Make a Recording

With studio technology becoming increasingly affordable, the options available to composers/songwriters wishing to record their music, have risen accordingly in recent years. Commercially successful compositions – both chart and production –are often recorded in home studios.

However, while the cost considerations of recording are arguably not as high as twenty years ago, many aspects are just as important as they were in previous decades.

Preparation

Some composers/songwriters have the luxury of writing and developing their music in a studio, either thanks to a large advance, or because they own their own facilities. However, most of those who are at the early stages in their career are likely to have a limited budget. Therefore, preparing thoroughly before recording begins, is essential.

While some of the following suggestions might seem elementary, regular recipients of demos will testify to the fact that many musicians fail to follow them. Ultimately, this can lead to a demo being discarded, so it is worth taking account of the following points.

Choose The Best Three Songs
It is unlikely that more than three tracks will be listened to, and if somebody is keen to hear other compositions, they will get in touch. However, as a musical calling card, three tracks are enough.

Often those most involved in the writing and performance of compositions are not able to judge which are likely to make the most impact. Therefore, it is worth asking as many people as possible which are their favourite compositions.

Put the most popular track first, followed by the second most popular, etc.

Is It A Cover Version Or An Arrangement?

Where a 'cover version' of somebody else's song is to be recorded, it should be considered whether the new version remains true to the structure of the original. If it is a radical reworking of the composition, then it might be deemed to be an 'arrangement,' which in turn requires permission from the copyright holder. If in doubt, contact the Music Publishers Association [MPA].

Rehearse

The more time spent in the studio, the higher the costs, so it is crucial to eliminate as many potential problems that might cause delays in the recording.

Every generation has those who claim that "these days you don't need to be able to sing, it's all done in the studio", but for a long-term career, musical ability is usually necessary.

Composers/songwriters who do not feel they can sing a song, or play a particular instrument proficiently, should get somebody else to do it.

Moreover, although it is easy to come up with numerous examples of successful pop/rock bands with poor vocals, out-of-tune guitars or rhythm sections which are out of time, a lack of musical ability is likely to see an unknown act cast into the bin.

If practice does not solve the shortcomings, lessons might do the trick, or it might be necessary to replace the inept band member.

Make Sure Instruments And Equipment Are Working

Apart from thoroughly rehearsing the compositions in advance, it is also important to be sure that all equipment is working properly. A studio should not be relied upon to have a preferred type of strings, or a certain make of instrument or equipment favoured by the composer/songwriter/band. Furthermore, having something as simple as an extra battery could end up saving a lot of time and money.

Agree Songwriting and Playing Credits

Where more than one person is involved in the writing and/or playing of the composition, it is important agree the writing and/or playing credits.

As highlighted in the Publish It section, the BACS can provide advice on how to approach the publishing royalties.

Moreover, it is important to clarify the role of each person featured on the recording. If session musicians or guests are invited, will they be paid a one-off fee, or are they to receive royalties? Both BACS and the Musicians' Union can advise on the different possibilities, but an agreement should be made in writing before the recording begins. Where Phonographic Performance Ltd [PPL] royalties are concerned, all those playing on the recording will be entitled to a share.

Clear Any Samples In Advance

In the past 20 years sampling, or using a piece of somebody else's music in another composition, has become increasingly common. A sample can be anything from a drum sound to a whole chunk of a song, but in every case, permission must first be sought from the copyright owner before it can be used.

It is highly likely, that most samples will still be in copyright, both in terms of the publishing [the composition] and the sound recording. Therefore, before incorporating a sample into a new piece of music, it is necessary to clear it with the rights owner(s).

The MPAcan provide assistance in terms of tracking down the appropriate publishing company, while PPL or the record label, should be contacted for permission to use the copyrighted sound recording.

Although it can take months to secure permission to use a sample, failure to do so, can result in the copyright owner(s) demanding 100% of the royalties of a song, even if the sample only forms part of the composition. Therefore, it is worth finding an alternative, or making sure that it can be used.

Decide Who/What The Recordings Are For

It is important to consider what goal is to be achieved with a recording, as this will have a bearing on the budget and the type of studio to use. For a young band hoping to secure some gigs with a demo, the considerations will be different to an act planning to release the tracks commercially, or a budding composer hoping to sell production music.

Decide On A Budget

How much money is available to record will have a fundamental impact on the number of songs that can be recorded, the type of studio, the number of musicians featured and the amount of studio time available.

Where bands are concerned, it is crucial that everybody agrees on the budget, as well as how the recording will be funded.

Throughout the UK, the law treats a band as a partnership, which in turn means that each member is liable for the debts run up by the other partners. If one member wishes to go over budget, this must be agreed by everybody, preferably in writing.