A lot of our clients approach us to record a CD or digital album for the very first time. Generally speaking we work with Schools, Community Choirs and Chamber Choirs. Just in terms of the choirs we work with, most of them will be non profit making organisations which are run by people who voluntarily form a committee. Generally speaking the Music Team will be paid but this is usually covered by member subscriptions or similar activity. As a result of which, most choirs are not rolling around with fat bank accounts full of surplus cash that can be spent making recordings.
How much does a Recording cost?
Traditionally mention the word Recording and people conjure up images of expensive recording studios with lots of engineers and other people all needing to be paid. Abbey Road for example, whilst the best recording studio in the world (in my humble opinion) will cost your choir something in the region of £20,000 to hire for the purpose of making a recording. Plenty of larger choirs do use Abbey Road and if you have the budget to do so, we would not hesitate in recommending them.
However, for the most part, your local community choir might have anything from 30 – 100 members all paying £10 – £20 per month. It doesn’t take an accountant to work out that the spare funds after paying for a music team are going to be somewhat limited.
This is where 4 Part Music comes in. For a start we understand how community choirs work. Speaking personally, I have run choirs for the past 25 years and before that I have sung in all sorts of choirs both at School and University as well as a number of Community choirs and Choral Societies. So when we set up 4 Part Music in 2004 with a view to recording amateur choirs, we had to think carefully not only about how much it would cost, but also how choirs would pay for such services.
After some deliberation and talking to a number of other choir leaders and committee members, we decided the best thing was to base our costs around the CD. Firstly this gives just 1 figure rather than pricing many different things and also it is something that a choir can relate to. Depending on how many CDs you order they can often be around £4-5 per CD all inclusive. This covers recording, production and copyright licensing in some instances. From that a choir can decide on a selling price and it’s pretty easy to then see how you can make quite a nice bit of income from recording your choir.
So what’s the deal with Experience?
Whilst our recordings are, we believe, priced sensibly for most amateur choirs there is still a high expectation from our clients as to the quality of the product they will receive. There aren’t many professional mobile recording companies in the UK who can record choirs properly so we are fortunate in not having much competition. Nevertheless we still need to be ahead of the game and always offering the very best work we can.
Regardless of price, 4 Part Music make big claims about quality. Therefore we have to be able to stand by them and offer clients a top quality recording. And this is where experience matters. We have been recording choirs at a professional level since 2004. And I don’t mind admitting that when we started not everything went entirely to plan. For 3 years we never invoiced anyone for anything. Until we could prove our recordings were top quality we called in favours from friends and then we offered free recordings to choirs. That’s not to say you can afford to get it wrong just because it’s free. But we were upfront about why we were doing this. After a few ‘returns to the drawing board’ we were confident that we had a quality product offering and that people would pay for it.
So we went out and offered a professional recording service to the world and the rest, as they say, is history. Nevertheless the story doesnt end there. We will be the first to admit we are always learning. The business people call this CPD or continued professional development. Whilst much of the hardware in recordings (Microphones, cables, pre amps etc) doesnt really change much from one decade to the next, the computer side of things is continually evolving. Our job is not necessarily to have the latest new thing or latest update. But we do need to know what is going on and make informed choices about upgrades and changes to our recording rigs.
And that’s where experience matters most. It is knowing not just when to do something, but also when not to do something.