The bands first time in the studio




I am working with a local college rock band. I have worked a deal ($75 per song, six songs total) for the project that everyone has agreed with. We have tracked and overdub'd and we are getting ready for mixing.

My question is how far do I go in making these guys sound good (better than they might actually be)? I could be overdubing for days. They are happy with the project but the lead vox is off key on a couple notes, the lead guitar pops in some bad notes, the bass player say's that he tuned but is not always right on.

They want to sell it to there friends at the college and I want to get more business but it could get to the point where I don't make any money (hours vs. dollars). Do a draw a line on the performance issue and settle for the "as good as you can get it" from the band or do I fix all the little problems?

They are tight and sound good but every now and then something will stick out. I have not been doing any digital editing. I thought that we would mix the "old fashion way" on a console without automation. We are tracking/mixing at a studio on ADAT's and a Mackie 32.8 (not my space). How do you deal with this issue?



Two suggestions:

1. Next time, charge more money for each song.

2. Start fixing the big clams first to see how quickly they can do repairs. Fix as many problems as you can stand given their proficiency, and also remember that that recording will be out there long after anyone remembers how much you were paid. If you value your reputation in the long run it may be worth it to take it on the chin this time and not worry as much about making dough on this project. $75 per song doesn't leave much profit anyways.

Two cents from upstream.

Jeff Roberts


If you like the music , go for it .. put the time in. Its enjoyable , and it hones your skills. Obviously if you are forking out for studio time then that is an issue. Otherwise don't bother , you are not being asked or payed to produce , so don't do it at the expense of your enjoyment.

Just my 2p


Well-Known Member
Feb 10, 2001
This is always a tough one. I think it wouldn't hurt to level with the band - their $75 per song fee covers tracking, overdubs and mixing within reason. It was assuming that they could perform and record their material within a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable level of competency.

I think you should give them an option - the $75 per song covers a reasonable amount of mixing and fixing (say, a total of no more "x" hours per song - you need to determine what time frame you originally had in mind.) After that, if the band needs more time, they should compensate you additionally.

I usually assume that there will be at the very least one hour per song for basic tracking and one hour for overdubs. And that's just for a very basic pop production done by skilled pros. On other kinds of projects the time is often measured more in days than hours. Then at least two-three hours (bare minimum) for mixing/editing. Best case scenario you are already down to $15 per hour. If I were doing this, I couldn't imagine charging less than $250 per song. And I'd want to audition their skills first. But then again, I'm not working with (or trying to amortize) ADATs and a Mackie.

But, if you say, they sound tight and the music is good - try letting them be the judge of what is crucial to fix. Especially as you have no automation or ProTools type editing. If it ain't broke to them, don't worry about fixing it. A little compression to even things out may be all it takes to make them happy.

The moral of the story is there should always be a time ceiling when negotiating flat-rate work. A band can't be allowed to take advantage of the flat rate by recording dozens of takes, hundreds of overdubs, and weeks of mixing. After a certain agreed upon time limit, your hourly rate should kick in.


Well-Known Member
Mar 20, 2001
Near Portland, Oregon
I had your exact same problem last year and made the wrong decision. I knew there were some mistakes made and I knew it could be made better, however, I realized the general public would not hear all the glitches and thus didn't say anything and tried my best to fix it in final mixdown and mastering.

Now everytime I hear that recording, I kick myself for not doing it right.

Talk to the band. Tell them that if they want a good product, not just a good enough product, then you need them to work with you. I would try to punch in overdubs of the mistakes if possible and re-do the entire track if you can't punch in.

Have the musicians come in one at a time and let them listen to the mistakes and ask them if they can do it better without spending a ton of time on it.

The next time you negotiate for recording time, have a written agreement regarding how much time is to be spent on each song and who has final mix authority to throw out a song that has mistakes on it. In this case, forget the money and do your best to give them a good product..your name is on it too..

Boom Chic

Hi Jason,

Look at this project as "your" demo too. You will want to get more business from this gig, and you will be judged on your abilities to get a good recording and performance. You need to fix those mistakes when you're tracking so you are using the same sound/tone/mic etc.

As time goes on, sometimes you get "used" to hearing those mistakes but you'll regret not fixing them later. Look at this as a learning experience, not a moneymaker (it is not).

Don't count on getting paid when they sell this recording at their gigs, if you do, consider it a bonus!

Just my own 2 cents. :)

Good luck.


Thanks everyone. The session did not kill me. The drums and guitar sounds we got kick ass. The singer is the weak link. His tone is usually good but he has a problem with pitch. We did six songs total. The band is thrilled with the finished product and I got to try some new techniques.

Studio time was covered by the band and I got a chance to get out of my project studio for a few days. I had to setup and tweak the studio monitors to get them to sound like something that I could trust. Overall it was a good time and worth doing.

Thanks again,