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Currently writing an article re: album & budget... need input


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I'm writing an article titled "How To Make A Music Album... For under $5,000". A few things:

 

- it is not biased to Mac or PC. Suggestions as to these will be for both platforms (DAW's, software, systems etc)

 

- it is stated and assumed the reader is moderately computer proficient, has patience and decent amount of musical skill/talent (though lack of that won't stop someone from doing this)

 

- it's going to go through what options are available: softsynth or hardware keyboard, audio/midi interface, computing platforms & related miscellanea

 

- advising on topics such as backup, self-producing or sending-out, self-mastering or sending out, cd presses/duplicators

 

- there will be a handful of other resources for them to go to

 

Now, I could dig through myriads of topics on these forums, but if any of you could throw some of your suggestions related to this article that I can work from, that'd help. And remember - Mac and Windows. Thanks!

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Phait, the truth of the matter is if you have your material down cold, you can go into a professional studio and do all of your recording and mixing there, do your own artwork for the CD covers, labels, and inserts, and have them professionally duplicated, printed, and assembled for the price you are talking about. I know this because our church group has done this twice already and we have 11 members, so the recording process is not superficial by any imagination... Boggs
Check out my Rock Beach Guitars page showing guitars I have built and repaired... http://www.rockbeachguitars.com
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Maybe I should shift the focus then... like, beginning a home studio? Wait then that brings in even more variables.. digital or analog (don't know anything in that realm)...

 

But what if this person doesn't have anything written, wants to get into music, and release an album? This is one approach.

 

Oh yeah, I already have the computer section written, it's like 1,600+ words.

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Obviously this is an article about yourself!

 

I would therefore address the things that matter most to you --

 

- identifying the music you like and want to create

 

-addressing the process of how to "dissect" the music you like to understand what's going on musically and technologically

 

- creating your own version of this music and outlining your musical ideas first on paper (non-technologically)

 

- obtaining and using the technology that will enable you to produce the music you have outlined on paper

 

- producing the music with the technology (computer/software/instruments/mics)

 

-getting other people to listen to your music

 

- exploring rehab centers you will patronize after your inevitable success leads to drug and alcohol abuse

 

MEOW

Dooby Dooby Doo
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I totally agree with Boggs, we've had several artists reocrd and mix here, and their completed project, including artwork and duplication was well under $5000.

 

You can't just buy some gear and make a record, the key to successful recordings is the knowledge of how the gear works with the music.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Originally posted by where02190:

I totally agree with Boggs, we've had several artists reocrd and mix here, and their completed project, including artwork and duplication was well under $5000.

 

You can't just buy some gear and make a record, the key to successful recordings is the knowledge of how the gear works with the music.

You know, I may just be a cat, and while I understand that what you're saying is often true, I think it's less and less true.

 

As equipment becomes cheaper and better, access becomes "more democratic". Sure there's a lot of GarageBand crap, but the music technology revolution has put serious production power into the hands of regular people, and reduced the value of professional studios.

 

Two examples:

 

1) the guy who records Paul Simon uses an extremely limited recording chain, even when recording from within the robust confines of the Hit Factory. All that good stuff, just sitting there! In the room is a Neve board that looks great, but isn't used. Rather, he plugs a mic into a preamp into a converter into a digital format, something that can be done (and is sometimes done by the same guy) in a living room.

 

2) I'm all for school, having been there myself. But I've worked with high school dropouts who bought a few pieces of humble equipment and made some recordings that sold millions of records. Through talent and DISCIPLINE, this happens.

 

3) OK, one more example even though I said only 2! I've worked on demos with artists on crappy "home" equipment that sounds WAY better than what was eventually produced in the luxurious professional studio used for preparing the commercial release. This isn't just an urban legend. It's often true. There are many benefits to working at home that outweigh the benefits of a top-notch studio (although, I agree, not always).

