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Bally Studios live 8 track recordings.
A new service, from March 2022 for you to record your rehearsals.
Record your rehearsals to live 8-track recordings in all of your rehearsals.
- Hire of 8/16 track recorder and all microphones/equipment that you need.
- We set all of the microphones up so that they're ready in place when you arrive.
- We then set up the recorder so that everything is ready to record, setting the gain level and checking that everything is recording well.
- We then leave you to it. You then just press "Record + Play" at the start of each take, or leave the recorder running throughout the session.
- At the end of the session we then transfer the stem files to your hard drive, and we pack away everything when you're done.
- You mix everything yourself at home.
All for a flat rate of £55, + the standard rehearsal session price. If you record over consecutive days, then the equipment can be left up overnight for no extra fee.
If you record more than once in a month, the additional hire fees are £35 per time for the additional hires, within 30 days of the initial hire.
Quick links - Prices. Microphones. Types of Sessions.
Examples of recordings. Photos of Set-Ups. Benefits of 8 track recording.
Quick videos to explain the recording service.
Here's a video to show what the recording stem tracks can sound like. This video was recorded by Cody Jr in October 2023.
This video shows a bit more of the whole recording process.
Q - So what’s the deal with this 8 track recording set up?
At the back end of 2021 half the musicians we knew were binge watching The Beatles' “Get Back” documentary about them recording their album "Let It Be" which was recorded in glorious 8 track, meaning the music was recorded from 8 separate microphones/music sources, before being mixed together. Compared to the options that we have today of practically unlimited channels it was stripped back to say the least, and back in the day recording sessions were so expensive that only a lucky few bands could afford them. When The Beatles recorded their debut album “Please Please Me” they knocked it out in a single day, partly on the back of the hundreds of 6+ hour gigs in Hamburg over many years, but mostly due to the cost of £400 per day to hire the studio, at a time when the average house in London cost £2,530. You could have a week in the studio, or a 3 bedroom house in London. Eek!
Nowadays advancements in technology means that it’s possible to buy all of the recording equipment you need to record to 8 track for £1,500 - £2,000 including everything; the recorder, the microphones, the cables, etc. Today many recording studios offer much more sophisticated recording facilities for £250-£300 per day, a fraction of the cost in real terms compared to 60 years ago. They can be a bargain for what you get, no doubt, but in a world where even established acts can still be making less than £10,000 a year from their music, and where COVID-19 has basically wiped out 2 years of touring income for most bands, for many people it's just not affordable.
This is why we have launched our 8-track recording facility. It's designed to get 80%+ of the results at 5% of the cost. It has limits, naturally, but the results that it gets are well worth the paltry investment put into it. Bands that come to us can record their sessions in the same 8 track format that albums like The Beatles “Sgt Peppers…..”, The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”, Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin I” and loads more classic albums were recorded in. Most of the Motown records, and Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” was recorded to 3 track, so 8 tracks can be plenty, depending on your circumstances.
Q - So I can record an album to the same quality as those albums?!?!
Whoah, hold on….. probably not. But that’s also looking at it in the wrong way. Some of those bands had thousands of hours of playing together behind them, they had world class acoustics with 30 ft high ceilings, hand made microphones with some of the world’s best audio engineers, and those albums have been mixed, mastered and polished by some of the world’s greatest engineers for months at a time, at great cost. It’s just not realistic to expect the same results at such a price reduction, but that doesn't mean you can't get great recordings quickly and cheaply.
This service fills a gap in the market for bands that simply cannot afford to pay thousands of pounds to record their music. and it allows bands to record their music quickly and cheaply so that it can be released, which in turn will hopefully gain the band the attention and the financial backing that they need to move onto the next level. It’s not meant to compete with professional studios, it’s a perfect compliment to them. In the short term a band will get a good recording of their music to promote themselves and build a fan-base, and in the long term the direct format of this kind of recording session, and the limitations that the recording format has will allow bands to learn, to become more aware of what they need to improve, and to become empowered, relying on themselves to make progress, as opposed to waiting for someone else to come along and do it for them.
Q - So how does it work?
You book your rehearsal session as usual, in whatever studio you want (we recommend the bigger studios so that you have more room for setting everything up) paying the usual rehearsal studio rate, and then you can hire this extra equipment on top of it, to turn the rehearsal into a recording session.
Q - What equipment is available for the band to use?
- A Zoom R16 recorder, a 16 track recorder that can record 8 track simultaneously, complete with multiple 32GB SD cards, to record as long as you want.
- The microphones, cables, microphone stands, etc.
- Active speakers so you can check/monitor what you're recording once it's been recorded.
- x4 mobile phone tripods so that you can set up the mobile phones to record the visuals of the band.
- Everything that you usually get in your rehearsal session, such as the PA system, the amplifiers, the drum kit, the cymbals (if you need them), exactly the same as you’d have in a rehearsal session but with the added benefit of being able to record your session onto an 8 track recorder.
Q - What hire options do we have, and what do they cost?
