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Jay Kahrs 23rd March 2003 04:08 AM

Budgets... $3K vs. $30K vs. $300K
I make lots of records for $3K each and I've worked on some $30K albums too. It's not hard to spend $30K on a full length, but when the budget gets opened up to $200K or more what options does that open for you? Does it solve problems or just create new ones?

More time to get the right performance? What about more time on sounds? Obviously you can throw money at ANY problem that comes up. The guitar amps suck? Let's buy or rent some in. Wanna spend $8K on drum rentals? Go for it. The band and crew need to eat right? It goes from pizza every night to some decent catering. But, will spending $300K it make the overall album 10 times better then a $30K record? On the flip side, if your used to working on $300K albums and now you have to make one for $40K where do you cut back and say 'good enough'? Is it sounds, performance or both?

Wiggy Neve Slut 23rd March 2003 10:47 AM

This is an excellent thread that poses a great question and is sure as hell to give us some different perspectives on the now stalled MM saga.

Locally here in Australia... most albums i have worked on have been by local indie labels or self financed 'artists' and they have ranged from $5000 - $15000 Australian.. half for US $. There simply is no money in local productions. I am in the process of planning an album for a band that im about to start developing and i WONT be spending over $5000 Australian for it finnished. Granted i will be using some big time favours from studio crew to use down time etc and borrow beg and steal what i need from friends to get the job done. But i feel given the amount of time a budget dictates its really in the hands of the band, artist and or producer to wring the most out of that time and get the performances they need.

Most of my fave rock and roll albums were or are live affairs that were recorded in shitty studios, but the vibe and performance shone thru.. thas whats its about for me.. I would love to have the opportunity to spend the $$ on a big production and call in the hookers and coke dealers, drum techs, feng shui experts etc but i think i would really be outa my league.

If more $$ were to come my way i would just hire out a bitchin room for drums, pres and outboard and drums, snares etc. Still do all the overdubs @ usual haunts and then go to the $$$ places to mix a few tracks, remix them @ usual haunt, compare and see if the $$ studio was worth it. If so mix the entire proejct there.

But ultimately i think a big budget is a big security blanket for mediocrity. It gives u a level of proctection and security that for many people helps them lose focus and perspective on the big picture. YMMV


DigitMus 24th March 2003 03:02 AM

Hmmm... I guess I think of it this way. Let's say the song needs a djembe on it - the $3K production uses the best djembe sample they can find, the $30K production uses the best djembe player they can find in a couple hundred mile radius, and the $300K production flies a lable mook & an 'associate producer' (or some other meaningless title that suggests actual involvement with the recording process) to Africa to look for the 'perfect' djembe player, who has never been exposed to western influences, thus retaining his "purity & authenticity". Meanwhile, the producer (if he's at all practical) has gone with the best djembe sample he can find (or possibly the drummer/percussionist for the sessions on a borrowed/rented instrument) because he knows no one not actually present for the session will be able to tell the difference once it's mixed with the other 95 (or 127) tracks & squished 'til it cries uncle by the mastering engineer (by the express direction of the well-tanned mook upon return from his quixotic African quest).


Fletcher 24th March 2003 02:46 PM

$3k is when the band is the band is the band and you do the best job you can to make the presentation palatable...

$30k is when the band gets to realize what they want to be more than what they are, more attention to the sounds may be paid, more attention to the performances may be paid and the production team can be better paid [often the musicians will get to pocket some of the money that comprises the advance, or better equipment can be purchased to enable tones closer to the artists' intention]...

$300k means that every aspect can be examined, reexamined and potentially 'white washed' out of existance... and/or $300k means that the "techs" can be brought in to service the instruments being recorded... better tools can be appropriated or rented to accomplish the project.

It also means that the people that put up the money have more of a say in the process... which could very easily turn the $300k version of the product into a sad caricature of the artist's original intention [see "white washed out of existance" for details]

Fibes 24th March 2003 07:24 PM

fletcher hit the nail on the head...

I'd rather do 10 30,000 dollar records a year than two 300,000 dollar ones. Yeah, i did the math. I might even say five... or 20 3,000 dollar jobbers.

verbular 25th March 2003 01:09 AM


I think Fletcher's post is a very good statement. Personally, I prefer to have an overall budget, it makes you more aware and moving along. I've worked on projects where the overall budget wasn't sort of set, and they tend to take more time and waste resources.

Since I tend to sit in the couch more than in front of the console, I have to be financially aware, but not show that to the artists as much as possible, and when one is within budget (yes, I have done that), we can take some of the extra $$$ and go out once it's all done.

darling 25th March 2003 04:56 AM

i do alot of 30-60k records, a few 200- 300 k records, and no 3 k records ( no-one hires a producer for a 3k record)
The big differences are - Name mixers, Over record (finish 20 songs to pick the best 11) producer fee ( I start at a percentage of budget ) then you've got your little things - union fees ( most sub 30 k records are non union) food budget
and an engineer with some cred etc. -- man your up to 150 k before you even think about hookers, blow, and kickback. and don't get me started on the " I don't know - what would a choir sound like on the last chorus?" (10k)
I can honestly say that the smaller records are more fun - but i do miss the food budget.

peace - dave darling

Jay Kahrs 25th March 2003 06:24 AM


Originally posted by slipperman
If I get a choice of these three classes of record budget I will definitely take the last. And not just for the money....