 

4) OK, OK, one more example, I'm on a roll. I remember that Shep recorded Madonna on his shitty Tascam 388 (1/4" analog 8-track 'all in one' thingy) when brainstorming ideas for her Erotica album. In order to preserve what turned out to be some pretty good tracks, they decided to use these demo tracks and he simply hauled his 388 into the larger studio for transfer.

Dooby Dooby Doo
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In all 3 cases the end result was a result of engineering talent, which you can't buy.

 

1. That mic-pre-tape sound was a reult of an enginners knowledge of the right mic/pre combination and placement in the right room. Change any of these and the result is competely different.

 

2. You can't buy/teach artistic talent, if you have it then it will show. Audio engineering is a talent more than anything IMHO. You either have a inherant feel for it or you don't, just like playing an instrument.

 

I think you get the idea. I highly suggest you utilize the talents of a professional who you feel comfortable with to record, and perhaps let them know you'd like ot get some hands on during the sessions if possible, as you are interested in exploring your abilities/talents as an engineer. This will accomplish two things. 10 your recordins will benefit from a seasoned, talented professional, and 2) you'll find out PDQ if you got what it takes talent-wise to be an engineer.

 

Not everyone can play the piano, and not everyone can "play" a console either.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Originally posted by where02190:

Not everyone can play the piano, and not everyone can "play" a console either.

Sure, but the point is you give pianos and consoles to more people, and you find that there are more talented pianists and engineers living among us!

 

Originally posted by where02190:

1. That mic-pre-tape sound was a reult of an enginners knowledge of the right mic/pre combination and placement in the right room. Change any of these and the result is competely different.

Sure, but the point is that he's only using a few items, and putting these things together and pushing play and record is no longer the province of an exclusive, moneyed, club. In many cases, if an artist or band has, say, $15,000 to burn, they'd be better served by buying equipment and recording themselves then paying a studio by the hour.

 

Originally posted by where02190:

2. You can't buy/teach artistic talent, if you have it then it will show. Audio engineering is a talent more than anything IMHO. You either have a inherant feel for it or you don't, just like playing an instrument.

Imagine if you had to pay a studio $100/hour for the privalege of practicing an instrument. Building a home studio is similar to getting, learning, and practicing an instrument. Not everyone's going to be Horowitz, but there's an awful lot of latent talent out there that an instrument or studio can help express. Isn't it great that studios have become like musical instruments, so that talent rather than enormous sums of money can drive achievement.

 

Originally posted by where02190:

I highly suggest you utilize the talents of a professional who you feel comfortable with to record, and perhaps let them know you'd like ot get some hands on during the sessions if possible, as you are interested in exploring your abilities/talents as an engineer. This will accomplish two things. 1) your recordings will benefit from a seasoned, talented professional, and 2) you'll find out PDQ if you got what it takes talent-wise to be an engineer.

I agree with what you're saying, but I don't think it's a mutually exclusive position and undermines the other side of the equation.

 

The democratization of music production technology doesn't undermine the talent or usefulness of great engineers, it opens doors. It opened one for me, and I'm just a cat!

Dooby Dooby Doo
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Originally posted by Duddits:

Originally posted by where02190:

Not everyone can play the piano, and not everyone can "play" a console either.

Sure, but the point is you give pianos and consoles to more people, and you find that there are more talented pianists and engineers living among us!

 

Originally posted by where02190:

1. That mic-pre-tape sound was a reult of an enginners knowledge of the right mic/pre combination and placement in the right room. Change any of these and the result is competely different.

Sure, but the point is that he's only using a few items, and putting these things together and pushing play and record is no longer the province of an exclusive, moneyed, club. In many cases, if an artist or band has, say, $15,000 to burn, they'd be better served by buying equipment and recording themselves then paying a studio by the hour.

 

Originally posted by where02190:

2. You can't buy/teach artistic talent, if you have it then it will show. Audio engineering is a talent more than anything IMHO. You either have a inherant feel for it or you don't, just like playing an instrument.

