You don’t need to spend loads of money on big studios, the top gear, years of study (when they aren't cutting your course halfway through) or any other snake oil to turn a great song into something amazing. For many years the Billboard charts have been littered with releases made completely or partly from home recordings, sub $200 mic recordings, late night Garageband muck-arounds, iPad noodlings, crappy room recordings etc. There have famously been many times where the world’s biggest recording artists have used broken (or self broken) gear to get the unique and innovative sound they wanted.
FACT You can’t create something new and different without doing something the wrong (not the industry standard) way.
You may already know of the many success stories in home recording, but here are a couple of great examples of completely home recorded and mixed music:
Goodshirt recorded in the house and mixed in the garden shed. They use entry level gear and an early version of Logic (back when the cool cats would say Pro Tools “was the only software to use”). Combining cheap gear and a lot of Kiwi ingenuity earnt them chart topping success and loads of industry awards for many of the cool songs including the chart topping Sophie. I’m not sure how old you are, but I remember this song being all over the radio and TV for ages!! Now this was done back in the early 2000s, entry level home recording gear has come a LONG way since then!
Moby’s album “Play” was recorded and mixed at home - In fact, he did try mixing it at a couple of big studios, hired some pros to mix it for him... But after “I wasted a lot of time and money” he returned home and mixed it one last time from scratch. That home produced album became the biggest selling electronica album of all time selling over 12 million copies worldwide. PLUS every track from that album had loads of licencing success in movies, tv and commercials. This was his 5th album… so loads of practice before he nailed it.
Billie Eilish now has loads of gold and platinum singles, Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, over 4,000,000,000 streams and so much more - Her brother recording and producing all their original music in a regular bedroom, with a bed in it (which Billie Eilish sat on to sing the stuff used on the recordings (“your not meant to do it that way” - Stuffy old music industry types), in their regular sized family home, using good old $399 Logic. He’s 22 and she’s 18… Somehow I don’t think they spent thousands of dollars and 4+ years doing full time study to be told how things were done by someone the tutor has never met - Or in my case, some guy who did the course last year, just trying to earn extra credits, while the institution made some extra revenue.
Finneas O’Connell (her older brother) said, “It was lovely to make an album there, but I think it’s really important to work wherever you are, or wherever you have your tools.” This is bang on my wavelength - I have alway been more creative and captured better performances at home using the gear I knew best.
Get your bleep button ready and check out what one of the world's most respected audio engineers has to say about it:
From what I understand these artists and their labels invested the bulk of their funds into PR and marketing, rather than the recording process.
I am not saying it is easy to record, produce and release music from home, it’s really hard work. But it is REALLY worthwhile. Just like any part of the musical journey.
I've had my fair share of good and bad experiences in the NZ music scene. If you are in the in-crew, you might have a better shot, but even then it is still a roll of the dice as to what you are going to get each time you step into a pro studio. Just like going to the local music retailer, you might get the passionate on-to-it types who will fall over themselves to help, or you might get one of the many too cool for school types...
It's not hard to get caught up in all the hype when you are being vulnerable with your art.
Have you experienced this yet? You invest a few thousand dollars with a big studio and a well known producer recording your songs, everything is sounding awesome, all the suggestions they are making seem like good ideas, they recommend a mastering engineer, so you put another few hundred down on that. You walk away with an awesome sounding track... But then, listened to your recording a month or so later, after the romance has worn off a bit, you realise… This isn’t what we sound like.
This is why I am a huge fan and do'er of DIY.
I believe, if you are a musician who has spent the time getting to know your instrument, how to get the tone, pitch, rhythm, and dynamics you want, plus you have developed your songwriting skills to the point that you find your songs interesting and enjoyable when you listen to them a few weeks later, you can translate these skills to recording, mixing and releasing your own music at home. Just like learning to play your instrument of choice, it will take some practice and a lot of mistakes, but you are already most of the way there! Go forth and record your music, all of it.
I want you to make your own masterpieces to share with the world, or keep for your own personal enjoyment.
If you need any help getting started or are stuck trying to translate what you already know about performance to recording please email me to set up a session at your place. Don’t be shy, I’m friendly and open minded. (this article might sound a little ragy, but that’s because I’m very passionate about musicians recording, mixing and (if they want to) releasing their own music)
Note - I have watered this post down a touch from the initial version, as I was being a little too passionate and snarky towards the money spongers out there. I even upset a retired? SAE lecturer & Audio Engineer who trolled me in outrage! I deleted his comment and decided to tone down this post as my goal is to motivate DIY musicians, and that silliness wasn't going to help.