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How to get endless recording sessions for the price of rehearsal sessions, for less than £1,900.

By Jimmy Mulvihill
28th November 2023.
Last week we posted a video which demonstrated what kind of results bands can expect to get from the 8-track recording set-up that we have available at Bally Studios. It showed the levels of seperation possible on each microphone, despite the band playing live in the same room, how each microphone sounds in isolation, and how they all fit together in a rough mix that took less than 1 hour 45 mins to put together, using freeware DAW software (Audacity) by a staff member that is a musician, but who has minimal formal music recording training, using pre-set post editing, on a 6+ year old dell laptop being stretched to it's limits. It was an exercise in modest resources being pushed to their absolute limits. Here is that video:

This is the first insight that many bands will have had into our stripped down recording service that we launched back in 2022, when we spent about £2,400 on all of the equipment that bands would need to record themselves to an 8-track recorder, offering it as a bundled package for bands to hire within their rehearsal sessions. The idea was to charge a flat fee of £50 for the hire of the recording equipment, which also includes setting it up in advance of the band's session so that it is all ready when they come into the studio, with all of the microphones in place, setting up the gain levels, tweaking them to the bands preferences, checking that everything is recording to the multi-track recorder, before then leaving the band to record by themselves, without a sound engineer being present in the session. We would then transfer the data to the band's hard drive at the end of the session, before packing down all of the equipment at the end of the session. All that, for just £50. This allows the band to turn up, play their music as they usually would (apart from monitoring their vocals from headphones instead of the PA system), and walk away with the 8 track stem tracks of what they had played that session, for them to then mix at home. The recording set-up is simple, but the amount of options it offers a band is incredible, especially considering the cost and ease of use for the set up. A LOT of thought and preparation went into choosing all of the equipment that the band's have access to, and one of the messages that we received when we posted the video was from a past customer, who saw the video and quipped, "I've managed to work out what most of the equipment is from pausing the video at various points, maybe I'll buy all of the equipment myself to get the same results at home!" Ha, cheeky scamp!! However, there's no need to be doing that, as there's already a full list of all of the equipment that we use on our website, and that was a very deliberate decision. Here's why. We are so confident in the value that these recording sessions offer that, quite frankly, there's no need for us to be secretive about the whole process. It takes about 2 hours for our staff member to set up and pack down all of the equipment, meaning we get about £20 for the hire of all of the equipment after their wages are factored in. We're clearly not going to get rich from renting out the equipment, making a 1% return on our investment each time, especially when you factor in wear-and-wear and breakages that will happen from time to time.

Instead, we're open with the bands that come to us that the whole point of this venture is for us to use the equipment as a way for bands to get more out of their sessions at Bally, so that they'll keep on coming back for more and more rehearsal sessions. We know that if the bands get more from coming to us rather than other rehearsal studios, then they'll keep coming back again and again. If bands know that they will record in our studio 2, they'll be more likely to book more sessions in order to get used to the room's sound. The stripped down recording set-up also means that more of the emphasis is on the band's performance and less on the production style, meaning a band needs to be much better rehearsed. As a studio that specialises in rehearsals, that suits us just fine. Whilst we don't make much money from renting out the equipment, it will increase the amount of bookings that bands will make in our biggest studios. We also honestly know how much of a difference the acoustics of our studio 2 make to the quality of the recording, and how much value our staff bring to the whole process, and how valuable the bands will find that help. Quite frankly, when it costs about £150-£320 to record a whole album to such a good standard, those results speak for themselves. Even if you know exactly what equipment we are using, we don't think you'll get better results than what you'll get at the studios.

So if you want to go ahead and buy everything so that you don't need to pay that extra £50 fee, by all means, crack on with it, there's no hard feelings from us! The list of everything that we use is below. Needless to say, if you want to do those sessions in our studios we'll welcome that wholeheartedly - nothing makes us happier than happy bands playing great music in our studios - but at the same time if that's not an option for you or your band, then we're not going to hold that against you, so here's that full list of everything that you need. Even better, by clicking on the links below you can buy these products from our Thomann affiliate store, (the same place we bought everything from) and we'll get a bit of commision every time you buy these products from the following links, giving you another opportunity to support your small independently run local business! Think of it as a thank you for us putting the guide together. ;-) Here is a list of the items recording equipment that we used in the above video. The following equipment is EVERYTHING that you need to buy to get the same result as we achieved above. The cost of the backline equipment, (guitar amps, bass amp, drum kit, microphone stands, etc) is not included in this list, as they are already provided to the bands for no extra charge as standard when they hire the studio for a rehearsal at Bally, so you don't need to buy them. We've never charged for backline equipment since we started running the studios in 2005, and we don't plan on starting now! (Click on the names to access the direct links to buy these items for the lowest price possible.) Bass drum microphone: Shure Beta 52A = £166

