You have some good songs, you have a vision for your ‘sound’ and you’re starting to build a good following for your live shows. Next, you’ll probably be looking to make some good quality recordings so you can start earning money online from your music.
One of the bigger decisions you’ll make early on in your music career is whether to invest your hard earned cash into professional studio time.
Maybe you have a musician friend who played you their new tracks and then, when you asked where they recorded, surprised you with “I recorded these at home”. So now you’re starting to wonder – is it worth going into a professional studio when you can invest that money into equipment and make great quality tracks without leaving the comfort of your bedroom?
The short answer is that there are lots of reasons why recording at home might be a better option for you – here are 7:
Reason #1 - you can own your home recording equipment
If you have, say, £1,000 and you invest it into 2-3 days in the studio, the only thing you have to show for that time are the tracks you produce in those 2-3 days. That’s great, but it doesn’t allow you to record more songs.
IF, however, you spend that money on buying equipment, that equipment is now YOURS. You can use it again and again and again. It’s like buying a house instead of just renting for ever – at the end, you have something to show for it!
One of our three principles here on The Emerging Artist is CONSISTENCY. This means putting out new music regularly and often, e.g. a new song every month until you either (a) win a Grammy or (b) the world ends (whichever comes first).
Ask yourself: is it sustainable to keep paying for studio time every time I want new music?
Obviously, a well mixed studio quality recording is a great way to show off your music. But it’s a bit of a gamble, especially when you’re not the finished article and still finding your sound. Buying your own home recording equipment is not a gamble – it is an investment.
Reason #2 - you home record at your own pace
Studio time can often be very rushed. You are aware that you have spent a lot of money and that puts extra pressure on you to get results quickly. You might be more likely to accept less-than-amazing vocal takes. The pressure could even affect your ability to sing/play naturally. For some people this push and a bit of adrenaline might be what they need to get their music recorded, instead of working over a long time without direction.
But many musicians create better music when they’re not rushed, and home-recording removes this problem. You have far more time to explore your ideas, your voice, different instrument sounds, mic placements, and so on.
Do not underestimate the importance of taking your time. For every 10 ideas you have, 1 might be that brilliant idea that makes the song really click. You need the time to have all 10 of those ideas without needing to hurry through the process. If you have the discipline to keep rolling out ideas consistently and constantly, home recording is great.
Some people do work better under pressure – it forces them into their creative space – so it’s really worth thinking carefully and asking yourself: how well would I create/perform in a limited space of time?
Reason #3 - customise your environment for more inspiration
While you are flexible with time, you are also flexible with space – i.e. what you do to your environment to help with the flow of ideas.
If you want a completely empty space (move all your stuff into another room etc), or you want to stick nature posters up everywhere, or whatever, you can do it! The first time I home recorded, whenever we recorded vocals my bandmate and I would turn all of the lights off and put a picture of a starry sky on a big screen to make us feel like we were out singing under the night’s sky…
It doesn’t have to be a separate room if you don’t have a spare room to play with – there are lots of ways to create a perfect space for your home-recording, which depends on getting great quality yet affordable recording equipment as much as on the vibe of the space… it all helps the creative juices flow naturally.
Chances are, if you’re working for a few days in a professional studio, you’re going to have to work in whatever space you’re given. For some people, this is fine; for others, maybe less so.
Reason #4 - you get a better learning experience in a home studio
Boring as it might feel at the time, by needing to do all the mic placement and technical recording stuff yourself, you will learn many more skills than if you have an engineer doing it all for you.
Knowledge is power – the process of home recording will really prepare you for when you do eventually go into a studio, because you’ll have a better idea (a) of what you want, AND (b) how to communicate it to the engineer. The same goes for mixing – there’s no substitute for having an idea for what your song should sound like and being able to try it yourself.
For this reason, home recording is often a great place to start, even if you plan to record in a studio later on. You could even buy the equipment, do some recording to learn the ropes, and then try to sell it second hand to get back most of your money.
Reason #5 - Avoid a Producer’s cut and make more money
Alongside the day rate of the studio itself, it’s also likely that your producer will want a cut of your master – i.e. they take a percentage (e.g. 10%) of your streaming and sales income as an extra payment for the work they’ve done.
This will depend on the agreement you have with the producer (if they are only engineering and not giving any creative input into the songs then a cut is much less likely). But it’s useful to bear this in mind when deciding on a particular studio.
If you pay £400 to record in a studio for a day, but the producer also gets a 10% cut, landing on a Spotify playlist might mean your £400 becomes double that after they take their percentage.
But if you’re self-recording, you get to keep all the % yourself!
Reason #6 - you get more creative control over your project
If you are recording in a studio and your producer is involved in the creative process, this reduces the amount of creative control you have over your project.
This can be a very good thing. If you have a great producer [and you should definitely read our article about finding the right producer] then they might be the key to you finding your “sound” and releasing amazing music.
However, when you are just starting out, a stubborn producer with fixed ideas about how things should sound can actually hold you back from finding the sound you want.
This can be more likely with a producer being paid in hours because it takes more effort (and therefore time) to think outside the box and try to create something totally new than to just stick to the same old methods they know well.
Recording at home, you do it YOUR way and keep that creative control. Later on, when you start recording in a professional studio, you’ve already started that creative journey yourself and can also direct your producer, not only the other way round.
Reason #7 - there’s something fashionable about home producers
You can argue that it’s more impressive to have recorded something really good at home. The world smiles on self-starters, people who take the initiative and are willing to put in the hard work.
Just think about your reaction to your musician friend telling you their great tracks were recorded at home… a part of you was impressed. How did you manage to get such a great sound recording in your bedroom?
It’s also fashionable to teach yourself lots of different skills and, as we said above in Reason #4, home recording an EP is a great way to teach yourself a whole range of disciplines, from mic placement, to EQ and compression and panning. You could even try to learn the basics of mastering (though we definitely recommend finding a good mastering engineer and not doing that yourself).
You can even try recording the music yourself, taking advantage of all the benefits above, but then paying an experienced producer to mix it. As long as you’ve recorded all the times in the right environment and with good mic placement, this can be a great way to use your budget.