Imagine if you had to pay a studio $100/hour for the privalege of practicing an instrument. Building a home studio is similar to getting, learning, and practicing an instrument. Not everyone's going to be Horowitz, but there's an awful lot of latent talent out there that an instrument or studio can help express. Isn't it great that studios have become like musical instruments, so that talent rather than enormous sums of money can drive achievement.

 

Originally posted by where02190:

I highly suggest you utilize the talents of a professional who you feel comfortable with to record, and perhaps let them know you'd like ot get some hands on during the sessions if possible, as you are interested in exploring your abilities/talents as an engineer. This will accomplish two things. 1) your recordings will benefit from a seasoned, talented professional, and 2) you'll find out PDQ if you got what it takes talent-wise to be an engineer.

I agree with what you're saying, but I don't think it's a mutually exclusive position and undermines the other side of the equation.

 

The democratization of music production technology doesn't undermine the talent or usefulness of great engineers, it opens doors. It opened one for me, and I'm just a cat!

You're missing the massively big point here. You can spend a million bucks on great gear, but if you do not have the God given talent to use it, it is a waste of money.

 

the biggest "tool" that Simon's engineer used wasn't a piece of gear, it was talent and experience. You can't buy the talent, and you have to earn the experience.

 

If you want to spend your money buying gear to experiement on making your career as a musical artist, by all means go ahead, but there is a proven better way. Learn from experience, and SLOWLY build your chops. IMHO you'd be pissing money down the drain to try to get a quality product using the learn by doing method.

 

I get a couple potenital clients in here a week that have done just this, and want me to mix the tracks for them. I turn down over 75% of them because the quality of the tracking just plain sucks. Of this 75%, over 50% see the error of their ways, and (when financially feasable) start again tracking here. the end result is always a very grateful client and a much superb product than what they could have created.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Phait,

 

There are usually a ton of articles in EM, Home Recording, etc., every year that discuss all of the audio and MIDI products out for home studios that are available. You might start checking some of those mags out as well as frequenting sites like Harmony Central that announce frequent press releases. One thing you might try to do is break down the various types home studio applications into groups and then suggest a hardware/software combination that best suits each one.

 

For example, for a keyboard player thats tracking mostly MIDI with some audio but will be playing everything himself and wont be recording more than one instrument at a time, you might consider recommending the following type of setup:

 

Stereo PCI audio card with digital I/O ports like the M-Audio Audiophile ($100) or Echo MIA MIDI ($200)

Some high quality A/D D/A outboard converter like an Apogee

Some high quality Mic/Instrument Preamp

Cakewalk Sonar or a comparable MIDI-centric sequencer

Any stripped down PC with 2 hard drives and a decent processor and RAM

Etc.

 

For bands that want to track all together you could recommend something like:

 

8+ channel audio interface (Echo Audio Layla 24, Delta 1010, etc)

Presonus Digimax 8-channel external preamp w/ADAT output

Etc.

 

Catch my drift? I think it would be more beneficial to layout gear and suggestions based on typical recording situations rather than just discuss gear in generic terms.

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Originally posted by where02190:

You're missing the massively big point here. You can spend a million bucks on great gear, but if you do not have the God given talent to use it, it is a waste of money.

The same argument you make against getting equipment is also true for getting studio time -- neither equipment nor studio time will compensate for lack of talent. Given that, don't you think it's a better hedge to waste money on equipment than studio time?

 

I'm not saying the equipment will turn people into anything. however, if someone has talent, interest, discipline, or whatever, if you have equipment you can learn and produce an awful lot and for an awful long time. 20 hours in a studio ends after 20 hours in a studio.

Originally posted by where02190:

IMHO you'd be pissing money down the drain to try to get a quality product using the learn by doing method.

 

I get a couple potenital clients in here a week that have done just this, and want me to mix the tracks for them. I turn down over 75% of them because the quality of the tracking just plain sucks. Of this 75%, over 50% see the error of their ways, and (when financially feasable) start again tracking here. the end result is always a very grateful client and a much superb product than what they could have created.

