Category: Financing Your Music

How to Spend Less Money Recording an Album

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

So you’ve decided it’s time to make an album. You’ve been playing these songs live, you’ve recorded the demos, and people keep asking, “When is your album coming out?”  You can’t wait to get these songs tracked and you’re ready to see all the music inside your head coming to life.

And then you figure out how much it’s going to cost.

Recording an album can get expensive. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t have have to drop $10,000 to get a great record, if you go into the process prepared. Knowing up front what  is important to you can help you decide what you want to spend money on, and what you can skip to make the process cheaper.

So lets look at some things that will drastically affect the cost of your record, and how to drive those costs down.

Length of the Project

The length of the project will drastically affect your cost. 12 songs are more expensive to record than 3 songs.

You have to be honest with yourself—and your other band members—about what songs are good enough to go on an album. Make sure that your investment of time and money is funding great songs. You want to make an album that you are going to be proud of for years to come.

Do People Actually Want a Full-Length Album?

As you make decisions about your upcoming project, you need to look at the music industry as a whole. For the past 15 years, we have seen album sales drop, and sales of singles rise. When you create an album of any size, you invest time, money, and a lot of emotions. You need to be able to get a return on your investment. Sometimes, recording a full length album is a great idea. Creatively, getting to spread your wings and work on 12 songs can be a wonderful thing that fulfills you as an artist. If you have the time and money to record a full album and that’s what you want to do, then go for it. But for many artists, recording a smaller body of work now can result in a better return on your investment later.

If you have four really great songs that people absolutely love, and seven songs that are just okay. Just record those four songs. You’ll cut your cost drastically, and you’ll be giving fans the music they truly love.

Producers

You also have to decide whether or not to work with a producer.  Producers have been a part of recorded music since its inception, and they are an important part of the recording process. If you have a particular sound in mind, finding a producer who specializes in your genre can be a great way to make sure your music is comparable to what is currently available. Working with a great producer can also bring a valuable outside opinion on the music you will be recording.

A producer can be one of the most expensive parts of your album. But a great producer who understands you and your music can take your album to new heights. Some artists love working with a producer, while other musicians prefer to do it all themselves. You have to decide what’s right for your music. If you have found a producer you trust, and can afford them, I recommend you hire one.

Often producers and sound engineers are the same person, especially for smaller projects. This can help you cut costs while still reaping the benefits of having a producer.

Studio or At Home

At home recordings and DIY studios have come leaps and bounds in the past few years. It’s now possible to make a great sounding record at home. However, there are still costs associated with this. The equipment needed to build a professional sounding at-home studio is still quite expensive. If you don’t already have the tools you need at home, you may find your initial budget gets eaten up quickly on equipment alone.

If you are a beginner in home recording, even though your initial investment in equipment may be higher, you could save money in the future if you already have all the tools needed to make great music in your living room.

There are lots of great resources to learn how to record well at home. You can check out these helpful articles if you are looking for a place to start:

Even though it can be cheaper in the long run to record at home, studios are still an important part of making great records. Studios have high quality equipment, rooms that are acoustically engineered for great sound, and either an in-house engineer, or a recommendation for an engineer they trust. If you don’t have the patience or time to invest learning how to make a great sounding recording at home, a studio may be the best place for you.

Many musicians  work out a hybrid of the two. You may find your living room isn’t the best place to record a full drum kit (and your neighbors might hate you!) but it is the great place for tracking acoustic guitar and aux percussion. Working out a deal to combine the best of both worlds may cut your cost significantly.

Many producers/engineers have a great home studio setup. They may charge you a reduced rate to record there, or just bundle it in with the fee they charge you initially. This can save you loads of money on studio hourly fees and per day rates.

Ultimately tracking at home is the cheapest option. But you have to decide if that’s the best option for your music and your career.

Remember:  Although it’s definitely possible to make great music at your house, there is still a standard of quality that you will have to meet. Even a casual music listener can tell when something doesn’t sound the way that they are used too. When you are deciding between recording at home or in a studio, think ahead to how you want the album released, and what kind of opportunities, like licensing and radio airplay, you will want to pursue with these songs. Then make sure the quality of your recording matches up with other songs that are being released on those platforms.

