Self Music Publisher

As an indie musician I have two options when it comes to recording. Record it myself or get someone else. It’s a simple choice that has been driving me crazy for years.

Every time I do home recordings they turn out inferior to studio recordings. Studio engineering, mixing, and mastering are all separate skills that are unrelated to being able to perform. I have used three different methods to record and release music. Here they are. This all assumes that the musician/author is not experienced at any of the technical stuff.

4. Last year, I wrote and home recorded three songs for an author friend and then put them up on bandcamp as digital downloads. The poor quality of those recordings drove me nuts and I took them down after two weeks. This is like writing a book, editing and formatting it yourself with no previous experience, and then putting it up on Amazon. It’s probably has some good moments but you should expect two star reviews.

3. I recorded the Nobody Gets The Girl EP at home on the same poor equipment as in #4 but afterwards I brought it to a studio for the post-recording treatment. This is like doing a draft after beta readers give you notes and then getting your techie friend to do you a favor and format it. You’ll probably catch most of the obvious glitches and it’ll look fine, but if the core idea and presentation don’t work, it’s too late to fix it.

2. With most of my albums I went into a studio and recorded songs with a hands-on engineer who suggest instruments and then did all of the post-recording stuff himself. This is like hiring a good editor who then volunteers to format the book because, well, it’s cheaper. This is a solid representation of your vision with some rough edges.

1. Get a producer/editor before you record/write. Go over outlines and demos. Collaborate and evolve. This is super expensive and is typically only done with a someone else covering costs. (I have not done this.)

4-poor

3-okay

2-good

1-great

Three thoughts on this.

First.

  • 95% of people will notice the difference between poor and okay.
  • 75% will notice the difference between okay and good.
  • 10% will notice the difference between good and great.

Second. These scenarios change drastically if the writer worked as a professional editor or if the musician worked as a professional engineer. Or if the writer/musician has been doing this for a long time or if they are a natural. With chops, okay becomes good. Good will never become great without a team of people working on it.

Third. I spent around $2,500 to record my last album, Another Creepy Christmas. How much would it cost to buy acceptable hardware and software to do it myself? Probably around $2,000. Right now I have almost all of the material prepared for my next four albums. Some quick math tells me that if I record the next four albums myself, the rough cost will be $2,000. If I do them the way I have been, it’ll be between $7,000-$10,000. The first thing I record this way would dip in quality from good to okay. With work + time, it could become consistently good.

If I do this, if I learn a new skill set, my next album will take a hit. It will drive me crazy. Raise my blood pressure. Create self-doubt. And then it will get better and I will move on.

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About jonahknight

Jonah writes, records, and performs songs about ghosts, monsters, steampunk, and creepy Christmas tunes. Is that geek music? Nerd music? Filk? Who knows. Find more at www.jonahofthesea.com He also co-hosts (with Mikey Mason) the Pros and Cons podcast. A Parsec Finalist, the show is about geek music and convention culture. http://prosandconspodcast.blogspot.com/

4 thoughts on “Self Music Publisher

  1. I think the most important thing you are doing fo yourself is learning a new skill that can potentially be very valuable. Who knows, maybe you will have a real knack for it and move into producing.

  2. I always wonder how many artists struggle with this. Not having the right tools, not having a decent studio space, etc etc. How do artists overcome that and do they Make Do or surpass the lack and Make Awesome?

    • At some point, every artist goes through this. Even with infinite resources, there is still the trial and error of finding what works for you. I have found dollar store fingernail cutters to work better than $40 wire cutters, given the right application. It is really up to the artist to persevere through what ever obsticles.

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