Just like merch and fliers a band should have a great recording to represent themselves after a fan/listener has gone home.
It really sucks to totally dig a band live and then when you pop the cd into your player it sounds like a giraffe dying or like they popped a cassette tape into a radio shack recorder and thought it was the best sound ever.
Good recording isn't cheap. The average price is around $45-$75 an hour. But if you're selling merch and getting paid from your shows (cause people love your awesome fliers) then it should really pay for itself. It's totally worth waiting for a bigger budget then just going with something cheap and unprofessional to save dough. The incentive to your fans that if they buy the merch they are helping fund your upcoming cd might help as well.
A great recording is an investment, you have to put into it what you want out of it.
Shop around for the recording engineer that best suits your sound.
Find a local band with a great demo and talk to other bands about who they record with. Don't settle on someone because they are a friend or a friend of a friend. Make sure you get samples from the engineer. You're paying them a lot of money they should be able to provide references to earn that money.
Recording might be expensive but don't let them rip you off.
Like I mentioned earlier; the average cost of recording for an unsigned band should be $45-$75 an hour. Anything more is ridiculous. We don't have big labels or producers backing us so any recording studio should be professional enough to understand that.
Be well practiced and ready to maximize your time.
Don't go into the studio hung over, drugged up or rusty on the songs you're planning to record. Time is money and if you're wasting it, that's your own fault. An engineer will sit back and watch you make a fool of yourselves while he/she see's dollar signs. Come to the studio well rested. If you're a singer bring water and a secret tip from me Throat Coat tea. It's amazing for warming up your throat, especially if you're a screamer.
New strings & New Heads.
New strings are a requirement. Drummers make sure your new heads are in tune. Don't spend an hour tuning your kit, again time is money!
Know when enough is enough.
Ten hours in the studio may sound like a cake walk for some musicians, but the harder you push yourself the more tired you get and then your sound will suffer. If you can split up your time in blocks over two or three days it's much better for the whole band.
You don't need to record every single song you have written. When you're unsigned, six song albums are just fine. When you're just starting out even just four songs are good.
Don't waste too much time or money on mixing & mastering.
Some people don't know the difference between mixing and mastering. I didn't at the beginning but after recording six albums now I know.
Mixing is the process right after recording where you add your effects, EQ your tracks, and put everything together so it sounds just right. All songs should match up and sound as close to a professionally recorded cd as possible. A good mix is necessary.
Mastering is expensive. Some recording engineers can't do mastering because it requires different software, set-up, etc. So they might ask you to send your stuff to a mastering studio. If you can't afford it, don't do it. A well mixed cd shouldn't need to be mastered if you're in an unsigned band. Mastering takes a well mixed cd and adds enhancements to it. If it's a bad mix, it can't be fixed by mastering.
Make it a good package.
With technology where it is today a badly packaged cd is unacceptable. If you can't afford professionally duplicated and printed cd packages, you can buy cd cases, blank cds, blank cd stickers, and thick stock paper at Walmart . If you don't have a color printer find someone who does. This is what people are going to take home with them, it has to have value.
If you have any questions or need advice email me: firstname.lastname@example.org