I am slow. VERY SLOW. THE SLOWEST. BEYOND TORPID. Sloth-like . More budget buys me more time. More time buys me more of the feeling that what is finished is truly the intention of the author(s). I'm happy to fight off all the associated "evils" to gain the time.

Yes. Even if I'm HATING the record.

Man, a day or two of thinking and THAT's what you came up with? gooof Personally I like to work fast and make decisions on my feet. I hate putting things off until later when I'm recording. Now, cleaning the house or whatever is a different story. That's when I start to practice "alternative time management." I'm always telling my clients and potential clients that I can work as fast, if not faster then they can so if the project goes overbudget, it ain't my fault.

I can honestly say that I don't know if I could record a $300K album and spend every penny. I'm sure I could if given the chance but in the end I doubt it would be better then the $30K record. But, we'd have a hell of a lot more fun in the process and that has gotta count for something. I hope...

Honestly Slippy, I figured you'd have more to say about this one. I know that one of the bands that's spending time in your haunt has worked there in the past, given that the budget is a bit larger this time around what are you hoping to accomplish this time that you didn't on the last few records? (which are damn good BTW)

There's time to screw with things because you can and then there's time to screw with them because you need to. I always find the time when I need to. I've never really finished a project, I just move on when I feel like I can live with it. Sometimes having more time is bad. YMMV.

verbular 25th March 2003 03:55 PM


I was just on the phone with a reputable A&R friend working for one of the majors and told me one of his bands got dropped. I helped the band last year make their second album and though the sales weren' spectacular (who is nowadays?), they were building up bit by bit. We were careful on the $ spent and with the project I worked on, managed to be under budget by about $10,000 (out of $50,000). People may think $50,000 is ample budget, but here in Japan, it's not so when woroking in SSL/Neve rooms, and we managed to squeeze in the band tracking in NYC with the good shit and mixing back home.

It just makes me furious to find that for the people "up there", it's all about the short term prospects nowadays. I know very well it's a business and one has to comply to an extent, but wonder where the artists that need some development over time are going to go and be appreciated fully.

Sorry for being slightly off topic, but in relation to the thread, I try to be responsible for the $ spent and not to strangle the artists.


doug_hti 26th March 2003 02:06 AM

Re: Budgets... $3K vs. $30K vs. $300K

Originally posted by Jay Kahrs
But, will spending $300K it make the overall album 10 times better then a $30K record?
No. GENERALLY speculating, I think it becomes exponentially harder to make a album sound twice as good. It would probably be closer to a $30k album sounds twice as good as a $3k and a $300k sounds twice as good as a $30k. And I'm speaking more towards bands, that can play the parts themselves, rather than having to hire players, pay cartage, and a lot of rentals.
It really is amazing what someone can do nowdays with a few k's, but honestly, there is a compromise.
People usually don't have to explain things or make as many excuses on bigger budget albums as to why something sounds the way it does.

For a major label solo artist project, $300k can go quick even while being careful with rentals, catering, and travel.
-mix = $50-60k
-studio/engineer = $40k month
-players = $30k
-strings and contractor? = $50k
-master = $3-5k
-production coordinator = $4k
-programmer = $20- $40k
-producer advance = $40-$100k
-catering $2-3k
-cartage $2-3k

The main projects I've been around are mostly $120-$175k budgets and that really does go quick. I think this is the minimum range for a world class solo artist album without having to be terribly creative with expenses. There are always exceptions of course. The better players and mixers are more of a guarantee that you'll get a usable product and the better players will bring more feeling and better parts to the table. But it doesn't mean that you won't strike magic using less experienced producers, mixers, and players...

hollywood_steve 26th March 2003 08:35 AM

A lot of it has to do with how that $300k number is allocated. We happen to live in a complex that is basically corporate housing for the entertainment industry; in addition to all the film and TV related residents, major labels stick their out-of-town bands here while they are recording in LA.

A close friend from back east was put up here with his band when the labels chosen producer decided it was cheaper to bring the band to LA for 2 months than for him to fly back east. A five piece band and their manager each had their own "studio suite" for 2 months; that's 12 room-months @ $2400per. That's a fast $30k just to house the band during the recording. I don't know what per diems are running for label acts these days, but when you add that on to the housing bill, I bet you can quickly get up over $50k just to feed and house the band for the duration of the project (if it completes on time!).

Having maid service and a concierge can be loads of fun for a young band, until someone figures out that they are paying for it themselves.

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µ¿ z3®ø™ 26th March 2003 08:44 AM

i would like to know how much folks like bob dylan and others that use the 'quick and dirty" method of recording spend on their recording budget?
man, give ME $300k and i'll buy even more gear and pocket the rest so that i can eat when i get old and can't hear anymore and i have arthritis and can't play.

malice 26th March 2003 12:59 PM

nice name µ¿ z3®ø™

how do I pronounce that ? confoosed

happy gooof

malice yingyang

Jules 26th March 2003 01:11 PM

Perhaps it's the Artist Formerly Known As µ¿ z3®ø™