How do you make an album as an Indie Aritst? Part 1/6 – The first steps of Pre-Production

SongwritingWith a new album on the horizon, I get a lot of fans, friends, and family asking me about the process involved in making a new CD.  I wanted to answer those questions in a blog, but there is too much to discuss in a single sitting.  This said, I have decided to split it up into three phases, each with two parts: pre-production, production, and post-production.  Here then is part 1 of 6, the The First Steps of Pre-Production Phase.

The first question to ask is, Do you need to make an album?  For some the answer maybe no, and you can save yourself a lot of money, time, and stress by taking another route.  There are a lot of musicians around who are releasing EP’s, singles, music videos, etc.  For example, one of my favorite musicians is Ryan O’Neil of Sleeping At Last.  He hasn’t released a full length since 2009, but he’s creating TONS of music.  Check out his Atlas series…

All albums begin and end with the music; there is a whole bunch of fluff in between (budgeting, financing, packaging, distribution, etc), but as an artist the heart of any new CD is the songs.  This is always where I begin and where I suggest my clients start, with the songwriting.  I feel, as songwriters, it is our job to put out great tunes with well polished lyrics.  Spoken-word World Champion Buddy Wakefield helped me establish my writing habit when he told me that he will spend up to 6 months on a single 3 minute poem; he told me he rakes through each line and removes any cliches he can find.  This is essential!  If you find yourself using phrases or words that are in every other pop song, change them.  Don’t settle for less than perfect; if a song needs to be re-written, don’t be afraid to scrap it all together and start over.

Once you have your songs written and ready to go, you need to make a few decisions.  What are you going to do with the album?  Do you want to try and get your songs on radio/television, or is it something you’ll give away to your fans at shows and online?  What you plan on doing with the album will determine your next step.

For my newest album, “Diggin’ Into Grace”, I wanted to put together a full length album that was radio ready, with the potential for licensing and nationwide syndication.  This said, I knew that I needed to find excellent engineers, musicians, and a great studio with the best equipment I could afford.  Although the cost of production has decreased significantly in the past 10 years, with the release of cheaper Digital Audio Workstations, Plugins, Interfaces, etc., it is till expensive for an indie artist; $10,000 may not be pennies to a record label, but to the average Joe Shmo that is a lot!

Next you’ll want to put together a budget.  In the next blog, I will break down the specifics of a budget using my own as an example…

Until then,

– D