Hire of complete package:
8 track recorder, microphones, cables, stands, mobile phone tripods, headphone amps, headphones, everything that you need to do all of your own recordings =
£50 for hire of equipment, with everything set up for you and packed down at the end of the session.
£35 per additional session booked within 30 days of the first recording..
Have your own laptop with interface?
If you want to record direct to your own laptop you can also hire everything apart from the 8 track recorder.
Microphones, cables, stands, mobile phone tripods, headphone amps, headphones, etc =
£29 per session for single session.
£39 per month for unlimited use of everything.
So here's some examples of what these sessions would cost:
Saturday, 12pm - 8pm in Studio 2. :
8 hour studio hire = £105.
Recording equipment = £50
Total: £155 for 8 hours of recording, or about £19.50. an hour.
For a long weekend.
Friday, 7pm - 11pm.
Saturday 12pm - 8pm
Sunday 12pm - 8pm
in Studio 2 hire of all equipment, including us setting it up for you on Friday, leaving it set up until Sunday evening, and then packing it all away for you.
20 hours studio hire = £282
Recording equipment + set-up/ = £50
Total: £323.50 for 20 hours of full recording, or about £16 an hour.
For a month.
3) One month hire of Studio 2 for all weekday daytimes, hire of all equipment, without set up.
1 month hire of Studio 2 on a 24/7 basis = £1350
Recording equipment and initial set-up for one month = £50
Total: £1400 for one month of recording studio time, to record whenever you want, or just over £45 a day for EVERYTHING you need to record for a whole month. If you're a sound engineer or a record label, the possibilities are endless.
As you can see, there's plenty of option for any budget or schedule.
Q - What microphones do we get included to record our session?
Here are the microphones that we provide you with. We've linked each of them to the Thomann page, so that you can see the specs and reviews of them all. If you end up buying anything when clicking on these links then we'll also earn a nice commision from you doing so, allowing you to support a small, independent local business without any extra cost to yourself, while paying the lowest price for these products possible.
x 1 Shure Beta 52 Kick Drum Mic - Bass drum and bass amplifier.
x 1 Sennheiser E 602 II -Bass drum and bass amplifier.
x 1 Lewitt LCT 040 matched stereo pair – Drumkit overheads.
x1 Rode M3 Condenser - Hi Hats, or distant guitar amplifiers.
x2 Sennheiser E609 Silver = Close guitar amplifiers.
x4 AKG Perception Live P4 = Snare drum, rack toms.
x4 Shure SM58s – Vocals.
x1 Shure SM57 - Guitar, snare, vocals.
x1 Pair T-Bone EM700s condensers.
x2 Sennheiser MD400s, vintage from 1979.
The keyboards and bass guitar can also be plugged directly into the recorder. We also have a Sonitus Acoustics dampening muffler that you can put into the bass drum to dampen down the sound of the bass drum, should you wish to. Here's a video of what it does:
Q - What speakers can we use to check/monitor the music?
We provide you with a pair of active Presonus Eris E3.5 to make sure that the recorded signals are well recorded.
Q - How do we hear the vocals whilst recording?
Via an 8 channel Behringer Powerplay HA8000 V2 headphone amplifier, which will allow the band to monitor the vocals during the session. You'll get a Behringer ULTRALINK MS8000 that will split all of the microphones into two paths, allowing you to monitor and record the microphone signals independently, and we'll provide you with x5 Superlux HD681 Studio Monitoring Headphones, to allow you to hear the vocals throughout the session. There's also the option to have the vocals coming out of the PA system at the same time that they're recorded, which can be tricky, but as we'll show later, can get great results.
Q - Can you remind me what backline you have at the studios?
Sure, here's a link to the backline equipment that you can use, for no extra charge at all.
Q - How much help will I get with the recording?
We will set everything up for you, so that it's ready for you when you get there. Then we'll check that everything is recording properly and show you how to use everything. Then we leave you to it, we don't stay in the session while you are recording. This is the biggest difference between the service that we offer and the usual recording sessions that other studios offer. There are two reasons that these sessions are so much cheaper and why they can get results quicker:
a) The simple, stripped back format of 8 track recordings.
b) The fact that you have to do most of the work yourself.
You'll only get help from us with technical aspects of the equipment. We'll provide you with the gear and show you how to set it up, and if you have any problems with the equipment then we'll help you with that, but otherwise you'll engineer/record the songs yourself, or you have the option to bring your own sound engineer with you. Bally Studios will not help you engineer the sessions, but this format is specifically designed to need less input anyway. Once everything is all set up you can either just let it record the whole session as one single track and split the audio up at home later, or you can press record + play before every song you record, and stop the recording at the end of every take so that all of the individual tracks are separated. Think of it like a live gig, where the sound engineer sets up the microphones at the soundcheck and then leaves them in place for the whole gig without needing to adjust them. If anything then goes wrong during your sessiosn p
The recorder comes with a 32GB SD card, which will record 530 minutes (8 hours 50 minutes) of 8-track recording at the highest quality, 24 bit/44.1 kHz and WAV format setting. If you use the 16 track function then you’ll double the amount of tracks, which will halve the amount of time that you can record for, which brings it down to 4 hours 25 minutes of 16 track recordings. However, we’ll have multiple SD Cards in the office, so you can also keep on swapping them over, and so long as you bring a large enough external hard drive, you can record as much as you want to. We've included photos below of the kind of recording set-ups you can use. You'll need to set up the gain levels and work out where to point the microphones and everything like that, (unless you want to pay us to do that part for you) and you'll be provided with extensive guides that you can use to make sure that you get the most out of your sessions, including information packs you can study before the session to help you prepare for it in advance, and this is the biggest reason why we're able to offer this service for so cheap, where you can have everything that you need to record your music for the price of a round of drinks.
