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Wasting Money in the Studio

Too much precious money gets flushed down the studio drain –says Wes Maebe

When you’ve made the decision to pay for a professional studio you don’t want to waste your money.

And I’ve seen some money being wasted.

There was a time when record labels threw budgets around by the truckload.

You could spend years in the studio to write the album, rehearse, record and mix…and then decide to go into another studio to record a singular triangle hit because the studio you’d just spent 4 years in didn’t have quite the right vibe or purple carpets.

These times are no longer around.

There’s the occasional success story, but in general the labels won’t even touch you if you haven’t already got a massive following, been touring solidly for a few years and have a finished product to sell.

-And that finished product is a superbly produced album, mastered and complete with the artwork.

Artist development seems to be an art form from the past. The people who sign you are reporting back to the bean counters.

And those bean counters are leaning on everybody possible to make the product (you’re no longer referred to as the artist!) cost effective and look good on the balance sheet.

In other words, it’s down to you to stomp up the cash to pay for your rehearsal and composition time -and you’ll have to get your material recorded, mixed and mastered.

So here are my top three tips for saving your money

* Work out your budget and go for the best facility your money can buy.  
A studio that looks like a bargain may have sub-standard/poorly maintained equipment or inexperienced staff –both of which can be big time-wasters. And time is money in a studio.  Make a shortlist of facilities you like the look of and go in to have a look and a listen. Meet the people and get a feel for the place. The studio is going to be the most important part of your life whilst you’re in record/mix mode.

* Ask these questions to make sure you know the costs that are involved
Here are some of the questions to get you started: What do we get for our money? Is it based on a 10 or 12 hour day or is it a 24 hour lock out? What DAW (digital audio workstation) are you using, Pro Tools, Logic, Nuendo etc? Ensure that if you’re bringing in backing tracks, that the software versions are compatible. Does the studio come with an assistant? If we want to take rough mixes home, do we have to pay for the blank cds? Always ask if they can provide you with an instrument list, you never know there may be some cool stuff knocking around. Do keep in mind that sometimes you’ll have to pay extra for that.

* Consider your own engineer.  
You can do preproduction together enabling your engineer to get familiar with the material. This will save valuable time once the red light goes on. It always helps if you can be in the live room without having to worry about the technical side of things. You’re there to make a record and focus on pouring your heart out into these songs—not to stress about which mic to use.

Of course the best way to save money is to be well rehearsed.

Unless you have an inexhaustible budget, rehearse the songs with the production team.

Work out all the parts, fine tune the structure and arrangements before you hit the studio and when you get there you can focus on having fun and giving the best performance.

Enjoy your studio experience and when those heads on the other side of the glass are bobbing up and down, you’re doing good.


  • Armadbox

    I recently went to a Instrument repair local business in process of setting up a recording studio. I was assured by the owner that the Sound Engineer was superb and that his mix of my music “Will absolutely blow your mind!”  The S.E. echoed all this when I met him, and I gave him 2 if my songs for him to produce a sample mix for me.  Four weeks later with nothing heard about progress I arranged for another meeting.  In high spirits I entered the studio to “Have my mind blown”.  The absolute garbage this so-called Pro-tools whizz guy played to me shocked me to the core. I was disgusted. It was like listening to a midi file gone wrong and played backwards. The 2.1 audio file I produced directly from my Notation Software left his mix for dead.
    Lesson learned.
    My message is this. If the studio cannot or will not play for you a recent master mix that impresses you and provide you with a reference person to contact about it to validate it is for real…….don’t even bother with them!
    Now I don’t know who to trust as I do not know how to use a Synth/Sequencer.  I did not want to have to learn to as I have way too much on my plate with composing and singing and improving my guitar playing and music theory knowledge.
    In the 1960’s I did recording from Mic to Tape at home with live takes. Why did someone have to bring in all this MIDI and Digital stuff to complicate things?

  • Wes Maebe

    oh man! that sounds like an absolute nightmare scenario.
    No one should go through this. Obviously music is such a subjective animal and it may take a bit of rooting around to find the engineer/producer that works for you. 
    I am very sorry to hear your “Now I don’t know who to trust” comment. Please do not let this discourage you from finding the right person for the job.
    If there’s anything I can do to help you along the way, do no hesitate to drop me a line.

    As to the whole MIDI thing, I agree. I am not a fan of MIDI at all. I come from the old school where we try to put all the players in a room and capture the vibe of the moment.
    MIDI was invented for ease of use (haha) and basically to reduce costs. Unfortunately it has reduced the human factor of recording which I deplore.
    Live to tape, totally agreed.