As part of the preproduction process outlined in this post, I needed to arrange for studio time.
Developing a high-quality independent release is challenging work. For many independent artists, there are significant challenges related to budget. The quality of the recording often suffers when the reality sets in that it takes time, money and talent to produce a good result. Time and talent is often easier to find than money.
With the proliferation of home recording gear, there is a view that high quality results can be obtained on a PC with a sound card, some software and a couple of mics. Unfortunately, the skills necessary to effectively engineer, mix and master a project are often missing from the project. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to review hundreds of submissions for industry awards and it is all to easy to hear the difference between professionally produced recordings and inexperienced productions.
Having said that, it is entirely possible to establish a high-quality project studio at home. The cost to build a such a facility at home is significant. However, as with most things, it is not just about the room and the gear. Talent and experience matter.
Over the past ten years, I have generally produced and engineered projects in my own project studio. Since making the move away from the Toronto area, I am now in the midst of rebuilding a new studio. We finished up the conceptual drawings last week. Construction will not start until early 2010. I can handle overdubs as well as mix activities in my temporary mix room. But for this current project, I had no choice but to use outside facilities for tracking.
A typical independent release might use a week in a high-end studio for tracking basics, two weeks to track overdubs in a lower-cost studio. Mixes might take a week and could be accomplished in a lower-cost studio or a project studio. Mastering is generally a day.
What I look for in a studio is fairly simple:
- A comfortable and professional environment
- Well designed acoustic space(s)
- Great gear (primarily mics, preamps, cue system and monitors)
- A competitive lockout rate
As I do my own engineering, I also need a strong assistant on the session.
I picked Phase One because they satisfied all the above criteria. Class A facilities — at least in the Toronto area — are roughly $1,000 a day. Some budgets cannot justify this level of spend. Once you drift below $500 a day, it is very difficult to find studios with well designed acoustic spaces, great gear and a nice, professional environment.