So much of this stuff is so easy to use now, do you ever think that much of what engineers do is less specialized than it used to be? The means of production are simply less esoteric, for better (more access) or worse (more crap). For sure there's no substitute for talent, but I think flooding the countryside with equipment (just like flooding it with instruments) sparks talent and enables it to flourish.

 

I've been a musician ever since I was a kitten (I've never had any other job). At some point and with no audio experience, I just up and bought an analog multitrack and console and read the manual. With all those knobs and buttons, it actually didn't seem all that complicated to me. The first thing I did on it was make a demo of a song with a singer friend of mine. While the recording quality sounded like ass, the song was eventually released by CBS records. When I needed an instrumentalist, I just went outside and waited untill I'd see one ambling by, and ask him to come inside and record. For some reason, this method always seemed to work. Incidentally, everyone who's heard that demo, warts (and there's many of them) and all prefers it to the version that was released.

 

What would be the likelihood of a cat like me asking a label for money to send me into the studio without first being able to hear what I was capable of doing?

 

I have no doubt that what you say about your grateful clients is true. I just think that if someone is starting out today, it makes more sense for them to treat audio equipment like an instrument and try to own it, then to start by saving up their money in order to "go into a studio" like they used to do.

 

There will always be a place for talented engineers and professional studios. But fortunately, these are no longer the gatekeepers for aspiring talent.

Dooby Dooby Doo
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Hmm. As somebody who's been on all sides of the fence, I see both sides of the argument between Duddits and where. That is, I've been an engineer at professional studios, a musician who's recorded at professional studios, and both an engineer and musician at a home studio where my bands make our own records for under $5,000. :D

 

I think it really does depend on the individual whether it's better to invest in gear or in time at a pro studio. There are lots of compelling reasons to do both. I certainly agree with Duddits' point that modern technology puts quality music production in the hands of "ordinary" folks and allows them to develop their skills without a huge cost outlay, which is great. It's also great for people like me who have very specific artistic motivations that may or may not be commercially popular... having a home studio allows us to work at our own pace, without studio time clock or budget pressures.

 

That said...

 

1) there are a lot of people who simply are NOT good at wearing both hats and being both engineer and musician, even though they may be fantastic at one or the other. And even if you're somewhere at the beginner's end of developing your engineering skills but are just trying to be creative and get something done, sometimes the process of trying to learn while doing can frustrate creativity.

 

2) I think Duddits overstates how "easy to use" modern gear is. Regardless of advances that have been made, you still have to know signal flow, you still have to know mic choice and placement, etc. unless you are using 100% (or close to it) direct sounds. And I know from having used both, that it's much tougher to get good sounds from cheap gear than expensive gear. A great mic or pre or compressor or EQ, you just plug it in, make a few adjustments and it sounds great. Nowadays it seems pretty much a given that I'm going to have to spend a lot more time tweaking stuff before it will sound good.

 

And 3) One thing that hasn't been mentioned here at all is room ambience and acoustics. Again, if you are using mostly direct sounds this may not be an issue (although it may well still be, at mixdown), but for those recording live instruments, it's huge. There is NO substitute for a well designed room, and in some cases a large space is necessary. There's a lot you can do to mitigate serious acoustical problems, but the "character" of a really good tracking room is something a lot of folks overlook. Ambient space most definitely affects the performance and affects the final mix.

 

I've definitely gotten quite a few calls from people who've bought their own gear, tried engineering themselves and can't get a decent sound. Usually it's when they try to record drums that they get in trouble. :D Or when they try to get a mix that sounds good. On the other hand, quite a few folks successfully cut basic tracks at a pro studio, take them home, do overdubs and maybe editing at a project studio, and take them back to a pro for mixdown. They might do some "sketch mixes" prior to mixdown to give the mix engineer some ideas what they're going for, so that can save money.

 

So, there's more than one way to errhh.... skin a cat (sorry Duddits). :D

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Originally posted by Duddits:

Obviously this is an article about yourself!

I would therefore address the things that matter most to you

For me, the above statement is the most interesting idea so far.