Types of Recording Session available
Here's the kind of sessions that you can do with us.
1) Full Band Live 8 track recording.
The band all plays live, just like you normally would in your session, and each individual instrument is recorded as detailed in the boxes below. You can either have the vocals coming out of the PA system, or being monitored by the band in their headphones. Each band will have different set ups depending on what members/instruments you have, of course, but here are some examples of how the band can set up the recorder. In this set up there are no overdubs at all, everything is recorded live, and raw. You can then mix the recorded music at home, and then put these recordings on all of the distribution platforms out there, including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, etc for a one-off £30 fee, and start connecting your music with people.
2) Full Band Overdubbed 16 track recording.
In this scenario you record the drummer first, using this set up to capture the drums:
Once you have the drums all recorded, you can then overdub the following instruments over the drums, which you can do in the following ways, depending on your set-up. (The recorder is actually a 16 track recorder that can only record 8 inputs at once, so this set up is very easy to do.) In this set up you can have multiple microphones on different instruments, allowing you to blend the different signals together for a more layered sound, or you can even layer different takes of the same instrument over each other, for a "wall of sound" recording.
3) Drummers Solo recording.
Drummers can record themselves playing drums alone, and use the recording when applying to join bands, when advertising their skills as a drum teacher, or even just for them to have a permanent record of their drumming skills. If you want to record the visuals as well we can also provide you with some mobile phone tripods free of charge so that you can also record the video of yourself playing on your phone, and later you can synchronise the sound that you capture from the 8 track to the video recordings. Most people have a phone camera that supports 1080p or even 4K recording as standard. If you can borrow 3 phones from your band members/friends or family you can record something like this, which has an 8 microphone, 4 camera set up.
4) A band live session with audio and visuals.
Most bands just accept that they’ll have to wait until they “make it” before they record their own live sessions, but why? With a combination of our studios and equipment, and your songs and mobile phones, you can record your own live sessions. We can provide 4 video tripods along with the 8 track recorder so that you can all use your mobile phones to record visuals of yourself individually, and then along with the 8 track recorder you can record a “live session" recording to either put on YouTube to send to record labels, promoters, publishers, or to connect with your potential fan-base yourself, directly. You can use the individual footage that you all record on your phones to edit into a multiple-camera set up, much like the video below, which has the exact same set up that we'd have, 8 track audio with 4 cameras, the only difference being that your camera shots will be from a fixed position, as opposed to having a cameraman. You can add interviews, different versions of your songs, covers, whatever. If you never go on to become commercially successful then at least you’ll have this recording, and if you do go on to become commercially successful just imagine how excited your fans will be to see this footage of the band before their ascent through the music industry!
Here's an example of a session that our studio manager Mark recorded with his band, Bulbous, with the 8 track recorder, with 2 mobile phones recording the visuals. He then mixed the audio himself in Garageband, and then edited the visuals with iMovie, both of which are available for free. This is just one song that he recorded within the 3 hour session, which included setting everything up and packing it down at the end too, and then he spent a couple of hours at home doing a quick edit of it, a total of 5 hours investment of his time. If Mark had paid for the studio time and the equipment then he would have paid £62 in total for everything, to get a 45 minute live session done, which would have taken an additional 2-3 hours of his time to edit the rest of the sessions. Remember, Mark has never studied audio engineering or video editing, he's learned his skills on the job by using a bit of planning and logical thinking. He doesn't have access to anything that any other band couldn't get for free also, so this video gives a realistic expectation of what bands can achieve for an investment of £60 - £80.
By using our facilities you can record the band as a whole, and then take the stem tracks home and the guitarist, for example, can mute their guitar playing and try out new ideas, or they can work out some new guitar lines to overdub later. You can also use the recordings to approach a producer and say “this is what we sound like, did you want to help us get a better recording?” They’ll be able to use the stem tracks to really investigate the music, and it’ll likely have a much better chance of success than sending them a recording from a mobile phone.
Q - So what can I expect to get out of the sessions?
