The Perils of Recording Your Own Band

Over the past couple of decades various technological advances have made it possible for just about anyone to pickup, for astonishingly little money, the essential pieces needed to begin recording at home.  The question I’d pose, however, is whether that really makes sense as a way to produce your band’s next recording?  On the surface it would seem to be an economical solution.  That is until you begin to understand the real costs involved, costs which often aren’t measured in dollars.

The first thing to understand is that technology giveth and also taketh away.  Much of the software and hardware you purchase for music production these days has a useful lifetime shorter than a Justin Bieber hit single.  Not long after installing that new software on your new computer you’ll find yourself doing the “update shuffle”.  Not long thereafter the software updates will require a new operating system.  And one or two operating systems later you’ll need a new computer, assuming the computer you’ve got  lasts that long.  All that is added to the cost of acquiring those items which might just last you a while, such as microphones, monitors, cables, preamps, mixers, room treatment, stands, and so on.

Perhaps the biggest hidden cost is the amount of time it will take to learn how to effectively use all of that software and hardware.  Especially in the case of software you’re trying to hit a moving target.    After mastering all the software and hardware and acoustically treating and tuning your recording space so it doesn’t sound like a basement, just how much time are you then going to spend actually recording and mixing your band?  You’ll have all the time you need since you can work on the tracks any time you want, of course.  But that’s actually part of the problem!  I can’t tell you how many times I get calls from frustrated band members telling me how they’ve been in the (guitarist/bassist/drummer’s)  basement for months recording and re-recording track after track while the mix is redone again and again.  All that time spent recording and mixing is time the band could have been writing new songs, rehearsing them, and getting on stage to perform them.

So, you’re going to be spending a lot of money.  The ” $999 Home Recording Package” sold by your local music gear retailer is purely an entry-level drug.  And you’ll spend a lot of time.  And you’re going to have to dedicate a space in your house or apartment and do what you can to improve it’s acoustical properties.  And you’ll need to learn to how to install, use, and maintain lots of software and hardware – which often times do not play together well.  Consider too the costs of insuring your investment.  Decide to record other bands as well to help mitigate all the costs?  Just how many strangers do you want in your home?

No doubt, home recording can be a fascinating and rewarding hobby.  If you’re really really good at it you might even be able to make a living offering your services to other bands and musicians.  But then you’ll be a studio owner who occasionally plays music, not a musician who occasionally visits a studio to record.  It’s the rare person who has the time, energy, and skill to do both really well.

At some point it comes down to a question of just what it is you’re trying to do.  Most bands want to play music, to write songs, and play out as often as possible.  But if you’re constantly suck in the basement re-recording old ideas you’re not really doing what you want.  You’ll also be spending a significant amount of money, time, and creative energy buying and learning how to use recording gear rather than upgrading the gear and skills you actually use to play the music you want to record.

That’s my two cents?  What do you think?


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