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Recording on 
a budget
With Tom Clements

Photo is not Tom Clements

You have the songs, you have the attitude and you have the agenda. Armed with your faithful MacBook and of course your ears, you can do everything from engineering to mixing and mastering, you’ll have it done in no time!


Well if only it was that easy! My first release ‘Harsh Words and Sharp Elbows’ which I recorded with help from Mark Batch (Bass guitar), Russ Clewett (drums) and David Lucas (engineering and programming) was released on download only. It was an experiment into the world of online distribution for me. I learnt about PRS, Spotify, Tunecore and iTunes. Despite recording in a small flat above a shop, it was pretty good. Using our friend the internet for the drum parts which were sent via FTP server for me to add in to each song. As for mixing I did all of that, and then I asked David Woollatt to master the tracks for me.

A year later I moved in to a new unit, and with the help of my family of tradesman my dedicated studio emerged. With the help of Emily Chick and Wes Bennett my debut album was underway. After completion the main issue I found with this album was the sale price, I sold them for £10 each, occasionally £8. Then when it became harder to shift them I had to settle for the haggler’s offer of a fiver. Also why would any punter want to buy a CD instead of two pints of Belgium’s finest? Well I believe from this tough lesson of selling my music, don’t drop your price, and think about the venue you are selling them in. The better the music venue the better the audience, then you will get music fans, who will be happier to part with their cash for your creative produce.


After my album had been out a year I realized that if I played the same venue more than twice a year I needed something new to sell. But what? Who’s going to buy a t-shirt with my face on it? So I looked at my gig calendar and I saw I had a gig at The David Hall, I asked my good friend Steve Chick to come and take some photos and Chris Baker to record my live set. This was a complete experiment, but hats off to Pete Wilson and Chris Baker for producing a result I was very happy with. Out of 9 tracks recorded I kept 5. Once Chris had finished the mix it was clear what process was going to work, for future studio recordings. I will have an engineer, a producer and then I will send away for mixing and mastering. It’s because those different sets of ears add something to the recording, improving it. I sell my EP at £5 per copy and they are already out selling my first album.


So is that the process? Maybe, Maybe not. If you know an engineer who can do all of the engineering, mixing and mastering and you like their results then use them to your advantage, it is a no brainer. But even this striped back approach can be costly. So here are my top tips for relieving the cost.

1. From my experience of running a small studio I know the importance of keeping up with the competition. Many studios will offer deals so keep your eyes peeled for those.


2. Advertise that you are looking to record! If they want the work they will let you know and more importantly your music will also be a part of their CV.


3. If you don’t have the ready funds you could consider Pledge, Kick starter and Crowd funding. Pledge campaigns not only (once you’ve raised the cash) pay for your album/EP production costs, but they also get you closer to your fans. There was an article recently in the musician’s union magazine showcasing results from different artists. There was one big positive that was clear to see… merchandise sales.  The musicians that ran pledge campaigns found that by performing at pledgers parties they were selling more CD’s than they would in licensed venues! Even artists like Slash are running pledge campaigns. It might just be the answer for you to go down this route to get your new release made.


4. ultimately when time is money the greatest way to save it to be prepared. Know what songs you want to record and know how to play them before you step into the studio.

Thanks to the following for their comments in my research for this article:


Mark Ellis, Tom Joblin, Josh Parker, Simon Few, Hannah Robinson, Catherine Burke, Pete Robson

Andy Goddard, Tim Somerfield, Andy Southern rose, Tor Byrnes, Dan Hamilton, Michael Vickery, Laz Clements (He’s honestly not my Dad) and Roger Clevery.