 

Write this article exactly as you produce the 5K production, as a personal rapport. That way you can fully relay on your on experience. You are also not running into a situation you have to explain production related things which are of no importance or you have not experienced.

That way, this article will be a worthful, peronal rapport of a 5K production.

 

I think it's impossible to make a general production rapport which covers everything. The variables are to wide and there are no general rules, only specific ones. A 5K production is such a specific situation.

-Peace, Love, and Potahhhhto
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A monkey can turn knobs, but only a skilled engineer knows which knobs to turn and when.

 

If you want to spend your money on gear then by all means go for it, but it sure seems like to me you're putting the cart before the horse.

 

I completely disagree that new musos starting out should buy gear instead of going into the studio. trying ot wear all the hats is a receipe for disaster. Artisc ends will suffer, as you cannot be both engineer and artist at the same time. Many have tried, almost all have failed. Even those (Todd Rundgren for example) use an engineer when they are tracking. It's stretching the brain mroe than it needs, taking away from the musically given talents.

 

However do what you wish, as you're going to anyway. I'm outa this one, said my peace, do with it what you may.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Engineers have performed a valuable service in the industry: they've helped elevate sonic cleanliness up above the dirty grimy stuff of passion that often infests music, where it belongs.

 

But ONLY the schooled engineers.

 

Don't let musicians buy gear and learn to engineer by experience and hands on determination. Don't let manual reading and browsing of audio knowledge sites work their evil. If you should see a musician attempting to purchase something you suspect may be used in the manufacture of a project studio, call the authorities AT ONCE!

 

The job you save may be your OWN!

 

This has been a public service announcement, courtesy of Royal College of Audio Engineers

.
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Originally posted by greenboy:

Engineers have performed a valuable service in the industry: they've helped elevate sonic cleanliness up above the dirty grimy stuff of passion that often infests music, where it belongs.

 

But ONLY the schooled engineers.

Better tell that to most of the grammy winining engineers of the past, as my guestimate is that pretty much none of them ever actually went ot school to learn what they do.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Yikes I have alot to reconsider and think about. Just a preface - I'm not arguing in anything following, just clarifying.

 

Here's where the idea/inspiration stemmed from: I have a few some equipment, in my eyes it didn't cost that much (and in most studio eyes it surely didn't cost so much), it was under or around $5000 and since beginning this a year ago I realised hey - $5k is pretty cheap to begin a dream. For one, there are no studios around here for me to go to. Even if there was, I personally am more comfortable working on my own time, at home. The problem is, it's at home!

 

And I do see the point of "it depends on the individual" an wearing "too many hats" - I didn't consider that when I started the article, but I was that ambitious person a year ago who wanted to do it and all and I'd learn what I could.

 

Some good points mentioned here rather than a myriad of the actual answers I was looking for, but I'm more thankful for the points presented here. I knew there were alot of variables, but my basic idea was this:

 

- to sum up in a few stringed articles what are some major equipment purchases that can get you on the track, and present a few options of what gear -

 

it was purely the what and some why, but not telling the reader how to use it, because of course they're going to have to learn on their own (I'd hope they knew this even considering the idea)- and there's many other resources out there they can go through.

 

Angelo's idea of writing a personal reflective article on my own initial experience would work, but does anyone really care?

 

On the other hand, I have a 1600 word article on choosing a computer, I'd hate to just delete it...

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where02190: Better tell that to most of the grammy winining engineers of the past, as my guestimate is that pretty much none of them ever actually went ot school to learn what they do.
Well, you stupid douchebag, you just dont' seem to have much of a sense of irony. You've basically been telling people they need YOU - rather than getting the gear and learning themselves. And then: out the other side of your mouth you admit that many engineers have done JUST THAT - learned to do it themselves.

 

DUH DUH DUH!

 

So it comes down to whether they want to spend the time learning now, and maybe learning to wear a couple hats or not. A separate issue entirely.

.
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Do you really think any soundengineer or studio owner will tell you it's possible to produce a top-album at home?

