How do you make an album as an Indie Artist? Part 2/6 The Budget

So you’ve selected your songs, rehearsed them until you can play them backwards, and are now ready to go to the studio.  Before you step foot into a space, you’ll want to work out a budget; otherwise you may find yourself nearly finished with the recording, but out of bread.O World What a Tragedy Album Cover

Diving in, below is an example budget for a radio-ready, 12 song album for a solo acoustic artist.  In this example, the artist does not have his own band, and has no skills in production, engineering, mixing, mastering, ect; the artist only knows how to write songs, play acoustic guitar, and sing.  This also does not take into account marketing, distribution, etc. in the post production.

I like to estimate one full 12 hour day per song, depending on where you are mixing; if you are using an SSL console, and mixing on the same, you can save a bunch of time because you don’t need to make major changes to your drum mix, for example.  You can just upload your settings, and start on the next song.

Production = $15,700

Studio Time : 12 days at Studio @ $300/day = $3,600

Musicians : 4 musicians for 4 days @ $250/day + 2 musicians for 2 days @$250/day = $5000

– drums + electric + bass + piano, (4 days) Cello + Brass (2 days)

Miscellaneous : Equipment Maintenance, extra day, etc = $500

Producer/engineer Fee : $300/day for 12 days = $3,600

Mixing : $200/song for 12 songs = $2,400

Mastering : $50/song for 12 songs = $600

Printing = $3000

1000 Digipack CD’s through Discmakers w/100 posters = $1,400

200 Vinyl = $800

Album Art work/photography = $800

As you can see, this can get expensive really quickly.  For a total of $18,700, planning out your time has never been more important.  These numbers, as I said, are all on the super high end (for an indie artist; they don’t really scratch the surface of a major label budget).  They are numbers I have found for hiring professionals, with no-to-minimal major credits.  Fortunately, if you don’t have either of these, there are a ton of ways to lower your costs.

4 Great ways to lower your costs:

1) Bring your own band – Band mates, especially friends, are a great way to cut down the cost of hiring a whole bunch of professional musicians.  You can rehearse before you ever enter the space, and even scratch track if you have the right equipment.  Obviously, the better the musician, the better your album is going to sound.  In some cases, however, you may have to bite the bullet and hire a pro.  Having a good studio drummer, for example, is priceless as it will save you loads of time on the mixing in post-production.  – SAVE UP TO $5,000

2) Record in your own found space – Studios are going to charge you anywhere from $35-55/hour, and might make deals with you for full day recordings.  That said, if you can find a wide open space, you can use it to your advantage to create a unique sound.  This will require a producer with his own equipment, but it will give you more time to breathe with less pressure on your budget.  SAVE UP TO $3,600

3) Consider an unconventional form of Printing – CD’s are dying, let’s be honest.  Maybe you have a new, cheaper way to get your music out to your fans?  Perhaps you will give it away for free on your website, or hand out distribution cards so people can download it in exchange for an email address.  I personally still love CD’s; I like creating a tangible piece of art for fans to explore, and enjoy.  But with the way technology is pushing, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are obsolete in the next 10 years; vinyl, however, will always be around for avid collectors 🙂 SAVE UP TO $3000

4) Self-Produce – If you have never created an album before, I don’t recommend this.  It can save you money, yes, but having another set of ears (and most importantly, a set of more experienced ears) is priceless.  A good producer will take your project from start to finish, acting as the director and diplomat between all people involved in the process.  However, if you are really short for money, and have a clear idea in your head already of all the musical parts, go for it! SAVE UP TO $3,600

By cutting all of these corners, your job becomes infinitely more complex.  You will be the producer and engineer, manager of the found space, distributor, packager, etc.  But you will save yourself $15,200, leaving your album costs at only $3,500.