Studio Musicians

Another costly item is studio musicians. If you are in a band, this is less of an issue, although you still may want to hire session players for strings or other auxiliary instruments. If you are a solo artist who wants an album with a full band sound, this is a much bigger concern.

Every musician charges different rates, but there is probably a “normal” dollar amount that musicians are charging in your area. Remember, the quality of the musicians you choose will drastically affect the quality of the music you are recording. Shop around a little, and find the best musicians for your project.

To cut costs, ask a friend who is great at their instrument if they would be willing to help you out. If you are involved in your local music scene, collaborating with other artists can also be a cheaper alternative to hiring studio musicians.

Post Production

Remember that though the tracking may be finished, the project isn’t.  You will have to pay for mixing, mastering, and your disc packaging/digital distribution. All of these things are vital steps in the recording process that you shouldn’t skip.

Mixing might be the most important part of recording a song. No matter if you recorded at home, in a studio, or with a producer, mixing can make or break your record. Do some research, and find the best engineer you can afford.

Many digital distributors and disc manufacturers like Nationwide Disc offer mastering services at great rates. Again, this is a step that shouldn’t be skipped if you want your recording to be the same quality as the songs that major labels are releasing.

There are many factors that will affect the amount of money you spend on your new project. But with some research you can decide what you really need to make your project exactly what you want it to be. Once you know what you need, you can find ways to significantly cut your budget. This applies to a record you made by yourself at home, or a fully produced album made in the most expensive studio in town.

How have you cut costs on albums you’ve recorded? What part of an album do you think artists should invest the most money into? Let us know in the comments below!

One note: Just as you want to be compensated fairly for your work as an artist, your friends, other musicians, producers, and sound engineers do to. If people are willing to work with you for free or a reduced rate, that’s great. But don’t short change your fellow musicians who are working just as hard as you are to have a sustainable career in the music industry.




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Three Sources of Music Funding: The Story of Platinum Plaits

Three Sources of Music Funding: The Story of Platinum Plaits

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Pretty much everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, but, in case you don’t, here’s a recap: A curious (trespassing) little girl ventures into an “empty” house, where the three bears live. There she discovers three servings of food, dished out and ready to be eaten. With no one around, she takes that task upon herself. The first bowl is too hot. The second is too cold. The third? Just right. After sampling the food, a tired Goldilocks searches for a place to rest. She tries the chairs, finally settling into one… until it breaks. This leads her to look for another place of rest, and she tries each of the beds in the house until she finds one that suits her tastes. She falls fast asleep in that bed and is found there when the bears return home.

I’m willing to bet, though, that you haven’t heard the story of Platinum Plaits. Or, if you have, you don’t know it. So, grab some popcorn, get all cozy, and listen to this tale.

Who Is Platinum Plaits?

Not so long ago, in a land not so far away, there lived an indie artist named Platinum Plaits. At the wizened age of 28, she considered herself an experienced musician. After all, she’d been singing since the age of four, playing piano since seven, playing guitar since eleven, and officially gigging since she was sixteen. She was in three different bands before she decided to set out on her own five years ago. Since then, she’s played more shows than she can count, opened for some national acts, been invited to a few festivals, and even had a few TV appearances.

Yet, life was not all rose-colored glasses, custom tour buses, and quaint restored cottages. Far from it! Platinum Plaits had a serious dilemma: funding. It was always running, well, just a little short. So she did what any indie artist would do: pulled herself up by her bootstraps, put on her thinking cap, and started solving her problem.

Her brainstorming and research were fairly successful, as she came up with three possible solutions to her problem.

Solution 1: Crowdfunding The Old Way

Platinum Plaits had heard of this option from other indie artists. As she discovered, it wasn’t limited to musicians; there are crowdfunding platforms for dozens of fields!

Here’s how it works: an artist has a project in mind but not enough funds to complete it. They do a little research, set a budget, define participation levels and rewards, create a crowdfunding campaign, and send all of their existing fans to the campaign. Hopefully, those fans are invested in the artist enough to contribute; better yet, the fans contribute and tell their friends to contribute. The artist has a certain time frame to complete the campaign, which builds a sense of urgency with supporters. Depending on the platform, the artist gets what was raised (or not), minus a cut. They then have to use that money for their project, and they have to fulfill all of the rewards (which often costs more money).