You can expect to get a great recording, with everything mic'ed up individually to allow you to balance out the levels of all of the band members/instruments, and where you have a huge amount of control over how the music sounds. You can EQ the guitars to make them cut through the mix, or have the rhythm guitar panned to the right and the lead guitar panned to the left. Tricks like this means it’s much easier for the individual guitars to be heard, such as in the video below. In Oct 2023 Cody Jr used our 8 track recording facility for 5 hours in total, and managed to record 4 songs in full in that time, with a total of 24 takes between those songs. Here's what it sounded like with less than 1 hou 45 minutes of mixing.
You can EQ or compress the bass drum so that it sounds punchy, you can make it louder, you can take out the high end on the hi-hats to let the cymbals cut through, add reverb to the main vocals, add a low cut filter to the bass to make it sound tighter and have a lot more control over how your music sounds. You can do whatever you want.
Q - But I don’t know how to record a band's music……
And most likely you haven’t tried to either! In the same way that the only way to learn how to drive a car is to get behind the wheel and drive it, there's an strong argument that the best way to develop your sound engineering and production skills is to do the same – to actually record your music. Learning sound engineering from a teacher can be a great way to learn, but you may end up parroting their particular methods instead of developing your own style. Developing your skills by actually recording your music will allow you to learn methods that are built around your musical style and around your signature sound. There’s no substitute for actually doing the thing that you want to do, and with everyone having access to a computer at home with widely available music recording software for free, the only limits that you have is how much time you're able to spare.
Q - Do you have any examples of stuff you've recorded with the exact set up that we'll be using?
As of March 3rd 2022 we only have a few recordings that we've done with this set up, some of which were done in a 1 hour quick session in late Feb 2022 by our staff members Mark and Oliver. They spent 25 minutes setting up the microphones, and Mark went behind the kit thrashed out for about 10 minutes, and this was what was recorded with the overhead microphones only, straight out of the box, no effects/treatment, nothing.
We then put that signal through Audacity, a free recording software, added the generic preset compressor at a ratio of 4:1, and that recording becomes this:
The snare was mic'ed up too, it sounded like this at first:
Add a bit of pre-set compression to it at a 10:1 ratio and it becomes:
The kick drum has a microphone on it too, that sounded like this:
Stick a pre-set compressor on that at a ratio of 10:1 as well and you get:
Then we mixed it all together in less than 10 minutes, and you get:
Now of course, the recording isn't going to win a Grammy for Best Production, but it's not meant to. This recording was archived after 1 hour of total investment, including setting up the equipment, recording it, mixing it, and even uploading it to the internet. You can clearly hear each part of the drum kit, the kick drum, the snare, the cymbals, and the recording sounds like what you'd hear in the room. Remember, this is with less than an hour's investment IN TOTAL, and only using free recording software. That's the point of this recording process, that you get usable results quickly and cheaply, and that you can start to learn about the process yourself. Imagine what results you can get if you put a lot more time into it?
Here's another recording session that we did where we recorded a 63 minute live album in 3.5 hours, including mic'ing up, preparing the room, with the band going through their set in front of 12 friends who were present and watching the session, and then doing a rough mix, before then posting it on the internet. At 12pm we turned up to the studios, by 3:30pm everything was finished. Is it a perfect recording? Nope. Was it worth the 3.5 hours and £55 of investment, including the 3.5 hour rehearsal? In our opinion, absolutely. The band had their songs recorded, and between the 3 band members and their 12 friends they'd had a great day with a live album recorded over some beers. In this scenario if the band didn't have enough money to record a basic demo then they could even ask some friends to attend the session, and ask if they could throw some money into the pot towards the cost of it. In this session the sound of the vocals was also coming out of the PA at the same time as it was being sent to the recording device, so there were much more considerations to think of, like trying to work out how to make it so that the PA vocals weren't picked up in the drum microphones.
This is the kind of set up that you'll have, which is the exact same set up that we used above, microphones draped over the guitar amplifiers like this:
x2 stereo condensor microphones are set up over the kit, like so:
The kick drum can be mic'ed up with either the Shure Beta 52 (as it is in this case) or the Sennheiser E 602 II microphone, or if you have enough channels both of them.
the toms and the snare are mic'ed up too:
We will provide all of the bands that book with an extensive list of resources that they can use to get the most out of their sessions. There's literally HUNDREDS of videos out there that you can use to learn how to record your band, such as this one, where Glyn Johns talks about how he recorded the drums for bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Eagles, Bob Dylan and so on:
Here's a video with Steve Albini about how he records guitar amplifiers with bands like Nirvana, The Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, Iggy and the Stooges, etc. There's hundreds of people out there that have been able to pay their mortgages off for years from these skills, and here they are sharing them with the whole world for free. Why pay someone else to record your band, when you can take the time to learn these same skills yourself and save yourself a huge amount of money in the process? If the answer is that you can't be bothered to do that, and that you'd rather leave that all to someone else who can do it to a higher standard then great, in that case you'd probably be better getting someone else in. This set up may not be best for you. However, if you want to roll up your sleeves and get on with it yourself, there's no better way to start that than to actually get on with it.
Q- Can we do recordings over consecutive days?
Sure! If you book sessions over consecutive days then you can leave the microphones set up overnight, no problem at all.
