Having been on both sides of the studio owner/studio client equation over the years, I thought I’d take a moment to give songwriters a little insight into how to handle themselves when it comes to their interactions with professional recording studios. The more aware you are as a studio client, the more smoothly your session will go and the better the results. I’ve put together a list of a few things to think about before you go into your next demo session at a professional studio.
In order to get what you want when it comes to your song demo, it helps to articulate what that is. In other words, if you’re interested in demoing your song to pitch not only to publishers, labels and artists but also as a finished master to pitch for film and TV opportunities, say so. This will help the studio find you the right singers and musicians and have them sign the necessary releases in advance which is much easier than asking the studio to track everyone down after the fact. If you’re not sure what your options are, there’s no harm in saying so. Any professional studio will be able to walk you through the various possibilities.
Things in the studio can get intense very quickly. Before the demo singer is in the booth or the musicians are tracking on your song, it’s always a good policy to ask the producer/engineer (often the same person) when it will be appropriate to give your input. Sometimes it can be distracting if you, as the songwriter, weigh in before everyone has had a chance to get settled and comfortable with their performances of your song. Believe me, everyone in the studio wants you to be thrilled with the final product and will eagerly listen to your input but, as with most things, there’s a time and a place for this. My recommendation would be to take notes on any questions or comments you might have so that when it’s your time to talk, you’ll be prepared.
I know this sounds obvious but having your song demoed can be a very emotional thing. Just take a deep breath and remember, as I mentioned above, everyone in the studio wants you to be happy with the end result but the more polite and clear you are the better the likelihood that you’ll get what you want. For example, it’s just as easy to say “could we please review the verse melody on the rough recording. I think there are a few spots you might be missing” as it is to say “you sang it wrong.”
There is nothing, in my opinion, that can sour a relationship between client and studio faster than the studio having to ask repeatedly for a payment which is past due. In the same way that the studio has to deliver your finished recording as promised, it is your obligation as the client to understand what the terms are and to honor them. It’s not complicated but failing to do so can result in a bad reputation among the industry professionals involved. Believe me, making it in the music business is hard enough without adding a reputation for being a slow or late payer to the mix.
In the end, a good relationship with your chosen recording studio is of real value when it comes to getting not only great recordings of your songs but also enjoying the process along the way. Nothing I’ve mentioned above is complicated or difficult to do but it does require being thoughtful and prepared in your approach. If being treated as a professional is your goal, acting like one is a great start.