Making your own CD!
December 7, 2010 | 10:58 am

In which I enter the big time of recording

I was "challenged" to do this years ago, and this past summer it became a personal ultimatum: Now or Never. I discovered that one can do it alone but (1) you'll make a lot of mistakes - costly mistakes, (2) the business is pretty scary, (3) it's ok to go it alone, but like in real life, it's no fun.

So, I started with a playlist: 14 songs all on the theme of Christmas that I had composed or arranged. (what the heck, whether you believe in that or not, millions of people want Christmas music, come December. It's a form of escapism, I think... but that's a subject for another blog).

I found a "producer", Susie, who has made several best selling CDs of her own. She knew all the stuff about release forms and contracts, and she was that "objective ear" when we were recording - letting us know where we needed to do-overs. Most important, she believed in this project.

I found a recording engineer: Sid, who runs his own studio and has all the equipment, and is a recording genius. He agreed to a remote set-up, and he did all the editing and post-production. He was a true PRO-fessional throughout. Way most important, he believed in this project.

I had a fantastic administrator, Julie, who paid all the bills, and scheduled all the rehearsals and sessions, organized the singers and musicians and dealt with the manufacturers, and is still sending out CD orders now that it's done. She definitely believes in this project!

I recruited 15 singers - all pros, all good friends with whom I've worked for several years and who are familiar with my music, and I prepared and conducted the chorus. We rehearsed about 12 hours, then we went into the recording space and recorded 11 songs in 12 hours. Too much! Even though they were pros - we were working against the elements: it was mid-July, and it was HOT! We lost a little time the first night for sound checks and adjustments. We were in a wonderful church-space but it was definitely not sound-proof. We traded good resonance for street-noise and the hum of the air conditioner.

We had an extra challenge on the songs with instruments: should we use them in the space or should we record them on separate tracks in the studio? We decided to do some both ways. The piano and the flute played with us, though they had their own mike set-ups so we could balance. The guitar and the bells and the tenor solo recorded separate tracks in the studio which helped immensely with balance.

I decided I wanted to include some horn quartets as "interludes" on the album, so I got a great French horn player to come into the studio and in one morning he recorded all four parts of seven pieces, then we multi-tracked the quartets. Outstanding!

Then the work began: for the next six weeks I spent many, many (billable) hours in the studio with Sid and Susie doing the editing. We made some cuts; we pasted in different takes; we adjusted balance and fiddled with the blend; we tweaked the intonation; we added and overdubbed.

We had gotten a super artist, Monica, to design the album cover and book. She typeset all the texts, inset pics and bios and acknowledgments. She created a logo for my "publishing company". And she worked with the manufacturer to be sure that it was all print ready for press.

Susie helped us find a manufacturer - Disc Makers - who were just fantastic and totally professional. They printed all the CD covers and cases, they pressed (burned?) all the CDs, and they set us up with marketing: CDBaby, Dignation, iTunes. And on the 1st of November they delivered SEVEN boxes of CDs to my door - ready for sale!

How much did all this cost, you might ask. and I have to say it was not cheap. I learned that once you get into this business, there is no point in doing it half-***ed. But the people I was working with were invested in this project, and we paid everybody! We paid for the recording space; we paid for a craft-table with plenty of water and carbos for the singers and musicians; we paid Sid and his assistant for remote set-up AND take-down for three sessions; we paid for studio time; we paid all the production people. True, they gave us generous "breaks" - (I don't know how many hours Sid and Susie just "gave me"), and the manufacturing was a package deal - and it was a real deal! I started with a budget and came in under-budget, but JUST under-budget. It was an investment.

In the end, I learned a lot! I'm ready to do another project next spring and I might just be a record producer when I grow up.





becwil's artist icon
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Fantastic description of a fantastic project. Congrats! You did it! smiley
Latest Song: Arriving (AITW)
Artist Page Send Message December 7, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Bent_Axis's artist icon
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Hi ml, no offense but I've done all that by myself: wrote all the songs, lined up all the talent myself, recorded all of it myself, designed all the cd artwork myself, found a cd manufacturer on my own, and put in all the hours with no one getting paid. That's really making your own cd, not hiring a lot of other people to do it for you.
Latest Song: Let There Be Demons Collab
Artist Page Send Message December 7, 2010 | 3:08 pm

mlpbadarak's artist icon
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(no offense taken). I wish I'd known you six months ago.

Do you have your own studio? did you do it all there? What do you use - like, ProTools? how much $$ have you invested in recording equipment?
Latest Song: What Child Is This
Artist Page Send Message December 8, 2010 | 10:15 am

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