When you first get the opportunity to bring your musical creation to life, whether at home or in a commercial studio, there are five things you should keep in mind to ensure the fulfilling and worthwhile experience that your first session should be.
1. Have a plan!
It sounds simple, but winging it isn’t a plan, and can result in lots of little time-wasters that can destroy your budget. Find out if the studio allows food and drinks, and if they do, where you are allowed to consume them. Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: even if you are recording at home, you shouldn’t allow food and drinks near the gear. Find out the break policies: does the studio take time off the clock for dinner or other breaks? Even if you have to pay for a few minutes when you aren’t recording, you should plan a short break for a few different times while recording, especially if the session is over six hours.
Know things like if the studio is cooler than you are used to, as many studios run their AC at around 68 degrees or a little lower. You need to be comfortable while recording, so know if you’ll need a jacket or if you should wear long pants. Know what things the studio provides and what they don’t. DO NOT ASSUME that the studio will provide you with batteries, picks, drum sticks, etc. — especially in the COVID age.
2. Don’t use the studio as a rehearsal space.
You should be clear about how you begin and end every song, how long each solo or lead section is, and the key of each song. Have this written out and distribute these sheets to every band member and/or session musician. Go over the songs in rehearsal until you could play them in your sleep or under a lot of pressure, which you will feel in the studio as soon as you hit record. I can’t tell you how many times bands have gone way over budget in my studio because they weren’t well rehearsed.
“There are no short cuts to success, and your recording is not only your calling card to the universe of music lovers, but also your product that you have to sell.”
3. Take a moment to reflect!
You are blessed to be doing what you love. Yes, it is hard work, and there is a lot of pressure to get it right, but you are lucky to be doing what you love. Remember that! Don’t forget to have fun and be yourself.
4. Stay inspired!
Make sure that you find a studio that speaks to you and has a vibe that will allow you to be at your most creative. Shop around until you find that perfect space. If you are recording at home, do what you can to make a welcoming and creative environment. Little things like artwork on the walls, mood lighting and comfy chairs can make a big difference. Find a person to produce and engineer your session that is not only technically proficient, but also a pleasant person to be around, someone that brings out the best in you and realize that for the best you will have to spend money to get the results you want.
Don’t be in a hurry to make your masterpiece. If you can’t afford to do an entire album of 10 or more songs, consider doing an EP of 4 to 6 songs, or even just a single. There are no short cuts to success, and your recording is not only your calling card to the universe of music lovers, but also your product that you have to sell.
5. Don’t forget to have a marketing strategy!
It’s no good to make amazing music if no one knows about it. Make sure to save money for things like a press release, radio campaigns, starting or improving your email list, doing social media posts, ads, and more. Understand who you are and who wants to buy your music! You can do amazing things with a small budget; you don’t have to spend $20,000 or more to get outstanding results. Take time to educate yourself on the business of music and how to find your fans and market your music.
Again, it does take a lot of work, but nothing is more frustrating than to have made a recording you are proud of and not be able to at least recoup what you spent! This is a journey, not a race to the finish line. If you are serious about making music your career, this is what you will be doing for the rest of your life, so take the time to do it right and enjoy the process.
Joey Stuckey is a renowned music producer and blind musician hailing from Macon, Georgia. Learn more about him here.