QUESTION: How should I conduct a recording session in these trying financial times?
We realize these are difficult economic times and you are trying to stretch your recording dollars. Here are some suggestions on how to get as much out of your session as possible. Needless to say, planning and organization are two key elements in this effort.
Being able to do things last minute in an unbooked room will save you some money. If that is an option for you logistically, then you just have to be that much prepared to be able to pull it off, which means planning everything out and being able to execute at a moment's notice. Let the studio manager know that you are interested in such an arrangement (ask to be contacted whenever something opens up) and keep in touch. A little bit of patience and perseverance might save you some dough.
Whether you book the last minute or not, you still want to discuss your need in detail with the studio manager. Ask for suggestions on how to make efficient use of your time. If you know that the schedule is going to be very tight, let the studio manager know. When the studio knows that you need to work fast, they can make arrangements to do so. However, you want to make sure you are well prepared and not be the bottleneck.
Rehearse or gig heavily before entering the studio. If needed, have charts written out, copied, collated and ready to go. You don't want musicians waiting for copies to be made on your dime. Even better, give a copy to the musicians beforehand, if possible.
Organizing Your Time:
In order to maximize your time in the studio, plan out the logistics of your session. Come up with a rough schedule and think about the order of the tracks, the personnel / instrumentation needed, the difficulty level of the song (do it earlier in the day), when to break for meals (and when to order them). If you need help on the day of the session, hire someone or bring along a friend who is really good at organizing and coordinating stuff in the background. Be ready to make decisions on when to move on to the next song. Think about bringing someone, perhaps a producer friend, whose decision you trust to help you.
When scheduling, make sure you leave yourself some wiggle room. You might want to designate a timekeeper to track progress and to make sure you know when you have gone over your allotted time. In a lockout situation, you want to avoid overtime.
Hire good talent, whether it is musicians or engineers, who can work fast and save you time, but still maintain quality. If you need recommendations, ask around - ask the studio manager, the engineer, ask for names of people you can ask. One alternative might be to ask the studio for in-house talent who can engineer the session for you.
Involving Those That Can Help You:
At various stages of preparation, consult with the studio manager, (especially) your producer and engineer and get their input. Pick their brains and involve them iteratively in the planning process. Make sure they understand what you are trying to do and achieve.
Quality of a performance is very subjective, but try to fix things on the spot as much as possible instead of fixing it later. It might not be obvious at this stage, but most of the time, doing things right will save you time and effort later on when you edit or mix.
Notes / Documentation:
Make sure you take or ask for detailed notes on what you have recorded. The time you take to do this will save you many painful hours later when you have to find what you want to edit or mix. A little organization goes a long way.
This topic was discussed in detail in an earlier post. To save costs, try a potluck for your meals. Recruit your spouses, friends, fans, ...etc. The meals and the experience might turn out better.
Some of the topics may have been covered before in previous postings, but I thought it would be useful to have them here in one place. By the way, everything mentioned above is applicable even when we are not in a recession.