Can you record an album for under $2,000?

 

I have been surprised to see Kick Starter campaigns asking for 10,000 to record albums, and stories that people have told me that an album generally costs 1,000 per song. I have always wanted to record an album that is lush and full with horns and string arrangements. I grew up listening to the Beatles of course, and then heard some fantastic pop albums from artists like Ben Folds Five, Rufus Wainwright, and Elliot Smith. I knew I wanted to do a “real” album someday, with “real” musicians and overdubs. 
I was able to record an excellent sounding album, 11 songs. I set a budget of $2000 and tried to save where ever I could.

I did the cd design myself. The photographer who took the picture on the back gave me the rights to the photo for free. The picture on the front has been modified, and I think qualifies as “Fair use.”

The musicians who played and sang all did so for free, or in exchange for some food and beer. These were mostly friends who I have worked with for several years, and I have played shows with them before. The stand up bass player was the only person who I didn’t know, I just found a student who played bass at the local university and he was willing to play on the album for experience and a chance to add to his resume.

Here is my budget:

I paid $600 dollars to my Recording Engineer. My engineer allowed me to use his studio to edit my tracks in Pro Tools. (James Bartlett at Sunnyside studios)

I paid $100 for a Hard drive to record onto.

I paid a Mastering Engineer $585 to master the tracks. (Grey market mastering in Montreal.)

I paid 146.63 for 100 cds from Tunecore. 

When the album was done I paid 7$ to promote it on Facebook.

Total $1438.63

If I sell 96 cds at $15, I break even. The cd is available free at bandcamp because… I don’t want anyone who would like to hear it be unable to because they couldn’t afford it. I do value my labor and the value of my musicians. I share it in the hopes that people will support me and give me gigs and come see me live when I play in their area.

I’d be interested to see someone else’s cd budget as to explain why they spend $10,000 or more.  Are session musicians paid well on those records?  Does that include a $2,000 or more promotion campaign? Does most of the money go to Recording Engineers or those who are called “producers” who end up as arrangers, session musicians and consultants? I am very interested in this process. If anyone has been in the business awhile knows how much their albums cost, please share.

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