All Your Social Media Accounts – You should be utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and each of them should have accessible links to the others. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, however. There are 100’s of social media websites-you don’t need to use every single one.

4. Don’t Sound Like A Generic Advertisement – We all know THAT band who has a social media account that sounds like they are selling you something on every post or tweet. Be genuine! If there is something you hate about a band’s social media page, learn from their mistakes.

5. Visuals, Visuals, Visuals – People get bored of plain text all the time. Pictures and videos stand out and will make visitors stop and check out what you have to say. Instagram’s entire model is based upon visuals, and it’s worth $35 billion. Take a picture in the studio or shoot a video with a quick message to your fans. In fact, photos and videos get a higher organic news feed ranking that pure text posts on Facebook.

6. Post Regularly/Stay Active – Nothing says “we don’t care” quite like a band whose last tweet was two years ago. Every waking moment does not need to be spent on social media, but frequently posting is a great way to keep fans interacting with your band.

7. DO NOT SPAM – Keep content original! Posting the same status or tweet with the same text and same link every day is a huge no-no. Never let your fans question whether it’s the artist or a robot controlling their social media page. However, reusing highly engaging posts down the road is totally acceptable.

8. Give Out Exclusives – Giving out exclusives is a great way to give fans a reward for subscribing to your social media pages. Upload an MP3 online and post a link where fans who like your page can download it and put it in their music library. This is also an effective method for growing your email database.

9. Automate What You Can – Automation is not always a bad thing. Do some research and find a good tool for you that can help streamline your social media activity. There are some great apps out there that help you schedule tweets and your posts on your Facebook page.

10. You Can’t Rely Only On Facebook/Instagram/Twitter – This one is a little outside of the realm but still very much a social media tip. Social media can’t be all you do! You’re a musical artist, not a “Twitter Pic Of The Day” collective. Network with people in the industry, book shows, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Social media is an amazing tool for indie artists, but it is not the be-all end-all.

BONUS TIP – Email marketing is not dead! As much as you can, be sure to capture data for a mailing list. ALWAYS collect at least email AND Zip Code or location, so that you can geotarget concert messages.

AppleBeam Recording Studio Tips

How do I get an urban ‘mix tape’ vibe from my recorded studio track?

A question I have been asked and at first I didn’t really understand, but after talking to a couple people I now understand what effect they’re after.

The YouTube listener has been listening to low quality mp3s for a while now, and you know the funny thing, those low quality downloads have something appealing about them … Certain song or music styles can benefit from a narrow, mono audio picture.

Simply put, the lofi, mixtape audio quality sometimes adds punch to a track and can sound cool! Crazy but you should try it as an effect!

How do I get a mono effect?
Next time you are doing a track in the recording studio, before you mix it down, try putting a stereo expander over the whole mix. There are several free ones on Google if you do a search for “free stereo expander”.

What is a stereo expander?
A stereo expander will take a mono or narrow spectrum mix and widen it so your music will sound ‘spread out’. That is it’s main job, however, it can also do the opposite.

If you set the expander to between 0-15% narrow mix you will hear all the instruments and vocals centred with no stereo expanse, or very little depending on the settings you choose. In other words you are turning your stereo mix (left and right) into a mono mix (centre).

When trying this on your studio mix you may not want a totally mono mix, a small hint of stereo (say, 10%) will give it a little width without taking away from the centred ‘punchy’ effect.

The effect
The effect is a tight, punchy/boxy mix tape or lofi vibe and in some instances can make the track sound better, depending on the music style.

Hip Hop lends itself to this technique as it produces punchy and hard edged mixes, but this is an ‘effect’ and in most instances you would want to keep the traditional stereo mix so as not to lose elements of the musical ‘picture’… but try it and see the results!

Remember that your mix levels will appear very different with a harsh stereo expander setting so you’ll want to redo the mix to suit your song.


Something else that is worth mentioning in this article is the use of stereo expanders as a mixing tool. A lot of producers will test their mix in mono as this highlights problem areas in the mix.

If you have a mixed song, take a listen to it with a stereo expander set to 100% mono and notice how some instruments seem way too loud and others are lost.

The instruments that are lost may be smothered by frequencies in other sounds. EQ is vital to a good mix, so when you set your track to mono you are effectively putting everything on top of each other. The only way to clarify the individual parts is to fix EQ issues and volume. There are no hiding places in a mono mix!

Once you have sorted the mix in mono you can switch back to stereo and see how clear your mixes are!

Professional Studio Tips Laying Down Studio Tracks Like a Pro

Today I would like to talk about a very powerful studio tracking technique, that isn’t well known, but if properly executed, will make you sound as tight as if the band was playing together.

What I am referring to is a guide track. A guide track can be thought of as the template of the song. Usually it is performed by the rhythm guitar–sometimes the keyboards, and all subsequent tracks follow this musical tour guide. The vocals should be on the guide track as well.

The easiest way to begin a guide track is simply to play and sing along using a single microphone. If you only have a few tracks (4 to 8) always leave your guide track as your last track. There are a few things that should be noted about the guide track. First you should always start the guide track with a count. Even if a single instrument will begin the song in production. A count gives all musicians that are waiting for their point to begin the starting gun for the song.

The guide track can be quickly laid down. There is no need to reach for sonic perfection on this track since it will eventually be deleted. It’s more important that the track keep the rhythm, tempo, and dynamics of the song on task. If you drift tempo on the guide track, all subsequent tracks will follow suit.