To Platinum Plaits, crowdfunding seemed like a Thanksgiving feast: it’s more than enough for the occasion, and it sometimes results in leftovers for a few (much more sensibly-sized) meals… but it won’t feed you for a year. Or even a month. In other words, it could work for occasional surges of funding, but not ongoing, steady support.

Tabling crowdfunding for now but keeping it in mind as a possibility for an upcoming project, Platinum Plaits continued her search for a solution.

Solution 2: Sales and Shows

Like every active musician, Platinum Plaits could count sales of her music and cuts from shows as income. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder to make a living off of sales and shows alone.

Platinum Plaits’ fans often approached her merch table at shows, only to ask if her music was available to stream online or to tell her they’d bought one of her songs and really loved it. While she appreciated the sentiment and vocal support, the financial statements coming in from online retailers and streaming services paled in comparison to those lost sales of whole albums. She did offer her music for sale on her website—both physical albums and digital downloads of her albums; while those sales had higher profit margins than the sales from third party retailers, they still weren’t impressive.

And the profits from shows? Some performances paid well. Others… not so much, especially when she added up her travel expenses, marketing costs, fees for her backup musicians, insurance on her gear, and so on.

In short, the income from sales and shows was present, but much smaller than she needed for a sustainable career and not nearly steady enough to be reliable.

And so her search continued.

Solution 3: Patronage, or Crowdfunding the New Way

Somewhere on the fringes of the indie music realm, Platinum Plaits heard whispers of another solution: patronage. The idea wasn’t new, as the concept of “patron of the arts” dated back for centuries. But it was slowly rising from obscurity and becoming a possible source of funding for artists, including musicians.

The concept intrigued Platinum Plaits. Like other forms of crowdfunding, it spread the burden of funding out among the fans of the artist. Unlike crowdfunding, it wasn’t geared toward a specific one-time project. Instead, fans—or, rather, patrons—pledged a small amount—maybe $1, maybe $5—for every time the artist created something of substance. This meant that the more the artist created, the more income they had. Artists were being rewarded, monetarily, for doing what they wanted to do anyway: create something.

Of course, there were settings that fans could control, such as monthly spending caps or the ability to change their pledge (or withdraw it entirely) at any point. But patrons seemed to love the concept and the level of exclusivity and intimate involvement with the artist’s career that they felt it brought.

Unlike traditional crowdfunding, patronage didn’t leave artists sated then starving for funds. It also didn’t lure them along with a false hope of income or increasingly smaller payouts from sales and shows. It could, in theory, provide a steady stream of income to supplement sales and shows. Better yet, it did just that for many artists implementing this solution.

With her mind made up, Platinum Plaits adopted this solution for herself. Her truest fans were happy to support her and receive early access to her content, and she could focus on creating new material without wondering how on earth her bills would be paid. While she started out with only 40 supporters at $1 each, she quickly rose to a couple hundred supporters pledging anywhere from $1 to $10 per creation. This is only about 10% of her fanbase, but their support provides an extra $2000 a month… and the counts are still growing.

In the end, Platinum Plaits and her fans lived happily ever after.




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Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Indiegogo

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Indiegogo

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

You have the songs. You even have the gear. All your band is lacking is the financial backing to get your project off the ground. With a little help from your fans, though, you can get there. Using crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo*, you can crowdfund your music project.

How Much Does Indiegogo Cost?

There is no cost to create a profile or start a music crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo. There are two campaign options to choose from: fixed funding or flexible funding.

Fixed funding is an all-or-nothing approach. If you do not reach your goal, your donors will get refunds, and you will not receive (or be charged) anything. If you do reach your fixed funding goal, Indiegogo charges a four percent fee.

Flexible funding allows you to take in funds whether or not you meet your goal. If you do not reach your goal, Indiegogo will take a nine percent cut. If you do reach your goal, Indiegogo takes their four percent fee.

With both options, there is an additional three percent fee for processing credit cards.

