"I only have a budget of about $1000 - how many songs do you think can I get recorded at the hourly rate?" As a budget-oriented recording studio, it's one of the most common questions I get from potential clients. Of course, the accurate answer to that question is always..."that depends."
It depends on how prepared the artists are to record. It depends on how you want to record; multiple takes to capture the near perfect performance, edited, overdubbed, comped, and tuned. Or, a grip-it and rip-it live recording with the whole band playing together - doing minimal overdubs, comping, editing, tuning, etc. Then, there's the mix... How in depth do you want to go on the mix? Polished, commercial-sounding mixes usually take several hours to put together. And let's not forget about mastering those tracks - again, another step that takes time and careful consideration to get right.
Recently, I was approached by CoreShot, a local 90's grunge/alt-rock cover band with this very inquiry. CoreShot wanted to put together 8 songs for demo purposes and to commemorate their time spent together in the band. Cool...I can dig it. The budget? Less than $1,000.
This is a tall order for such a limited budget, and meant that we would need to limit our tracking time to 8-10 hours to leave enough budget for mixing and mastering. We decided a "grip it and rip-it" approach would be the only way to stay in budget, and that we would need to be efficient and compromising when it came to the mixes as well. In the end, the band was recorded live (w/ some isolation) and all basic tracks were full-song takes; no punch-ins, comping or editing. The vocals were over-dubbed - all tracking was completed in a single 10 hour session.
We mixed all 8 songs the next day. A broad-stroke approach was used. That is, we did not get very detailed or spend very much time trying duplicate the original pro-mixes of these very famous and recognizable songs. We needed one more session to tweak the mixes to the band member's varying sensibilities and master the tracks. In all, the project consumed 23 hours total, and the band spent ~$800. Mission accomplished.
In this instance, it worked out because the band was well-rehearsed and was willing to make some compromises to stay in budget. In the end - this compilation of songs is a great representation of what this band sounds like live without a lot of post-production work to make it sound passable. What a fun challenge for the studio and for the band. You can check-out CoreShot and these recordings HERE.
-The Wheelhouse Studio