Q - How do I turn the recordings into a finished record?
The songs get recorded direct to SD card, so bands can either
a) Bring their own laptop to the session, and you can take the recordings off of it onto your laptop by drag-and drop. You just plug a USB cable into the recorder, plug the other end into your laptop and then drag the files to your laptop that way.
b) If your laptop has an SD card slot you can safely switch off the recorder, then insert the SD card into your laptop and then drag them off of that onto your computer.
c) You can safely turn off the recorder and then bring the SD card into the office, along with your external hard drive and we’ll put the data onto your USB device for you.
Q - How do we mix the music we’ve recorded? Do you do that?
No, I'm afraid not, but these are your options.
Mix it yourself.
Just load the music into your DAW/Music mixing software and away you go. If you don’t have the software already there’s loads of free options out there, from Garageband, Audacity, Pro Tool First, and many more. Here’s a link where you can compare all of them.
Pay someone else to mix it for you.
There’s loads of people out there that will be happy to mix it for you, you can send it to them online, at full fidelity, and they’ll send you back the finished mix. Easy.
Put the stem tracks online to allow people to mix it for you, either for a very cheap price or even for free.
There’s loads of resources out there now that allow bands to put the stem tracks of their music online so that people who are building up their skills in producing/mixing music can mix it for them, either for free or for a very low cost. Here's a link as to where you can find them.
Q - What benefits does this approach have over going to a professional recording studio with a trained producer/engineer?
Again, it’s not meant to directly compare with going to a professional recording studio, and unless you’ve had lots of recording experience and everything falls into place then you're not likely to better the results of going to one - if it was that easy to get the same results with a fraction of the equipment and cost then studios around the world would all go out of business pretty quickly - but you’ll come close to it, closer than you think. There will be a compromise, sure, but you're not giving up the opportunity to re-record that music at a later date, and there are also some big extra benefits of recording your music this way yourself, as opposed to getting a hired hand in, that will help the band in other ways.
a) It’s actually a realistic, lower risk option.
Sure, many professional studios are “only” £300 a day, and for what you get that's a great price, but we’re living in times where some bands haven’t made any money at all for a year or two, where inflation is high and money is tight. Most bands can’t justify spending £1,500 for 5 days in a studio. If they only buy 2 days of studio time as a means to save money then they risk rushing the whole process, leaving them £600 poorer with a recording that’s a compromise in itself. When you spend that kind of money on a recording then you need to hit a certain standard in order for it to be justified, which brings with it an element of risk and pressure. By comparison this is a £29/£55 investment, that’ll get you 8/10 results for a minuscule fraction of the costs. There’s a huge difference between throwing £29 into a project and hearing the odd squeak here and there, and spending £1000+ on getting the same results.
b) You’ll hit other limits before you hit the limits that this set up has.
A recording signal chain has numerous parts to it, and the end result is only as good as it’s weakest link: the microphone, the exact positioning of the microphone, the cable connecting it to the recorder, the gain input level, the pre-amp, the recording bit-rate, the performance of the playing, the acoustics in the room, the sound quality of the instrument being played, the processing of the recorded sound, the final mix, the mastering, the speakers that the listener uses, the listeners musical ear - all of these are factors that will determine how good the final music sounds. If any one of them is off, then the quality of the music won’t be conveyed as accurately as possible to the listener. 95% of the chain could be amazing, but if the strings of the guitar are knackered and rusty then it won't matter how amazing the microphone is, it won't sound good.
Any good sound engineer will tell you that all recording projects are about accepting what factor will limit the quality of the recording the most, and recognising that no matter how great the other parts of the process are, the overall quality of the recording will not exceed it's weakest part. If you have an amazing microphone and an amazing pre-amplifier, but the cable that links the two of them in really crackly, then this weakest part of the chain will limit your recording, more than the positive parts will improve it. Again, it doesn't matter how good other parts of the signal chain are, it is only as strong as it’s weakest part. This is the reason that some bands spend months and vast amounts of money on recording their album, to try to eliminate any potential weaknesses within the recording chain.
Our argument is that with this setup there will be limitations, yes, but there will likely be other factors that will have a greater limit on the bands music elsewhere in the chain anyway, and you’ll also likely bypass other factors that would have otherwise limited your recordings even more. For example, the biggest factor to hold many bands back is the cost of the recording. If there’s a studio with amazing microphones, amazing acoustics and a world class producer, but it costs £1000 a day to rent, and if you can’t afford that, then the price is the factor that holds you back the most since it means that you can’t do any recording at all. Using £1000 microphones could be amazing, but if you’re using basic instruments then you’ll be recording an average sound with an amazing microphone, which will capture that average sound perfectly; giving you an average sound. Some will be surprised to hear that Spotify has a playing bitrate of approximately 96 kbps, and many people listen to their music when on the move, in an atmosphere such as in a vehicle or on the street, meaning that there will be added noise pollution when they listen to the music, which they may do so by using the free headphones that come with their phone. Or they may listen to their music on a radio in an office, which is likely to be set at a volume that doesn't allow the listener to fully hear every detail within the music, in a room that isn't set up for good acoustics. They may have the music on in the background, or they can’t concentrate on the music fully.
