I remember back when I decided I was ready to start recording bands. I went to a local “metalfest”, setup a table, told everyone I charged $20 an hour, and nothing happened. I mean NOTHING happened. It was a total waste of time. So I went back to the drawing board and had to rethink my strategy.
I'm a firm believer that you must give someone something if you want something in return. Take the approach of your potential customers. “What's in it for me?”. Well, in the case of me with the brand new studio in my house, I had a few problems. My demo I was handing out simply wasn't that good. It was about the typical quality of a local studio at that time. Most bands didn't feel comfortable working with a guy for $20 an hour who they didn't even know and had never heard of.
I decided that I would do an album for free. Actually, at that time, I had not done an album. Just little 3 song this and 4 song thats. I found that recording a 10-12 song cd was quite a bit more work than I had imagined. Either way, I went to a few local shows to scout out the band that I wanted to offer free recording too. Eventually, I found the band. They had pro gear and sounded good live. They had a decent crowd and I thought they would make a great candidate. I approached them after the show to do a few record. I got them to go for it. Most bands won't turn down free recording.
I busted my tale on the project, and in the end it sounded pretty decent. It was better than most the local productions, but nothing to be too excited about it. It was enough for the my new friends in the band to tell more of their friends. Since they were a gigging band, other bands would ask where they recorded. Other bands were excited that I didn't force electronic drums onto their record. That in itself was actually a selling point.
It wasn't long after finishing the first project that I can I did another free record. Once again, it was a gigging local band. I did that project for free too. It turned out to be a decent sounding recording in the end. I was very pleased at the time. I kept improving. It turned out that I did about 5 records for free. This took me a lot of work and a lot of time. I was just happy to have real bands to record.
At that time a local music forum exploded. After recording 5 or so records I knew a number of bands. I hit the forum very hard. I was the leading poster for a long time. I posted each and every day on every post that I had any business posting. I had my recording studio's website up the whole time and always offered samples of my work.
I emailed a number of bands and told them that I had recorded this band and that band. Soon, I found myself charging an enormous $50 per day. It certainly wasn't great money, but it was a start. I recorded more and more bands to gain experience. Every time I finished a project, I would invite all the guys on the local forum to visit my site and download it. I got better and better and better.
I became overbooked and overworked, so I raised my prices to $100 per day. By this time, just about everyone in the local band world knew who I was. From that point I didn't have to do much marketing. It sort of took care of itself.
Now, I'm pushing it the next step. I grabbed the band with the best singer in town. It just so happens that everyone in his band could play as well. They had experience making serious money as a band. I knew it was worth my time to put something great into their project.
Once again, I find myself recording for free, sort of. I'm working on spec. That means that they owe me some money. If the record sells well, I get a nice paycheck. If it doesn't, I'm still eating ramon noodles. We've actually put quite a bit of work into this project. We've spent the past 9 months writing songs as that is, by far, the most important factor. Since, I'm not charging for any of my services, there were a few stipulations. One, we could go to Nashville or some equivalent mega pro studio to do the drums in. Two, they would print up 10,000 sample cds. Three, they would print up 1,000 real cds that would be sold. Four, I had to help them with the marketing end.
With this project, we are doing everything as write as we possibly can. We are trying not to compromise at all. Even if the the record is a total flop (which it won't be), the studio will get a tremendous amount of exposure. I expect to be able to raise my rates after doing this project.
So if you are looking to record more bands, give them a reason to come to you. What's in it for them? If you are willing to work for free for a little while, you'll make great money in the end.
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