8/16 Track recorder: Zoom R20 = £354 (Since we purchased the zoom R16 it has been discontinued in the UK, and replaced by the Zoom R20 which is its predecessor. It's pretty much the same unit, with the added capability of it featuring a touchscreen which improves the editing capabilities within it.)

That is a list of everything that we provided to the band featured in the video above, Cody Jr. As of the day that this blog post was written, in late November 2023, everything on this list will set you back £1,872.75, delivered to your door.   So that's what you need to buy to achieve the same results as above. Or you can rent out our equipment for £50 a time and get it set up for you.

This £50 flat-rate fee then gets added to the usual hire of the rehearsal studio, which is charged at the standard rehearsal rate of between £12 - £14 per hour, depending on what studio you book. In effect, you're paying £50 to turn your rehearsal sessions into a recording session, and that fee stays the same when booked for consecutive days, meaning if you book a 3 day session in our biggest studio (shown in the above video) that starts at 7pm on Friday evening and ends late on Sunday evening, you'll pay £332.50 for 20 hours of recording time, in total, including all of the equipment and assistance that you'll need to get similar results as above, if not better. (The above sessions produced 4 songs within a half-day of recording, so if you have more time, you may get better results.) You can then add overdubs and mix that album at home to your heart's content, at a time and price that suits the band. If each band member of a 4 piece band can throw in £83.12 each, they'll have an album recorded that they own the "master tapes" to, meaning they'll own the rights to the album that was recorded, as a result of them paying for the sessions themselves. (Fun fact - if a record label is paying for your recording sessions, then they are not "your" recording sessions, are they?)

This was a central pillar of the recording set-up. With the band funding the recording themselves, we needed to make it streamlined and cheap, so that the band could both fund the sessions themselves, and so that the set-up was simple enough that it would be realistic to get an album finished in 20 hours. Whereas most studios pride themselves on the options that they offer bands, we did the opposite and tried to work out where we could limit options at every stage. We only kept the essentials and disposed of all of the superfluous details. Stripping the band down to their bare essence was the key factor here, and there's no reason why the band can't get a great recording, despite stripping back so many of those options, as the above video shows.

If you've ever played a great gig where the audience loved what you played and where you sounded great, the chances are that you had less than 30 minutes to soundcheck for it. You will have likely used microphones like the Shure SM58 or Sm57, with them being positioned right up against the amplifier, completely eliminating the acoustics of the venue. If you had a 1 hour setlist, then you had 1 hour to finish it in. In effect, it took 1 hour 30 minutes in total to produce a great 1 hour gig. With that considered, walking into a room to find everything already set up, and having 20 hours to record a 40 minute album in a room acoustically set up specifically to record in, with the option to polish those recordings afterwards? When you put it like that, it sounds positively luxurious!

However, whilst there's extra flexibility for our 8 track recorder to also be used as a 16 track recorder, and while that can really open up the scope of a band's sound, it also misses the point somewhat. The aim of this recording set-up is not to make perfect albums. It's to turn great music into actual great recordings, as opposed to hypothetical albums that could have been made, but never were. There are a lot of bands at present that simply cannot afford to record their great music. Whilst using better microphones, world class pre-amps and cathedral-like rooms may elevate your recordings above the 8/10 level that you'll get with this set-up, there are very few bands who can afford to record in such studios and with such equipement without signing away the rights of all of their music to a big record label. Upon doing so, the music may have the band's name on the front of it, but it's not the band's music. It now belongs to the record label.  

We honestly feel that it's not worth a band having to compromise the ownership of their great music in order for it to be heard. With the band completely funding the whole recording sessions themselves, there's no big commissions to pay to a record label. The band can cut out all of the middle men when selling their music directly to the public. Sure, they'll sell less of it, naturally, but with the much higher profit margin on each album sold, selling your music in vastly reduced quantities can still be more lucrative. Sell that album for £9 online on a service like Bandcamp and you'll be making about £7.50 of profit per download of that album (on any sales before the VAT threshold of £85,000) meaning you only need to sell 44 albums to recoup the £330 cost of recording it. 44 albums - that's all. That fact is made all the more incredible when we consider that there are some bands on some record labels who can sell 100,000 albums and still not recoup their recording costs.