All of these factors will limit what people get out of the recordings more than the limitations that the equipment puts on the music. By all means, if you want to record an album that gets listened to on £2000 speakers, in a room with perfect acoustics, to a listener that sits perfectly between the speakers with no distractions on a lossless format then they may notice that there’s a bit of rattle from the snare drum: but that’s not the circumstances that most music is listened to. The circumstances that music is usually listened under has factors that means that the subtleties within the music are missed anyway, most of which will cause a greater limitation to the music than this recording set up will.
c) You can learn your recording technique, and what suits your music best, so that you can get the most out of a more expensive, future recording session.
This is by far one of the biggest selling points. Sometimes it’s only once you put yourself into a recording session that you learn what works best for you, and what doesn’t. I’ve been in sessions myself where a band says that they want to play to a click track, and they just don’t prepare for it. It’s an afterthought for the band, and particularly the drummer. I remember times when a drummer was playing the same song for 6 hours at a time, as they just couldn't get the hang of playing it to the click track, and this was at £40 an hour back in 2004. The whole process just felt so unnatural to them, and they were more focused on hitting the right drum at the exact right time than they were at getting ‘the feel’ of the song right. If only he’d learned that lesson in a cheap recording session.
Likewise, I’ve seen band members that just froze in a studio; they’d never played with 6 people gawking at them before. A few days into the process they’d gotten over their nerves, but again, it’s was a shame that it cost them so much money to learn that lesson. I’ve seen bands that tried to play with just drums and bass guitar, that after about 8 hours suddenly worked out that if the guitarists play at the same time as them, even if the guitars are not recorded, it made the other members play so much better. I’ve seen guitarist forget to check all of their pedals before a session, and spend 45 minutes trying to fix 'pops and clicks' in the chain that they can't identify, and vocalists who wanted to get their vocal recorded as quickly as possible in overdub sessions, first thing, so that they can get their parts over with. They later learned that their voice is a lot better later on in the day, once it’s had a better chance to wake up. All of those morning sessions needed to be wiped and re-recorded.
There are factors that will limit your band, and other factors that will make your band deliver their best performance, and the more recording sessions you do, the more of these factors you will learn. Recording your sessions on an 8 track multi-track recorder will not only move you forward as a band, but it’ll also make your future recording sessions more productive and your future recordings better.
e) 'Music recorded to a compromise' is infinitely more productive for a band than 'music that hasn't been recorded yet'.
This is a HUGE benefit that cannot be underplayed. No matter how good your music is, until it’s recorded the only people who will hear it are the people who come to see you live, and if COVID-19 has shown the music industry anything, it’s that we can’t be relying on this method to connect with your audience. Even then, recording your music and putting it on streaming services is the best way to get people along to your gig in the first place. Even if the recording hits that 8/10 standard, so long as the songwriting is good enough, that's enough to pique the interest of music fans. If they listen to your music and think it's a great song with amazing production then they'll come to your gig. On the other hand, if they listen to your music and think it's a great song with very basic production, they'll still come to your gig. They're not going to say, "well, I would have gone to the gig, but I was put off a bit by the fact that the hi-hats were competing with the rhythm guitar in that 6khz range......" If you're an unsigned band who has to work a day job to support your music then you're not at the stage of recording your Magnus Opus yet, instead you should be trying to build up as much momentum and attention for the band as possible, and that won't be done based on the production levels, it will be done based on the quality of the music. Solve today's problems today, and leave tomorrow's problems until tomorrow. Once you've built up your fan base a bit, these recordings can then be re-recorded at a later date if needs be.
e) You can keep the full control and ownership of your music yourself.
Once you've signed your record contract you'll start to make an average of between 50p - 80p for each album sold once everyone else has taken their slice of the pie, which is also set against the recording costs. If you go to a flashy studio and spend £10,000 on recording the album, and you're getting 50p per album, you won't see any return for the first 20,000 albums sold, which will go to pay those costs back. Until that time you'll be living off of your advance, which also needs to be paid back. The fact that the session is so expensive means you need to sign contracts to cover the process, which brings with it even more costs.
With our recording equipment you'll stump up £50 in advance for renting the recording equipment, and you can start selling the music at £5, (half the price of other records) and even with taking into account the commission that the retailers take and other costs, by the time you sell your 15th-20th CD, you're already into profit for the whole project, and getting 800% the profit margin on every extra record sold, selling it at a much more attractive price. Sell it for the usual price and you'll earn even more. You won't sell as many as on a major label, but then you won't need to. As opposed to your album being a product that has low margins and needs to be sold in huge quantities to be "economically viable", it's now being sold in an incredibly efficient cottage industry that can sustain itself on very low sales levels.
