How to record and release your own album: an expert's guide

Everything you need to know about bringing your music to life. 

The first chapter in our content series with Collarts gave you an inside look at how to make it in the music industry. For the next instalment, we're giving you everything you need to know about recording and releasing your own album -- a bucket-list project for countless musicians.

Jason Torrens is the resident Audio Production Program Coordinator at Collarts. As well as that, he's also the owner of Debasement Recording Studios and has worked alongside Bodyjar, You Am I, Slipknot and hundreds more. From inception to release, Here's his advice on finally bringing that musical project of yours to life this year. 

Planning. This includes the writing of the songs, the vision, budgeting and more. Clarify your vision of the project; ensure you've done as much work as you can on the arrangements and the parts first. Then you’ll need to look at the whole picture and ask questions such as: Who is going to mix the recording? What will the artwork look like? Who can we play these songs to that might help us? This following list of tips isn’t a definitive order, as many of them need to be considered at the start. 

Are we getting a producer? Early on is an important time to decide whether you're engaging a producer or not. The earlier you engage them the better (often cost related). This producer could have a variety of roles from helping with the vision, parts in the songs, arrangement decisions, harmonies, tones, and many other possible perspectives could be offered. Sometimes the songwriter or someone in the band has this vision and is going to produce, which is fine, but it's always wise to clarify roles early.

Know the music back to front. As part of the writing, rehearsing and especially the pre-production recordings, each member should really know their parts, even know the other member's parts if possible. Suss tempo’s, instrument choices, harmonies and all. Doing some gigs is also helpful for learning and honing the material to see what's working and what’s not.

Pre-production and demo recording. Many would agree that this is the most important of any musical recording. It will save you money and frustration later down the road if you put in some effort here. Get your demos recorded; the higher quality the better. But even if it's a mate with Garage Band and an SM57, a local college student who needs to record bands or just a smartphone in the rehearsal room -- it's important to find something that will do the job.

Get some feedback. This will come from many people including the band and the producer, but simply getting some trusted friends to listen to the songs is also wise. Listen to the demos and ask, "What could we do to make this song better?" Ask for honest feedback from as many people as you can, at many stages of the process.

Studio selection and tracking. This is a case of looking around and finding the place with the right price and the right results. Listen to the work that the studio has put out, meet the engineer/producer who is working there and make your decision. If you have your own engineer, he or she will help. Make sure you back up the recorded files too. For more detail on prepping for the studio, check out this article from our fellow Collarts teacher Dan Murtagh. 

Mixing. Handing over the files to someone who has experience mixing, and someone who has mixed other recordings you like in the past is advised. This might cost some money, but it'll be worth it. It's so easy to get bogged down in mixing your own tracks, learning the tools and hopefully getting a good result. Bite the bullet and get someone to mix it for you. Test them out with one song first maybe, and remember to be careful of "demo-itis" where you want everything to sound like the demo.

Mastering. This is sometimes done by the mix engineer, but often wise to get someone else to do it, a fresh set of ears over the final process to ensure it's total EQ and levels are taken care of. It's not the black art that everyone says it is, but it's definitely worth getting it done well. They should also be able to ensure all the final deliverables are taken care of so it can be uploaded for online distribution too.

Artwork and other essentials. You could be working on this from day dot, which is wise, as it often takes a lot longer than you think. This will likely include getting a logo designed, having the album artwork done, prepping ads for Facebook and possibly much more. 

Release it. Online release or pressing CDs? We all know streaming is taking over the world, so everyone should be getting their music online at a minimum. The best way to do this is to use an aggregator like Ditto, or CD Baby. Aside from the luxury option of getting Vinyl pressed (remember to let your mastering engineer know if you are), if you are doing some gigs, it might be worth getting a small run of CD's, and other merch like t-shirts done too.

Feeling inspired? Take your career to the next level by checking out Collarts' Audio Production degree