Ever wondered what’s involved in making a CD of original music? I just recorded and self-produced my first “official” release, Online Dating Blues, and here’s a glimpse inside the process.
Part Three: Scheduling the Sessions and Raising the Money
Once again I was faced with the question of how to produce the CD. I toyed for awhile with doing a live CD recording concert, reasoning that I perform best for an audience. Plus my radio show was live, and I got a handful of acceptable tracks from that, so surely I could do the same again. Also I could ask for donations in advance and at the door to help cover production costs. Finding a venue I was happy with, and actually making it happen, though, proved harder than one would think. I was blocked again, though I couldn’t say exactly why.
Weeks went by…
Margo, my voice teacher thought I should “do it right” and hire a professional producer. She’d been working with this guy for months, was impressed with the performances he was getting out of her, and I figured why not at least meet him? Though I expected working with him would be pricey. And would I encounter the same issues I had with the first producer?
All my concerns ended up moot, because somehow, although the producer in question was apparently interested in meeting me, and Margo was willing to make the hour-long drive with me to facilitate an introduction, nothing happened. Weeks went by, I didn’t follow through, and suddenly I realized holiday shopping season was right around the corner, and damnit, I wanted to get a CD made NOW! No more waiting! It didn’t have to be professionally produced (no matter what Margo said) – my home-burned radio show CD had proven that! Hell, if it was better than my radio show CD it would be a clear win, and for that all I really needed was a way to record me and my band.
A Cheaper Way to Record…
A year before I’d gotten together with a trio in my drummer’s garage studio (John Lazarus – Idea Room) to rehearse and record “just for fun.” My big goal at the time was to get a recording of my first song, He’s Just Not That Into You, to use as a soundtrack for a video I wanted to make. Now it suddenly occurred to me – DOH! – perhaps the most expedient and cost-effective way to go about this would be to record in John’s studio again. I shot off an email asking if he and his band, The Big Beat Trio, would be interested and available, and how much they’d charge.
Within a couple of days I had two five-hour recording sessions scheduled (at $30o a pop; $100 for each musician per session), and two mixing/mastering sessions with an engineer John recommended, Nick at Earhythmic Studio, who only charged $50 per song for both mixing and mastering. (To give you an idea of what a deal this was, $100-200 per song is not uncommon for mastering alone, and mixing is way more involved…) Great! It may not be Capitol Records, but given my time and budget constraints (did I mention I was broke?), I managed to let my inner perfectionist take a breather and remember my goal to just make this CD better than the last one. Not an impossible task, which also had the added benefit of making a future CD that’s even better than this one seem achievable as well. Baby steps…
Paying For It All…
Wow! Blocks busted! No more paralysis! I was moving forward! Now, how to pay for this thing.. Although I was doing this on a shoestring ($150 per song is a helluva lot better than $1,000 – see Part 1: Background – but that didn’t include the costs to replicate the actual discs), it was still going to cost more than I had on hand, especially given that this was December, the deepest, darkest depths of cash-flow darkness for my mostly wedding-related art and design business. My estimates were at least $2,000-2,500.
I had met artists at Music Strategies who had raised CD production money from their fan base, and knew of still others who’d done the same. Earlier this year I randomly sat next to my guitar teacher, Carol McComb, on a flight. I spent the entire time picking her brain about her phenomenally successful fundraising campaign, which brought in something like $40,000 from students, friends and fans. !!!
Carol sent me a copy of her fundraising letter, from the days before everyone used email and paypal. Ah, technology! No stamp-sticking for me: as soon as I’d scheduled the recording sessions I composed an email to my fanbase, using Carol’s letter as a skeleton, asking for their support and offering certain “premiums” for different levels of support. (I had a lot of fun with this: since my songs are mostly themed around the trials and tribulations of dating, I offered different kinds of [totally platonic!] dates with me for each of the $100-and-above levels. I wasn’t sure how this would come across, but the comments were all positive – as I’d hoped, people got a good chuckle out of it.) I accepted pre-orders for $10, and here are the “Executive Producer” contribution levels I offered:
Executive Producer Levels:
$25 – Web Executive Producer
Your name on my website and 2 copies of the CD
$50 – Web&Print Executive Producer
Your name on my website AND in the liner notes, and 3 copies of the CD
$100 – “Coffee Date” Executive Producer
Your name on my website AND in the liner notes, 4 copies of the CD, and a coffee date with me!
$250 – “Lunch Date” Executive Producer
Your name on my website AND in the liner notes, 6 copies of the CD, and a lunch date with me!
$500 – “Drinks Date” Executive Producer
Your name on my website AND in the liner notes, 8 copies of the CD, and a date for drinks with me!
$1000 – “Dinner Date” Executive Producer
Your name on my website AND in the liner notes, 10 copies of the CD, and a date for dinner with me!
I sent the email off and waited to see what would happen…
Next: Support from Unexpected Corners, and Finally In the Studio!