Of course, there's going to be a big difference in the quality of the recording for the £50 that you'll pay to record your album yourself, and the £10,000 that it'll cost to record it in a professional studio, but you'll only need to sell 3,000 albums or so at £5, or 1,500 sales at £10, and then you can go into a professional studio yourself and get those songs re-recorded with the £10,000 earned from those sales. Once you've got your new polished recordings you can then sell them again, and if the album goes on to be successful then the people who purchased the initial basic version of the album that you knocked out on 8-track now have an incredibly rare, personal and valuable initial pressing of a copy of an album that later became very successful. It's win-win for everyone. By using our studios you can do whatever you want, the options are all yours, and that's not possible if you sell the rights to your music to a label to go straight for the professional studio option.
f) You have a full creative control over your band.
Working with a big name producer can be incredible, and they can really bring new life to the band's music, but in most cases they're not a member of the band. There's an argument to be made that any recordings that you do with them will be a collaborative effort between band and producer, instead of being representative of the band's process alone. If there's one thing that a debut recording should be, it should be representative of who the band are at that time.
Go through the list of the vast majority of bands, and whilst there are numerous examples where the band's debut album was their best, nearly all of them are also a snapshot in time that can NEVER be recreated at a later date. Writing songs about working a dead end job whilst wanting to leave your hometown and see the world can ONLY be done when you're at the pre-success stage. Doing it by funding the project yourself, and putting those songs down on an 8 track recorder without any outside help has a huge romantic element to it. The limitations of the situation add to the project.
Once the band starts to take off, and once you've played 75 gigs in the last 4 months across Europe, with the fame and the financial rewards that come with that, the band will have changed. The people within the band will have changed. The music you record from now on might be better, but it will never capture the band at the time and place that they've left behind. You might think that you have limitations that will stop you from getting the best out of the recorder, but those limitations are something that you can NEVER recreate once the band takes off, so you bypass them at your peril.
The limitations that you have now are arguably your "unique selling point". Get them down on tape now - you can't do that later on. You only have to look at the success of The Beatles Anthology 1 which was released in 1995 to see how much interest there was in the biggest band of all time, who had made some of the most beautiful music ever, and yet people were going mad for a crackly, ramshackle recording that the band had made in the late 1950s, which paled by comparison to the masterpieces that they made later. Nobody was sitting at home listening to the band's version of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" and thinking, "wow, this is better than Side 2 of Abbey Road!" Of course not.
Instead the interest came from the incredible insight into the band at the primitive stage of their career. No matter how much money or success the band had later, they would never be able to recreate the band as they were at that stage, and their limitations are what made those songs what they are. Don't say to yourself, "I'd love to record us alone, but I'm worried I won't do us justice." You always have the option to re-record the band later, but you'll never have the opportunity to go back in time and make the same raw, unpolished and vulnerable recordings of the band.
We've had over 1000 bands pass through our doors in the last 32 years, and the biggest mistake that bands make is thinking that they are in competition with every other band out there. It's a flawed approach for so many reasons. The music industry isn't like conventional business or sports, where your success comes only by overcoming or beating your competition, or where the success of others comes at the cost of yours. In the music industry the success of one band feeds into the success of others. In 1977 some punk bands helped to create a new market for that music, which in turn helped create success for other punk bands. The same happened in the late 1980s for the baggy scene, the mid 1990s for Britpop, the early 2000s for the new garage revolution, and so on. The success of many bands was only possible due to the success of other bands who played a similar style of music, with them creating a demand for that music that another band could capitalise on.
There is no direct link between how good a band's music is, and how successful they are. There's a rough link in most cases, but it's never directly proportional or absolute, which is why so many record labels, band managers, PR companies or radio pluggers insert themselves into a band's career, taking their cut of the bands earnings for their services. The necessity of these roles depends on there not being a direct link between how good and how successful a band was: if such a correlation automatically existed, then their services wouldn't be needed, and their involvement whittles down the income that the band earns dramatically. No wonder it's so common to have bands barely being able to make minimum wage salaries, despite having millions of plays on Spotify. Bands turn to these people precisely as they realise that they need as much help as possible, and if the band later becomes successful then it's seen as a solid business move. By all means, if the band is literally unable to turn their great music into commercial sales without any outside help, and if they feel that it's better for them to sign most of their control away and earn 10% of the rewards for the vast commercial success that other people create for them, then there is a certain logic to that. Keeping 10% of a huge pot of success is better than retaining 100% of nothing.
The problem is: how does the band know that they can't create the success themselves? The truth is that they don't, but they fall into the trap of thinking that they don't have enough time to meet people, to build up the contacts within the industry that they need, to learn the skills of how to record themselves, how to market themselves, or how to get their music into the right hands. That all takes time and money that they don't have. Since they aren't making any money from their music they need to work a day job, leaving them with insufficient time to build up the band to the level of success where they don't need to work that day job. It's a vicious circle.
