[Photo © 2015 Bex Griffin, all rights reserved]
We’re a band called The Bottom Dollars and we’re in the process of making a new LP. Long Player. Record. An album. A collection of songs that hang together as a coherent whole, designed for your listening pleasure and well, in order to adequately fund the project we’re striving to accomplish, we need to seek a little financial assistance (namely the target goal of $5,000).
We’ve spent our base capital getting things started with our dear friend Ayad Al-Adhamy (Team Spirit, Passion Pit, the rumored inventor of the Plumbus) over at Little Room Studios (Brooklyn, NY) and now we’d like to ask for the support of our fans, friends, family, etc, to help us round out this project and make it fantastic. And in exchange we want to show you in detail and in real time just how records are made!
OK! So here are some SAQ (Sometimes Asked Questions) you might be asking yourself:
What does it mean to be “Independent” as a Musician or Performing Artist?
Glad you asked, question machine!
Today’s recorded music industry is in kiiind of a period of flux. As performers, we want to keep on keepin’ on with what we do best — playing music. Artists who aren’t backed by the mammoths of the ailing record industry have to find ways to make things work financially, which sometimes (almost always) requires a bit of outside assistance.
[Brooklyn Bowl -- Brooklyn, NY 05.20.15 // Photo © 2015 Daniel Seeley, all rights reserved]
[Lively Lounge -- Seattle, WA 04.07.14 // Photo © 2014 Justin Tamminga, all rights reserved]
Here’s some fun facts about how exactly an actual Independent Rock Band (”Independent” meaning we do all of the things ourselves) gets things done…
For starters, we tour frequently in addition to remaining active in our home base. This involves a fair amount of administrative work that we do ourselves, currently without the aid of outside agencies. This includes (but is not limited to):
1) We manage ourselves. We control our own careers and make our own creative decisions, such as how and with whom to record our music, what kind of toothpaste to buy, all that good stuff.
2) We are our own agency. We book our own shows, route our own tours, advance our own specs/tech, compose our show offers and budget our calendar year, 24/7/365.
3) We admin our own copyrights and handle our own publishing. We’re a full-time music publisher with only our band members in the catalog as writers.
4) We are our own small business. We’re a freakin’ machine! Meaning, we handle our own distribution (mostly digital in our case), merchandising, release strategies, video production, catalog management, photo shoots, a lot of our graphic design (sometimes we get some extra eyes on stuff because hey, we’re musicians, not artists), social media, website management, and also…the master recordings (known as the (P)). We also fund the recording, production, mixing and mastering of each our of releases out of our earnings as performing musicians.
STILL WITH US? READY FOR MORE SAQs? HERE WE GO!
[Berg & Cherch mixing “The Halcyon Days EP” at Headgear Recording in 2011]
Why does recording cost so much?
Geez, what doesn’t cost a lot these days? But for real, commercial rent – i.e. the buildings where the recordings studios live – is pretty expensive. Gear is expensive. Installation of that expensive, sweet sweet studio gear is (you guessed it!) expensive.
Recording music is like any other trade – you want the best because the best do the best job! And of course all those magical engineers and technicians and producers have lives and families – recording music is their career, their bread and butter (and likely their reason for getting out of bed in the morning). We hear engineers like food (even food that isn’t coffee…we know, it sounds improbable).
[The Bowery Ballroom -- New York, NY 01.07.15 // Photo © 2015 Nick Fallon, all rights reserved]
If you don’t have enough money to make a record, why not just tour until you do?
Because, sadly…that’s just not how it works.
Touring is incredible. Though at times in a band’s career it may be fairly grueling and gruesome, it can also be groovy, and touring builds sonic camaraderie between the band members if you stay out there long enough. Unfortunately, camaraderie doesn’t fund an album cycle.
The reality of being on the road is that while a band may be making enough money from gigs to pay their way, there often isn’t a whole lot of base capital left over to finance all the cool stuff (as mentioned above) that’s needed to make a killer sounding record. Also, those who tour know that something (namely in the van department) always goes wrong.
True story…one time on a day off we were driving over the Bay Bridge en route to our buddy’s place in Berkeley, CA and the radiator belt snapped in our ‘94 Chevy G20…causing the radiator fan to fall inwards, cutting the timing belt and a cavalcade of wires, knocking out most electronics in the car and the power steering while we were in the left most of 5 lanes? Cherch was all “oh, the van’s probably just out of power steering fluid” and everyone else was like “shut up, Cherch this is probably an actual issue.” Chris was driving.
Anywho, turns out Cherch was wrong…the repair would take 5 days, we’d have to cancel two or three shows (which we really hate doing), spend our entire bank on repairing the car, accidentally eat some mushroom chocolates at 10 in the morning and watch Wolf Of Wall Street and play with Nerf Disc Launchers. The moral of the story: something can and will go wrong, your bank will be liquidated, and to keep yourself from being bummed out try to enjoy life a little.
Back to the point, though…when a band is on a label, the label generally finances the recording process depending on how big the label is, how big the band is, what the requested budget is, etc.
The finished album is then sent around to press by a PR firm (whether in-house or an outside company) for about 90 days (or more! or less!) before it’s released. The band then tours and hopefully the label gets paid back from record sales (increasingly unlikely these days) and hopefully the band makes some money along the way so they can keep doing their thing. Record companies can be pretty helpful sometimes! Record companies can also not be helpful, as like any collection agency/loan shark/tiny rick if they don’t get paid back they’ll shelve your record and drop you from the roster (which is what normally happens, yo).
But we’re not working with a record company right now, which is why we’d like to ask for you help! Because you just might really love the music we create, and if people get to hear it and dig it, then they will come out to the shows — and then we all win! Also our new van is way better than our old one.
[Photo from Emporium Arcade -- Chicago, IL 02.28.15]
[Photo © 2014 Dana Distortion, all rights reserved]
OK Cool! So how do you want us to get involved? And why should we? Well, if hop on this musical train with us (read: give us money), you will get to witness all the steps along the yellow brick road of album production and see how things get put together. Because we’re gonna show ya! We’d like to involve you like you (yes, YOU) are the A&R Reps shitting bricks as you hear our record in its gestation phases. Come along on an educational — but fun! — journey with us!
Say…how bout a nice Porcelain Deer to spice things up a bit?
We want to show you what pre-production is (click that for our demos of new material for this record!).
We want to show you what raws are (not the papers, but if you got those drop by the studio). And rough mixes.
We want to explain the difference between recording basics (”damnit, guys just what are basics anyways?”) live-to-tape as opposed to digital.
We want to show you how important mixing through the board is, and why having different speakers while you mix is so important.
We want to show you the difference in microphones and why placement is so integral in capturing the real essence of the performance.
We want you to help us contemplate how much reverb to use and on what instruments. Let’s bitch about how much reverb Cherch wants TOGETHER!
We want to listen to the masters, and then talk with you about how clean the low end is and how the kick is really coming through now.
Then once those masters are done we want to market this sucker right in front of your faces. We may even survey a few of you higher contributors on potential artwork, release strategies and what promotional angles to pursue.
In short, we want you to understand why records are art and why the creation of that art is so damn beautiful.