Creating an Indiegogo Campaign

Go to the Indiegogo homepage, select “Create” at the very top of the page. Then, create a new account by entering your name, email, and password. The next page will ask you to determine what category your project falls under and your funding goal. You will also classify who will be receiving the funds (individual, non-profit, business, or religious organization).

On the following page, summarize your project and goals. Add a photo to your campaign’s page. Upload a video or narrative to tell why you are raising funds and how you will use the funds after the campaign. Set the time frame for your campaign.

Lastly, set the rewards. Remember to offer an incentive to campaign donors who contribute between 10 and 20 dollars. Set higher price points, too, including one hundred, several hundred, and a thousand dollars. The rewards—which should fit the donation level and increase in value accordingly—can range from CDs, t-shirts, and stickers to a house party or private concert.

Promoting Your Campaign

Indiegogo allows visitors on your campaign page to like your campaign through Facebook or tweet the link to their followers. Don’t count on visitors to do all the promotion for you; be prepared to do a lot yourself. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can link to your YouTube channel and your band’s website. Indiegogo has an excellent help center to guide you through the process, and they also encourage you to email with any questions.

Have you used Indiegogo to help fund a campaign or raise funds for your own creative project? Was the project successful?

* Indiegogo is not just for music crowdfunding; it can be used for other creative projects, including film, art, and theatrical productions.




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PledgeMusic: Crowdfunding Your Music

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with PledgeMusic

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Connecting directly with your fans is important. Without fan support, your band or musical venture simply is not going to make it. With fan support, though, your band has the chance to go places and achieve its goals. A clear example of this is crowdfunding, which funnels the support of your fans into raising the funds your band needs to make progress, whether it’s recording your next album or funding a tour. Services like PledgeMusic make the process of music crowdfunding even easier.

How it Works

On PledgeMusic’s website, you can create a profile for your band. Fans will use your profile to connect with you and fund your cause, so be sure to include information fans will love: your band bio, your artwork or photos, and some album tracks. Once your profile is complete, you’ll create a campaign, allowing fans to donate to your cause. Causes can include recording your music, creating a music video, or ordering albums.

There are two types of campaigns. In the first, when a fan pledges money, they receive an item in return. The larger the pledge, the better or more-inclusive their reward. Sample pledges and items include $5 for a poster, $10 for a CD, $20 for a band t-shirt, $100 for a backstage pass, and so on. In the second type of campaign, pledges are, essentially, pre-orders for your product.

Regardless of the type of campaign, you don’t receive any money until your fundraising goal is met.

Cost

PledgeMusic does not charge you to create an account or to start a pledge campaign. However, once your fundraising target is reached, the website does take a 15 percent flat fee.

Signing Up For PledgeMusic

PledgeMusic is rather straight forward. You navigate to the website, select the “Artist Sign Up” link on the left, and fill out the requested information. Include the type of campaign you want, your mailing list, and your Facebook and Twitter pages. Add any additional information to help set your product page apart; this could be photographs, album art, a video clip, etc. From here, you fill out information about your project, the pledge values and what you will give for every pledge.

Promoting Your Campaign, And Getting Help With Your Account

PledgeMusic auto integrates with your social media accounts to help you promote your campaign. Also, PledgeMusic offers a project health check to see if your campaign has room for improvement. The Frequently Asked Questions page is a great resource, and there is a realtime customer service assistance to make sure you receive the help you might require at any time.

Has your band used a crowdfunding site like PledgeMusic? What type of project were you funding? How did it go?




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Crowdfunding Your Music with Kickstarter

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Kickstarter

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you’re wondering how to raise money for your next music project, and wondering if crowdfunding is an option, know this: using a Kickstarter campaign and trusting her fans to fund her project, musician Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars. While these results are abnormal, they suggest that finding the funds for your project is feasible.

About Kickstarter Campaigns

Kickstarter campaigns are absolutely free, easy to start, and have only a few guidelines, including:

  • Projects must be related to the arts.
  • Projects must have a specific, obtainable goal with a measurable outcome. This means no fundraising to “launch my music career,” but you can fund an album production or release.
  • You can’t offer financial sharing to donors.
  • You can’t provide awards in bulk (defined as more than 10).
  • You can determine the rewards you give to your donors, but only within limits (no alcohol, GMOs, drugs, cigarettes, advice, beauty products, etc).
  • If funding goals are reached, you must complete the project or return the money to the donors.