The guide track gives you the unique ability to give direction to the players waiting down the line. For example if there is a pause, or a blank spot in the song, COUNT aloud until the music starts. All players in the queue will hit that re-start point with ease and precision. You can also give verbal directions such as “play more dynamically here”, “the song slows down here”, or “there is a key change coming up”. Also if the guide track is played and sung with feeling, the future players will respond to that as well.

Once the guide track is done, begin laying the foundations of the music–that is the rhythm, bass, and drums. All other instruments, vocals, and “sweetening” sits on top of this foundation. When the foundation is complete, begin your overdubs. This will be solos, musical hooks, and sounds that will give the song interest.

Record your vocals last. At this point, it is a matter of personal preference if you want to take down the guide track to record your vocals. Some singers do not want the distraction of the chatter that sometimes goes with a guide track. Other times the count will still be necessary because the vocals begin with or before the music.

A good guide track gives everyone who follows a well-lit pathway. It cues and gives direction, it establishes the tempo, and the attitude of the song. When you are riding atop a guide track, it is easy to hang onto the handles.

Studio Recording Tips For Musicians

The recording process can be a daunting task for new artists and established bands alike. Sessions can take too long, albums can go over budget, and musical and artistic differences can put a real strain on band relationships. Here are a few useful tips for artists preparing to record at a studio that can help save time, money, and relationships.

#3 – Think about the sound you want to achieve

Nobody likes to classify their sound, but it is important to have reference points when trying to explain the tone you’re looking for. Listen through your favorite CDs and find elements that are similar to the sound you’re trying to achieve. Being able to say “I really like the drum sound on song x” or “I want a vocal reverb like song y” is a huge help for the recording engineer. It’s not about copying the sound of another artist, it’s about establishing a starting point for your creative vision.

#2 – Get your gear into shape.

Before coming into the studio make sure your gear is in good working order. Change guitar strings and drum heads. Swap out the batteries in any active gear. Get some WD40 for that squeaky kick drum pedal! You may want to get any guitars or electric basses checked out by a tech beforehand; if the neck needs adjusted there is little a studio engineer can do to fix the intonation.

#1 – Prepare your songs!

In my opinion, the #1 way to save time and produce the best recording is to come into the studio with your songs prepared. You don’t want to waste your studio time working out arrangements, you want to spend it tracking and mixing. Sure, those moments of artistic inspiration happen when you want to try a different harmony or rearrange a chorus, but the bulk to your arrangements should be complete.

Last month I had a band come in that brought a spreadsheet outlining instrumentation for every song. It sounds sort of nerdy, and not at all “Rock & Roll”, but it was a huge time saver. Remember to establish the tempo for each song. Nobody wants to record the rhythm section tracks and realize it’s the wrong tempo once the vocalist cuts their lead.

When working out arrangements remember that recording in a studio allows you to do things you can’t do live; things like harmonies, doubled parts, or extra instruments. Take the time to work these ideas out before stepping in the studio and you’ll save money and end up with a better recording.

21 Recording Studio Tips for a Smoother Session

1. Being late – If you are the engineer show up early to make sure everything is working properly. If you’re the musician don’t make the engineer wait around for you.

2. Not changing the strings of your guitar – Scummy strings can’t be fixed in the mix.

3. Not knowing your parts – It’s a waste of time and money to come unprepared.

4. Singing with a cold – Reschedule your vocal session if you know you can’t perform.

5. Giving a lackluster performance – Not everything can be fixed in the mix.

6. Being disrespectful – It goes without saying, the engineer is your best friend. So treat him well.

7. Recording for recording’s sake – Similar to not knowing your parts. If you are just piling on parts without a clear direction, it’s still a waste of time and money.

8. Recording a badly sounding drum-kit – Replace the drum heads and tune your drums. It’ll be worth it.

9. Not having a plan – Make sure you know what you are going to do during the session. A good plan goes a long way.

10. Don’t cram too much into one session – Don’t try to record drums, bass and orchestra in the same three hour session. Recording takes time, so plan accordingly.

11. Skipping the warm-up – Singing first thing in the morning is hard isn’t it? So is nailing a 200 bpm solo without warming up your fingers.

12. Recording too hot – Better be safe than sorry. Record at lower digital levels to avoid clipping.

13. Not being in tune – I’m sorry. It’s a pet peeve, but people are prone to forget to tune their instruments.

14. Not having enough cables – Say you’re doing a location recording and you didn’t bring enough cables. It’s not only a huge waste of time to go and get what you forgot, but it also reflects poorly on you as a professional.

15. Not being familiar with how things work – If you are working with a new piece of equipment, or working at a new studio then it’s imperative you don’t look stupid when you’re trying to figure out how things work.

16. Fix it in the mix? If you know you can (and will) fix it in the mix, then use this sentence. If you know you can’t fix it, don’t lie. It’s one of the more common lines in the audio industry.

17. Communicate – Even though engineers and artists are a closely bred species they do not share all the lingo that’s inherent to them. If the engineer isn’t a musician then getting too musical will be confusing. Likewise with an engineer getting to “audio-engineer-y.”

18. Don’t do drugs – I know what Bill Hicks said about drugs and music, but it’s usually not a good idea to be stoned or drunk during a recording session.

19. Bring extras – Extra strings, extra picks and extra drum sticks for instance. Some things break and it’s better to be prepared when (not if) that happens.

20. Break the session into chunks – It’s better to record two energetic four sessions than one long eight hour one where the last two hours people are tired and uninspired.

21. Not being comfortable – As an artist, much of your performance is based on how you are feeling when you are recording. If you don’t feel comfortable then your playing will suffer.


Think about it, there are just as many things you need to NOT do in order to get that great recording down on “tape”. Just like it’s all about following the right guidelines for recording, engineering and musicianship; there are also some pitfalls you need to avoid.