Some bands also make the mistake of making perfect the enemy of good. We've met bands that have blown £20,000 on recording a debut album, and then seen how the stress of putting themselves in that much debt has torn the band apart. We've seen bands that spent over half a decade putting the "perfect" setlist together for their album, before realising that they were in their early 20's when they started putting it together, and by the time they finished the album they were in their late 20s with children, and suddenly those songs about "drinking all night with no regrets" don't ring true. They're no longer playing songs that are about who they are, but about who they were. They're too far down the road to throw these songs away though since doing so would be to "waste" those years developing those songs. The songs have a burden on them that was the antithesis of what they were meant to originally represent. We've met bands that had incredible potential that never realised it, and bands that could name 100 reasons why they could have made it, but didn't. Even the best excuse is just that: it's an excuse.
The common denominator in all of the successful bands that we've ever had through our doors - and we've had 8 Mercury Prize Nominated bands, other Brit Award winners, Grammy winners, etc - is that they didn't follow these traps of overthinking their approach. They made continual progress at each and every opportunity, and that progress built and built. They learned from their success, they learned from their failures. They learned. Sometimes they made huge leaps, but when they couldn't do that they made painstakingly slow progress. Few of those bands recorded their definitive music here: instead they recorded demos within our walls before going on to better studios to flesh those songs out to their definitive versions, and we're as proud of that as we would have been if we'd been the new Abbey Road. The later success may be more visible, but the early work lays the foundation for that success.
For example, this was recorded in our Studio 1 in 1999, before the tracks were later re-recorded for the 2000 album Parachutes, which later sold 13 million copies
Keane recorded this in our Studio 1 in 2000, before the tracks were later re-recorded for the 2005 album Hopes And Fears, which sold nearly 6 million copies.
The band recorded, released, and developed, and then re-recorded, re-released and developed some more. These recordings were the foundation that everything else was built on.
This is why we are proud to offer now with our new 8-track recording. You want to record the band live, and raw? Great! If you want to make overdubs afterwards in the studio, you can add another 8 tracks if you wish to. You can also make unlimited overdubs at home on your computer with vocals, percussion, guitars, bass, etc. If you don't currently have a recording of your songs, having any recording is progress; there's no more important factor in the success of the band than that. If you make a better recording at a later date then this recording may have played a vital part in that, and you'll then have a basic recording of your seminal work that you can bundle with the album for it's 20th Anniversary Edition as a bonus disc. If you never make a better recording, you'll be glad you made this one. In every possible scenario, this recording is progress for your band. Not perfection, but progress.
Even if the whole experiment is a catastrophe, that's still progress. Why make your mistakes in the studios when paying £50 per hour when you can make them for £5 per band member? If you make an amazing recording, congrats, you've made a great album for the same amount of money as a round of drinks. If you don't make a great recording, then the lessons from why you weren't able to will be worth multiples of the money you spent in creating this recording. Literally every single reason as to why the recording session didn't go well gives you the obvious answers for what the band needs to focus on next time. You didn't play very well? You need to rehearse more. The microphones weren't in the correct place? You need to learn about better microphone placement. The songs weren't good enough? You need to write better songs, or become a covers band. You weren't focused and productive enough? You need to sharpen up your act. You underestimated what you needed to do to create a great recording? Now that you know what a recording session entails, you'll be better prepared next time. The drummer kept on speeding up/slowing down? That needs to be addressed.
In each case, you've traded making a great recording for learning a valuable lesson, and becoming a better band as a result. There is also no better way to get an insight into your own music than playing your music to someone else, and nervously laughing and saying to them, "wait a bit, wait a bit, the song really kicks in in a few seconds.........." You'd never realised how long it takes for that song to kick in. Up until that point you've only heard it through your own ears, but now you're suddenly listening to it though other people's ears. Progress. Congratulations. So many bands sign the control of their music away to a record label as they don't have the money to record their album, or they don't possess the knowledge to know how to record their album "properly", or how to market it. They don't try to make a basic 8 track version of their album for £100, with the aim of getting 100 fans; not because this is beyond their limitations, but because they don't know what to do after this. If you are able to get your band to the level of having 100 fans, that's all that you need to concentrate on.
Deal with today's problems today, and tomorrow's problems can wait until tomorrow. 100 fans in a room makes for a fantastic atmosphere at a gig, which makes for better gigs, which attracts more people to future gigs. Everything builds from that. Initial success generates the small income (£1,000 or so) needed to hire the professional help that they need to move past their limitations, and both success and failure will help to guide them in their future approach - in what they should be moving towards, and what they should be moving away from. The pains of failure will be tempered by the lessons learned, the rewards from success can be used as the launchpad for future success. It's all good. You're not in competition with every band out there. You're in competition with the ones that actually make that leap of faith, not the 95% of bands that have the potential to but never put that plan into action; the ones that want to, but never quite manage it. When you look out there and see how many bands there are, remember that 95% of them won't make the commitment needed to make the band their full time job. They're not your competition, and they won't stand in the way of your progress - in most cases the biggest factor that stops your band from becoming successful is worrying too much about problems down the line, and not enough on making incremental progress that can be built upon. Make that recording, and make progress. Now.
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