Moving from Demo to Master

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So, here at 5090, FAWM, and the several other Songwriting Challenges - The demo is usually a Quickie. So, what if you want to move forward to a more Professional Product that can be sold and delivered. Here are some questions we can ask:
What are your thoughts about it as a writer, a musician, a lyricist?
What have you already do in this area? - success or otherwise
What do the Professionals have to say?
What about Publishing and Promotion?

if you have questions or answers... let's talk about it

Here is a Video, talking (in general) about the cost of Mix and Mastering your song projects.

I’ve made 2 albums. The first I went into a studio. It was with my playing partner at the time and her husband who was playing bass. We wanted to record everything live together and all I had was GarageBand and a really crap microphone. I learned so much from that experience, but I wouldn’t use a studio again unless I had a full band, wanted to record live and had some evidence that we would make it back. We may have eventually broken even on that one.

My last recording, I recorded everything myself, but I hired a friend of mine to do some mixing and the mastering. I’m getting alright with the mixing, but I don’t know how to master at all and it makes such a big difference. It cost a lot less than the studio, and if/when I make another CD, that’s how I’ll probably do it.

I decided a few years ago that the only way that I was going to be able to get the sound in my head to come out of my monitors was if I learned to do every step of the process from live recording to final mastering. And, quite frankly, I can't afford to pay someone else to mix or master my stuff, much as I'd like to. I started by getting a copy of Bob Katz's "Mastering Audio" which helped to demystify a lot of the jargon and gave me an idea of the processes and workflows involved. If you can find a copy (the 3rd edition came out in 2014, I believe) it's still a useful resource. And Graham Cochrane (the Recording Revolution guy in the video that Russ linked to) has been one of my most trusted guides since I started out on my journey. The Home Recording Show podcast that Ryan Canestro and Jon Tidey used to do is also worth a listen.

If you've heard much of my stuff you'll realise that I get as much of a kick out of the production side of things as I do from writing and recording the music. But even so for the albums I've released on Apple Music and Spotify I've gone back and really *listened* to each track, removing anything that annoyed me and polishing the things that I knew I could make a better job of. And then listened to the album as a whole, making sure that it flowed, that things like changing volume levels didn't slap me in the face, and checking that it held together as a sequence.

Getting hold of iZotope's Ozone elements let me actually make the tweaks that the books and YouTube videos told me to do. I very quickly stumped up the cash for the full version. To get good results you need to train your ears - and to train your ears, you need to know what's being done to the music. Ozone is how I'm learning to do that.

Lately I have kinda given up on learning more about mixing and mastering instead opting to trust Nectar, Neutron and Ozone to work their magic. It would be lovely to hire someone else to handle the production but I cannot ever see me ponying up the cash for that. Too many other toys to buy and too little chance of actually selling some music.

In my opinion, the first step is to get the playing on every track the best it can be. Go back to your demo, and replace every part. Record everything again and again until it’s really good.

Another idea is to get other musicians involved, and get some of the interplay between humans that makes good music. When Nancy Rost and I recorded an EP last year, we got good musicians together, found a producer, and spent one day in the studio getting really good sounds recorded by professionals. Then we did overdubs at home, mixed it (I did 2 mixes, our producer did 2, and we went back to the studio for 2)sent it to a pro for mastering, and released it ( in February this year:

I think music professionals can add a lot. Doing a lot of your own overdubs saves money, but hiring people at the right points in the process can help.


@standup would you be willing to share the cost of the production you described? I got a quote from a local guy who is quite good at production and he also plays any needed instruments on the albums of his clients. The quote was from about 8 years ago and was around $2,000. I'm guessing you spent at least that?

And my second question is, did you make enough on the CD to pay for production? I think many of us might spring for the professionals if we thought we could sell enough to at least cover the cost but most of us probably would never recover those.

It cost between $2-3000 in the end, I don’t have an exact number. We may break even eventually.

We recorded it live in a room (well, a couple of rooms for separation) as a band: guitar bass drums piano. The other guys were guys I play with, and they gave me a “friends” rate.

We did overdubs at home, which saved a lot.

Thanks for sharing that info @standup! It is helpful to know what kind of costs we might be looking at if we decided to try and use pros. To be fair, a decent computer, proper software, instruments and figuring out how to effectively use it all is not cheap either! I'm pretty sure I've spent way more than that over the years on gear!

We hired horn and woodwind players, a violinist, and my friends on guitar and drums (who were cheap). If it was all instruments Nancy or I could play ourselves it would have been less. If there had been no producer it would have been less. If I had mixed it all myself it would have been less. But it would have been a different EP.