Creating your Kickstarter Campaign

To create your project, go to Kickstarter.com and click on start new project. Create an account. Provide a project picture, description, location, and goal amount; set the number of days for pledging.

Next, determine your pledge tiers and rewards. Kickstarter suggests that you set a pledge tier that is under $20, giving people who have a little money the chance to support your project. Set a few other pledge tiers for fans that are interested in pledging more. For rewards, you can offer anything from a copy of your new album to an acoustic home concert. Set the values for the reward around the same price as they would go for in the retail marketplace.

Lastly, make it personal. Add a video to your page talking about your project or playing a song from the album you’re trying to fund.

Promote and Share

Kickstarter embeds the Facebook like button and the Twitter tweet buttons to your project’s page. While some people do browse Kickstarter looking for projects, you need to get the word out about your campaign. Send personal messages to friends, acquaintances, and interested parties. Don’t post or send too many messages, though, or you will come across as a spammy, money-hungry musician.

Additional details and answers can be found on Kickstarter’s site, especially on the Kickstarter FAQ, Kickstarter School, Guidelines, and Contact pages.

Have you used Kickstarter, either to raise money for a project or to help fund another artist’s project? How was your experience?

See also: Crowdfunding: 5 Websites for Funding Your Album Recording.




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Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding: 5 Websites For Funding Your Album Recording

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

So, your band is rockin’, your set list is solid, you’re performing regularly… and then you start thinking about recording. A little research shows that it’s not a cheap process. You could always tap into your trust fund to finance the project. Wait, you don’t have one? There are your lotto winnings to consider. Not that lucky? I suppose you don’t want to max out your credit lines, either?

What if there was another way to fund your project, one where those who like your music and want the end product help you get it? More and more artists are pursuing this path and crowdfunding their recording projects. Want to learn more or join in? Here are some of the top sites for doing just that:

PledgeMusic

You set your own goals determined on the needs of the project. The site doesn’t charge fans unless the funding goal is reached. Once the project is fully funded, PledgeMusic charges its 15% fee; however, there are no hidden fees for credit card processing. Pledge Music can also be used for pre-orders if you already have a completed album.

SellaBand

This site also charges a flat 15% fee upon reaching the funding goal. Sellaband does offer revenue sharing as an option. You can offer a revenue share to donors who buy a certain number of “parts,” to encourage larger donations. This revenue stream for an album is five years or the length of the tour (if the project you’re funding is a tour).

Kickstarter

Probably one of the better-known crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter works with musicians as well as artists, photographers, designers, and so on. The site charges a 5% fee along with a 3-5% fee for credit card processing. Kickstarter also has a legal contract that you must fulfill. They require that, if the funding goal is reached, you must complete the project; otherwise, the funds must be returned to the donors. This could be problematic if you spent the money on the project and are still unable to complete it, because you’ll need to re-raise the funds to refund your donors. However, this guarantee might comfort those investing in your project.

Indiegogo

This site offers you the option of a flexible funding or fixed music crowdfunding campaign. Musicians that choose flexible funding will be charged 9% by Indiegogo and 3% for credit card processing. If you reach your goal, Indiegogo gives 5% of their fee back to you. If you don’t reach the goal, they keep the whole 9%, but you also keep the rest of the money that was raised. With fixed funding, 4% of raised funds go to Indiegogo once the goal is met. If the goal is not met, everything is refunded to the contributors.

Feed the Muse

Like the other sites, this website lets you set up a project and share it with potential investors. Funds are generally sent out weekly (by electronic transfer) or monthly (by check), as long as the amount is over $100. If the amount is under $100, payments will be made quarterly. The amount taken by Feed the Muse is unclear, since one page states that it takes 10%  and another page lists 7.5%. However, it does state that the fees include those for processing credit cards. The site does not give an option for refunds to donors.

Have you used one of these sites? Or one like these? How was your experience?

See also: Recording vs. Performing: A Musician’s Focus, The Right Recording Studio For Your Music, Make Money Selling Your Music, Increase Your Exposure: Streaming Music, Musicians and Crowdsourcing.




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