 

Man that's like going to a bakeryshop and ask the baker the recipe for his bread. He'll tell you right away you can't bake bread like his at home. You need a special oven to do it.

 

Phait just do your thing man,..just like me and the band.

There's no way we can cough up a 100 grand to use a top of the line studio. You're talking 'bout 5 grand budget. We have none but I believe in my ears and the Godgifted talent of my bandmembers so we're definately gonna hit the charts ,...and that without any pro-engineers turning knobs for us.

Believe in Yourself!

Fan, nu pissar jag taggtråd igen. Jag skulle inte satt på räpan.

http://www.bushcollectors.com

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Originally posted by Phait:

Well Boosh, I dunno if you misunderstood my intentions of the article - I'm writing it for others that might be interested in the same path, on a budget - a guide stemming from what I realised is certainly possible.

I know you're on a quest man. Most things you write you think you write them for others but in fact you're searching and finding out things for yourself.

Fan, nu pissar jag taggtråd igen. Jag skulle inte satt på räpan.

http://www.bushcollectors.com

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What about a LIVE album.

In 2 or 3 hours on stage a band can crank out more songs than they can in a Studio in the same amount of time. Pick out the songs you want to use or do multiple performances until you get the best take. I've done this many times with bands for that kind of budget, but $5k isn't much of a budget for a commercial studio ... 10 Songs/$500 ea ... 12 Songs/$400 ea ... 15 Songs/$300ea !@#$%^&

 

A Home Studio is another thing, or hire a programmer to play everything that you can then put your vocals on. But if your a "BAND" on a budget the best thing to do to streach it would be track downtown / transfer to something you can take home and overdub.

 

I've also seen people go over budget with the intentions of making the record then selling the gear. Say spend $8,000 on making the record then sell off $3,000 worth of the gear???

 

I've been an Engineer for a long time .. I could probably figure a way to do it, but for someone who's not an Engineer they're going to have a lot to learn to get it right.

 

I once had a songwriter in Los Angeles who wanted to make a demo with me with the intentions of shopping the songs in Nashville. To make a long story short we loaded up his BMW with recording gear and headed to Nashville. Every motel we stopped at along the way was a $35 recording studio for the night. We unloaded the car, shut the door and started taking the beds apart, proping all the matresses up around the walls, set up mic's in the middle of the room. Some of the rooms we stayed at we left the beds all torn apart when we were done just for the laugh of having done it. By the time we got to Nashville we had all our songs recorded. Sometimes you have to just get a little creative. I still get a bang out of pulling out the pictures we took a long the way !!!!

 

Good luck,

 

Russ

http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-russragsdale

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We unloaded the car, shut the door and started taking the beds apart, proping all the matresses up around the walls, set up mic's in the middle of the room. Some of the rooms we stayed at we left the beds all torn apart when we were done just for the laugh of having done it.
We ended up at the Grand Hotel

It was empty cold and bare

But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside

Making our music there

With a few red lights and a few old beds

We make a place to sweat

No matter what we get out of this

I know we'll never forget

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

.
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Every time DIY seems to get a handhold there is scurrying up above, and some of that is to get into place to stomp on those hands.

 

But the real battle has been for some time, to control distribution or free it.

.
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It is most possible to make a top quality recording without going to a professional studio, however you CANNOT just go buy the gear and expect that out of the gate. Without the knowledge and experience, it's trial and error, and that can become quite costly very fast. Factor the quick depereciation fo the gear, and the possibility that you may or may not posses the talents to engineer, and you add alot of risk to your investment.

 

take that same money, find a studio and engineer/producer you feel comfortable and confident in, and you are far more lilkely to have a product that will satisfy your artisctic needs and be attention worthy/marketable.

 

even Indie labels are not spending much time listening to homespun medeocre production deomos, the labels ideal is a finished product ready to go to retail. Long gone are the days of label "artist development"> The labels are looking at demos as finished products they can instantly market. A recording done with inferior engineering skills has little chance in this world IMHO.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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