By using a digital music distribution service and uploading your music to services such as Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon and Google play, you'll need about 85,500 streams of your album to earn the recording costs back. If there are 12 tracks on the album, that means you are earning a profit on the 7083rd play of the whole album, since playing the album in it's entirety will count as 12 plays. This will earn you the £332.50 ($420,07) needed to cover all of your recording costs. 

Note the message at the bottom of that box: "...the artist's total amount before labels, management and distributors take their commision." As I say, by keeping it streamlined you'll make less income, but you'll get to keep much more of it. Best of all, if you don't make your money back then you're only £82 out of pocket, per band member, and you'll still have the freedom to approach a record label at a later date since you still retain full control of the band's music, meaning this recording can now become a great demo recording that can be used to showcase the band's music, or to approach your prefered producer as a pre-production tool. If the record label wants to buy the rights for that first recording from you when signing you then you'll earn back the investment you made into it in multiples, and if they don't, and if the re-recording of that album sells well, you'll then be able to sell the rights of the demo recording back to your record label at a later date, to use as a bonus disc for the inevitable 20th anniversary re-release of the album. For reference, original drummer Pete Best earned up to £4 million in royalties when The Beatles released The Beatles Anthology 1, which contained many tracks with him drumming on them. Make no mistake, if the band were to become successful at a later date, these simple 8 track recordings would be worth multiples in the thousands of what you paid for it, and by paying for them yourself, they'll be yours to do what you want with them. If the band never goes on to be successful, you'll have a permament record of the band's music for less than the price of a fancy guitar pedal. Some bands focus on spending £10,000's to get the quality of those recordings from "8/10" to "9.7/10." We focus on those bands that are short on cash, who want to get their songs from the "can't afford to record" level to being happy with that "8/10" standard, and unashamedly so. No matter how great your music is, if it's never heard then it won't be appreciated, and at the moment lots of bands can't afford to record their music. THAT is the biggest challenge for bands in the grassroots music industry in 2023 and that is where 100% of our focus is. That's why we've written longform blogs about how bands can save money on their rehearsal sessions, and why bands should always record their music themselves, first, without the help of a record label.  These are all things that are within he control of a band, yet too often bands focus on challanges that are out of their hands, such as how to get signed to a major label. That won't happen unless they hear your music, so focus on that first. Focus on today's challenges today, and leave tomorrow's challenges until tomorrow. We've seen nearly 1,500 bands pass through our doors over the years, and whilst there is a correlation between the more successful ones and the bands that got signed, the truth is that all of those bands that got signed who went on to become massively successful also recorded their own music themselves, independently, before they got signed. They didn't become successful because they got signed: they got signed as it was clear to everyone around them that they had what was needed to become successful from the actions that they took, which included taking their destiny into their own hands.

Even better, when you consider that we also offer the rental of our studios on a long term basis from as little as £275 a month, when hired Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm, this opens up the possibility of a small record label or a sound engineer renting a studio for a month, and then buying the equipment that they need to be able to record multiple bands, one after the other. With only 8 microphones to set up, it's realistic to have the following daily schedule: 8am - 9:30am = set up microphones/amplifier/drum kit. 9:30am = band arrives at the studio. 10am = start recording. 5pm = finish recording. 5pm - 6pm = pack away equipment and leave all equipment in the studio storage bay.
There's nothing to stop a record label or an independent sound engineer buying all of the equipment in the above list for less than £1,900, and having this schedule from Monday t0 Friday, allowing 7 hours of recording time per day, Monday to Friday, for 22+ days a month, for an additional £275-£350 a month, in one of the best cities in the world for music. The studio is already soundproofed and acoustically treated, there's no business rates or bills to pay, the backline equipment is already in place. That would work out to be about £15 per day, for 7 hours recording per day, to knock out album after album after album in your own studio. There's also nothing to stop a band from adding £50 to the cost of their rehearsal sessions to hire the same quipment from us, and recording all of their music themselves, independently, with us helping you with the technical aspects, allowing you to focus on playing that great music. So what's stopping you?



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