There may be no such thing as an “album” in a few years, but in the meantime that term still means something: a bunch of songs leaked weeks before the release date and downloaded by people with no sympathy for the record industry. OK, so maybe you don’t get an upset stomach thinking about a dying RIAA either, but you’ve got songs, and people still want to listen to songs. Time to record.
In bands, as in life, there’s often one person who ends up paying for everything. Let’s assume that person is you. Your drummer’s $600 went to pay back rent, your bass player forgot to ﬁle a tax return and guitar players—well, you’ve seen Guitar Player magazine.If you’ve got a reasonably fast computer, a lot of free time, and friends with decent microphones, you can ride the virtual faders at home DIY-style. A decent multichannel analog-to-digital recording interface like the PreSonus DigiMAX FS comes in at right around $600 street, depending on the street. It’s got eight Class A mic preamps, enough to capture a full drum kit and at least some scratch basic tracks. Download a free multitracking software like Audacity, and you can overdub to your heart’s—or at least your RAM’s—content.
The computer recording learning curve gets steep pretty fast, though, and without some combination of good software plug-ins (the best of which are not free), a bank of outboard gear and/or a summing box and console, it can be hard to make something in your bedroom that doesn’t sound like it was recorded there. By someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Sometimes incompetence is part of music’s charm, but usually it’s not. Now if you want to ooh and ah at a room full of awesome recording gear and the most insane collection of pre-CBS Fender Strats you’ve ever seen, then book some time at Blackbird. The White Stripes and The Raconteurs recorded their most recent albums there, and $600 will get you...let’s see...carry the zero—a boot in the ass some time around noon. And that’s without an engineer.
At smaller studios, like Alex the Great or House of David, your six hunnies can probably get you one long day of recording, and an engineer. Get your basic tracks down, then you can save up your money or pawn some of your guitar player’s pedals to ﬁnish the album later. At least the most difﬁcult part will be ﬁnished. Smaller project or home studios are often run on a more ﬂexible pay schedule, too, so ask around. Your money will probably go further at a place like Battle Tapes, where resident tape op Jeremy Ferguson is willing to work with bands to come up with an affordable arrangement.
And increasingly, studios and engineers are ﬁnding creative ways to barter for their time. So maybe you can do some design, construction or promotional work in exchange for at least part of your tab. Rolling!